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avatar 1 movie summary essay

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Watching "Avatar," I felt sort of the same as when I saw "Star Wars" in 1977. That was another movie I walked into with uncertain expectations. James Cameron 's film has been the subject of relentlessly dubious advance buzz, just as his " Titanic " was. Once again, he has silenced the doubters by simply delivering an extraordinary film. There is still at least one man in Hollywood who knows how to spend $250 million, or was it $300 million, wisely.

"Avatar" is not simply a sensational entertainment, although it is that. It's a technical breakthrough. It has a flat-out Green and anti-war message. It is predestined to launch a cult. It contains such visual detailing that it would reward repeating viewings. It invents a new language, Na'vi, as "Lord of the Rings" did, although mercifully I doubt this one can be spoken by humans, even teenage humans. It creates new movie stars. It is an Event, one of those films you feel you must see to keep up with the conversation.

The story, set in the year 2154, involves a mission by U. S. Armed Forces to an earth-sized moon in orbit around a massive star. This new world, Pandora, is a rich source of a mineral Earth desperately needs. Pandora represents not even a remote threat to Earth, but we nevertheless send in ex-military mercenaries to attack and conquer them. Gung-ho warriors employ machine guns and pilot armored hover ships on bombing runs. You are free to find this an allegory about contemporary politics. Cameron obviously does.

Pandora harbors a planetary forest inhabited peacefully by the Na'vi, a blue-skinned, golden-eyed race of slender giants, each one perhaps 12 feet tall. The atmosphere is not breathable by humans, and the landscape makes us pygmies. To venture out of our landing craft, we use avatars--Na'vi lookalikes grown organically and mind-controlled by humans who remain wired up in a trance-like state on the ship. While acting as avatars, they see, fear, taste and feel like Na'vi, and have all the same physical adeptness.

This last quality is liberating for the hero, Jake Sully ( Sam Worthington ), who is a paraplegic. He's been recruited because he's a genetic match for a dead identical twin, who an expensive avatar was created for. In avatar state he can walk again, and as his payment for this duty he will be given a very expensive operation to restore movement to his legs. In theory he's in no danger, because if his avatar is destroyed, his human form remains untouched. In theory.

On Pandora, Jake begins as a good soldier and then goes native after his life is saved by the lithe and brave Neytiri ( Zoe Saldana ). He finds it is indeed true, as the aggressive Col. Miles Quaritch ( Stephen Lang ) briefed them, that nearly every species of life here wants him for lunch. (Avatars are not be made of Na'vi flesh, but try explaining that to a charging 30-ton rhino with a snout like a hammerhead shark).

The Na'vi survive on this planet by knowing it well, living in harmony with nature, and being wise about the creatures they share with. In this and countless other ways they resemble Native Americans. Like them, they tame another species to carry them around--not horses, but graceful flying dragon-like creatures. The scene involving Jake capturing and taming one of these great beasts is one of the film's greats sequences.

Like "Star Wars" and "LOTR," "Avatar" employs a new generation of special effects. Cameron said it would, and many doubted him. It does. Pandora is very largely CGI. The Na'vi are embodied through motion capture techniques, convincingly. They look like specific, persuasive individuals, yet sidestep the eerie Uncanny Valley effect. And Cameron and his artists succeed at the difficult challenge of making Neytiri a blue-skinned giantess with golden eyes and a long, supple tail, and yet--I'll be damned. Sexy.

At 163 minutes, the film doesn't feel too long. It contains so much. The human stories. The Na'vi stories, for the Na'vi are also developed as individuals. The complexity of the planet, which harbors a global secret. The ultimate warfare, with Jake joining the resistance against his former comrades. Small graceful details like a floating creature that looks like a cross between a blowing dandelion seed and a drifting jellyfish, and embodies goodness. Or astonishing floating cloud-islands.

I've complained that many recent films abandon story telling in their third acts and go for wall-to-wall action. Cameron essentially does that here, but has invested well in establishing his characters so that it matters what they do in battle and how they do it. There are issues at stake greater than simply which side wins.

