Avatar (Minor Spoilers)

Posted: December 23, 2009 in Movies

For whatever reason I didn’t pay attention to the Avatar hype, but I went to see it for my birthday. I didn’t realize this was Cameron’s first film since Titanic. (Not counting documentaries)

Anyway the plot is basically Dances with Wolves or Last Samauri, where a white guy goes to an indigenous culture, (This time on a far away planet) falls for the hot native chic, and fights back against his own culture. However here it’s done well enough to seem fresh.

Cameron doesn’t forget that he’s made a sci-fi film, so it’s not just guns and visuals, as a lesser movie would be. There are some neat concepts like floating islands, and animals that the native creatures can communicate with by the two joining hair. Also all life on the planet has a kind of network intelligence, linking everything to each other in one big brain.

Of course James Cameron also doesn’t forget that he’s making a James Cameron film, so we get big action, especially at the end. Big fun glorious action.

It’s called Avatar because humans are able to make bodies of the native creatures that can be controlled by humans while sleeping inside a machine. When they go to sleep in the creature body, their human body wakes up. (The human bodies can also be awoken at the push of a button.) The lead character is a paralyzed marine who is thrilled to be able to walk again in his Avatar body. (The creatures are blue and about 10ft tall by the way) His mission is to investigate the ways of the native people so that the military can wipe them out and take their resources. (Including some rock thingy that’s worth money) He has absolutely no qualms about his mission, but then of course all of a sudden falls in love with the native chic, and after some jungle booty has a change of heart. This is the heart of the movie, and also it’s weakest point. This so needed to be developed more and it would have made everything so so much stronger.

During the space journey one of the characters who wakes up in the space pod is Sigourney Weaver. This of course immediately reminds us of Aliens, which Cameron directed. However her character thematically is more linked to another Weaver movie, Gorilla’s in the Mist. Her character has studied the native tribe, speaks their language, and wrote a book about them.

One nit-picky thing is some of the alien wildlife looks too computer generated. It looks like it came right out of a video game, which kills some of the early suspense. One of the things I liked about District 9 is the aliens looked very natural, you forgot you were looking at computer graphics then.

Another thing is it’s briefly mentioned at the very end that Earth apparently is in ruins or too polluted or something, hence the journey to a new planet. This should have been touched on more and earlier. It would have been much more challenging to the viewer if what the humans were looking for on the planet was something they NEEDED to survive, rather than just some stupid rock they could rich off of. Instead the plot is just white people are assholes and want to take everything.

There’s obvious parallels to Native Americans and/or any other indigenous people that suffered under imperialism. Also included are comments about pre-preemptive strikes, terrorism and security, reflecting the modern political climate. Some of the early imagery of jungle recon reminded me of Vietnam.

One different thing about this kind of plot is it the conflict between the two races seemed to have a definite end. However, Cameron said he’d make two more sequels if this were succesful, and it’s already made big money.

It’s so very extremely rare to have a movie live up to it’s hype. Avatar does. A lesser director would have made it another forgettable action romp disguised as a science fiction movie. Cameron gave this one some heart, but it could have used a bit more. 8/10.

Between this and District 9, it’s been a good year for science fiction movies. Too bad Transformers 2 had to come out in the same year.


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