Avatar: The Last Great Movie?

Jake Sully and Natiri

Avatar's Jakesully and Neytiri

I recently saw James Cameron‘s Avatar.  In 3D.  Twice.  In two days.  I would’ve seen it a third time in three days, but, alas, the rest of the holiday plans came into full swing and I had to forgo it.  For now.  To say that I “liked” the movie would be an understatement.  Indeed, to even state that I “loved” it would not even come close to how I feel.  It’s embarrassing to even type this review because, the bottom line, is that I was totally immersed in the world that Cameron has created, I wanted to be a part of it as often as I could while it was still on the big screen.  In fact, at my next opportunity, I’m going to see the movie again but this time in IMAX 3D.  What better way to completely immerse yourself in this type of movie than in that format?

From a storytelling standpoint, the premise is nothing new.  It was “Dances With Ferngully” (my take on “Dances With Wolves” combined with “Ferngully: The Last Rainforest,” if you literally couldn’t put two and two together) set in the far future.  A human is thrown into the lives of the indigenous people (the Na’vi) of the planet, Pandora, which they are cultivating for a mineral that would provide much-needed energy for a dying Earth.  The humans have been in Pandora for a while, and a few scientists donned in their avatars (biological exosuits created to look like the Na’vi) have been interacting with one of the tribes (the Omaticaya).  They’d set up a school near the tribe and had been teaching them English.  In turn, these scientists, headed by Sigourney Weaver‘s Dr. Grace Augustine, had learned a lot about the Na’vi’s customs and language, ingredients needed for what they hoped was future coexistence.

The problem is that the largest resource of the mineral– hilariously referred to as unobtanium— happens to be underneath Home Tree– the place the Omaticaya call home.  And the financial backers of the expedition would stop at nothing to get at it.

The human, Jake Sully (aptly portrayed by Sam Worthington, recently seen in Terminator: Salvation), unwittingly finds himself completely involved with the Omaticaya that he sides with them in the end.  Of course, like all predictable plot twists, it involves a woman (Neytiri, pictured above, as voiced by Star Trek‘s Zoe Saldana).  And, as predicted, the Na’vi win in the end.  Again, nothing new here.  The only possible way to throw something unique to the storyline is if the Na’vi wasn’t successful at protecting their world, and the humans overran them.  That may have, of course, plotted the premise for a sequel (“Avatar: The Uprising” or something like that), but I don’t think that would’ve worked for this movie.  It needed a resolution, and that’s exactly what it got.

What’s really kept and would keep me coming back for more is the visual spectacle.  Cameron waited over a decade to make this movie because he wanted the CGI (computer-generated imagery) technology to exceed, let alone catch up, to his and what he believed to be the audience’s expectations.  And the wait was definitely worth it.  Cameron and his team created a Pandora so real that one would believe it truly existed.  The Na’vi and the various creatures that roam Pandora were so believable, it seemed to me that Cameron hired Na’vi actors and trained Pandoran animals to act out his scenes.  Yes, ladies and gentlemen: it was that real. It’s the kind of advanced CGI technology 2001’s Final Fantasy: The Spirts Within” could’ve used.  It still would’ve sucked, however, but at least everything would’ve been nice to look at.

The bottom line: Avatar is definitely worth seeing over and over again for the masterpiece that it is.  To proclaim it the last great movie would be unrealistic due to the tired storyline.  But Cameron raised the bar with Avatar to a height that other future CGI movies will have to reach or eclipse.  That would be no small feat, probably even for Cameron.  Although, something tells me that’s one challenge I don’t believe he’d mind tackling.  And I can’t wait until he does!


4 Responses to “Avatar: The Last Great Movie?”

  1. 1 David H. Schleicher December 24, 2009 at 8:56 am

    It will be interesting to see what filmmakers are “allowed” to use Cameron’s technology (I imagine he patented it and all that) and what types of stories they will tell with it. It’s so expensive and time consuming, I can’t see it becoming commonplace…but maybe a single studio (think Pixar) will rise up to deliver one of these types of films every other year or so.

    The most impressive thing for me was the “creature-effects” — the animals on Pandora were amazing detailed and emotive…even more so than the Na’Vi, I thought. The 3D experience was definitely worth it for the near total immersion it provided into this richly detailed alien world.

    I can’t say I “loved” the film though I did “enjoy” it for the most part.

    Here’s my Spin:


    • 2 jonsquared December 24, 2009 at 10:17 am

      Thanks for your note, David. I agree with your assessment of the creature effects. They were definitely very impressive and unapologetically primal. I didn’t think about Cameron possibly having patented the technology that he used. I guess that’s another way for him to make moolah in case he allows other filmmakers to use the tech. All I know is that I can’t wait until the next one!

  2. 3 Marshall December 25, 2009 at 9:25 am

    “Dances with FernGully” … Very nice!

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