Within Avatar‘s first 4 days, I’ve seen it twice already, both times in 3D. The short version: Bar none the greatest movie of 2009, and it is easily within my personal Top 5 Movies of All Time, if not Numero Uno.
Avatar features gorgeous visuals, stunning action sequences, and a great script carried out by solid acting. If you see it in 3D, it’s even more amazing.
To quickly summarize the plot (don’t worry, no spoilers here): An unnamed corporation has come to the lush jungle world of Pandora seeking its large deposits of a rare mineral. To communicate more easily with the local humanoids, the Na’vi, the Avatar Program was created, whereby human “drivers” are able to transfer their consciousness into human-Na’vi genetically engineered hybrids called avatars. This connection requires that the avatar’s human genes be derived from the driver him/herself; and this is how our hero, Jake Sully, a paraplegic ex-Marine who’s identical twin brother, a scientist in the Avatar Program, was killed during a mugging gone wrong. In order to save themselves from writing off the immense cost of creating the avatar, the unnamed corporation recruits Jake to fill his brother’s shoes as a driver.
And thus we arrive upon Pandora. Featuring a gravity slightly less than Earth’s (“The reduced gravity will make you soft!”), the Na’vi are very tall, slender, and incredibly athletic. The human outpost is situated deep within an incredibly dense, lush, and green jungle forest. Featuring ferns that retreat into tiny pods at the slightest touch, brilliant bioluminescence in almost every living creature, and an incredible array of imaginative flora and fauna, the jungle itself seems to be a guest character in the movie, and its acting is up to par with the high quality the rest of the cast produces.
Warning: Spoilers beyond this point!
The rest of the plot is a coming-of-age story in the context of Dances With Wolves. The basic elements have been done before, of course, but there’s little cliché in this story.
I won’t reveal the rest of the story, but I will address the finale’s battle between the Na’vi and the humans. Some have complained that it’s a rehash of the Ewoks defeating the Empire. But I just have to point out – seagulls are a lot smaller than than a Boeing, but can bring them down nonetheless; ikans are bigger than scorpions, and people are incredulous that these critters can bring down the helis? I should also point out that the Na’vi (those that hadn’t already been slaughtered) were in full retreat before Eywa’s hordes overwhelmed the humans with far superior numbers; the Na’vi did not defeat them, they were defeated by simply being overrun. Notable exceptions were the destruction of the shuttle (a non-military vehicle in a military engagement, brought down by a trained soldier exploiting an obvious tactical weakness) and the “dragon” (a military vehicle that shared the shuttle’s same tactical weakness, although brought down by a stroke of luck and one of its own missiles).
Ultimately, the climactic battle was exciting, and it brought forth the character that was foreshadowed from the beginning: Eywa Herself, the personification of the planet-wide neural network composed of the trees themselves, which the Na’vi and apparently most other animals are capable of tapping into; Eywa’s surprise attack with overwhelming numbers were just too much for the humans to handle. I’m left thinking those criticizing the finale are simply incapable of imagining a situation where something natural could possibly overcome mankind’s technology; I’ll bet these same people disliked The Ghost and The Darkness for being too unbelievable.