Cameron promised he'd unveil the next generation of 3-D in "Avatar." I'm a notorious skeptic about this process, a needless distraction from the perfect realism of movies in 2-D. Cameron's iteration is the best I've seen -- and more importantly, one of the most carefully-employed. The film never uses 3-D simply because it has it, and doesn't promiscuously violate the fourth wall. He also seems quite aware of 3-D's weakness for dimming the picture, and even with a film set largely in interiors and a rain forest, there's sufficient light. I saw the film in 3-D on a good screen at the AMC River East and was impressed. I might be awesome in True IMAX. Good luck in getting a ticket before February.

It takes a hell of a lot of nerve for a man to stand up at the Oscarcast and proclaim himself King of the World. James Cameron just got re-elected.

Roger Ebert

Roger Ebert

Roger Ebert was the film critic of the Chicago Sun-Times from 1967 until his death in 2013. In 1975, he won the Pulitzer Prize for distinguished criticism.

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Film Credits

Avatar movie poster

Avatar (2009)

Rated PG-13 for intense epic battle sequences and warfare, sensuality, language and some smoking

162 minutes

Stephen Lang as Col. Miles Quaritch

Joel David Moore as Norm Spellman

Wes Studi as Eytukan

CCH Pounder as Moat

Dileep Rao as Dr. Max Patel

Giovanni Ribisi as Parker Selfridge

Sam Worthington as Jake Sully

Zoe Saldana as Neytiri

Michelle Rodriguez as Trudy Chacon

Laz Alonso as Tsu'tey

Sigourney Weaver as Grace

Matt Gerald as Corporal Lyle Wainfleet

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The “Avatar” (2009) Film Analysis Essay

I have rewatched James Cameron’s Avatar (2009) several times, and I am amazed by the quality of the footage each time. Considering that most of the picture is graphics, this makes me admire it even more. I started watching the movie with high expectations, which I think were met, so the initial impression didn’t change much after watching the movie. Most of all, as I said, I liked the unattainable graphical power of Avatar. As you know, the production used the techniques of camera shooting, editing, capturing faces, and visual effects, which amaze almost any viewer. I liked that the film has a deep meaning, not just an excellent visual component. The director touched on the resounding theme of human cruelty, showing what people are ready to do for profit.

Given the deep plot, the eternal love line between the main characters seemed inappropriate, so I would say that the only thing I did not like was this moment in the plot. I think a strong attachment, or becoming part of a clan, would be enough. However, this, in turn, gives the film its brilliance and richness when everything, including emotions, is at its maximum. I also didn’t like the cruelty of the earthlings, which, unfortunately, is not cinematic fiction. Most likely, the fact that people are cruel upset me the most. However, justice always wins, as happened in the movie, so overall, I enjoyed the movie.

There is a direct relationship between people’s perception of each other and their relationships. How people perceive and evaluate each other depends on the images that they form about each other. Based on these images, people relate to each other and build interpersonal communication. If one person perceives another positively, he will have a positive attitude towards this person and act accordingly. If a person perceives another person negatively, then negative actions should be expected from him in relation to this person.

The protagonist, a former military man, perceived him as a strong personality who could be trusted as an experienced commander at first contact with the Colonel. It eventually led Sally to side with ‘evil’ as he agreed to help Miles Quaritch (Cameron, 2009). The leader understood that the main character is an essential link between scientists and the military, so he decided to use him. In turn, the Colonel’s perception of Sully as a former military man allowed him to manipulate Sully (Cameron, 2009). He knew the trauma the hero received earlier weighed too much on him, a man who still wanted to ‘fight for a good future.’ Thus, the background of both characters determines their perception of each other, ultimately influencing the plot’s development. It is noteworthy that the manifested human psychology acts not only on the screen but in life too.

