Avatar - A Review of the Movie

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James Cameron has done it again. His $230-million sci-fi blockbuster, Avatar, which released worldwide in December 2009 has mowed down box-office records, collected two Golden Globes (Best Motion Picture and Best Director) and a raft of BAFTA nominations. What makes Avatar tick, or more appropriately, explode on screen?

Cameron’s ability to imagine whole new worlds onscreen (Terminator, Titanic)  draws moviegoers in droves. In Avatar, he transports us to Pandora, a moon whose landscape and inhabitants are rendered impossibly beautiful by the marvels of CGI.

Mother Earth has been irrevocably wrecked by mankind’s greed and nearsightedness.   Pandora is rich in Unobtainium, a magic mineral that will help humans overcome the laws of gravity and escape their ruined world. An American military-industrial consortium is trying to infiltrate Pandora’s native community, the Na’vis, to gain control over this precious resource. The project’s scientists feed a human’s DNA into a Na’vi replica. This interactive being becomes his “avatar”, remaining completely under the host’s control. 

These avatars are expected to befriend and persuade the Na’vi to move from their home, leaving the area free for commercial exploitation. Enter ex-Marine Jake Sully (Sam Worthington), a paraplegic, who, in his Na’vi avatar, rediscovers the use of his limbs, meets a Na’ vi princess and grows to respect and appreciate these amazing creatures. Will Jake follow his conscience or will he toe the line of his employers?

Avatar’s plot is riddled with well-worn “isms” – military adventurism, capitalism versus the environment and the oldest villain of all, imperialism. The performances are average and the dialogue is often wince-inducing in its triteness (“Fight terror with terror”, anyone?).

And yet, Avatar engages and enthrals.  With 3-D glasses on, you’re a wide-eyed kid again, lost in the sumptuous beauty of Pandora. Marvel at the forest floor lighting up beneath the Na’vi’s footprints, ride the skies atop fabulous beasts that fly. The cataclysmic destruction of Pandora is guaranteed to leave you slack-jawed. Despite plot twists that can be seen a mile away, Avatar’s story hangs together for its 2-hour plus duration, compellingly enough to make you forget your popcorn. That, as they say, is the magic of the movies!

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