The awe is back. Avatar, the Oscar-winning sci-fi fantasy thriller from director James Cameron, transforms science fiction cinema.
Impressive 3D technologies and motion capture techniques keep audiences spellbound for two and a half hours, after which they leave theaters feeling 10 feet tall.
Avatar immerses us in heaven (a phosphorescent land of brilliant orange flowers, shimmering trees and floating jellyfish) and hell (fierce, flying dragons and massive rhino-like Hammerheads). Over 500 plants and creatures appear.
Reverence for nature
Avatar‘s reverence for nature, with its theme of oneness and unity, reaches across time and culture. Indigenous wisdom here turns out to be quite advanced. Thus Avatar surpasses The Matrix and Star Wars, along with Cameron’s previous films Titanic, The Terminator and Aliens.
Over 2,000 people worked for three years on Avatar, with a budget approaching $300 million. Cameron first envisioned the masterpiece 15 years ago, but had to wait for computer technology to catch up.
Strong, quiet hero Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) is a paraplegic ex-Marine has been asked to become an avatar, a genetically grown being resembling the Na’vi who inhabit planet Pandora.
Na’vi culture, wisdom
The Na’vi are exquisitely blue with silver-white speckles, golden cat-like eyes and moving ears. They are slender, sport long tails and stand 10 feet tall. Jake is to mingle with the Na’vi as a spy. He is ordered to sway them to allow strip mining of a precious metal (unobtainium).
The Na’vi live within a huge tree that sits right over a rich deposit. Col. Miles Quaritch (gung-ho Stephen Lang) and his mercenaries seek to expel the Na’vi for a corporation that funds the scientific research of Dr. Grace Augustine (always superb Sigourney Weaver).
After some personality conflicts and information-filled dialogue, the film alights as Jake lies down in his Matrix-like pod. Here his mind controls a handsome, new avatar that in effect allows Jake to walk again.
Jake meets Neytiri
With terrifying CGI creatures in pursuit, Jake is separated from a scouting party. Soon he’s rescued by noble Neytiri (graceful Zoe Saldana). Neytiri is the daughter of Eytukan (Wes Studi) and the shaman Moat (CCH Pounder).
Neytiri scorns the alien Jake. ”You have a strong heart, no fear, but stupid.” Since she has received a sign from the Atokirina, delicate floating spores with pure hearts, Jake’s fate is to be decided by Eytukan.
Jake is trained to become one with the Na’vi. Before long he’s leading their efforts to resist the aliens he once worked for.
Battle to preserve Nature
In one of the best scenes of the film, Jake tames a flying dragon who becomes his ally. Also stirring is the extended shock and awe battle as Quaritch makes his last stand against Jake and the Na’vi.
Avatar catapults Worthington (Clash of the Titans) and Soldana (Star Trek ) into stardom. Weaver worked for Cameron previously as the heroine of Aliens. Giovanni Ribisi (Lost in Translation) is excellent as a murderous corporate lackey.
Avatar won Oscars for Art Direction, Cinematography and Special Effects. (5 out of 5 stars)
If you like Avatar, you might enjoy: Inception.
Avatar 2009 / PG-13 / 2 hrs, 30 min
Cast Overview: Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Sigourney Weaver, Michelle Rodriguez, Stephen Lang, Joel Moore, Giovanni Ribisi, CCH Pounder, Laz Alonso, Wes Studi
Director: James Cameron
Genres: Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Sci-Fi Action, Sci-Fi Adventure