Avatar is your standard story of a white guy who finds a new race of people with their own distinct culture and lifestyle, and he gets accepted into the group and becomes the most awesome one. You’ve seen it in Dances With Wolves, you’ve seen it in The Last Samurai, and now you can see it again in Avatar. The twist in Avatar is that the new race of people are giant 10-foot tall sparkly blue aliens.
Some directors make movies. James Cameron makes blockbusters. He ruled the ‘90s with Terminator 2, True Lies, and Titanic. And then he disappeared for a long time and casual moviegoers forgot about him. Then in 2009, he reappeared with a little flick called Avatar. It broke all kinds of box office records and ultimately made over $2,782,275,172 worldwide. In layman’s terms, that’s a fuckton of money.
It’s 2154 and humans have used up all of the Earth’s resources, so we started going to the stars and using up their resources. That’s how the humans ended up on Pandora, a jungle moon orbiting a gas planet. Pandora is the only known place where the valuable unobtanium mineral can be found. There are only a few setbacks to mining unobatanium: Pandora’s atmosphere is poisonous to humans and the Na’vi, a species of 10-foot-tall sparkly blue cat-like hominids that resent the humans for invading their home.
A greedy corporation has established the Avatar Program to create human/Na’vi hybrids to explore Pandora and set up relations with the Na’vi. Growing an Avatar is a huge investment, each Avatar is genetically matched to its driver and each driver does through years of training. Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) is a paraplegic marine with a dead twin brother. Jake’s brother was a driver in the Avatar program, and Jake is asked to take his place so they don’t waste the Avatar.
Jake jumps at the chance of a lifetime (not really, because he’s in a wheelchair), and he joins the Avatar Program and heads to Pandora. He meets the head of the program, Dr. Grace Augustine (Sigourney Weaver), fellow driver Norm Spellman (Joel David Moore) and a few other characters.
On his first assignment, the crazy Pandora creatures cause Jake to become separated from Grace and Spellman. He’s alone in a dangerous jungle and almost dies a few times before getting rescued by Neytiri (Zoe Saldana). Neytiri gets a sign to take Jake back to her clan. Her mom is the spiritual leader of the tribe and they decide to initiate Jake Sully into their society.
Colonel Miles Quaritch (Stephen Lang) asks Jake to gain the Na’vi’s trust and find out about Hometree, which stands on a large supply of unobtanium. Jake agrees to help him out. He spends his days as an Avatar, learning about the Na’vi, appreciating nature, exploring his Avatar abilities, and falling in love with Neytiri. He spends his nights recording a video log for Grace and supplying intelligence to Quaritch.
Jake begins to feel conflicted the more time he spends running around the jungle. He’s changed. He’s not the same person and he starts to turn his back on his society. He’s gone native and he’s not coming back.
I’m assuming you’ve seen the movie, so I’m not going to go into all the details, but the Na’vi get attacked, Hometree gets destroyed, they blame Jake, he has to get their trust back, and when he does they have a climatic battle to save the Tree of Souls (the Na’vi have a lot of magic trees). The good guys win and the bad guys go home and Jake goes to live in his Avatar body full time.
This movie has a cliché plot, but you can’t stop watching. There are lots of plot holes (like the sudden emergence of all the other Na’vi tribes), but everything flows and fluidity is key to keeping entertained.
Avatar is unintentionally racist. All the main human characters are white. Most of the Na’vi actors are either black or Native-American, as if James Cameron couldn’t decide which race he wanted to suppress more. All the Pandora animals are slaves too. You just take your ponytail-tentacle thing and make a connection with him and he does everything you want.
James Cameron created an amazing world. Pandora is beautiful, you want to live there. There are pretty plants and majestic trees. Flora is cool, but it’s all about the fauna. The Avatar animals are awesome. There are flying animals and stampeding ones and tree-swinging ones.
This is the highest grossing film of all time. That doesn’t mean it’s the best. It just means that a lot of people saw it, liked it, and saw it again. It was a breakout hit in a time when people are supposed to be illegally downloading movies. It meant that if you made a movie worth seeing, people would gladly pay for the experience. It showed that 3D could be more than a gimmick if you do it right. It makes it more immersive, it makes it more magical. Avatar is entertainment. You can’t deny that.
Critically Rated at 15/17
Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young