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by Michael The Moviegoer on December 19, 2009

Movie Summary of Avatar by Michael The Moviegoer.


AVATAR = ***1/2

“King Of Another World”

James Cameron is a master storyteller. A true visionary. As an unknown first-time director working with a minimal budget, he captured the imagination of a generation with his sci-fi story of “The Terminator”. That film instantly put him in a league with George Lucas and Steven Spielberg. More than a decade after proclaiming himself the “king of the world” by winning an Oscar for “Titanic” Cameron delivers his most ambitious film yet in “Avatar”.

It’s been said that Cameron had to wait for technology to catch up to his ideas before he could make this film the way he wanted it to be. That being said, the film’s special effects are spectacular. But the optional 3D element isn’t anything special. I’ve never been a fan of 3D in movies. It’s a cheesey effect and I don’t like wearing those weird glasses. But some theatres are showing “Avatar” in the conventional format for less than the cost of the 3D ticket. (The higher cost for a 3D showing seems like a scam to me.) The regular non-3D version of the movie is just as good, if not better because we’re not constantly distracted by weird flying bugs and long blue tails whipping us in the face.

The plot involves an alien race called the Na’vi living peacefully on planet Pandora. They’re twice as tall as humans with blue skin and gold eyes. I’m resisting comparing them to the musical Blue Man Group, but there you go!

The atmosphere on Pandora is not breathable by humans, so humans use Avatars, organically-grown Na’vi which are mind-controlled by humans while they sleep. Our hero, Jake Sully, is a paraplegic, so this concept for him is particularly liberating.

The U.S. Army is using these avatars to try and infiltrate the Na’vi to learn as much as they can about them before launching a full-scale invasion to drive them from their land so that we can have access to their precious natural resources. The battle is even described by a character as “shock and awe”. If that sounds like an analogy to the Bush years and our invasion of Iraq, well then “mission accomplished”!

Pixar has succeeded in making animation look life-like. Cameron has succeeded in making real-life look like animation. I normally hate CGI effects-heavy movies. But Cameron’s storytelling skills are what make “Avatar” worth the ride. It’s a plus that Jake is played by unknown actor Sam Worthington. This movie has now brought him instant stardom. But that lack of facial recognition makes Sully’s avatar face easier for us to adjust to than say if someone like Brad Pitt were up there in blue face. A recognizable actor would be a distraction.

For all of Cameron’s talents, the one place where he falters a bit is in his characters’ dialogue. An example is the line “they will kill you and eat your eyes for juju beads”. I’m not sure what that means, but it doesn’t feel grammatically correct. Also, for a story set in the year 2154, there is an awkward Michael Jackson reference when Jake shouts at a charging CGI-monster “who’s bad?”.

But ultimately “Avatar” is as exciting, enjoyable and entertaining as movies are meant to be. All hail the return of the king.

DVD Double Feature: When James Cameron said about “Avatar” that he wanted to wait for technology to catch up to his vision, it was evident he had learned from a past mistake. His 1989 failure “The Abyss” was a laughably bad embarrassment. But in 1993, Cameron released a new special edition of that film. Extended to nearly 3 hours with much-improved special effects, suddenly this was now a great, great movie. An oil rig crew is recruited to help find a sunken nuclear submarine. What they discover is an underwater spaceship of alien water-creatures. It sounds ridiculous, but so does “Avatar”. Cameron just knows how to make the ridiculous work. If you haven’t seen it, the special edition of “The Abyss” is the only version to watch. It stars Ed Harris.

Michael The Moviegoer

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Olga Andrusenko January 4, 2011 at 7:14 pm

I would like to correct something on this page. If you turn the subtitles on while watching Avatar, you’ll see that what the character Quaritch says is actually “eat your eyes for juju beans”, not “beads”.
Just thought I’d mention it. Of course, the subtitles may be wrong, but that’s what they say, and it’s what I heard. Perhaps only James Cameron knows the answer.

Olga Andrusenko January 5, 2011 at 3:05 am

Another correction:
I had said that what the character Quaritch says was “juju beans” but I meant “jujubes”. My brain thought one thing and I wrote another. But that’s what you will find if you turn on the subtitles and watch what is said when he says “to eat your eyes for jujubes”. Now, the subtitles could be wrong, but I really highly doubt that. I suppose James Cameron would be the one person to really know, but I also do not think that there would be a mistake on the subtitles of his own film.
Anyway, it makes more sense than “juju beads”.

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