Avatar Movie: As Good As They Say It Is?

Andrea and I finally got the chance to watch James Cameron’s latest action flick, Avatar in 3D at Century at Tanforan here in San Bruno. This has been one of, if not, the most highly anticipated movie of this last year 2009/2010 with an estimated budget of $237 million ((http://www.thewrap.com/article/true-cost-and-consequences-avatar-11206?page=1)).

In case you’ve been living in a cave and haven’t heard about Avatar, here’s the official movie trailer:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cEt3qLG-cAM[/youtube]

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Avatar follows the story of a paraplegic former Marine Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) who agrees to sign on with RDA Corporation taking his deceased scientist brother’s place as an avatar pilot because Sully shares the same genome necessary to use the highly expensive Avatars. He arrives on Pandora after a long trip from Earth to join other former Marines commanded by Colonel Miles Quaritch (Stephen Lang) all hired to provide private security for the mining operation on Pandora led by Parker Selfridge (Giovanni Ribisi). RDA Corp. is looking to mine a “valuable mineral called unobatium, worth $20 million per kilogram back on Earth” ((http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avatar_%282009_film%29)). Also working for RDA Corp. is Dr. Grace Augustine (Sigourney Weaver) who heads the Avatar program and involved in understanding and learning about the Na’vi, indigenous cat-like people of Pandora who are untrusting of humans after several mishaps. Neytiri (Zoë Saldana), a Na’vi warrior rescues Sully from a near-death experience and is later tasked with teaching him the ways of the Na’vi. From there, the two-and-half hour-long movie is a non-stop action/adventure/love story movie that touches on many topics from corporate greed to love and acceptance.

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While I certainly agree this movie was amazing, I’m not sure if I would consider it among the best movies I’ve seen. Here are a few reasons why:

Original Storyline

The story goes that James Cameron began developing the concept and wrote an 80-page script of Avatar back in 1994 ((http://www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,20007998,00.html)) but didn’t start making the movie until 2006 because the existing technology wasn’t available to satisfy Cameron’s vision ((http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avatar_%282009_film%29)).

In Avatar, the indigenous people of the planet, the Na’vi are spiritually connected with the land. They seek not to disturb the balance of nature, taking and using only what they need and leaving the rest undisturbed. Humans (through the RDA Corporation), however, have come from a far distance to seek out a valuable mineral, a majority of which happens to be situated under a huge tree, called the Hometree which is home to the Omaticaya clan. The humans have two choices to obtain the valuable mineral unobatium: through force or negotiation. Through force they would wipe out the Omaticaya clan or through negotiation they would relocate the clan. Either choice would mean that RDA Corp would bull-doze the entire forest to get access to the unobatium that is beneath. Now if this storyline doesn’t sound familiar, I would recommend you read the history of North America, it’s founding, and the Native Americans. The Na’vi’s language and culture seem very similar to Native Americans from their dress, weapons, beliefs, and etc ((http://www.scifisquad.com/2009/12/18/avatar-and-the-culture-of-the-navi/)).

That’s not to say a good or great movie can’t be inspired from an existing story, but watching Avatar felt like watching the history of North America told through sci-fi allegory.

Visual Orgasm

The computer-generated imagery is nothing short of amazing. Watching it in 3D, there were moments where you feel like you can reach out and grab hold of something. While it was hard to tell at some parts what was real and what was CGI, there was so much you could suffer from sensory overload and other scenes where it felt too CGI such as riding on the Ikran. Brings me to my next point.

Better Video Game Than Movie

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© gamesblog.ugo.com - Screen shot from Avatar The Game

This might sound like harsh criticism, but this movie feels like a big advertising for a video game. If I hadn’t known better, I would have figured the video game inspired the movie rather than the other way around.

Good vs Evil

Throughout the movie the characters seem too one-dimensionally defined as “good” or “evil” which leads to predictable plots ((http://www.yesnomeh.com/2009/12/avatar-good-vs-evil-aliens-vs-humans.html))  ((http://www.twotalkingmonkeys.com/news/avatar-review-good-bad-and-indifferent-how-about-you-spoiler-alert/)). In my opinion, it would have been more interesting if certain characters, such as Colonel Quaritch, had a less definable evil personality to them. It’s no surprise when we are first introduced to the Colonel that he would be one of the movie’s antagonist. I don’t want to give away too much of the movie, but this much is apparent: Na’vi = good, can do no wrong and RDA = bad, can do no right. Boring.

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Conclusion

There’s no question that Andrea and I enjoyed Avatar. It was a very, very good movie and shows the possibilities with film technology and we certainly look forward to the sequels.

Anyone have any thoughts? Agree or disagree?