Avatar *** (out of ****)

Director: James Cameron
Writer: James Cameron
Cast: Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Sigourney Weaver, Stephen Lang, Michelle Rodriguez, Giovanni Ribisi, Joel David Moore, CCH Pounder, Wes Studi, Laz Alonso, Dileep Rao, Matt Gerald
Rating: PG-13 (intense epic battle sequences and warfare, sensuality, language and some smoking)
Running Time: 163 min
Release Date: 12/18/09

James Cameron’s movie Avatar has been billed at a breakthrough in 3-D movie technology. On that level it is a complete success. It is a stunning visual spectacle of an alien world. Pandora is a world that is a moon of a gas giant planet in a nearby solar system. It is inhabited by a verity of creatures and has a sentient humanoid life form known as the Na’vi. They seem to be on a technological level similar to the American Indian population before contact with Europeans.

As spectacular as the 3-D visuals are the story is something else. It is the year 2154 and humans have arrived to mine for a rock containing a mineral called “unobtainium” that is very valuable. I guess it would valuable based on the economic principle of scarcity based on its name. Of course isn’t really properly named since all on has to do is to travel to a nearby solar system to get it. The problem is that the only big deposit we have found is under this giant tree that a Na’vi clan inhabits. And, darn it this primitive tribe just can be talked into moving for love or money.

It isn’t that the humans haven’t tried. In fact they have gone to great lengths to try to communicate with them. They’ve grown these human-Na’vi hybrid bodies that are operated by remote control by biologically compatible people. Dr. Grace Augustine (Sigourney Weaver) has been working for years learning the Na’vi language and customs along with her team. She even had a school that was attempting to teach the Na’vi English. But, for some unknown reason the Na’vi broke off relations.

It’s seems amazing that the humans have taken all of these steps given that they are working for an evil corporation. This evil corporation has its own army or should I say Marine Corps. It seems the somehow the U.S. government has contracted a unit of marines led by Col. Miles Quaritch (Stephen Lang). Quaritch along with his corporate boss, Parker Selfridge (Giovanni Ribisi), are growing tired of waiting on Dr. Augustine’s diplomacy.

I’ve failed mention the hero of the film (at least from the view of the Na’vi), Jake Sully (Sam Worthington), a disabled marine who volunteered in hope getting a operation that would restore his ability to walk. After a century and a half of health care reform it seems mere corporals benefits wouldn’t pay for such advanced medicine. He was picked because his identical twin brother, a Ph. D who had been trained for three years, had been killed. Jake was sent as replacement since his he as a genetic match for the avatar that had been grown for his brother.

Soon he was operating his avatar and enjoying the experience of walking again. On his first outing he gets separated from his team and befriended by Neytiri (Zoe Saldana), the daughter of the local Na’vi clan chief and medicine woman. Before long he is on his way to being accepted by the Na’vi. Col. Quaritch sees this as a great chance to get some good intel to plan his attack. Dr. Augustine sees it as a chance to advance her diplomacy and outreach effort.

You can probably guess what’s going to happen next. The bad guys (us) launch a vicious attack on the Na’vi and Jake starts fighting for the Na’vi. Even Dr. Augustine’s geeky assistant (Joel David Moore) in avatar form turns in to a machine gun toting commando mowing down marines. Think there is any chance of a little romance between Jake and Na’vi? You know it! The final outcome is particularly unrealistic and depressing. Of course Pandora is a planet where the Gaia concept is very real and mountains float so what is unrealistic there?

I still think that Avatar is a movie worth seeing for the technical aspects. My rating is based on this. So much of the typical Hollywood product has the flaws that I address above. Few offer the visual spectacle of Avatar. So my advice is to see it in 3-D if you chose to go.

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