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Sunday, 27 December 2009

Review: Avatar, dir James Cameron (2009)

Going by reports of box office in Australia, few people will have missed seeing the movie by now, a few days after its launch. It's not surprising, what with terrific special effects, decent acting by Sam Worthington, and a story that seems to have been designed to spark debate as the world moves into 2010 with one eye fixed on the climate and the other on its collective wallet.

The story is simple and, like that other Sigourney Weaver vehicle, Alien, it's about a globalised universe - or, perhaps more accurately, a universalised globe.

Humans have discovered a relatively haibitable planet, Pandora, that harbours an expensive mineral. The Na'vi are native humanoids and are resisting occupation and exploitation of their environment. Alongside military efforts to counter this resistance, the humans have put in place a program using avatars - Na'vi bodies controlled by sleeping humans - to find a diplomatic solution.

But the bosses and the generals are impatient, leading to the scientists taking sides. The resulting battle of Na'vi against humans is spectacular. But perhaps more interesting is the love story between the Na'vi controlled by the Worthington character - Jake Scully - and a Na'vi female.

It's a Pocohontas storyline, with the woman's love and loyalty remaining after almost everything else has been lost.

Weaver's character is important but secondary. The main action is between the avatar controlled by Scully and the Na'vi female played by Zoe Saldana.

Cameron has gone to great lengths to create a viable world in the best traditions of classic sci-fi authors like Philip Jose Farmer and Isaac Azimov - the writers he (and I) read in youth. In a sense, this is the first great sci-fi movie to emerge after Star Wars - with possible exceptions being Alien and Terminator.

Recommended viewing. Makes for great post-screening conversation.

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