More than ten years ago, in 2009, Avatar, directed by James Cameron, was released. You may have heard of it, since, as James Cameron knows what he does and with Avatar he broke the box office record at that time that belonged, surprise surprise, to James Cameron himself. On the other hand, South Park tought us that James Cameron doesn’t do what James Cameron does for James Cameron. James Cameron does what James Cameron does because James Cameron is … James Cameron.
But let’s talk about the movie. The protagonist is the then unknown Sam Worthington accompanied, among others, by Zoe Saldana (Star Trek Beyond), Sigourney Weaver (Alien, Aliens…) and Stephen Lang (Don’t Breathe). The plot? If we remove the technological and science fiction complications, it’s quite simple. The army is protecting a company that wants to extract a precious mineral from an area of the planet Pandora which is the home of a clan of Na’Vi, blue humanoids who live in harmony with the planet, with its vegetation and with its animals. Before launching a full-scale attack, some scientists are given an opportunity to persuade the natives to leave their sacred tree using avatars created with human and alien DNA. Jake Sully (Sam Worthington), an ex-marine, joins the team almost by accident and betrays the trust of Grace Augustine (Sigourney Weaver) by secretly working for Colonel Miles Quaritch (Stephen Lang). But when he falls in love with Neytiri (Zoe Saldana), things change…
I don’t want to write more about the plot, also because I suppose everyone knows it. Who hasn’t seen this movie? So what can I write that hasn’t already been written? Probably nothing, but since I recently re-watched Avatar after buying a splendid edition with three Blurays containing infinite documentaries and the extended version of the film, here I am with a blog post. Although made with 3D in mind, the film is absolutely spectacular in its Bluray version and I enjoyed it like the first time I saw it. I admit that I am a James Cameron fan, I adore everything he did: The Terminator (1984), Aliens (1986), The Abyss (1989), Terminator 2 (1991), True Lies (1994), Titanic (1997) and Avatar (2009). Seven films in 25 years, he’s by no means a prolific director. After working with Roger Corman, he amazed the world with The Terminator and its magnificent special effects despite the small budget. With Aliens he proved how good he was by giving a worthy follow-up to Ridley Scott’s masterpiece; with The Abyss he experimented with the key special effect for the T-1000 in Terminator 2… And to shoot Titanic not only did he rebuild a huge replica of the ship, but he also personally explored the sunken wreck!
And, finally, he made Avatar, which was impossible to make when he had originally conceived it due to technological limitations but which, also thanks to Cameron himself, became feasible in 2009. The “making of” documentaries of this film are incredible and I recommend watching them without a doubt: incidentally, they prove how much the physical support, even if sadly disappearing, is superior to the streaming services given the care with which some products have been made (for example, this movie’s edition with three Blurays that I’m writing about). Avatar is visually impressive: every frame could be framed and hung on the wall, every movement… everything is taken care of down to the smallest detail. The special effects, and we are talking about a film that it’s practically just special effects, are nothing short of incredible. Even after seeing how they were made, I still haven’t figured out how it was possible to do at least half of the things I saw on the screen!
James Cameron’s style is in full display in Avatar: not only Sigourney Weaver is in it (like in Aliens), but the army returns after having been featured in Aliens and The Abyss, and above all there’s a very strong environmental message like in the two Terminator movies and in The Abyss. Pandora, but it could have been called Gaia by referring more explicitly to the works of the great Isaac Asimov, is an idealized version of the Earth that we are destroying in the name of profit and progress. To be even more direct, James Cameron basically re-enacted the Avatar storyline on his 2010 trip to the Xingu River in Brazil where the natives were struggling against the construction of a huge government-sponsored dam. It’s no secret to anyone that Cameron, also a vegetarian, cares about the planet and he has always included environmental messages in his films.
But is the film just (so to speak) special effects plus an environmental message? No, it’s not. Cameron shoots both the action and the love scenes with impeccable craftsmanship, and it’s difficult to get bored even if the film (in its extended version, whose initial scenes on Earth are certainly worth seeing) lasts almost three hours. The colors, the images, the animals and plants invented from scratch give life to a world that is absolutely credible and realistic in its own way (not to mention the military vehicles, one more fascinating than the other!)… It’s clear that everything was done with passion.
And here let me get to my only criticism of the film: if that same care had been dedicated to the script, I would talk of Avatar as a masterpiece. Unfortunately, however, the script is the weakest part of the film: the plot is continuously explained with an annoying and intrusive narrating voice (at the beginning without even an excuse, then using the expedient of Sully’s video diary), and it didn’t even need much explanation! The characters are all very basic: Sully is a loser who’s given a second chance; Quaritch is an unscrupulous soldier; Parker (Giovanni Ribisi) is the Aliens’ Burke; Grace is an idealistic scientist who doesn’t compromise… In short , much more could have been done on this front, I admit.
Despite this undeniable weakness of the film, Avatar for me remains great and I always enjoy re-watching it. It also has a wonderful soundtrack composed by James Horner! Super recommended! Ciao!