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The World NEXT ends 

We don't get to the movies much, so that fact that I got to see two movies - in the theater - over the last couple of weeks is pretty astonishing.

The second one we saw was Avatar, and I have to admit - I had very high expectations. This movie gave James Cameron $300-500 million to make the perfect CGI flick, and I was hoping to see it delivered.

I'll break my short discussion into three areas, Visuals/CGI, Casting, and Story. Warning: There be spoilers here.


The movie is magnificent visually. From the very workmanlike but impressive spaceship in the beginning to the base, to the jungle, to the creatures that dwell in it. All rendered wonderfully, all contribute to the story. This movie is worth seeing in the theater just for the sheer production quality.


The casting is fitting. The military bad guy (Stephen Lang) hits the role given him perfectly (comic book perfectly, but that's not the actor's fault). Sam Worthington is excellent as Sully, the main, er, avatar. Sigourney Weaver, as almost always, does a very good job. The rest of the supporting cast is good as well.


This is where the serious letdown happens. You may have heard that some folks call this "Dances with Wolves Aliens". Those folks are correct. There's not a single interesting, nuanced, or unique thought here from a story perspective. There are no red herrings, no camera or story time spent (wasted) on anything that will not be used later.

The main character (Sully) is the identical twin brother of the highly educated scientist who was supposed to be going on the mission, and the avatar's body is genetically linked to their genome. Sully's brother is killed a week before liftoff and he's offered the chance to go in his twin's place.  Wow, it's really lucky their identical twins, huh? And why would Sully give up his Earth-bound life? Ah, because he's paralyzed (wounded during his service term) and it's the only way he can afford the operation to get himself whole. Why would one twin go and get highly educated while the other elects to be a low ranking 'grunt' marine? Sounds like an interesting backstory - don't worry, you'll never learn it. And it just keeps going from there: Is the military always bad? Yep. Is development always evil & destructive? Yep.  Is there a quick (seeming) digression about a fearsome skeleton of a huge predator bird (the Turok)? Don't worry - you'll see that again, and it'll be critical to the story. Are the Na'vi wise and superior to us because they live in harmony with their world? Yep. The only character on the 'bad' side who seems to have the tiniest bit of conflicted feeling about destroying the Na'vi is Giovanni Ribisi, the non-military administrator of the mining operation, and I'd really liked it if they'd have played him like the Carter Burke (Paul Reiser) character from Aliens.

There are also nitpicks that could be made about the bizarre military strategy of the humans' attack on the Tree of Souls and other items. Overall, if you can put up with the comic book characterizations, the movie is well worth watching, just for the visuals.

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Craig Wiseman January 1st, 2010 09:40:01 PM

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