Avatar (re-release) – movie review

Thirteen years on, it may be difficult to recall just how spectacular and magical a movie Avatar is. I had the privilege of seeing it again in 3D and it stands up to the test of time magnificently. The technology remains wondrous. It won three Oscars, including one for visual effects. The theme of protecting the natural environment and not encroaching on native lands is more relevant than ever.

Writer and director James Cameron (The Terminator) raised the filmmaking bar when he made Avatar. Not surprisingly, he called it his most challenging work.

To briefly recap, Avatar’s central figure, Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) is a soldier who lost his legs.  He rises to become a hero in an epic adventure and love story as he is drawn deeper and deeper into a clash of civilisations. Sully, despite being in a wheelchair, is still a warrior at heart.  He’s recruited to travel light years to the human outpost on Pandora, where a corporate consortium is mining a rare mineral that’s the key to solving Earth’s energy crisis.  Because Pandora’s atmosphere is toxic, they’ve created what is called the Avatar Program.

Human “drivers” have their consciousness linked to an avatar, a remotely controlled biological body that can survive in the lethal air.  These avatars are genetically engineered hybrids of human DNA mixed with DNA from the natives of Pandora, the Na’vi.  So, reborn in his avatar form, Sully can walk again.  He is given a mission to infiltrate the Na’vi, who have become a major obstacle to mining the precious ore. But the more he learns about the Na’vi, the more his understanding of a world previously beyond his imagination takes hold of him. All of this leads to an ultimate showdown, in which the human and alien worlds come face to face.

James Cameron had dreamed of creating a film like Avatar since he was a child reading pulp science fiction and comic books by the truckload.  He wasn’t interested in using makeup to create his alien species.  Though the computer-generated characters in Avatar resemble the actors who play them, their fundamental proportions are different.  The Na’vi eyes are twice the diameter of human eyes and they are spaced further apart.  The Na’vi are much leaner than humans, with longer necks and tails. They have different bone and muscle structures, including three-fingered hands.

While the outcome may be expected, the journey is a remarkable one. I run out of superlatives to describe what Cameron and his filmmaking maestros have achieved here.  Sam Worthington does a fine job as the disabled marine with a strong sense of conscience. Sigourney Weaver brings attitude to the role of his instructor and fellow pod traveller, Dr Grace Augustine. As the voice of Sully’s Na’vi warrior and love interest, Zoe Saldana has bite and spark. Michelle Rodriguez, too, is spirited as ace fighter pilot Trudy Chacon. Stephen Lang displays intense arrogance and entitlement as gung-ho Colonel Miles Quaritch.

Avatar is well worth seeing again in 3D on the biggest screen possible. Re-releasing this masterpiece also helps build the anticipation leading to the premiere of its sequel Avatar: The Way of Water on 15 December 2022.

Alex First

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