Recently, I went to a movie that completely shook my world and my perspective. It wasn’t Roland Emmerich’s bloated, effects-orientated, 2012. It wasn’t Michael Bay’s crap action film, Transformers: Revenge of The Fallen. It wasn’t even this year’s Best Picture nominee, Up In The Air. Although, that film has a great screenplay going for it, it wasn’t near as earth-shattering as this. Actually, I can’t say any film of the last decade has moved me, thrilled me, excited me and inspired me as much as James Cameron’s Avatar.
Half a decade ago, James Cameron announced that he was going to return to mainstream filmmaking. At that time, Avatar was strictly known as Project 880 or something like that. I’m sure you’ve heard of James Cameron by now. The man created the No. 1 film of all time, Titanic. He’s also given us several other classic films, including The Terminator, Aliens and Terminator 2: Judgment Day. The man knows how to make movies that strip us down and make us fall in love with characters on screen. What he’s done with Avatar is that – plus, so much more.
The film stars Sam Worthington (Terminator Salvation), Zoe Saldana (Star Trek), Sigourney Weaver (Alien and Aliens), Stephen Lang (Tombstone) and Michelle Rodriguez (The Fast & The Furious). With a budget of 300 million or more, James Cameron uses this relatively unknown cast to produce what many have called, “the Star Wars of our generation.” Other critics have actually compared Avatar’s ground-breaking visualization to that of The Wizard of Oz. That’s right, I said, The Wizard of Oz. You know the little known film where Dorothy Gale goes to a magical place and meets several characters like the Cowardly Lion, the Tin Man and Scarecrow. Well, you might have trouble believing a brand new film from the man that declared himself to be “king of the world” 12 years ago could live up to such hype.
Well, after seeing Avatar 6 times now, taking in everything that it’s actually accomplished, appreciating this film for what it is, I can honestly say, James Cameron’s masterpiece does truly live up to the hype. Shocked? Well, I’m still in shock with the doors James Cameron has opened and the world he’s exposed us to. But, he truly is king of the world.
This moon called, Pandora is brought to life with all of the richness and color of our most wild dreams. He makes this dream-like world seem so vividly real, so gloriously captivating that you’ll be lucky if you can move out of your seats after your first visit. It’s like watching Fantasia come to life. It’s like turning The Lion King into a real film with the same magic as the Disney cartoon.
Some skeptics have unfairly judged this film a stinker, because of the simple and derivative plot or so they say. All James Cameron has done is take a classic tale and made it his own. It absolutely works beautifully for the film. The dialogue is solid and fits in the film. I really can’t ask for more in a film that is this astonishing.
Truly, there isn’t many words in the book to describe the overall feeling you’ll have after you’ve seen Avatar, preferably on an IMAX 3D screen. But, Avatar is a brilliant and beautiful film, with or without 3D. So, it’s really not necessary. The story and characters still mean the most in any film. The way James Cameron tells this story with Zoe Saldana as Neytiri and Sam Worthington as Jake Sully is so beautiful that it’s hard not to forget that 60% of Avatar has been done with CGI. That’s really the ground-breaking part.
Sure, Cameron uses 3D like no other filmmaker. His intentions were to draw audiences into this CGI environment, letting them feel like they’re actually there in this magical world. And James Cameron does it, no doubt about that. But, everything boils down to the story, and Jake and Neytiri’s story is captivating by itself. Yes, it is inspired by the story of Pocahontas and John Smith. But, I don’t remember any 10-foot tall, blue, cat-like aliens in Pocahontas. So, obviously, you really shouldn’t say this inspired film is a copy. It’s the way Cameron tells it or re-tells it that makes Avatar work.
James Cameron has taken a former marine who is now a paraplegic, and given him a new life and new legs in this avatar body. You see, in the future, humanity is basically so desperate for a buck, we’ll do anything and everything to get some mineral that is worth millions. Yes, you might find this representation of humanity offensive. But, this is science-fiction with 10-foot tall, blue cat people. I think you can make some leaps of faith that Cameron knows what he’s doing with this story. In a way, you can say that this fictional story reflects what’s happening with our desperate oil drilling overseas. You can find a lot of parallels if you look for them.
What really matters is the love story between Neytiri and Jake. The idea of two different species falling in love is perfectly expressed on film, and the ground-breaking CGI makes it feel all the more real. No one can breathe the air on Pandora without a mask on. Heck, with some of the monstrous alien lifeforms on the planet, I wouldn’t want to go out in a human form either. But, everyone can basically hook up to an avatar and go outside, and enjoy the world of Pandora without a mask. You become 10 foot tall, blue, cat people, grown from the DNA of the natives and your own DNA.
While Jake is spending time with the natives in his avatar, he meets the princess of the indigenous tribe, Neytiri. She’s understandably hostile with him at first. Right away, Jake is undeniably vexed by everything around him, including Neytiri. And his response to Pandora and this beautiful alien woman is completely understandable in this reviewers opinion.
Put aside all notions of reality. Put aside those dumb remarks made by dumb people, regarding Avatar as nothing but “Dances With Smurfs,” because this movie is unlike anything you’ve seen before. It’ll work if you allow yourself to fall in love with Pandora and the people inhabiting it. Hell, I actually cried several times during the film. I never imagined any CGI character could ever make me so emotionally affected.
With that being said, Zoe Saldana should be considered for an Oscar nomination as Neytiri. Her performance shines through the CGI. You can see and feel every emotion coming out of her. And, Zoe brings one of the greatest female characters I’ve ever seen to life on film with more complexity than I’ve seen in any female performance of 2009. The fact that she did this through what you might call, “CGI make-up” is pretty powerful to me as it is. Her Neytiri is really the heart and soul of Avatar.
So in conclusion, let me just say, run to the theater, see Avatar in IMAX 3D. You’ll be contributing to what could be the biggest evolutionary leap in filmmaking since Star Wars. It’s an event film that can appeal to all ages. It’s a film with a great moral center. It’s easily the best film of 2009. And, I dare say, it is the best film of the decade.