Avatar: The Really Pretty Movie

December 29, 2009
By , Westborough, MA
James Cameron’s science-fiction brainchild Avatar trounced box offices by grossing over $27 million on its opening day alone. Marketed primarily for the 3-D experience, it also advertised for the IMAX experience (and yes, it was also shown in ordinary theaters.) Ten years in the works, Avatar’s been on Cameron’s list for a while now – having waited since 1994 because “the technology needed to catch up” with his plans.

So what makes the show so special? Well, for starters, it’s got CGI gorgeous enough to make the pores on the face of A Christmas Carol’s Scrooge wither in comparison. An entire world, all of its vegetation and organisms, and a race of characters – not to mention some human technology – are brought to life with this invention, plus the depth given by the 3-D experience. The second part is what makes that animation work – the story itself.

Avatar kicks off with disabled young veteran Jake Sully (Sam Worthington: Macbeth, The Surgeon) waking from a space-travel stasis pod in a ship nearing the dangerous world of Pandora. Sully’s twin brother has passed away over the course of the journey, and Sully must take his place as the operator of his personally DNA-coded avatar, an artificial body resembling those of the Na’vi – a technologically primitive sentient race that is the primary intelligent life on Pandora.

Researchers Grace Augustine (Sigourney Weaver) and Norm Spellman (Joel David Moore) are none too keen on Sully joining the team, as their mission is for peace and he remains a soldier. Jake Sully, on the other hand, is thrilled to find that once tapped into his avatar, he has new, stronger legs to walk on.

After being left stranded in the forests of Pandora thanks to a mishap with the wildlife, Sully winds up being carted reluctantly back to the Na’vi tribe’s home inside of a tree rather than executed by his new frenemy and future love interest, Neytiri (Zoe Saldaña). She spares his life based on an interaction with the seeds of their tree guardian, a theme of deference and admiration towards nature that is stressed time and again when dealing with the Na’vi.

Sully spends time in his avatar getting to know the tribe, spending time with his blue babe Neytiri, and earning the trust of them all while discovering his actual love for the people and their ways. He reports back to his commanding officer about their strengths and weaknesses, however, and keeps a video blog for the researchers. The military wants to steal the valuable mineral unobtanium from its deposits beneath the Na’vi tree home, and is only waiting for Sully to convince them to leave. Meanwhile, his relationship with Neytiri is threatened by a jealous prince of the tribe.

Events come to a head, and not only is Jake Sully forced to choose between his two selves, but he must also grow as a person and take charge. The plot comes to a head in the second half of a movie, and a stunning climax plays out in brilliant digital animation. Following the vein of similar stories like Dances With Wolves and Pochahontas, it’s a turned-native story of the new millennium. You’ll have to see Avatar to know how it ends, but know that the show’s a good watch – just try for the 3-D.

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