Directed by James Cameron
Released December 18, 2009
James Cameron makes movies very sporadically. Usually he averages at most several movies a decade. His last non-documentary film was the enormously successful epic “Titanic” back in 1997. He’s been hard at work on his latest feature for what feels like ages, and reports of a bursting budget and ungodly runtime seemed to indicate that perhaps this might be a major flop. But this is James Cameron, whose filmography is remarkably impressive, and who hasn’t really gone wrong in his career, with the first two “Terminator” films (and only the first two), “Aliens,” and “True Lies” under his belt. It shouldn’t be a surprise therefore, that “Avatar” is simply astonishing and one of the most exciting science fiction films in recent years.
Cameron likes to explore new worlds. His previous film, “Aliens of the Deep,” examined underwater creatures unknown to most of the population. With “Avatar,” Cameron has taken a magnificent leap, both forward in time to the year 2154 and forward in thought to a whole new world full of extraordinary life. One of the reasons it took Cameron so long to make “Avatar” is that he wanted technology to be as complex as the ideas he had and the visuals he wanted to represent, and that’s clearly showcased in the film. Pandora, a moon with resources the ailing Earth could really use, is a wondrously magical and mesmerizing place. The amount of color and detail used to make it come gloriously alive is staggering and stunning.
It doesn’t just look pretty, though. “Avatar” is a surprisingly coherent and fascinating story of different cultures and the bond that can develop between them if members on both sides are willing to try to get to know them rather than simply assimilate them and bring them around to their way of thinking. The complex construction of the alien culture is just as impressive as the special effects. It’s sort of like a 21st-century, larger-scale update of “Bambi,” where it’s worth contemplating whether man is actually the enemy. It’s not merely a social critique, however, since it’s just as much a terrific action film as it is a science fiction explorative extravaganza.
Two elements of the film that aren’t crucial to its success are its script and its cast, but both are in equally fine form. The dialogue is interesting and meaningful, and the story is completely engaging for the whole of its more than 150 minutes. Sam Worthington is entertaining as the prickly marine who begins to connect with the alien Na’vi people, and he’s supported by a strong cast. Zoe Saldana as the Na’vi woman who takes Worthington’s Jake in, Sigourney Weaver as the dedicated scientist, and Michelle Rodriguez as the loyal pilot are all cast perfectly, but there’s no one more fitting for his role than the incredibly fearsome and humongous Stephen Lang as the colonel intent on seeing his mission through. The cast is but one of the many sterling elements of this film that help make it one of the best of the year, and one of the most exhilarating and visually extraordinary science fictions films to date.
Tuesday, December 29, 2009