Sunday, December 27, 2009

Movie Review - Avatar

Avatar - ***

Directed by:  James Cameron

Starring:  Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Sigourney Weaver, Giovannie Ribisi

Review:  I did not know what to expect from this movie going in to see it.  Matter of fact, my interest in it was minimal at best, but there was so much hype and good reviews I had to check it out.  I am glad I did.

The movie takes a slightly original twist to a familiar story.  The story centers around Jake Sully, a paraplegic war veteran in the year 2154.  At this point Earth has depleted most of it's resources which has led us to go to a moon 6 years away called Pandora.  This moon inhabits a native civilization called the Na'vi, but more importantly it contains "unobtanium" (which wins the award for most original name of the year) which will apparently solve all of Earth's problems.  The only problem with that?  Well the biggest deposit of this mineral is below a sacred tree that is the center of the culture for one of the Na'vi tribes.

The company that is out on Pandora to harvest this mineral has devised a plan to get this tribe to move.  They have created an "avatar" program in which someone's mind can be "transported" into the body of an avatar which is a mixture of human and Na'vi DNA.  Jake is selected for this program with the promise of "getting his legs back."

Jake finds a way to infiltrate the tribe and meets Neytiri, who is basically the princess of the tribe.  Neytiri is forced, by her mother, to take Jake through the process of becoming one of the tribe.  This process includes learning about their history, their sacred areas, and choosing a dragon-like creature called an Ikran that Jake will fly with.  Predictably, two things happen in this process.  Although she originally resented him, Neytiri begins to like him and Jake begins to like her.  Next, Jake becomes attached to this tribe the more he learns about their way of life.

This complicates things as Jake was commissioned by the head of security, Colonol Quaritch, to do recon on the tribe and give him scans of their sacred tree and other areas so they can exploit them in order to get their unobtanium.  Jake obediently does this at first but then becomes torn and eventually helps the tribe fight against the evil Quaritch to retain their land.

I enjoyed this movie more than I thought I would, moreso for the experience than the movie itself.  James Cameron seems to be the master at doing this.  The writing is so-so, the acting is only OK as most people are just caricatures of what they should be with no clear back story or motivation, but everything else is so overwhelmingly awesome it makes this an enjoyable movie-going experience.

Needless to say, the special effects are amazing, in fact, some of the best acting comes from the CGI characters, especially the elegant Neytiri voice by the amazing Zoe Saldana.  Further, everything else in this world seems so immersive it makes for such a great experience.  This was also the first 3-D movie I have ever seen in the theaters and it was well worth it.  The 3-D, as corny as it sounds, truly makes you feel like you are there.  Cameron takes so much care and joy in filming this world and has constructed a good story that you can't helped but be sucked in to this movie.  This is why we go to the movies, to be wowed and awed and forget about everything else for a couple hours.

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