Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIV, No. 2
 
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
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Cinema

For more movie summaries, see Kam’s Kapsules.

YOU’VE ALMOST GOT IT RIGHT: Native Pandoran Neytiri (Zoë Saldana, right) coaches the avatar of Jake Sulley (Sam Worthington) in the finer points of Pandoran archery, which he must master, together with other skills in order to be accepted as a member of the Na’vi society. The two fall in love as Jake proves himself to be an apt pupil.

Avatar: James Cameron’s Long Awaited Thriller Exceeds Expectations

Kam Williams

James Cameron wrote the script for Avatar in 1994, but was unable to turn his vision into a movie until advances in technology allowed him to create the movie to his specifications. The delay was well worth the wait, for the science-fiction film more than measures up to the hype, and not merely because of its introduction of the next generation of special effects.

The eagerly anticipated movie is so compelling that its nearly three hour running time flies by in a flash. The cautionary story about the dangers of unchecked military might and corporate greed also features a tenderhearted romance.

The action unfolds in the year 2154 on the distant planet Pandora which is being invaded by SecFor (as in Security Force), a U.S. military industrial corporate conglomerate that is searching for sources of a rare mineral called unobtainium. The precious substance, worth $20 million a kilo, is the only reason for the expedition, because the rare element is crucial to the efforts on Earth to prevent the imminent extinction of life because of the Earth’s polluted ecosphere.

The picture’s protagonist is Jake Sully (Sam Worthington), a paraplegic ex-Marine who has volunteered to take the place of his recently deceased twin brother who was in the Avatar program on Pandora. Upon his arrival he is taught, by botanist Dr. Grace Augustine (Sigourney Weaver), how to mind-meld with his genetically matched avatar and thereby control its every move. The hybrid avatars resemble the Pandoran Na’vi (as in naïve) natives, the 9’ tall, blue skinned tribe of aborigines who inhabit the planet.

Jake’s commanding officer gives him three months to persuade the indigenous people into voluntarily vacating their sacred land, which happens to sit atop a large deposit of unobtainium. However, to the surprise of his superiors, SecFor bureaucrat (Giovanni Ribisi) and Jake’s commanding officer (Stephen Lang), Jake has fallen in love with with a beautiful young native (Zoe Saldana).

Jake realizes that the Na’vi are not bloodthirsty savages, but are noble beings who are living in harmony with the ecosphere of Pandora. So the sensitive human, in the form of his avatar, rallies all the creatures of Pandora to come to the defense of their peaceable kingdom in an eye-popping battle.

Along the way Cameron pays homage to memorable motifs from some of his own films and from Star Wars, The Fugitive, King Kong, Superman, Pocahontas, Predator, Apocalypto and Transformers. Interestingly, Avatar’s theme is similar to the plot of the film Dancing With Wolves for which Kevin Costner won a couple of Academy Awards.

Excellent (4 stars). Rated PG-13 for sensuality, profanity, smoking, and intense battle sequences. In English and Na’vian with subtitles. Running time: 162 minutes. Studio: 20th Century Fox.

For more movie summaries, see Kam’s Kapsules.

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