Local, Off the Wall

Review: Avatar

Posted: December 18, 2009 at 9:57 am   /   by   /   comments (1)

avatarAvatar is director James Cameron’s technical masterpiece, that he has been working on developing since 2006. The final product is a completely immersive, breathtaking cinematic achievement that will make you feel like you are experiencing the film from the other side of the screen.

Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) is an ex-marine who lost the use of his legs, and is forced to live life from the seat of his wheelchair. Jake has been requested by the government to fill a position on the planet Pandora, which was formerly held by his twin brother Tom. Unlike Tom, who was a research scientist, Jake is a warrior at heart. He more than makes up in spirit what he lacks physically. But his lack of experience in the scientific field is met with much dismay by the team of researchers that he has been called to work with, lead by Dr. Grace Augustine (Sigourney Weaver). The project that they are working on is to create and control ‘Avatars,’ a mix between humans and the native inhabitants of Pandora – the Na’vi. Each Avatar is controlled by a human driver, linked by their DNA. With the amount of money spent in research and development of each Avatar, the government needs Jake to take the place of his brother in the project.

The purpose of Jake’s team on Pandora is to control these Avatars to research the planet, and understand it’s inhabitants. Grace has lived on Pandora for some time now, and literally “wrote the book” on the Na’vi. They are accompanied by fellow researcher Norm Spellman (Joel Moore), who provides much of the levity in the film. But there are other forces at work on Pandora, with motives much different than the scientists. The government has discovered a resource called ‘unobtainium,’ which is worth $20 million dollars per kilogram back on Earth. The problem is that the highest concentration of unobtainium is located underneath the home of the Na’vi people. Parker Selfridge (Giovanni Ribisi) is in charge of mining this resource, which funds their entire existence on the planet. At the helm of the military force that has been tasked with obtaining the resource by any means necessary is Colonel Miles Quaritch (Stephen Lang). Jake’s ties as a Marine put him in a difficult spot, as the Colonel wants to use him to find a weakness in the Na’vi people that he can exploit to drive them away from their home.

The visuals throughout the entirety of the film are nothing less than breathtaking. James Cameron has developed completely new equipment and methods of filming for this project, and has created a brilliant end product which brings computer animation and special effects to an entirely new level. For the first time in a film, the CG characters and environment actually feel like they are real. Throughout the movie, the computer generated planet of Pandora and its inhabitants feel so realistic, that you have to remind yourself of the difference. From beginning to end, you really feel like every detail was captured on film. From the tiniest blade of grass, to the realistic textures, skin and fur of some of the most magnificent creatures ever created on screen. And the Avatars, whom share DNA with their drivers, strikingly resemble the actors that play them.

Sam Worthington proves that he has what it takes to carry a film as its leading man. His on screen presence is very likable, and he carries himself extraordinarily well as a character that is faced with a physical adversity. Sigourney Weaver plays the hardened scientist Grace without missing a beat. Skeptical of Jake at first, she proves that her character is nothing less than dedicated to her life’s work. What is most impressive throughout the film is the voice acting of the Na’vi characters, whom we only see in computer generated form. Most all of the actors that we see in that fashion to a great job portraying their characters. Neytiri (Zoe Saldana) steals most of the audiences attention in a mesmerizing way.

The greatest accomplishment of Avatar is that James Cameron and his team have broken the barrier between film and 3D animation. There is a very fine line between the two in “Avatar,” and the result is something that is not to be missed in theaters. At first the 3D proves to be a small bit distracting – never because of the lack of quality, but rather due to the fact that it is hard to take your eyes off of every single detail. But shortly after the start, you become accustomed to the astonishing world that has been created, and the story and characters immediately captivate you. By the end of the film, you will have felt like you were actually on Pandora, engulfed in the wonder of the planet and the Na’vi.

Avatar is an A