Few movies will leave you with as satisfying a movie-going experience as Avatar, James Cameron’s much anticipated followup to Titanic. Avatar excels on every level from the technical and visual achievements to the engrossing storyline that taps each viewer on a spiritual and emotional level.
The story is set in the year 2154 where humans have completely tapped Earth’s natural resources and have raced to the stars to find replenishment. As it turns out, several light years away, the planet Pandora is ripe for strip mining of a precious metal and all that stands in the way are the indigenous Na’vi. To fully understand them, humans have cloned the 12-foot blue-skinned native and have found a way to control them through use of “avatars.”
Enter the hero of the story, Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) who starts as a paraplegic war veteran. He’s thrusted into the Na’vi world because an avatar was created for his now-deceased twin brother and the avatars are genetically matched to their users.
At first, Jake clumsily stamps his way around the lush planet and finds trouble until he is rescued by the honorable and brave Neytiri (Zoe Saldana). Much of the movie is spent developing Jake as well as the viewer’s understanding of the Na’vi. We learn that there is nothing humans can give them for their land, because it is not theirs to give. They are one with the planet and even if they kill to survive, it still comes with the understanding of the gift that the planet has given.
Such intricacies which Jake slowly discovers are otherwise completely ignored. Instead of attempting to understand the way of the planet, the humans – led by war hawk Col. Miles Quaritch (Stephen Lang) merely attempt to conquer it. The Na’vi are technologically inferior to humans, so the only thing stopping the demolition of this peaceful race and green planet is the public relations consequences from planet earth. If this sounds vaguely familiar to present day, you’re right – Cameron clearly doesn’t attempt to hide his political agendas here.
Without revealing too much of the plot, Jake makes a decision that would be highly questionable at the start of his adventure, but the process of him coming to know the Na’vi makes it a foregone conclusion. It is a decision that any decent human being would make given the circumstances, which is what makes the plot so wonderfully developed.
Aside from the storyline, the visual aspect takes 3-D to the next level because of the way it’s done. The animation of impeccable floating islands and dancing jellyfish is enhanced with the 3D glasses instead of being used as a cheap gimmick.
And while Avatar is at its heart an action movie and the action continues throughout the two hours and 41 minutes, it’s never mindless or excessive. It’s done in way where the audience cares what’s actually taking place.
Avatar essentially proves that it is possible for a movie to have everything, which is why in retrospect, it will be viewed as a landmark in cinema.
Rating: ***** (out of 5)