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In the future, humans have traveled to the far reaches of the universe. On a planet called Pandora, a very important new element was discovered, one that is very valuable. But, wouldn’t you know, the natives on the planet live in the forest, where most of the element is located, underground. It is the human intention to “displace” the natives out of their woods and get to the mineral. For years, the Americans have occupied an outpost on the planet and have tried peaceful methods to reason with the aliens. The top scientist, Grace (Sigourney Weaver) learned their language and opened a “school” to teach the native children English and the ways of the human. But, the Pandoran population truly wants none of it, for they rightly feel that their world will be destroyed.
Although they have only bows and arrows, with a killing poison attached, they are very fierce. As a last resort, the Marines are trying a program of elaborate “robots”, where an earthling goes into a sort of capsule and sleeps while his “soul” inhabits a native body. It is their hope that learning the ways of the natives will make them easier to “conquer” and move. Now, a wheelchair-bound Marine named Jake Scully (Sam Worthington) gets a new, Pandoran body and goes with Grace and a few others on a mission. But, due to some fierce dinosaur-like creatures, Jake becomes separated from the others and is left in the forest at night. Grace believes he will surely die. He would have, too, for a powerful female warrior, Neytiri (Zoe Saldana) was set to shoot him. But, some seeds from their “tree of life” cover Jake and Neytiri sees it as an omen. She takes Jake back to her village where he is eventually accepted as a tribesman. He learns to ride the native “horses” and “dragons”. He and Neytiri also fall in love. But, during the night, Jake “reports” back to the Marines when his native body is asleep. The marine commander believes he is gathering information to defeat the primitive folk. As one might guess, Jake soon realizes his new people are very worthy and should not be destroyed or moved, for their life is “connected” deeply to the forest, their home. What will Jake do to save Neytiri and his new brothers and sisters? This is an amazing film, a stunningly visual panorama that has to be seen to be believed. The planet of Pandora is a forest like no other, with plants that “glow” and creatures that resemble dinosaurs, wolves, and dragons. The natives, too, resemble the American Indian and other earthly tribes, such as the residents of the Amazon rain forests. Most importantly, they are “attached” to their planet as the Native Americans were to the earth. When they kill an animal for food, they utter prayers to the animal for giving his life so that they might be sustained. They consider the destruction of any plant a blow to their own bodies.
Thus, in many respects, the movie is a gigantic homage to the American Indian and their way of life. Wes Studi, who was the ultra frightening Native American in The Last of the Mohicans, even plays the Pandoran leader. But, enough of this. The actors, including Worthington, Weaver, Saldana, Ribisi, Stephen Lang and all of the rest do a fine job. The dialogue and story are, perhaps, not totally original but quite, quite adequate. However, even all these take a back seat to the incredibly imaginative scope of the film’s setting, a new world far away. It is the grand scale of the forested planet that will take a viewer’s breath away. In short, dear film fan, see it.
Absolutely, if you can go to only ONE film this year or next, make it AVATAR. It is truly a jaw-dropping work that will overwhelm most anyone with its visionary beauty…
While its initial previews made it look like “FernGully” meets “Dances with Wolves” with extra-large Smurfs in action, you can rest assured that James Cameron’s epic return to the game, “Avatar,” is more than meets the eye. With twelve years gone by since the director’s previous record smashing film, it’s safe to say that his absence has been felt. There are very few directors who throw themselves into their work like Cameron does, and more often than not, his films are not only hits, but cinematic landmarks. Like his special effects break-through in “Terminator 2 – Judgment Day” and the massive scope and success of “Titanic,” “Avatar” is yet another benchmark film.
All the work Cameron put into “Avatar” (which has been on the back-burner since the mid-90’s) has no doubt paid off, and if its box office receipts are any indication, this is a movie that is not soon to be forgotten, and is one for the ages that will be appreciated by generation after generation. Yeah, it’s that good. If this generation has a “Star Wars,” then this, my friends, is it. Its visual effects are absolutely stunning and combined with the unique 3D presentation creates a world that you can truly disappear into. At times, you will forget you are watching a movie. You’ll feel like you’re in the jungle and you’ll feel like you’re a part of the battle. It’s the little the things and the attention to detail that make the film so sweet. James Cameron is a perfectionist, and not for one moment does he let the 3D element of this film go to waste. It’s less of a gimmick here and more of a device to transport you into the near-perfect world he has created.
While the plot itself isn’t ground-breaking material – the man vs. nature thing has been done to death – it is presented in a way that manages to entertain and stimulate the senses while not beating you over the head with its message. It helps, too, that the pacing is smooth and the plot never sags. At about two hours and forty-five minutes long, you never feel the urge to look at the time or think of anything else (especially if you are seeing it in its best element – an IMAX theater). As far as the action sequences go, fans who have been craving a dose of the good stuff since “Terminator 2” hit theaters back in 1991 will feel more than satisfied, even if the bulk of it is saved for the final act.
If there are any flaws to be found, it is in the character department. While some are well-fleshed out and as three-dimensional as the film itself (Worthington, who also starred in the Cameron-less “Terminator Salvation,” gives a strong and sympathetic performance) there are a few that seem to fall by the wayside. Take the characters played by Joel David Moore (“Hatchet”) and Michelle Rodriguez (“The Fast and the Furious”). Both characters fade in and out of the plot, and there are moments where you aren’t sure where they stand. I suspect this is a case of the film being edited down to fit a fair time slot (although it could have been longer and not worn out its welcome) and there are some character moments that will be restored in a future “Director’s Cut” of the film.
All in all, “Avatar” is a simply awesome cinematic experience. There have been few films to succeed with such broad goals, and yet, Cameron has managed to come back after many had either written him off or assumed he was done, and changed the game completely. Yes, it’s hard to swallow all the hype that has accompanied this project, but if ever there was a film so deserving, it is this. If movies are meant to take you away to a different world to escape reality for a few hours, then Avatar more than does its job.
write by Mulham Odeh