If you don’t know what Avatar is, I’m not sure where you’ve been. James Cameron’s latest blockbuster has been the focus of many a review of late, and I thought I’d through my opinions out there too. Why? Well, because I was skeptical that this movie would be worth the price of the 3D glasses. Cameron’s last movie, Titanic, had huge appeal and launched DiCaprio into Tiger Beat fame. I knew the work that was being put into this movie, that this would be groundbreaking and visually stunning. I had been looking forward to this movie until two thing happened. First, someone pointed out that this was going to be a SciFi Dances With Wolves, second, I saw this music video for the title track for the movie. That killed my excitement. There were a few things I was forgetting though. Cameron also made Aliens and Terminator. I also saw Titanic 3 times in theater.
The truth is, James Cameron makes good movies. Avatar is a good movie. If you’re not familiar with the plot, we’ve started to strip mine a moon called Pandora. There happens to be a humanoid race there who are somewhat unhappy with our plans. There is a science team working side by side with the corporates who have created avatars, genetically engineered crosses between human and Na’vi that people can jack into to control. The main character, a paraplegic ex-Marine, had an identical twin brother who was a scientist waiting to be sent to work on Pandora with an avatar. He was killed in a mugging, and instead of wasting all of the money that they had poured into the avatar, the corp roped in Jake.
Surprisingly, the head scientist, played by Ellen Ripley, doesn’t think the jar head has it in him to be a good avatar pilot. Proving her right, he gets lost on his first trip out after pissing off the local fauna. Before he can be torn into pieces, he’s saved by a beautiful Na’vi and the Pocahontas/Dances With Wolves/Going Native story line starts to play out. Jake is expected, by the security forces employed by the corp to spy on and help remove the Na’vi from their home lands. You see, they happen to be living on top of the largest deposit of Unobtainium known. You can fill out the story from there, there’s some love and betrayal, and some people die. Well a lot of people die.
The movie really reminded me of FernGully in a way. The world that was created was very and bioluminescent. The creatures were stunning, and seemed to be well thought out. The FernGully comes in with the pro environment message, and the evil earth movers.
I am, as you all know, a raging liberal. I hate corporations, and I really like trees. I’m also an anthropologist who is concerned with indigenous people and their rights. This movie has been under fire for promoting ideas like anti-imperialism, anti-war, pro environment, and any other liberal prospective you could take, and they’re right. I knew they would be, and I went into this wanting to say that it was too bleeding heart. The problem was, it wasn’t. Everything that happened in there was pretty much spot on to what I would expect corporations looking to strip mine a planet to do (minus the anti-imperialism*). They hired goons to force people off their lands without bothering to understand the connections and cultures they’re destroying. I would think that most people who have learned anything about how Native Americans were treated would think this is a bad thing, but after having an argument about how genociding a people and forcing them to live on in poverty shouldn’t qualify them for anything more than a casino, I guess that’s not true. But, back to the movie.
It was great. The 3D was never out of place or over gratuitous. The CGI was flawless. The Na’vi looked like people in make up, and the scenes with real life next to CGI were amazing. There were no seams. The battle scenes were exciting, if not formulaic.The whole movie was familiar, but it good enough that it didn’t matter. If you’ve got the extra cash lying around, see this movie.