Avatar…how do I tell you about Avatar....
Well, let’s get the fun part out of the way: I really, really enjoyed it. And its star, Sam Worthington, is only part of the reason.
Now the hard part.
Avatar’s a film about blue aliens called the Na’vi, the one-with-nature inhabitants of a distant moon called Pandora that’s much like Earth. In a way. There’s water and trees, but the air isn’t human-friendly.
There, disabled ex-Marine Jake Sully (Worthington) must go undercover as one the natives using an alien body as an avatar – the film’s set in 2154, so the technology’s there, and trust me…you don’t want me to begin to explain it because it’s much cooler to watch it. His mission is to get information on their ways as a mean to exploit a natural resource called Unobtainium the humans want as an energy supply now that Earth has all but died.
As he begins to learn more about the Na’vi way of life, though, and as he interacts more and more with his reluctant guide, Neytiri (Zoë Saldana), with whom he falls in love, Jake begins to realize he has no right…that humans have no right to come to Pandora and rape it (i.e., colonize it, industrialize it, and deplete it of its inherent riches like they did the third rock from the sun).
Wow – that was easier than I thought. Here I was thinking I wouldn’t be able to start telling you about James Cameron’s triumphant return as a film director after a 12-year-absence (y’ know…after that little indie Titanic), but I did. Pizza for me!
Cameron took his sweet ol’ time delivering this mesmerizing sci-fi-action epic/love story because he first needed to develop the pioneering technology to make it his way. Part of the movie features Worthington (who’s a tremendous leading man already) and co-stars such as Sigourney Weaver in their human form, while other parts feature them and others, such as Saldana, exclusively as Na’vi, who are extremely lithe and strong and tall, pointy-eared, tailed, blue beings.
So I shall forgive Cam-Cam his clunky-at-times writing. (Mmm, “Unobtainium”? Who gave you notes, Jimbo? George Lucas?)
The film, as I mentioned, finds Jake in the middle of a battle between two people. On the one hand, there’s the humans, some of whom are all trigger-happy about taking over (like Stephen Lang’s badass Col. Quaritch), while others, like Weaver’s scientist, Dr. Grace Augustine, want to protect, understand, and respect Pandora. And on the other hand there’s the peace-loving Na‘vi. Conflict!
Since Jake has had to straddle the line between the two worlds, the time comes when he has to pick a side...and break the awful truth to the object of his affection. Double-conflict!
To see him get there, in this fantastical world Cameron has imagined, a world that is rich and lush and colorful as it is wild and new, is a (long) journey I was willing to take (with big, uncomfortable IMAX glasses on, no less), and one that I’d like to take again. The guy – surprise! – has another massive hit in his hands.
Yes, the film’s long, but it is the most exhilarating, best kind of long. By the time it’s over, after a pièce de résistance battle sequence, you will want to get a visa to Pandora. (Cameron reportedly wants to explore the other moons neighboring Pandora in future sequels, books, and spin-offs should Avatar prove a successful gamble. And, who is anyone kidding? It so is gonna be huge.)
Oh, and you will be glad to know – no spoiler here – that after all of their differences, Jake and Neytiri’s hearts will go on.
My Rating ****
Photo: 20th Century Fox.