Saturday, December 19, 2009

Movie Review: Avatar

Avatar-Teaser-Poster“I see you.”

If you are a native of Pandora, one of The People called Na’vi, then those three words—“I see you”—mean a lot more than what they actually say. To tell someone “I see you” is to say something deeply spiritual, basically “I know who you are on the inside, in your heart and spirit.”

I don’t know filmmaker James Cameron, but he has given us all something very special. Before today, he gave us The Terminator, Aliens, The Abyss, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, True Lies, and yes, even Titanic, among others. I grew up with these movies. I can’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve seen Aliens over the years. Thirty perhaps? It’s such a timeless film, and Sigourney Weaver is just so darn cool in it!

Yes, over the decades, Cameron has shared his unsurpassed imagination in brilliant, enduring, and even award-winning ways. But on December 18th, 2009, he gave us his everything. He gave us what I perceive will be applauded as the finest performance of a true master filmmaker’s career. He gave us Avatar.

“Everything is backwards now, like out there is the true world and in here is the dream.”

To me, James Cameron is more than a director, more than a filmmaker. He is a visionary. He had to wait 10 years before he felt confident that digital rendering of photo-realistic CGI technology was up to the challenge of the film he had in mind. Much due to Peter Jackson and the WETA crew for their rendition of Gollum in The Lord of the Rings films, Cameron has been noted as saying he knew at long last he was going to be able to make Avatar. The result is nothing short of magnificent. If you know everything or nothing of the technology of film, it makes no difference. It won’t even occur to you whether you’re viewing live action or CGI, because the integration is perfectly seamless.

Suffice it to say, the rendering of the extremely biodiverse scenery and characters of Pandora are breathtaking. I’m not going to go into the film’s story. It’s just too redundant, and countless other Web sites have already done that part perfectly fine. But I will say that Sam Worthington and Zoe Saldaña shine as the romantically paired Jake Sully, a paraplegic Marine, and Neytiri, the “princess” of the  Na’vi Omaticaya clan, who are destined as soulmates. The chemistry between these two is so pure, so well-acted, and so believable, that you will completely forget you’re watching CGI versions of real life actors. Personally, I fell in love with Neytiri, meaning Saldaña was so good that my heart was captured by a 10-foot-tall blue alien. That’s sort of saying something right there.

Avatar's Neytiri as played by Zoe Saldana
Avatar's Neytiri (Saldana) ready for action
Avatar's Neytiri (Saldana) and Jake Sully (Worthington)
Layer on top of Worthington and Saldaña the stellar performances of Sigourney Weaver (Dr. Grace Augustine), Joel David Moore (Norm Spellman), Michelle Rodriguez (Trudy Chacon), CCH Pounder (Mo’at), and the bastardly Stephen Lang (Col. Miles Quaritch)—sorry, I can’t think of a better word!—and we are surprisingly treated to one of the finest casting assemblies since the aforementioned The Lord of the Rings. These aren’t the only memorable characters, either, but I’ll forego typing out the entire cast and crew of this film. It’s worth mentioning, too, that it’s very cool how the three Avatars whose bodies are created for their human counterparts to inhabit actually look like the humans. Every time I looked at Sigourney Weaver as a Na’vi, there was no mistaking it. That’s Sigourney Weaver.
“You’re not the only one with a gun, bitch!”

If it seems like I’m gushing, I am. As we departed the cinema, my wife asked me what I thought. I said, “I’m still on a high, but I’ll go ahead and say it. That film was probably the greatest movie ever made. It was perfect.” So, yes, I’m gushing a little bit. And by saying it was perfect, I meant it was perfect FOR ME. Not everyone’s a huge fantasy nerd like myself, so while my wife’s initial comment was merely, “It was much better than I was expecting,” mine was “Perfect! James Cameron is unequivocally the best filmmaker ever.”

Not only that, but Cameron’s environmental message is clear. While the humans prey on this new-found world, the native race consort with the nature of Pandora to fight back. James Cameron 2009

In a December 11th Associated Press release, Cameron says, “There's a sense of entitlement [in the film]: We're here, we're big, we've got the guns, we've got the technology, we've got the brains, we therefore are entitled to every damn thing on this planet. That's not how it works, and we're going to find out the hard way if we don't wise up and start seeking a life that's in balance with the natural cycles of life on earth.”

Very well said. The fact that the year of the film is 2154 A.D., and mankind is in desperate need of new resources—a character says about Earth in the film “There’s nothing green back there"…”—means that Cameron feels, as I do, that we really need to start taking better care of our planet, and soon!

So, yes indeed, Avatar is topical, and it’s also an epic masterpiece, from the emotional scenes of Jake’s and Neytiri’s bonding, to the majestic heights as we soar through the treetops or on the backs of ikran, to the edge-of-seat turbulence of the battle sequences. I honestly feel that Avatar, not Titanic, will be remembered as James Cameron’s magnum opus.

Go see it. I plan to, again, and next time I’ll check out some of that newfangled 3D technology.



View the trailer for Avatar below.


Visit: Official Avatar Movie



  1. The movie was breathtaking in it's technology, especially with the 3D effect that didn't give me an instant headache. The plot, because I am somewhat right of center politically (OK, I'm right of right politically), produced several eye rolling moments. I'm certain that if we found a world like Pandora, all interactions with it would be run by the U.N. Department of Sunshine and Lollipops. Of course, that didn't stop me from thinking that JakeSully riding in on the big red dragon was about as cool as it gets.

  2. Oh, yeah. The "Toruk Makto" sequences were very cool. They gave me goosebumps. I like when movies do that.

    And I'm left of center, so the eye-rolling moments were overshadowed (get the reference?) by the depth of emotion in scenes such as when the Omaticaya departed from the destruction of their home. I could only feel a deep kinship for the Native Americans forced from their homes by expansionism, as well as the victims of ethnic cleansing throughout history. I was really moved by Cameron's effort, as you can tell.

    Thanks for the comments, Jeff!