Originally Posted on December 31, 2009
The director of films such as Terminator and Titanic brings audiences his newest creation. Avatar tells the story of an attempt by humans to extract a valuable resource known as unobtanium, which is found on an extraterrestrial moon known as Pandora. Pandora is inhabited by various forms of wildlife and a humanoid civilization known as the Na’vi. Jake Sully (Sam Worthington), a paraplegic marine volunteers for a mission to transfer his brain into the body of a biologically engineered native in order to learn more about their culture and gain their trust in order to make them relocate their population so that unobtanium can be extracted. Conflict is created when Sully forms a close bond with a Na’vi princess, Neytiri (Zoe Saldana) and is unable to remain loyal to the goals of his human counterparts.
James Cameron’s previous films set a precedent for excellence and lead to great anticipation for the film’s release, along with the new 3-D technology the film utilized to create the world of Pandora and the Na’vi. With a reported budget of over $300 million dollars Avatar is also the most expensive film to date. The visual effects are stunning and it is apparent that a lot of effort and money was put into the creation of Pandora’s wildlife. The Na’vi’s features and movements lacked any of the stiffness normally associated with computer generated creations and the technology used created a great amount of detail in the physical representation of the Na’vi.
Worthington and the supporting cast give great performances for the most part. Worthington, who previously starred in Terminator Salvation, brings charm and wit to his representation of a man who becomes conflicted between his allegiance to humans and the Na’vi. He also portrays the sense of wonder associated with discovering the new world around him. The story is fairly predictable in terms of Jake becoming connected to the Na’vi population and the love story present between him and Neytiri.
The dialogue is also poor in some parts, with Academy award winning actress Sigourney Weaver, who plays Dr. Grace Augustine, uttering lines such as, “Who did you think it was numbnuts?”. Although humour may be the goal, such lines come of as uninspired and lazy throughout the film. Some opportunities to provide memorable, well thought out lines are missed. The writing was Avatar’s main downfall, as well as the performances from some actors. Stephen Lang, who plays Colonel Miles Quaritch, portrays an almost stereotypical, marine veteran. He is heartless and exudes bravado throughout the film, another way that Avatar becomes somewhat predictable. Although this colonel stereotype may be correct, it has been done so many times prior. Avatar was supposed to be a breathtaking, new film experience and stereotypical characters do not fit this frame. Performances from other characters, such as Salanda, are overdone at times as well.
Avatar does not fall into the trap of being a style over substance creation. The political messages are potent, and the representation of Na’vi philosophies mirrors those of other oppressed cultures such as Aboriginal and African Natives. The entire situation of a foreign, technologically advanced culture invading another can be seen as an allegory to the situation of Africa or North and South American Natives during colonization. Although Avatar can express such views it also entertains with its action sequences. The final battle is one of the most memorable viewed this year. Fortunately, Avatar does not rely on its action and most of the entertainment comes from Sully’s internal struggle and the spoken interactions between the characters.
Avatar may not live up to Cameron’s other films, such as Terminator, it is still a contender for one of the top five films of the year and is sure to entertain viewers and impress with its stunning visuals.