MOVIE REVIEW- Effects: Avatar a stunning visual delight


My question is, how will Americans react when/if they realize Avatar essentially has them rooting for the Taliban?

Unless you've spent 2009 in solitary confinement in an Afghan prison, you're aware of Avatar. If you're only peripherally plugged in, you may not know whether it's a movie or a toothpaste, but you know you've got to buy some. Publicists who used to pride themselves on their command of the English language are now Tweeting like little girls– OMG u got 2 c Avatar!!!– to get the word out.

Like the least expensive movie of the year, Paranormal Activity, the most expensive, Avatar, is all about the hype and building consumer awareness. The product no longer matters, but in this case the product happens to be good.

James Cameron, making his first feature since Titanic, has created an extraordinary visual experience, mixing live-action, CGI, motion capture, animation, and every other trick in the effects book. About two-thirds of theaters are showing it in 3D, which certainly enhances the experience; but it's not a gimmicky movie with things jumping out at you, so it should look fine in 2D.

Cameron's script has a lot of intelligence in it but– a common complaint this season– falls down in the third act. In the first two, he's able to gloss over weaknesses and omit the technical jibber-jabber that would explain more of what we're seeing but stretch the feature into a miniseries.

By 2154, we've pretty much finished raping the earth and gone to Pandora, a moon of the planet Polyphemus, to obtain a mineral called unobtanium. (Is that a joke?) Unfortunately, the richest deposit is directly under the home of the indigenous Omaticaya clan, one of hundreds of groups of Navi, Pandoran creatures that are human-like but 10 feet tall and blue, with tails. They are also fiercely connected to nature, physically as well as spiritually.

It's a metaphor as obvious as any on the original Star Trek series: Americans (no other nationalities are represented) invade alien soil to take the local minerals, by force if necessary. The Navi are more primitive than the Afghans or Iraqis in terms of weaponry, but the analogy holds.

The opening narration sounds like a film noir detective, but it's a wheelchair-bound Marine, Cpl. Jake Sully (Sam Worthington), who's been sent to Pandora to replace his murdered twin brother, a scientist. He's hoping to earn enough to get his spine repaired. We still don't take good care of our veterans.

The scientific study is led by a botanist, Grace Augustine (Sigourney Weaver), who still smokes cigarettes in 2154. She's not as nice as her avatar, a Navi-like creature sent to give the natives help they don't want, such as English lessons. Jake will be linked to an avatar designed for his brother. We're not given much explanation of the avatars, on the assumption that everyone saw Surrogates and Gamer. (Oops.)

Jake is also enlisted by the head of the military mission, Col. Miles Quaritch (Stephen Lang), a war movie cliche who hopes Jake can find a way to buy off the Omaticaya, or, if not, to learn their weaknesses so they can be driven off their homeland.

But Jake, after various adventures, goes native, falling in love with a Navi woman, Neytiri (Zoe Saldana), and learning their language and culture– all in three months, even though he's not supposed to be very bright. Just as Jake's being inducted into the tribe, Quaritch attacks. During the battle, his ace pilot, Trudy Chacon (Michelle Rodriguez) has enough and drops out.

Act Three might be called "Revenge of the Tree-Huggers," as Jake, Grace, Trudy, and Norm Spellman (Joel David Moore), and/or their avatars try to help the Navi repel another attack with bows and arrows against planes and machine guns. In the middle of all this, a lengthy death scene is too distracting for too long, although it helps set up what comes later. The battle is silly but exciting and visually stunning.

Everything about Avatar is a feast for the eyes, with effects a couple of years more advanced than we've seen before. Pandora looks like an Amazon rain forest on acid; the Navi and avatars have more personality than their human counterparts. For a retro touch, the closing song sounds a lot like the Titanic theme, but it's new and sung by Leona Lewis.

Since 20th Century Fox is releasing Avatar, it will be considered corporate synergy if Fox News condemns the movie for its liberal stance. Negative hype helps the box office, too, by keeping the title on everyone's lips. Having avoided most of the advance hype and been unimpressed with what I did see, I approached Avatar with low-to-medium expectations and was pleasantly surprised. If youre psyched up for the second coming of Star Wars, you may not be as thrilled, but you'll still get your money's worth. #


I think comparing the navi to Taliban is a gross comparison. The Navi are hardly going going about killing all the innocent people they can find

This isn't an analogy to Iraq and the Taliban at all, it's a flat-out history of European colonization of North America, just with a different ending. The Navi even use the same ritual prayers as Native Americans (get it - Navi) when they kill animals in a hunt, reflecting the interconnectedness to nature.

I agree with the above posters. The scenario is far more analogous to European colonists vs. Native Americans than it is to modern Americans vs. Middle East.

Honestly, the cultures of Iraq and Afghanistan are nothing like the Navi in this move, and even the humans are almost comedic exaggerations of the attitudes of most Americans.

Still, great movie.

An almost perfect analogy, except for the ritual prayers in the hunt, is that of the Indonesian military, the gold miner Freeport Mcmoran, and the native people of West Papua. West Papua is an actual tropical jungle, and the West Papuans were living in stone-age villages, undiscovered until about 1930.

About 1960, Indonesia with the approval of the US and the UN, denied the West Papuans what appeared to be a brief opportunity for independence but was really a sham where they played the West Papuans for time, because gold had been found in the interior of West Papua years earlier. All the while the Indonesians, Australians, and Americans were engaging the native peoples, they were doing mineral surveys of their lands. Just like Avatar.

Very few people know this story but I spent two years of my childhood in Port Moresby, in the late 60s and have followed the history of New Guinea over the years.

Andrea, you seem to have been misinformed about "Native Americans."

There were many many completely unrelated languages spoken here before Europeans arrived and no universal prayers, customs, food choices, clothing, types of shelter, spiritual practices, or anything else. A person from a Californian tribe would have been as foreign to an Iroquois as an Englishman would have been.

Some early hunters in the South West stampeded whole herds of bison off of cliffs to kill them in mass. The only thing "interconnected" there were piles of dead animals and sharp boulders.

I think Native American cultures were and are pretty interesting. You really ought to learn just a bit more about them if you're going to go out in public talking about them.

D.W. Whaulves, you also seem to be miss informed about Native Americans. Yes, there were many different languages, customs, and such but a different tribe certainly wouldn't be as foreign as an Englishmen. Because they're native. What can you say for the Englishman? And before you criticize hunting techniques, why don't you do a little research of your own? How would you know if they did or not reflect on their "interconnectedness to nature"? You should be the one to learn more about us if you want to go out in public and talk about Natives. Go Andrea. Lol

Avatar was a great movie! I have not taken the time to watch a movie on the big screen and pay full price twice in a very long time. Avatar is an outstanding film. My whole family loved it!

Avatar was a great movie! I have not taken the time to watch a movie on the big screen and pay full price twice in a very long time. Avatar is an outstanding film. My whole family loved it!

SD, this is from the website for a great PBS series called "How Art Made the World." You think this wouldn't be foreign to the Native Americans you imagine living where the English landed?

"Aztec historians recorded that in 1487, at the great pyramid of Tenichitilan, executioners sacrificed four lines of prisoners, each two miles long. But before they were ritualistically killed, the victims were forced to climb up the pyramid's two hundred and thirty seven steps. At the top were two killing rooms, with priests wielding sacrificial knives.

This was killing on an industrial scale, which the Aztec's meticulously documented in their art. According to Aztec beliefs, the sacrifices were necessary to satisfy their hungry sun-god who demanded blood as payment for creating the world."

Go SD!