Interestingly, the film does not represent ‘standard’ stereotypes, such as a precise distribution of responsibilities, that is, the preservation of gender roles. The film shows that excellent fighters can be women and military pilots. In addition, the scientific group is headed by a woman who treats the military with disdain (Cameron, 2009). The film’s director develops more specific themes, such as the Aboriginal stereotype, precisely the behavioral stereotype. People who have arrived from Earth consider themselves more developed, which has advantages. It also happens with developed and third-world countries: post-industrial states consider themselves in the right to carry out global changes in lagging states. Just like the people who arrived from Earth to Pandora, they ignore that they are surrounded by ‘people’ who do not differ in their common moral values.

The actors repeatedly use gestures and facial expressions throughout the film to show how they feel. But what is most surprising is the same gestures and facial expressions the animated characters did. We see that these creatures have the same feelings as us, and they correctly display them using non-verbal behavior; this film is filled with action. It means that they had to ensure that facial expressions and actions were correct. One can see that the movements of the characters look realistic: there is running and jumping. All this was done to reflect the actions of the person. Posture is essential here. These people from another world are scared and fighting for their lives. Their postures portray many basic emotions: fear, sadness, love, and others.

The indigenous population of Pandora is one with nature, so the inhabitants of Na’vi adopt a lot from it: gestures, facial expressions, and more. Residents often make many different sounds to establish contact with the world around them: they communicate with animals and trees and may also communicate with each other. The most important thing for them is to establish contact, which, in turn, is also connected with nature: they connect minds and the world around them. For this reason, Sully’s act when he established a connection with Toruk, a dragon-like predator feared and honored by the Na’vi, can be attributed to non-verbal communication to inspire trust and respect from the natives (Cameron, 2009). He knew this animal was considered an essential part of their culture, and its subjugation equated with great power. Thus, the protagonist, non-verbally, asks the inhabitants to trust him and follow him.

I think the realization of the mistake comes to him gradually and begins with the first meeting with Neytiri. The hero is struck by the beauty and harmony of Pandora’s world and its connection. The more the hero learns about the peculiarities of the life of the indigenous people, the more he is imbued with their position and becomes part of them. As he learns from the Na’vi, Jake respects the Omaticaya people and their customs more and more (Cameron, 2009). He passes the test to tame the ikran, a flying pterodactyl-like predator, and at the end of the training, Jake is initiated into the clan. Even though the realization of Jake’s mistake did not come to him in full immediately, he did not make a sufficient attempt to prevent it in time. In this regard, I believe that he realized the magnitude of the disaster too late. By the time Jake began to act, the Colonel and his army had already begun to destroy the Na’vi. Although the protagonist sided with the people of Omaticaya during the battle, this did not bring an effective result.

I would like to press pause at the moment when Jake began to enjoy life on Pandora. He could talk about his deal with Colonel Grace so that she could help him talk to the Na’vi people because she had spent much more time among them, and they trusted her. Perhaps this would have avoided the victims that occurred in the film. I don’t think Omaticaya’s warning would have stopped Selfridge, the plan’s administrator, from his idea, but it would have given him more time to develop an effective defense plan. That is what I would do, given the main character’s background and the events in his life that took place on Pandora.

Cameron, J. (2009). Avatar [Film]. 20th Century Fox.

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IvyPanda. (2023, December 11). The "Avatar" (2009) Film Analysis.

"The "Avatar" (2009) Film Analysis." IvyPanda , 11 Dec. 2023,

IvyPanda . (2023) 'The "Avatar" (2009) Film Analysis'. 11 December.

IvyPanda . 2023. "The "Avatar" (2009) Film Analysis." December 11, 2023.

1. IvyPanda . "The "Avatar" (2009) Film Analysis." December 11, 2023.


IvyPanda . "The "Avatar" (2009) Film Analysis." December 11, 2023.

