Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

I’m sure won’t be the first person to notice this but after watching James Cameron’s ‘Avatar’, which is like nothing… and I mean nothing that you’ve ever seen before visually… thematically it felt eerie similar to the animated movie I’d seen some months earlier in ‘The Battle for Terra’, which was also in 3D. I went back to see exactly what I wrote about that movie, because my memory is slowly but surely fading, and yeah… those two movies are very, very similar. Now this doesn’t mean just because you might’ve seen ‘The Battle for Terra’, which I don’t know what the likelihood of this might be since I saw was only soul in the theater when I saw ‘The Battle Terra’, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take flight to the first available theater to see Camera’s absolutely amazing ‘Avatar’. Unless, of course, you’re allergic to some slightly left leaning environmental politics.

It is the future and our world is dying and governments have been replaced by evil greedy mega corporations. That’s pretty much dismal Sci-Fi Future 101 right there. We will see this dismal future through the eyes of paraplegic marine Jake Scully (Sam Worthington). Jakes twin brother, a brilliant scientist, was randomly murdered back on earth and though this is a bad situation it kind of works out for Jake in the long run because of Jake’s DNA profile, which is identical to that of his twin brother.

Why is this relevant? One of these mega corps is on the planet of Pandora attempting to mine this crazy expensive substance they have termed Unobtanium – love that name by the way. The problem is that the natives of this land, a warrior race of 8 foot blue skinned incredibly fit near indestructible athletes called the Na’vi don’t want the humans there and are not interested in moving off to the side so they can get to this Unobtanium. The Mega Corp has a battalion of heavily armed soldiers led by a cat who puts the ‘jar’ into Jarhead named Colonel Quaritch (Stephen Lange) who is more than prepared to just take what they want, but the smarmy corporate leader of this mission (Giovanni Ribisi) is at least willing to put on the illusion of negotiation. Note that actor Steven Lang has put his kids through college playing bad people in movies, but all that was just warm up to his portrayal of Colonel Quaritch.

This will lead us to Dr. Grace (Sigourney Weaver), an uptight bio-geneticist who has engineered human compatible Na’vi, or Avatars that humans can control. Jake is relevant to this because these biological avatars are genetically imprinted to the user, thus only Jakes can use his dead brothers avatar despite the fact he has no training for the mission that his bro was preparing for. These Na’vi aren’t stupid because they know these ‘dream walkers’ as they call them aren’t one of their own, but the purpose of the program is to make them feel comfortable and also give the humans the ability to navigate the tough terrain of Pandora as the Na'Vi can.

For whatever reason Jake’s avatar is accepted within the Na’vi who show him their ways, with Jake being guided by Na’vi princess Neytiri (voiced by Zoe Saldana). As you might imagine Jake becomes so wrapped up in the way of the Na’vi he becomes part of them, forgetting the initial goals set forth for him by his hard-assed commander. As you might also imagine, a battle must ensue. And all of this massive destruction will take place in glorious IMAX 3D, in what is reported to be the most expensive movie ever made. I can believe it.

The first thing that must be said about James Cameron’s ‘Avatar’ is ‘wow’. I can’t think of another word to describe the feeling I had after seeing this movie. I don’t know if it’s even just to call this a ‘movie’ because it is an experience on another level. We are deep into the age of CGI and I think the majority of us aren’t really phased that much by what CGI artist can do anymore. For the most part movies use CGI to accentuate reality, even in fantasy movies. ‘Lord of the Rings’ for instance has walking talking trees and nightmare horses, but they are still trees and horses. ‘Avatar’ uses CGI to change reality. This movie takes you to a place that only exists in someone’s imagination and it is breathtaking to behold. I had said about the first ‘Transformers’ movie, despite the fact that I thought the movie itself was mediocre, that it still should be seen and experienced at a theater. Take that experience and multiply it by a thousand and raise that to the tenth degree and you have how I feel about the experience of ‘Avatar’. If God has blessed you with the gift of sight and sound it would pure foolishness not experience this movie.

Okay… but did you actually like the movie you might ask? Well… sure I did. Pretty much. For the most part. It's just that there were a couple of issues that existed in the narrative which were problematic for me that the beautiful pictures and glorious sound simply couldn’t cover up. I’m only going to touch on a couple, such as the Na’vi welcoming Jake Scully into their tribe, as opposed to the other kinder, benevolent ‘dream walkers’ they had encountered, because he presented himself as a ‘warrior’. Huh? I mean these people are at war with humans, this cat tells this clan, plain as day, that he’s a soldier and their response to this was ‘cool… let’s show him everything we know, say and do… that makes sense to us’. No, that makes absolutely no sense. They get whatever they deserve. Should’ve killed him on the spot no matter what their God said. We knew he had to get there, I just didn’t buy into the way he got there.

Despite the fact that James Cameron exist on plane far above most of us, I think we all know that he’s not necessarily a master in the art of ‘subtlety’. Everything in this movie is broadly drawn. This Mega Corp is a purely evil greedy environmental destroyer of goodness. No gray are here baby. As opposed to the Na’vi who exist in only goodness and love. Everything they do, even when they hunt and kill, is out of respect and love for the land, a land they call 'mother'. What kind of a monster would attack mother? You will not have to ponder long who you need to root for while watching this movie. Then there was the sequence, near the end, where Colonel Hard-Ass was getting his troops all whooped up to die. For absolutely nothing. These aren’t soldiers, these are mercenaries. A soldier we understand is willing to die for a cause or his or his country. A mercenary wants to get paid. I’m supposed to believe that these troops are willing to commit genocide, and failing that sacrifice their lives so a corporation can get paid? Even in this warped, bad economic future I have a hard time buying into that. We could go on and on talking about elements of the narrative of this movie, and we’re not even going to get into the politics of it all.

But like I was telling a friend of mine, personally speaking, after a while I stopped caring about this thematic value of ‘Avatar’. Man, it doesn't matter if this movie was good or not. It really doesn't. Grab some popcorn and some overpriced soda-pop, sit back and take it all in. When it’s over and done you and your crew can discuss the positives, negatives, shortcoming, politics, or whatever your will pleases, but please be quite while its running and experience something that we will probably not experience again until James Cameron decides to get off his ass and make another movie. Can't wait for 2020 which is around the time that event is likely to happen.