Review: Avatar

Avatar is the 2009 global phenomenon/miracle from one of my favorite directors, James Cameron (The Terminator, Terminator 2, Aliens, etc), after he spent decades writing and creating the film. Starring Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Sigourney Weaver, Stephan Lang, and Laz Alonso amongst many others as well in a story about love, war, environmentalism, genocide, abuse of power, greed and so much more. James Cameron had the first full draft of the scriptment ready in 1994, and planned to start filming soon after he finished Titanic so that Avatar could be released in 1999. Well, the technology just wasn’t as advanced as his mind, so he had to wait years for VFX to catch up- and good thing he did. The visuals in this film are still life-like after seven years, and I’m sure they will still look amazing for years to come. Really, nothing in this film seems sloppy, lazy or rushed; this movie is a masterpiece and a marvel in every single aspect- and it’s one of the greatest film experiences that I’ve ever had.

Everybody has seen Avatar, it’s basically just part of life at this point: Learn to walk, learn to speak, potty train, start elementary school, learn to bike, watch Avatar, etc are all necessary for surviving in the world. While that’s a joke, the amount of money that this film made is not- and that’s representative of how many people saw it (or the people like me who saw it more than once at $14 per ticket….). Because of the vast audience this film reached, it’s going to find it’s naysayers inevitably- yet, I find that this group is growing for some reason, as if it’s becoming a popular opinion to find this film overrated? And they all have the same argument: “this film is just like Pocahontas (1995), Dances with Wolves (1990) or Ferngully (1992); it’s not original!” To that I say: “we must have watched a different movie, and you should do some research.”

First of all, the fish-out-of-water story in which the character learns to love the new lifestyle more than the other was not created by any of the three aforementioned films, and they don’t even do a fantastic job of telling that story. As mentioned, James Cameron had this story written more than a decade and a half before it was released, and he had the story growing in his head almost for his entire life: which was before those three films were released. Here’s a snippet of an article taken from an interview James Cameron did with the Hero Complex from the LA Times back in 2009:

Cameron said his inspiration was “every single science fiction book I read as a kid”, and that he was particularly striving to update the style of Edgar Rice Burroughs’s John Carter series and the deep jungles of Pandora were visualized from Disney’s 37th animated film, Tarzan. He acknowledged that Avatar shares themes with the films At Play in the Fields of the Lord, The Emerald Forest, and Princess Mononoke, which feature clashes between cultures and civilizations, and with Dances with Wolves, where a battered soldier finds himself drawn to the culture he was initially fighting against.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avatar_(2009_film)#Origins

As you can see, this film is not simply a ripoff of anything, especially not in the ways people just assume it copies a film. Avatar is the culmination of certain aspects of many different films, yet this film brings an incredible amount of new material to those stories. Commenting on how corporate greed is responsible for creating business men who are more interested in earning money by killing innocents than saving them is a powerful part of the film- and this selfish genocide of the pure indigenous people is a reflection on what the English did to the Native Americans just a few centuries ago. Also, the theme of the star-crossed lover (in addition to the fish-out-of-water) was accomplished perfectly- giving the audience a love story between a human and an alien that was one of the most beautiful and unforgettable romances in film history sounds like a strange and impossible task, but he did it. This genre is a compilation of many different genres and sub-genres, and this mixture is impossible not to love (there’s gotta be at least one genre in this film for everybody): romance is in the love story between Jake and Neytiri as well as between Jake and his Avatar body and being able to walk. War in the entire film through the attempted militarization of Pandora and the war between the Na’vi and Americans (yes, not just Humans, but Americans). Western in the themes of a lone hero who is lost in a new world as Jake is our cowboy (this is similar to both Dances with Wolves as well as The Last Samurai, but neither of those films created this theme. They’re just noteworthy in this coincidence). And, of course, science fiction in the fact that this film deals with humans going across the universe to Pandora, an alien planet, in just over 100 years.

Avatar is one of the most beautiful and impressive films that you can possibly watch, and I mean that in just about every way. The story is just as beautiful as the visual effects, and the way that James Cameron combined the best parts of a few different stories, and added so much of his own original material, made this film one that is not easily forgotten. Seeing this film in IMAX back seven years ago as a great experience for 14 year old me, but now, seeing it as an adult who has studied film for a few years now, I think I am finally able to appreciate this film, to at least some degree more than I used to. There are some cheesy lines but those can be overlooked…the cast, director, and VFX team did a glorious job in making this monster of a film, and along with Terminator 2, Titanic and Aliens, James Cameron plants another of his films into my Top 10 of all time. I’m going to give this film a perfect 10/10 and give it a gold recommendation, and it’s pretty much just part of life now to have seen it so there’s motivation to watch it. As always, thanks for reading, comment if you’d like to share your thoughts, and I’ll see you soon!

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