Avatar Movie Review
And the fact that it's in gorgeously rendered 3D is icing on the cake.
In the year 2154, paraplegic Marine Jake (Worthington) is transported to the planet Pandora to join the avatar project. Soon he's in the middle of hostile territory in the genetically cloned body of the Na'vi: three metres tall with blue skin, a tail and a very sensitive ponytail. In the jungle, Jake befriends Neytiri (Saldana), who trains him in the ways of the Na'vi. But this puts him at odds with his employers, who want him to help move the Na'vi so they can plunder the land for a rare mineral.
Clear parallels make the film work on multiple levels, most notably the way the plot echoes how European colonists treated native North Americans, who were at one with nature and fought using bows and arrows. And the military-corporate hawks are reminiscent of more recent conflicts, as warmongering Quaritch (Lang) and company man Selfridge (Ribisi) couldn't care less about the native population when success rates are at stake. Opposing them are the scientists (Weaver, Moore and Rao), a rebel pilot (Rodriguez), Neytiri's tribal-leader parents (Pounder and Studi) and the top Na'vi warrior (Alonso).
All of these are terrific characters written and played with just enough subtlety and several surprising twists. At the centre, Worthington and Weaver have the meatiest roles, with strong moments of sardonic grit and playful humour. And each character has an important role to play in the action scenes too. Cameron also manages to write a romance between Jake and Neytiri that plays out honestly, and manages to make strong but unpreachy comments about the evils of war and the interconnection of living things.
Cameron's focus on story and characters pays off by making the visual whizzery even more enjoyable. And while much of the film is animated, it's easily the most sophisticated cartoon ever made, with photorealistic creatures and settings that continually catch us off guard with their sheer presence. Cameron has even figured out how to bring life to the eyes of his animated characters; we feel every tinge of aching emotion and each gasping moment of terror. It's one wondrous, breathtaking scene after another, and one of the most viscerally entertaining films since, well, Titanic.