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  • A paraplegic Marine dispatched to the moon Pandora on a unique mission becomes torn between following his orders and protecting the world he feels is his home.
  • When his brother is killed in a robbery, paraplegic Marine Jake Sully decides to take his place in a mission on the distant world of Pandora. There he learns of greedy corporate figurehead Parker Selfridge's intentions of driving off the native humanoid "Na'vi" in order to mine for the precious material scattered throughout their rich woodland. In exchange for the spinal surgery that will fix his legs, Jake gathers knowledge, of the Indigenous Race and their Culture, for the cooperating military unit spearheaded by gung-ho Colonel Quaritch, while simultaneously attempting to infiltrate the Na'vi people with the use of an "avatar" identity. While Jake begins to bond with the native tribe and quickly falls in love with the beautiful alien Neytiri, the restless Colonel moves forward with his ruthless extermination tactics, forcing the soldier to take a stand - and fight back in an epic battle for the fate of Pandora. — The Massie Twins
  • On the lush alien world of Pandora live the Na'vi, beings who appear primitive but are highly evolved. Because the planet's environment is poisonous, human/Na'vi hybrids, called Avatars, must link to human minds to allow for free movement on Pandora. Jake Sully, a paralyzed former Marine, becomes mobile again through one such Avatar and falls in love with a Na'vi woman. As a bond with her grows, he is drawn into a battle for the survival of her world. — Jwelch5742
  • Earth, 2154. As part of the ambitious Avatar Program, a project created to explore the hostile environment of Earth-like exomoon Pandora, Jake Sully, a 22-year-old paraplegic Marine veteran, arrives on the mysterious planet. As Sully learns to control his advanced bio-engineered avatar to infiltrate the indigenous Omatikaya clan, a race of sapient humanoids dwelling in Pandora's lush jungles, he undertakes a dangerous mission: build bridges between humans and the blue-skinned, peace-loving Na'vi giants. Sinister forces, however, threaten the verdant extrasolar planet with ulterior motives. Now, torn between two worlds, the earthling in an alien body must pick sides. Can Sully win the natives' trust and help protect the virgin green haven? — Nick Riganas
  • In 2154, humans have depleted Earth's natural resources, leading to a severe energy crisis. The Resources Development Administration (RDA) mines a valuable mineral Unobtanium on Pandora, a densely forested habitable moon orbiting Polyphemus, a fictional gas giant in the Alpha Centauri star system. Pandora, whose atmosphere is poisonous to humans, is inhabited by the Na'Vi, a species of 10-foot tall (3.0 m), blue-skinned, sapient humanoids that live in harmony with nature and worship a mother goddess named Eywa. It takes 6 years to get from Earth to Pandora in cryogenic sleep. To explore Pandora's biosphere, scientists use Na'Vi-human hybrids (grown from human + native DNA) called "avatars", operated by genetically matched humans. Jake Sully (Sam Worthington), a paraplegic former Marine, replaces his deceased identical twin brother as an operator of one. Jake was leading a purposeless life on Earth and was contacted by RDA when his brother died. his brother represented a significant investment by RDA, since the avatars are linked to the human DNA/genome. Since Jake is a twin, he has the same exact DNA as his brother and can take his place in the Avatar program. Dr. Grace Augustine (Sigourney Weaver), head of the Avatar Program, considers Sully an inadequate replacement (as she considers Jake a mere Jarhead) but accepts his assignment as a bodyguard for excursions deep into Na'Vi territory. Tracy (Michelle Rodriguez) is the pilot assigned to Grace and her team of Na'Vis. While escorting the avatars of Grace and fellow scientist Dr. Norm Spellman (Joel David Moore), Jake's avatar is attacked by a Thanator (while they were visiting the school that Grace was operating to teach the Omaticaya. She also does test on tree roots and is developing a theory that all living things on the planet are somehow attached and connected to each other) and flees into the forest, where he is rescued by Neytiri (Zoe Saldana), a female Na'Vi. Witnessing an auspicious sign (Seeds of the sacred tree land on Jake, covering him. Something she later calls Eywa), she takes him to her clan. The Na'Vi respect all living things and Neytiri is angry because to save Jake she had to kill many native species. Neytiri's mother Mo'At (CCH Pounder), the clan's spiritual leader, orders her daughter to initiate Jake into their society. Grace