Movie Review: Avatar (English) 100

First, he gave us slimy “Aliens” that Sigourney Weaver battled hard as Ripley. Then the cult hit “Terminator” that created a new benchmark for science fiction and followed it up with the smash hit sequel “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” which initiated many in my generation to Sci-Fi and admiration of Hollywood. “Titanic” mesmerized fans of both SFX and Romance genres while it pushed the envelope for elaborate production design.

More than 12 years after “Titanic” comes the most awaited movie of the recent years “Avatar” in which James Cameron has created a whole new Planet Pandora replete with new creatures, predators and humanoid aliens that in every way are beautiful! Well, it did cost him more than 300 million USD to make it and another 100 spent on promotion, but the spectacle that you see on the gigantic IMAX screen in 3D is beyond words!!

Set in 2154 and 4 light years away, humans are now exploiting ‘Pandora’ an earth-like moon orbiting a gas giant in Alpha Centauri for an expensive and rare mineral appropriately called ‘unobtanium’. Coming in their way are the indigenous Na’vi who need to be relocated from their ‘home-tree’ that sits on a deposit of unobtainium.

RDA, the company has already tried its best to convince the Na’vi to move. They have taught them English and tried offering infrastructure. But, being content in their natural settings, the Na’vi have no interest in what the humans have to offer. English plus business: doesn’t this remind you of European colonization in some sort?

The air on Pandora is toxic to humans necessitating the wearing of gas masks outdoors. To get around this, the researchers led by Dr Grace Augustine played by good old Sigourney Weaver have developed an alien-human hybrid ‘Avatar’ that can be mentally controlled by the brain of the person whose DNA was used to build it. Here, the idea of jacking into a computer generated digital-self will surely remind you of “The Matrix”!

The death of his researcher brother in the Avatar program leads to his paraplegic ex-Marine brother Jake Sully joining up the Avatar program. Played by Sam Worthington of Terminator Salvation fame, Jake is happy using his Avatar that gets him to use his legs. Soon, he befriends the tree living Na’vi and its huntress princess Neytiri. Learning their ways during the day, Jake returns to debrief his trigger-happy boss, Colonel Quaritch.

Soon Jake begins to appreciate the harmony and spiritual connection the Na’vi have with nature and falls in love with Neytiri, much to the dismay of Quaritch who attacks the home-tree. Though the script was written a decade ago, I believe Cameron has subtly hit out at the recent American battles for oil that the administration justified in dubious ways. For those who say the script is poor, take this quote from Jake Sully “When people are sitting on stuff you want, you make them your enemy”. Thought provoking indeed!

Visual effects are Avatar’s forte as it creates a new world before you. Filmed in blank sets with motion capture, the actors had to act out without ever knowing what it would look like on screen. Sensors on the Actors’ body and spots on their faces picked up moves and emotions bringing the CGI characters to life. To bring his actors up to speed, Cameron took them to jungles in Hawaii to bring them up to speed on jungle life. 60% of Avatar is CGI with only 40% being real footage. What you’re left with is a WOW!

While you may not see Zoe Saldana as Neytiri anywhere in its 162 minutes, the nimble ballet trained actor worked hard to make her character so endearing and realistic. The scenes where she trains Jake in the art of war are its best, be it bonding with the Ikran that seems like a flyer straight from ‘Jurassic Park’ or riding Pa’li the hairless horse.

The biggest blame that Avatar can take is that its story is too predictable. Man recruited to fight, falls for the local culture and turns his guns around; just as you saw in “The Last Samurai”. But, making Avatar cool are its special effects that seem so real in IMAX 3D.

Emotion seekers and script blamers can’t really deny the story’s soft side when you see the Na’vi suffer human attack and they die fighting for nature we have scant respect for. For one, Na’vi lived for everything we don’t. Politically too, the battle takes a dig on the suffering the Native Red Indians went through in the country that Hollywood comes from.

On Music, James Horner’s score doesn’t really stand out and has his ‘Troy’-esque feel. Probably, a score that doesn’t stick out as a sore thumb is good enough in a movie that’s all about special effects. As for Cameron and Horner, this is their third venture together after ‘Aliens’ and ‘Titanic’ with the latter giving him his first and only Oscar honors.

As a director, James Cameron doesn’t need a critic’s recommendation. He dropped out of college and drove trucks, but Cameron is the super benchmark movie maker with truly gifted imagination and commitment to translate his dreams to the screen. You simply can’t ask for more from a sci-fi movie at least for a few more years to come!

The least I can do with my review is to give it a 10/10. What are you waiting for? Go pull out your newspapers or log on to the web, check show times for 3D and book your tickets now! An IMAX would be even better. Believe me, it’s a bang for your buck!

Rating 10/10: I’m Speechless! Simply redefines cinematic experience!