In the weeks, months, and years leading up to this release, many have spoken to its proposed technical merits, others wondered if James Cameron still had it after his long absence from the big screen, while still others steadfastly believed the movie would be a failure. Well, it is here now, exposed to the world for what it truly is. Is it a game-changer? A disappointment? Something different entirely? Maybe just another wannabe pretending to be something it isn't? Have you seen it? What do you think?
Avatar is a fascinating film. It has so much to offer, yet is held back from greatness by bad dialogue and a story that is all too familiar. It is amazing just how fully realized the world is, the way it reveals itself as Earth-like yet completely alien; it succeeds at something that George Lucas sought to attain. When I first saw Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace, I remarked that it was the first time I felt like I was watching things happen on another world. With Avatar I realize just how deluded I was. I feel pretty safe in saying this is what Lucas was hoping to achieve, at least in part. Set aside the story and dialogue and look at what James Cameron has presented us with. The alien world of Pandora is an amazing creation, from its look and feel to the way its ecology is constructed. Simply amazing.
Setting aside the effects and complete realization, let's take a look at the story. The story is a mish-mash of our own history playing mash-up with films that we have enjoyed over the years. Take the era of colonialism when England began colonizing what would become the United States and the events that transpired with the Native Americans, and blend it with a mixture of Star Wars, Dances With Wolves, Braveheart, and Ferngully. There are probably a few more that slip my mind, but I am sure I will think of them at some point or you will remind me.
The basic thrust of the story has an indigenous race being oppressed by a more advanced race so that a natural resource can be acquired. One man is sent undercover where he is mistrusted but gradually accepted by the natives. The oppressors make their move at a critical juncture and the undercover operative, who has "gone native," loses his standing only to stand with them and fight against the oppressor. Yes, it is very simple and very familiar.