and Tracy return to base camp, as they are not allowed to run night ops as per protocol. The Omaticaya (the Na'Vi clan has its HQ in the Hometree) Colonel Miles Quaritch (Stephen Lang), head of RDA's private security force, promises Jake that the company will restore his legs if he gathers information about the Na'Vi and the clan's gathering place, a giant tree called Hometree, which stands above the richest deposit of Unobtanium in the area. Jake has 3 months to convince the Na'Vi to move as that's when the bulldozers get to the tree. Jake learns that Neytiri and her sister Slywanin studied at Grace's school. Sylwanin is dead. When Grace learns of Jake's work for Miles (she sees him explaining the inner structure of the Hometree to Miles and Parker), she transfers herself, Jake, and Norm to an outpost. Over the following three months, Jake and Neytiri fall in love as Jake grows to sympathize with the natives. Neytiri also teaches Jake about Eywa, the network of energy that flows through all living things. Grace also reveals that one day the Omaticaya destroyed a bulldozer and hid inside her school. Miles's troopers attacked them and Sylwanin died. The Na'Vi never returned. They wanted Grace to protect the Na'Vi. After Jake is initiated into the tribe (he even captures a banshee/Ikran (a flying predator kind of creature), after Neytiri deems him ready to be a warrior. She even takes Jake to the tree of souls, their most sacred site), he and Neytiri choose each other as mates. Jake and Neytiri escape an attack from Toruk, the biggest banshee in the sky. Rider of the Toruk is called Toruk Macto. Soon afterward, Jake reveals his change of allegiance when he attempts to disable a bulldozer that threatens to destroy a sacred Na'Vi site. When Quaritch shows a video recording of Jake's attack on the bulldozer to Administrator Parker Selfridge (Giovanni Ribisi), and another in which Jake admits that the Na'Vi will never abandon Hometree, Selfridge orders Hometree destroyed (this was after the Omaticaya retaliated and destroyed the bulldozers and killed 6 humans in the process. Grace thinks the bulldozers were specifically sent to evoke a response and use that as an excuse for war) Despite Grace's argument that destroying Hometree could damage the biological neural network native to Pandora, Selfridge gives Jake and Grace one hour to convince the Na'Vi to evacuate before commencing the attack. Jake confesses to the Na'Vi that he was a spy, and they take him and Grace captive. Quaritch's men destroy Hometree, killing Neytiri's father (the clan chief) and many others. Mo'At frees Jake and Grace, but they are detached from their avatars and imprisoned by Quaritch's forces. Pilot Trudy Chacón, disgusted by Quaritch's brutality, frees Jake, Grace, and Norm, and airlifts them to Grace's outpost, but Grace is shot by Quaritch during the escape. Trudy takes the mobile station and hides it near the tree of souls where Miles cannot find it as the flux vortex scrambles all radars. To regain the Na'Vi's trust, Jake attacks and connects his mind to that of Toruk, a dragon-like predator feared and honored by the Na'Vi. Jake finds the refugees at the sacred Tree of Souls (the Omaticaya are forced to take him seriously due to the power and symbolism of the Toruk) and pleads with Mo'At to heal Grace. The clan attempts to transfer Grace from her human body into her avatar with the aid of the Tree of Souls, but she dies before the process can be completed. Supported by the new chief Tsu'Tey (Laz Alonso), Jake unites the clan and tells them to gather all of the clans to battle the RDA. Quaritch organizes a preemptive strike against the Tree of Souls, believing that its destruction will demoralize the natives. On the eve of battle, Jake prays to Eywa, via a neural connection with the Tree of Souls, to intercede on behalf of the Na'Vi. During the subsequent battle, the Na'Vi suffer heavy casualties, including Tsu'Tey and Trudy, but are rescued when Pandoran wildlife unexpectedly join the attack and overwhelm the humans, which Neytiri interprets as Eywa's answer to Jake's prayer. Jake destroys a makeshift bomber before it can reach the Tree of Souls; Quaritch, wearing an AMP suit, escapes from his own damaged aircraft and breaks open the avatar link unit containing Jake's human body, exposing it to Pandora's poisonous atmosphere. Quaritch prepares to slit the throat of Jake's avatar, but Neytiri kills Quaritch and saves Jake from suffocation, seeing his human form for the first time. With the exceptions of Jake, Norm and a select few others, all humans are expelled from Pandora and sent back to Earth. Jake is permanently transferred into his avatar with the aid of the Tree of Souls.

