Saturday, December 19, 2009
MOVIE REVIEW: "AVATAR"
12 years! That's how long it's been since director James Cameron released his last feature film "Titanic" (1997), his sappy love story combined with the infamous ocean liner disaster which currently occupies the #1 All-Time World Wide Box Office spot having earned $1,835,300,000. Since that time Cameron has devoted his creative talent to IMAX documentaries such as "Ghosts of the Abyss" (2003) and "Aliens of the Deep" (2005). Now as Cameron admitted having to wait for CGI technology to catch up to meet his vision (i.e. George Lucas style) we finally get to see "Avatar" (Not to be confused with "Avatar: The Last Airbender", which comes out next year under the name "The Last Airbender", amusingly enough.)
This epic Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Adventure takes place on the planet of Pandora, where crippled Marine grunt Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) is given the opportunity to participate in a experimental project to transfer his mind into an alien body in order to help convince the native alien species, the Na'vi, a 10-ft. tall, blue-skinned, cat-like, humanoid race to move so the Earth corporation can extract a precious mineral. During his experiences as a Na'vi, he meets Neytiri (Zoe Saldana) a female, native warrior, who he falls in love with and ends up betraying his own race to save the Na'vi.
The themes of "Avatar" resonate with the same man vs. nature and man vs. savage, not unlike "Dances with Wolves" or even "The Last Samurai", where a character is estranged from their own culture but finds happiness within another, whether it be a more primitive and/or "alien" civilization. The parallels of the story draw much from our own history with the annihilation of the Native-American people by our own ancestors. This message is anything but subtle but isn't necessarily over-done as the old adage of history repeating itself is clearly seen. Sam Worthington's character is very sympathetic but in his human form is often very dull which only perpetuates the idea that when he is a Na'vi, he rediscovers himself, finding meaning and purpose in his previously depressed and meaningless existence as a wheel-chair bound ex-grunt.
With all the hype surrounding this movie, which apparently has been 15 years in the making, the incorporation of state-of-he-art computer generated animation makes this for an incredibly bold and innovative movie experience. With the increase of CGI special effects in movies over the years, skeptics worried that this movie would be more about the visual aspects and action than the actual story and performance. Although the CGI is visually stunning and amazing, the movie itself holds up rather well. I admit just in watching this, you lose yourself in the CGI and after a while you forget you're seeing CGI because it looks so real. Although it's hard to imagine 10-ft. tall blue aliens to look real but it is impressive just how real they look, down to the sweat, blood and tears. Most people forget that the whole reason behind special effects from the very beginning of the film industry is to make something look real. It's really our fault, the audience that we have become harder and harder to convince, ever since the early days of Ray Harryhaussen-style stop-motion to models and animated graphics of the first Star Wars films.
"Avatar" is a return to what made James Cameron famous for my generation with exciting special effects Sci-Fi films like "Terminator & T2", "Aliens", and "The Abyss". I'm especially looking forward to Cameron's rumored "Battle Angel" anime adaptation in 2011. "Avatar" is truly a whole new level of movie experience, and not just because of the recent 3-D, craze. See it without the 3-D and it will be as equally stunning and beautiful as well as an exciting and compelling film experience!
Link: AVATAR Official Website