Tuesday, August 3, 2010
AVATAR (2009). Director: James Cameron.
Wheelchair-bound ex-marine Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) takes the place of his dead twin brother, a scientist, in an unusual mission on the world of Pandora. The Omitacaga people, the indigenous natives of Pandora, have made their home right on top of a generous supply of oil -- uh, I mean, "unobtanium," a rare element-- and the company that wants this element hopes to either get the natives to cooperate and move, or will simply wipe them out if they don't. Jake is one of several people who transfer their minds into artificial life forms [called Avatars] that are a cross between human and native. While in this form Jake bonds with a native woman named Neytiri (Zoe Saldana), and is accepted by her people even as he falls in love with her, her tribe, and the beauty and simplicity of Pandora. But he learns that there are reasons why these natives can never be talked in to leaving their home, and tragedy ensues. Writer/director James Cameron has taken various elements from sword and sorcery epics and melded them to a rather heavy-handed allegory that evokes everything from American treatment of Original People to intervention in Afghanistan. On the plus side the film is well-directed and fast-paced [if definitely overlong, repeating itself and its ideas], and it is full of beautiful images and wonderful FX and photography. [A particularly memorable moment has Jake and Neytiri soaring through the air on pterodactyl-like lifeforms.] On the debit side, Avatar is simplistic, drawn out, and at times there are so many composite FX elements that it just seems like a particularly cluttered, if ingenious, cartoon. Worthington is noteworthy, and there are also good performances from Sigourney Weaver, Giovanni Ribisi, and especially formidable Stephen Lang as the ferocious bad guy who heads the mercenaries.
Verdict: Eye-popping and intriguing for some; tedious for others. **1/2.