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Review by Brian Eggert December 18, 2009

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James Cameron’s strength as a director has always been spectacle more than story. While his characterizations are solid—if rooted in heavy clichés—for him, they’re secondary to a skillful exhibition teeming with groundbreaking special effects. In the past, Cameron’s primary objective hasn’t been about making you think passed the end credits or involving you on a resonant emotional level, at least not as much as wanting to blow your socks off with new technological breakthroughs displayed in nonstop action sequences. He concerns himself with what will impact his audience at this moment in cinema, admirably moving toward The New, his focus obsessively concentrated on visual bravado. Accordingly, because he’s driven toward the latest thing in moviemaking, centering all of his concentration on that one goal, the impact of his movies fades over time.

For example, The Terminator may seem corny and old-fashioned today, but at the time of its release, Stan Winston’s animatronics were revolutionary, the action eye-popping. Cameron’s Aliens dumbed down the spare, frightening universe created by Ridley Scott, but it’s a helluva entertaining action movie, one that changed our perspective on the scope of puppetry. For Terminator 2: Judgment Day , Cameron developed CGI that today looks phony, so the weak story doesn’t hold up. And as for Titanic , was the romance ever meant to overshadow the bravura sequence where the ship takes a nosedive into the sea? Probably not, but what a sequence. In each case, except perhaps Cameron’s masterpiece, The Abyss , the director limits his narrative to supply the presentation with audacity aplenty, his story and the effects therein unbalanced, the scale completely tipped to the latter.

It’s with these thoughts in mind that one should approach Avatar , Cameron’s latest foray into the realm of blockbuster moviemaking. Realizing how often Cameron fails to balance spectacle and story will help one appreciate what a wonderful motion picture he’s made here. The story is a familiar one, reminiscent of a number of science-fiction stories and a few notable films ( Dances with Wolves and The Last Samurai being the most apparent), but it’s told with such passion and visual bravado that any carping about the yarn being typical is canceled out. He compiles familiar themes from his previous work, mainly The Abyss , places them in a new setting, and tells a tale so unbelievably rich and escapist that the best way to convince you is just to say, with unbridled enthusiasm, See This Film!

avatar 1 movie summary essay

Set in the year 2154, the story begins on Pandora, a fertile moon orbiting a massive gas planet in a solar system far, far away. Human scientists seek to mine a valuable mineral embedded in the terrain; however, the humanoid race of indigenous people, called Na’vi, stands in their way. An analogous situation to when Europeans first began to explore the Americas, the locals are treated as animalistic savages, while corrupt and callous, the humans plan to infiltrate and transfer them somewhere not on top of the moon’s most concentrated deposit of the mineral. But the Na’vi have a biological connection to the very Nature around them, worshiping it like a deity, and through this connection, they produce a balanced and striking biosphere. However, humanity has a way of disregarding the beliefs of other people and completely ignoring what it takes for Nature to maintain stability.

Sympathetic jarhead Jake Sully (Sam Worthington), a paraplegic, joins the “avatar” program to try and connect with the Na’vi and find a diplomatic solution to the humans’ proposed forced relocation. Under the tutelage of Dr. Grace Augustine (Sigourney Weaver), the scientist who pioneered the program, Jake enters a genetically engineered Na’vi body remotely, existing as one of them to find a balance between cultures. While embedded in the lush Na’vi forests, he meets local Neytiri (Zoe Saldana), and through her, he learns the ways of the natives and ultimately feels more at home in his versatile avatar than his broken human body. But his greedy-minded superiors—company man Parker Selfridge (Giovanni Ribisi) and battle-hungry Colonel Miles Quaritch (the fantastic Stephen Lang)—want their mineral and they want it now. What ensues is a rousing battle where the stakes are entrenched into the characters, so the fighting we see actually has a purpose.

