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Movie Review: Avatar

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It’s more than an understatement to say that James Cameron’s latest movie, which hit theatres last December, made a killing at the box office with its extravagant 3-D animated effects, but that’s not all that was killed.

Cameron’s latest and greatest adventure, Avatar, takes us to the world of Pandora, inhabited by the large blue alien race known as the Na’vi. The plot centers on paraplegic marine Jake Sully (Sam Worthington). Sully managed to make it to Pandora despite his handicap in order to fill the role of his late twin brother and act as an avatar. Thanks to a little genetic engineering, Sam is able to become one of the Na’vi to help Dr. Augustine (Sigourney Weaver) with her biology research.

I found myself asking, “What good could a brash marine do for the meticulous research life of science?” As the story goes, Jake accidentally infiltrates the native Na’vi village with the help of a mysterious higher power known as Eywa. But there’s more than meets the eye to this seemingly unplanned encounter with the natives. It’s Jake’s job to report back to the Earth military forces so that they may be able to commit genocide in the name of capitalism, or manifest destiny, or whatever.

So anyway, Jake learns the ways of the blue people and actually manages to become better at “primitive” life than its natives. He falls in love, something bad happens, and then it’s all resolved. Happy ending, right? It would feel like it, had I not seen this movie before. I’ve read several reviews comparing Avatar‘s plot to several different movies but I think it’s best described when compared to FernGulley: The Last Rainforest, released in 1992. In this movie, the protagonist works for a company contracted to cut down trees in the rainforest. He is then shrunk down to the size of the FernGulley fairies and begins to understand how important nature really is. The story is even complete with a home tree.

Perhaps the plot would move more smoothly if the acting were better. To be honest, I can’t tell if Worthington or Zoe Saldana’s (who plays the Na’vi princess, Neytiri) poor acting is intentional because the script calls for the most flat leading characters possible: a marine, and a “savage” but sexy blue alien with an accent.

The only redeeming factor is, of course, the 3-D animation and special effects. I’ve thought from time to time that Hollywood has run out of original ideas and this film confirms my belief. It seems that Hollywood will be interested in remakes and reinterpretations of the same old material as long as there’s new technology to improve the visuals.

If you like the thought of sitting through over two and a half hours of mind-numbing 3-D images, this movie is for you. I, however, prefer to watch the beautiful footage on Discovery Channel’s Life or Planet Earth. At least I can learn something new while I watch. And as far as the foreign blue creatures go, let’s just say I’m more excited to see the live action Smurf movie, due 2011.

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