Movie Review: ‘Avatar’

By Helena Chao
Helena Chao
Helena Chao
December 19, 2009 Updated: December 19, 2009

In the new James Cameron directed film 'Avatar', Neytiri (Zo&#235 Saldana) and Jake (Sam Worthington) make final preparations for an epic battle that will decide the fate of an entire world.  (WETA)
In the new James Cameron directed film 'Avatar', Neytiri (Zo&#235 Saldana) and Jake (Sam Worthington) make final preparations for an epic battle that will decide the fate of an entire world. (WETA)
A $300 million dollar budget—Check.

Director of Titanic, Terminator, and Aliens Fame—Check.

Blue-skinned aliens in 3D—Check.

Blue Man Group on steroids? Think again.

Four years in the making and based on visions James Cameron had years ago when he was a truck driver—Avatar transports you to another planet in such a realistic fashion that you literally have to pinch yourself to remember you’re not one of the Na’vi.

The film takes place in the year 2154 on an energy-starved Earth. The story’s protagonist, Jake Sully (Sam Worthington), is a paralyzed former Marine transported light years away to the planet Pandora. Here, humans have built an encroachment called Hell’s Gate with the sole purpose of mining a rare mineral, aptly named “unobtainium.” The only issue is that large amounts of this ore are detected underground, directly beneath the home of a fierce indigenous tribe called the Na’vi—ten-foot-tall beings with feline features.

In the James Cameron film Avatar, Jake (Sam Worthington) meets his avatar, a genetically engineered hybrid of human DNA mixed with DNA from the natives of Pandora. (Mark Fellman / WETA)
In the James Cameron film Avatar, Jake (Sam Worthington) meets his avatar, a genetically engineered hybrid of human DNA mixed with DNA from the natives of Pandora. (Mark Fellman / WETA)
Jake’s mission is to “drive” his avatar, a genetically engineered hybrid between human and Na’vi DNA, and infiltrate the Na’vi people, who have become an obstacle to mining the unobtainium.

Jake’s first excursion to the magical forest of Pandora almost gets him killed. Luckily, the beautiful Neytiri (Zoe Saldana) comes to his rescue, and so begins Jake’s journey in understanding the Na’vi and their world. Will he ultimately betray them for the unobtainium? In his efforts to make Avatar relatable, Cameron draws parallels to familiar themes in human history—innate human greed and the health of our environment.

The Na’vi people, deeply spiritual and connected to their environment, remind me of the Native Americans, who had their lands taken and then often polluted.

Pandora, described by Cameron as “the Garden of Eden with teeth and claws,” is so painstakingly detailed and imaginative that it’s almost difficult at times to focus on the central story. Cameron himself dreamed up the terrifically captivating landscape, flora, and creatures that he brought to 3D life in Avatar.

Helena Chao