Of course, Cameron’s assessment of his own genius knows no bounds; he’s so (rightfully) confident that the world he’s created is enough to occupy our minds that he doesn’t even bother formulating an actual McGuffin (the name for the moviemaker’s device to propel the plot). On Pandora, the invaluable material the humans seek is called Unobtainium, though not a word of Cameron’s creation. “Unobtainium” in reality is a tech term actually used by scientists to describe an impossible natural resource, such as a limitless, renewable source of energy or precious mineral. The script goes into little detail about what exactly Unobtainium is, just that it’s the last bastion of hope for humanity and our diminished planet. That it’s not called “pandorium” or something more specific is passive on Cameron’s part; he might as well have called it “McGuffin,” since he’s making it clear he doesn’t want to waste time on pithy details.


Most impressive is the tangible rendering of the Na’vi and the fascinating way in which the avatars resemble their hosts (most apparent with Weaver’s avatar) without ever being eerie or awkward. Though presented theatrically in 3D, even in 2D screenings the Na’vi appear three-dimensional. It takes two or three minutes for the viewer to acclimate themselves to the appearance of the Na’vi, their blue elongated forms, and their massive size in comparison to humans. But once that initial adjustment has passed, there isn’t a moment where we doubt what we’re seeing. Cameron was right. Hollywood wasn’t ready for this. These are faces that we can reach out and touch, without ever entering the Uncanny Valley where creepy motion-capture films like Beowulf , A Christmas Carol , and The Polar Express reside. Cameron doesn’t try to replicate physical creatures in this world; he breathes life into them. And if this is where motion capture is going, the advertisements are right—movies won’t be the same, at least not ones using this device. Let’s just hope the directors using this technology in the future have the patience that Cameron displayed through the last ten years of pre-production.

If showmanship was the only criteria by which Avatar was to be judged, then this would still be a raving review. Cameron has mastered the art of stringing together breathlessly entertaining action sequences, making his frequent long runtimes ( Avatar clocks in at 162 minutes) breeze by. But there’s also an admirable social commentary at work, sporting hearty themes of environmentalism and anti-militarism. Cameron often writes his villains as close-minded bureaucrats and war-mongers, probably because their single-mindedness is so easily shown as wrong in a humanist circumstance such as this, which, of course, is a historical parallel for events of both the distant past and our contemporary setting. Here, those Cameron tropes are alive and well in their most obvious but potent scenery, taking the film to unexpected levels of deep emotional involvement. By the end, when we’re cheering for those rotten humans to get their comeuppance, Cameron has made us feel guilty about the forceful, inhuman nature of our species. That such a feeling is brought to life in a sci-fi blockbuster is a glorious accomplishment.

Along with The Abyss , it’s certain that Avatar will prove to be one of Cameron’s most revisited and least dated entertainments. The film has none of the pop-culture lingo that has made some of the director’s other works unwatchable today. It has an allegorical edge that makes it a significant narrative, while also putting to use every last penny of its astronomical budget. And it has a brisk pace and epic scope to simply awe its audience into submission. Skeptics will be turned, probably easier than they were expecting. Cameron has once again proven himself a landmark director whose forward-thinking inspires changes in industry standards and whose ability to connect to his audience remains thoroughly intact. To be sure, this is an engaging experience in every sense, from the dramatic to the visual to the visceral. This is how blockbusters should be.


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‘avatar’: film review.

A dozen years later, James Cameron has proven his point: He is king of the world.

By Kirk Honeycutt

Kirk Honeycutt

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'Avatar' (2009)

As commander-in-chief of an army of visual-effects technicians, creature designers, motion-capture mavens, stunt performers, dancers, actors and music and sound magicians, he brings science-fiction movies into the 21st century with the jaw-dropping wonder that is “ Avatar .” And he did it almost from scratch. The Bottom Line A titanic entertainment -- movie magic is back!

