Friday, October 14, 2016

Sci Fi Top 100, #77: "Avatar" (2009)

Movie Stats:
Released 2009 (UK)
American & British, in English (lots of a made-up alien language, some of it translated, some of it not; IMDB claims there was Spanish but I don’t recall hearing any)
Director - James Cameron
Stars - Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Sigourney Weaver

Plot Summary:
After the sudden death of his brother, soldier Jake Sully (Worthington) is tapped to take his position on a scientific team that’s trying to make diplomatic contact with an alien race on the planet Pandora. The problem? An Earthling corporation wants to take over Pandora in order to mine a rare ore. Weaver co-stars as  Dr. Grace Augustine, the leader of the scientific team, and Saldana as Neytiri, an alien woman with whom Jake connects.

Violence; minor gore; blue language; implied sexy times.

Bad Stuff:
I’ve heard quite a bit of criticism about it leaning too far on the “white man saves hapless indigenous peoples” side. I think that criticism is fair.

In a similar vein, I wonder if indigenous people ever grow weary of being portrayed as one dimensional mystics with pure hearts. I know I’m pretty sick of this characterization.

And on that note, I thought all of the characters in general were fairly one-note.

Good Stuff:
Cameron (who also wrote the screenplay) did an excellent job of world building. The Na’vi culture was surprisingly rich and layered. I especially liked all the stuff about how they connected to the planet/that the planet was basically one giant brain.

I really liked the idea of the avatar program. It felt fresh and original.

It’s very pretty to look at.

The Verdict:
I avoided this movie for 7 years because I thought I would hate it. I never found the story particularly compelling; it seemed like a story that’s already been told multiple times with varying success (i.e. “Dances with Wolves, “Fern Gully,” etc.). I’d never even read much critique of it, except for that mentioned above, so there were a lot of surprises in store. For example, I didn’t know that Jake was paraplegic (it’s nearly the first thing the movie shows so I don’t consider it a spoiler). For me, that added a layer to the story. I also didn’t know how the avatar program worked. It was a lot cooler than I expected. And I didn’t know there’d be so much world building, which I think is the best part of the movie. They could’ve taken out the “evil corporation trying to take over” plot line and I might have enjoyed it even more. As it was, I liked it a lot more than I thought I would.

I give it 4 stars.


Patricia said...

Hmmmm. I also haven't watched this. Although if you told me to guess the year it came out I would have said early 2000s, it seems like it's been longer than just 2009.

Your point of not knowing much about the movie is a good one. I couldn't begin to sum up the plot. The computer one with the blue people??? That's about as far as I could get. I'm glad you liked it.

balyien said...

I wonder if it seems older because Cameron definitely has a very 90s aesthetic. I noticed that recently while watching "The Abyss," how similar it "felt" to "Avatar." Much better world building in "Avatar," but both of them had pretty poor character development. Definitely not Cameron's strong suit.