James Cameron’s 15-year journey to make Avatar has finally reached the screen. He had to wait ten years for the technology existed for him to tell the story as he really wanted it. He spent a year developing the language and culture of the Na’vi, the giant tribal inhabitants of the forested moon of Pandora and the humans who ventured for 6 years in suspended animation to explore and exploit their world.
Now if he only spent a little more time on the dialogue.
That is not meant to be a slam of the movie. It is an amazing achievement in film making, and clearly a labor of love to James Cameron. The world they create (in Real3D no less) is amazingly lush and life like. The Na’vi, as a people and characters are technological and artist tour du force. The motion captured computer animated race performances were made with voicing actors actually provided the motion capture performances as well. That is Sigourney Weaver up there 10 feet tall and blue.
It is an exciting story that can be summed up in 4 words. Green Good – Greed Bad.
It is the story of the indigenous peoples of the Americas, and ships from the west have arrived, seeking gold, or the Pandoran equivalent, the obviously names Unobtainium. Giovanni Ribisi plays Parker Selfridge, the corporate stooge whose only guiding principle is profit. He is surround by yes men and the hired guns brought in to protect the company’s interests. Old soldiers seeking fortune and glory. The security forces are led by the Colonel Miles Quaritch, (Stephen Lang, giving a delightful, scenery chewing performance) who believes this wild world is out to kill all humans on it, and therefore the best solution is to kill everything first.
The sooner get past the simplistic story elements and just accept the premise, the more enjoyable this film becomes. Don’t think about any of the science behind how the genetically engineered Avatars work. Just enjoy the trip with Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) the paraplegic Marine who gets a second chance to walk, run and live as a Na’vi. Of course this chance comes with a price. Quaritch and Selfridge bribe Jake to be their spy, by offering to have the company pay for the expensive treatment to restore Jake’s legs. Of course Jake readily agrees.
Sometimes the story is too obvious..
Of course Sigourney Weaver’s scientist Dr. Grace Augustine (interesting enough named after the oldest European settlement in America, St. Augustine, FL) will first reject then grudging accept Jake on her team.
Of course Jake will begin to have second thoughts about betraying the trust the Na’vi have given him. Of course Jake and Neytiri, his reluctant Na’vi teacher (and tribal princess, played by Star Trek’s Zoe Saldana) will fall in love.
Of course diplomatic relations between the human and Na’vi will fall apart.
Of course the corporation and military won’t listen to the scientists.
Of course the Na’vi’s best warrior (and Neytiri’s betrothed) Tsu’Tey (Laz Alonso) will first hate, then accept Jake, eventually following him into battle. Of course there will be one soldier (Michelle Rodriguez as Trudy) who sees what the humans are doing is wrong and abandons her post to help the natives.
Of course… you get the picture. This script hits all the expected emotional beats, it is almost paint by numbers.
But the picture comes out very pretty.
– Grade B-