Avatar: Review

Three years ago I heard tales of a new film being helmed by the great James Cameron (Terminator, Aliens). This film was said to be a game changer, a sci fi epic so epic that no one would ever be able to top it’s… uh… epic..ocity. The movie shamans also spoke of the technology that was being used to create this behemoth of moviemaking. Future tech that would equal the technology being showcased on the screen that would change the way we would watch movies forever. This film was to be called Avatar. The film was to be incredible.
Avatar does not live up to the predictions made all those years ago. However, this movie gets so close that it does not matter. It earns points for trying but it doesn’t really need any. The story of a crippled marine using an organically grown replica of the natives of Pandora, works as a classic sci fi tale that Frank Herbert or Edgar Rice Burroughs would have been proud to write. While that isn’t my preferred sub-genre of science fiction I can respect it when it works, and goddamn does Avatar work.
It truly is an engaging story that really does justify the films runtime (just under three hours). A bit of an old school yarn about the technology obsessed military industrial complex crushing the in tune with nature indigenous people, the Na’vi. Sam Worthington plays Jake Sully a crippled marine whose twin brother was killed before he could complete his mission in the Avatar program. Sully accepts his brother’s position despite his lack of training or even basic understanding of the program in order to regain the use of his legs, an operation that in the future is doable but apparently mind-crushingly expensive.
The bad guy, whose name escapes me, so I will call him Scarface, is really bad, like the kind of bad you see in these sorts of movies where he does really bad things even when it doesn’t really make sense for his character. Despite this complaint it does make for some bad ass fighting. A far superior antagonist in Avatar is Giovanni Ribisi, whose character’s name I do remember because it is my name as well. Ribisi is a corporate dude who wants to make money from all the Unobtanium under the Pandoran surface. I don’t know if it was written this way or if Ribisi is just that good an actor (I am tempted to go with column B) but the corporate dude Parker actually creates some pathos by exposing his greed, but later his remorse over what his greed has wrought, it was a decent characterization that brought a shit ton of gravitas to this flick. Scarface adds great action but Ribisi makes for a great mind behind the power, Master to Scarface’s Blaster.
Lets talk tech. The technology in this film is super rad. I’ve always held to the opinion that action science fiction lives an dies by it’s technology and Avatar certainly does not die. The look of the tech is so shiny and bright and cool, which is a good break from the broken down sort of tech we got in District 9 and Moon (both great films). Something I noticed that really impressed me was that Cameron never takes these futuristic thingamajigs and shoves it down the viewers throats saying “Hey look, look what I thought up, ain’t I cool”, no it’s more subtle, we see it as if we are one of the scientists or marines stationed on Pandora, like we have to see it all day everyday so it’s not really that cool. Guns and Mechs and Airships and Cryo-sleep that looks like stuff we see everyday just bigger and better, like we could see this shit in the next 30 years, I hope we do in the case of the Avatar program.
How absolutely rad would it be to take over the body of a 12 foot tall gymnast with super bones. I’ll tell you how rad, really, really fucking rad. Especially if you are in a wheelchair for a long time, then to be able to run around faster than you ever possibly could. Seriously work on this shit scientists, PLUS it’s like a cure for cancer, aids, and Alzheimer’s all at the same time if people could just switch bodies think of the possibilities.
2009 has been a disgustingly amazing year for science fiction, we had great psychological PKD style sci-fi with Moon, incredible action sci-fi with Avatar, and 2009 also so the release of the perfect sci-fi film with District 9. While James Cameron’s Avatar is not the best of the year, it is the perfect way to end 2009.

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