2 hours, 42 minutes
See It, Take A Friend, Buy the DVD!
Disabled vet Jake Sully (Sam Worthington, Terminator Salvation) is offered the opportunity to serve his country by taking his now-deceased twin brother's position in the Avatar program on Pandora. Avatars, led by Dr. Grace Augustine (Sigourney Weaver, Aliens), use genetically engineered versions of Pandora's native people, the Na'vi, to communicate and learn about their culture.
Corporate weasel Parker Selfridge (Giovanni Ribisi, Boiler Room) and military hard-on Col. Miles (Stephen Lang, Tombstone) could give a rat's ass about science and diplomacy, and use Jake to discover the quickest way to get to the coveted unobtanium deposits.
While on mission, Jake inadvertently meets Neytiri (Zoe Saldana, Star Trek) who convinces her people to teach Jake their ways. The truth and beauty behind the Na'vi and Pandora is uncovered as the patience of Selfridge and Miles is exhausted, leaving Jake to decide to which side he truly belongs.
Damn, that was one long-ass synopsis, but did you expect any less from a movie that clocks in at nearly three hours? I finally plopped down into Avatar 3D on its third week in theaters, already more than weary of the gushing hype surrounding it. This bitterness made me prone to honing in on the evident similarities to earlier films by writer-director James Cameron (Terminator).
The science vs. corporate-military motif brought Aliens to mind. The hero dons experimental tech to interact with an alien race, The Abyss. The budding relationship between two people from different walks of life, Titanic. The inevitable destruction of inferior lifeforms was akin to that foretold in Terminator 2: Judgment Day, except now Na'vi are the humans, and the humans are the terminators.
Though it's not Cameron related, watching Jake discover the wonders of Pandora was like the BBC series Planet Earth. Heck, Sigourney Weaver was even there to narrate a portion of his experience.
By the time it ended, I stood up, shook off the booty numbness and had to admit that it's deserving of the hype. Much of the film is exactly like watching Planet Earth, which is amazing considering Pandora exists on a hard drive somewhere. The visual achievements are beyond words. The years of hard work Cameron poured into creating such a realistic world are evident in every frame.
Does that mean when you dust off your copy of Avatar in a decade to show to your kid's friends, it will hold up? Not a chance. Just like Terminator 2, Avatar has set the bar and future audiences can only expect bigger and better visual effects. It will never stand on the merits of its story. The moniker of the mineral "unobtainium" alone is evidence of that. Avatar is largely formulaic and unoriginal in its character and story development.
Avatar isn't action-packed, but Cameron balances the exposition, the discovery and the mind-blowing mayhem. My favorite action sequence had to be Jake's rite of passage with the Mountain Banshee.
It's a testament to the visual effects that they make Neytiri pretty damn sexy. It would have been nice for Michelle Rodriguez (Resident Evil) to get a larger role, but at least she was cute in the few scenes she had.
The Money Shot
Despite pilfering well-worn characters and themes, Avatar is far from boring. It truly is a cinematic experience; a spectacle to behold. Avatar might not reel your heart into the plight of Jake and the Na'vi, but discovering the wonders of Pandora will easily occupy you for the three hour runtime.
Thursday, January 7, 2010