Blockbuster Movie Month: "Avatar" Review

Photo Credit: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

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Rating: PG-13
Length: 162 minutes
Release Date: December 18, 2009
Directed by: James Cameron
Genre: Action / Adventure / Fantasy / Sci-fi

Upon its release "Avatar" received widespread critical acclaim for its beautiful CGI animation and heartfelt story. A Marine who is unable to walk travels to a distant moon known as Pandora where he is given the task of assimilating with the extra-terrestrial natives. He does so by linking his mind to a man-made body known as an avatar. Audiences cannot help but feel a sense of wonder as they are transported to the lush forests of Pandora when they watch this epic film.

When the trained researcher and twin brother of Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) dies unexpectedly, Jake is asked to take his place on an important mission to Pandora, a recently discovered moon filled with forests, creatures and precious resources hidden under the soil. An expensive engineered body resembling the Na'vi, the native inhabitants of Pandora, was made specifically for Jake's brother. However, Jake's genetic similarity would allow him to use it as well despite the fact that he is paraplegic.

Jake awakes in the spacecraft to see everyone preparing for the mission, and they are brought down to the base, which is heavily guarded by military personnel. Jake meets the team of researchers, including Na'vi expert Grace (Sigourney Weaver). They connect his mind to his avatar, and he wakes up in the body of the tall, blue being able to walk for the first time since his injury. Jake also meets Colonel Miles Quaritch (Stephen Lang), a military leader who promises Jake an operation to fix his legs in exchange for reporting back to him about the nature and weaknesses of the Na'vi people. Jake and the team of researchers head out to the field in their avatars to study natural phenomena, but when Jake is chased down by an angry alien predator, he is separated from his team as nightfall approaches.

He is hunted down by even more alien creatures, and he is almost killed when a mysterious Na'vi woman named Neytiri (Zoe Saldana) swoops in to save him. Neytiri immediately dislikes the clumsy and cocky Jake, but she believes that a sign from her god told her that he was special. She takes him back to the home of her tribe, and the chief reluctantly allows him to be trained as a Na'vi warrior with Neytiri as his mentor. As he goes back day after day, learning the ways of the natives, he continues to report to Quaritch, and Jake learns that the humans plan to bulldoze the sacred Home Tree of the Na'vi in order to mine. When they begin putting this plan into practice, Jake must decide where his loyalties lie if he wishes to protect his new home.

"Avatar" is a spectacular film that is compelling on nearly every level. The well-paced story draws viewers into the world of the Na'vi, and the realistic CG animation is simply breathtaking. The film was clearly made to be seen in 3D, but it is still visually appealing for those who watch it in 2D. In addition, the intricacies that went into the story of this film, from the language, religion and culture of the natives to the connection among all living things on the planet, give viewers the constant sense that Pandora could be a real place.

Director James Cameron, also known for directing the tragic drama "Titanic," is known for his ability to create films that capture viewers' hearts and draw them into the film. This is readily apparent in "Avatar," and the great acting by Worthington and the rest of the cast only magnify this feature. The film also covers some important themes that are relevant to the current generation, such as the respect for all life and the preservation of natural resources. This theme is brought up over and over throughout the film without subtlety, but its importance and relevance lead audiences to welcome the message with open arms.

The only drawback of this spectacular film is its use of a story that has been told many times before. The plot of a white man assimilating with the natives and eventually helping to defend them can be seen in films such as "Pocahontas" and "Dances with Wolves." On the other hand, "Avatar" brings enough unique ideas, characters and creatures to the screen to make the plot seem completely fresh and new.

"Avatar" is a groundbreaking film that introduced some unique characters and a beautiful new world, which has made it into an instant classic. According to director James Cameron, three sequels are in the works. Audiences have not seen the last of Jake and Neytiri.