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After writing this story many years ago, he discovered that the technology he needed to make it happen did not exist. So, he went out and created it in collaboration with the best effects minds in the business. This is motion capture brought to a new high where every detail of the actors’ performances gets preserved in the final CG character as they appear on the screen. Yes, those eyes are no longer dead holes but big and expressive, almost dominating the wide and long alien faces.

The movie is 161 minutes and flies by in a rush. Repeat business? You bet. “Titanic”-level business? That level may never be reached again, but Fox will see more than enough grosses worldwide to cover its bet on Cameron.

But let’s cut to the chase: A fully believable, flesh-and-blood (albeit not human flesh and blood) romance is the beating heart of “Avatar.” Cameron has never made a movie just to show off visual pyrotechnics: Every bit of technology in “Avatar” serves the greater purpose of a deeply felt love story (watch the trailer here ).

The story takes place in 2154, three decades after a multinational corporation has established a mining colony on Pandora, a planet light years from Earth. A toxic environment and hostile natives — one corporate apparatchik calls the locals “blue monkeys” — forces the conglom to engage with Pandora by proxy. Humans dwell in oxygen-drenched cocoons but move out into mines or to confront the planet’s hostile creatures in hugely fortified armor and robotics or — as avatars.

Without any training, Jake suddenly must learn how to link his consciousness to an avatar, a remotely controlled biological body that mixes human DNA with that of the native population, the Na’vi . Since he is incautious and overly curious, he immediately rushes into the fresh air — to a native — to throw open Pandora’s many boxes.

What a glory Cameron has created for Jake to romp in, all in a crisp 3D realism. It’s every fairy tale about flying dragons, magic plants, weirdly hypnotic creepy-crawlies and feral dogs rolled up into a rain forest with a highly advanced spiritual design. It seems — although the scientists led by Sigourney Weaver’s top doc have barely scratched the surface — a flow of energy ripples through the roots of trees and the spores of the plants, which the Na’vi know how to tap into.

The center of life is a holy tree where tribal memories and the wisdom of their ancestors is theirs for the asking. This is what the humans want to strip mine.

Jake manages to get taken in by one tribe where a powerful, Amazonian named Neytiri (Zoe Saldana ) takes him under her wing to teach him how to live in the forest, speak the language and honor the traditions of nature. Yes, they fall in love but Cameron has never been a sentimentalist: He makes it tough on his love birds.

They must overcome obstacles and learn each other’s heart. The Na’vi have a saying, “I see you,” which goes beyond the visual. It means I see into you and know your heart.

He provides solid intelligence about the Na’vi defensive capabilities to Col. Miles Quaritch (Stephen Lang), the ramrod head of security for the mining consortium and the movie’s villain. But as Jake comes to see things through Neytiri’s eyes, he hopes to establish enough trust between the humans and the natives to negotiate a peace. But the corporation wants the land the Na’vi occupy for its valuable raw material so the Colonel sees no purpose in this.

The battle for Pandora occupies much of the final third of the film. The planet’s animal life — the creatures of the ground and air — give battle along with the Na’vi , but they come up against projectiles, bombs and armor that seemingly will be their ruin.

As with everything in “Avatar,” Cameron has coolly thought things through. With every visual tool he can muster, he takes viewers through the battle like a master tactician, demonstrating how every turn in the fight, every valiant death or cowardly act, changes its course. The screen is alive with more action and the soundtrack pops with more robust music than any dozen sci-fi shoot-’em-ups you care to mention (watch the “Avatar” video game trailer here ).

In years of development and four years of production no detail in the pic is unimportant. Cameron’s collaborators excel beginning with the actors. Whether in human shape or as natives, they all bring terrific vitality to their roles.

James Horner’s score never intrudes but subtly eggs the action on while the editing attributed to Cameron, Stephen Rivkin and John Refoua maintains a breathless pace that exhilarates rather than fatigues. Not a minute is wasted; there is no down time.

The only question is: How will Cameron ever top this?

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The Avatar Movie Summary and Review

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