Movie News, Reviews and More!

























































Reviewer: Ricardo Barberini
Director: James Cameron
Cast: Sam Worthington, Zoe Saladana, Sigourney Weaver, Stephen Lang, Michaelle Rodriguez, Giovanni Ribisi, Joel Moore, CCH Pounder






Almost 150 years from now, in 2154, the Earth is a dying desert planet.  The inhabitants are searching other worlds for minerals and other life sustaining material.  Pandora is a far away planet colonized by a mining company extracting a very precious metal Unobtainium that is worth tens of millions of dollars per pound (adjusted for inflation?)  The atmosphere of the planet is deadly and humans cannot survive outside without pressurized cabins or special masks for more than a minute or so.  The round trip time to Pandora is over 10 years.

A vacillating character, Parker Selfridge, (Giovanni Ribisi) whose sole aim is to make money for the owners back home, runs the mining company.  Reporting to him are a science office, Doctor Grace Augustine (Sigourney Weaver) and a mad dog colonel, Miles Quaritch (Stephen Lang) who commands a few hundred ex Marine and Army soldiers.  The colonel is itching to blow away the natives ala Custer of the Wild West, while the doctor advocates caution and communication with the natives to allow the company access to the hinterland.

The native inhabitants of the planet are the many tribes of the Na'vi people are who live in harmony with nature in their green enchanting forests and floating mountains.  The Na'vi are very tall blue colored skinny people who look like a cross between a human and a donkey.  They can communicate with nature and animals around them by using their tail, which somehow communicates their inner thoughts and feelings.   The natives are, naturally, suspicious of the new comers who are bulldozing and destroying their forest in search of the mineral and getting closer to one of their central habitats. 

To bridge the gap between humans and the natives, Doctor Grace Augustine has managed to integrate the DNA of humans into the local inhabitants to create the Dream walkers or Avatars who look and act like the natives but can be controlled by their human DNA donors.  The donor has to be in a state of trance to be able to communicate with his native counterpart. The avatars are only active when the donor is in a trance in a special coffin like unit.  When any human is awakened from the trance, his Na’vi avatar falls into a dead sleep.

Into this tranquil mix– just kidding- enters the wheel chair bound ex-Marine, Jake Sully (Sam Worthington). He is replacing his dead twin brother who was a DNA donor.  He is now responsible for controlling his alter ego avatar a lanky nice looking, by Na’vi standards, man. . 

Jake who is hoping to get his spine fixed so he can walk again, agrees to learn the secrets of the Na'vi and find, through his avatar, a way to evacuate them peacefully from the coveted mineral rich land.  However, the deception does not go as planned.  Jake falls in love with Neytiri who is the princess of the Na'vi tribe and he goes native, so to speak.

The nutty colonel with the connivance of the weakling Parker Selfridge, the company agent, plans and attacks the Na'vi’s camp and proceeds into the sacred part of the planet to destroy the tree of life, which holds the entire population and the nature in harmony.

Jake and Dr. Augustine along with Norm and Trudy, two others who believe in saving the natives from extermination, try to save the native inhabitants from the deadly attack of the mercenaries led by the mad dog Colonel Miles Quaritch.  There are lots and lots of action scenes and battles and flights of fancy during the last half an hour of the movie.

There is a lot to be said about this movie.  James Cameron is an internationally known producer/director known for his masterpieces such as the Terminator, Aliens and the Titanic.  He has had some flops as well. Did you ever see the Piranha, the Abyss or the True Lies?

Having said that, James Cameron has put a lot of effort and talent into this really big budget movie.  The story was penned by James Cameron himself.  However, that does not mean that it was really an original story.  The battle between good and evil and the presence of malevolent characters have been part of our Western culture and our lives since the Roman times.  Most books and movies are based on this premise.  In this case, the Na'vi are the good Indians and Colonel Miles Quaritch is the ignorant general Sheridan (who said a good Indian is a dead Indian) or Colonel Custer.  Except here the oppressed people win at the end. 

Nevertheless, the movie is a monumental success. The special effects, mostly computer-generated Jurassic Park like scenery and dinosaur like creatures make the movie very appealing.  The love story between two extremely unlikely characters, a rough Marine and a princess of the forest is skillfully handled.

James Cameron picked his actors with care. Giovanni Rabisi is a wonderful character actor that has parlayed his short height into an asset in many movies.  Sigourney Weaver owes her fame to the Alien movies and here reprises some of her previous acting personalities.  Sigourney has never done anything of critical acclaim and in this movie she just barely makes it by trying to be a cigarette smoking patronizing scientist doctor.  Stephen Lang fits perfectly into the role of the warmonger colonel who rejects peace in favor of military action. This Reminds one so vividly of the generals and colonels of the George W Bush era.  Sam Worthington has played in Alligator movies and also in Australian gangster movies before.  He does not have much of a resume to talk about.  In Avatar, he plays Jake, who is at best a dazed character who dithers and dallies between looking after number one or sacrificing himself for the cause of the downtrodden. His Avatar is a much more exciting and interesting character.  When it comes down to it, I would choose Stephen Lang as the best performer in this movie.

There is also an issue of believability.   The story is supposed to happen 150 years from now and yet the characters are still using conventional guns, explosives, grenades and helicopters.  This is like people in the 1800’s thinking that we would be using musket loaded rifles, cavalry, and horse drawn carriages to move from one location to another.  In this movie, no one is using Laser guns or Gamma ray guns or unmanned flying drones some of which are a reality in this century.

Having said all that, the movie is a wondrous collection of special effects and action sequences. It is gripping and the computer-generated characters, animals and humanoids are wonderfully done.  I loved the flying banshees and their love hate relationship with the humanoid tribe members. 

My hat off to James Cameron for making such a delightful, yet unbelievable movie.  It is going to make him a ton of money in the years to come and, personally, I prefer it to many of his other movies.

I will give it starstarstar1/2. James Cameron is no John Houston or John Ford and this is a fantasy.  Otherwise I would have given it four stars.  Regardless of that.  I would heartily recommend it to all; young and old.  See it or rent it when it is out on DVD.  By the way, it is a very long movie of over 160 minutes.