AvatarBy Karen Wilson
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense epic battle scenes and warfare, sensuality, language and some smoking
Genre: Science Fiction
Release Date: December 18, 2009
Running Time: 2 hours 40 minutes
Plot Synopsis: The Corporation running the mission of the planet Pandora has recruited a paraplegic, former Marine Jake Sully to take over his recently killed brother's position. Stationed from their base on Pandora, Jake is able to use his mind to control an avatar made with his brother's DNA that looks like the natives. The Corporation hopes to use Jake to infiltrate the local population called the Na'avi and convince them to abandon a large supply of a very valuable mineral. However when Jake befriends and falls in love with a local girl, Neytiri, and the humans become more ruthless toward the Na'avi, his loyalties change.
Sex/Nudity: The natives of Pandora, the Na'avi, wear minimal clothes. Jake and Neytiri fall in love and there's a scene of kissing in the forest, the allusion of sex, followed by the declaration that they're now mated for life.
Violence/Gore: Animals in the forest of Pandora menace Jake. Neytiri almost shoots Jake with an arrow. A massive battle between the Na'avi and the soldiers occurs at the end of the movie, where the Na'avi's home tree is destroyed, numerous characters on both sides are shot with guns and arrows or thrown out of vehicles, plus various things explode.
Profanity: The soldiers, particularly Jake, swear quite a bit using compound four-letter words in addition to the use of "hellhole" and "goddamn."
Which Kids Will Like It? Pre-teen and teenage boys who love science fiction adventure stories will be wowed by the 3-D camera work and sophisticated animation employed throughout the entire movie.
Will Parents Like It? Adults who are fans of James Cameron's previous work, such as Aliens and Titanic, won't be disappointed by this new foray into grand romance set on a distant planet.
Kaboose Review: Director James Cameron created a vast challenge for himself when making his new movie, Avatar. With a massive budget in the hundreds of millions of dollars and years spent in front of green screens with a special camera system he developed, Avatar has been an epic production for this filmmaker known for his epic productions.
The final movie is truly an experience in grand filmmaking from the special 3-D glasses needed to see all of the effects to its nearly three hour running time. And despite its clichéd plot, it's sure to become an instant classic for science fiction fans big and small.
Visually, Avatar is all about the details. As Jake Sully explores the alien planet of Pandora we behold its exotic, dangerous animals and bioluminescent plant life in gorgeous array of jaw-dropping colors. The 3-D technology puts the audience right into Jake's point of view through thrilling scenes in which he runs on his avatar's strong legs and flies on his trained banshee for the first time -- both of which are nothing short of being magical.
The movie does stall when developing a few of the plot lines – particularly the one involving Jake's redemption from greedy explorer to native rebel. Audiences have seen this character arc a thousand times and can pretty much predict the ending before the movie is halfway over. Also, the Na'avi's connections to the energy of the forest and their respect for all living things and their all-seeing maternal goddess is a nobel message, but a very predictable Hollywood play on morality.
Cameron does attempt to spice up the dialogue in the movie by inserting topical political themes into the film. For example, characters allude to a "shock and awe" campaign or vow to "fight terror with terror." There's even a sequence where the shell-shocked Na-avi flee from their destroyed home under a cloud of raining ash that was creepily reminiscent of lower Manhattan during September 11th. These details will probably fly over the heads of young viewers, though their parents might find them heavy handed. However the clunky plot lines and over-the-top editorializing is not enough to damper the exhilarating experience of seeing this technologically groundbreaking film on the big screen.
Directed by: James Cameron
Cast: Sam Worthington (Jake Sully), Zoe Saldana (Neytiri), Sigourney Weaver (Grace), Stephen Lang (Colonel Miles Quaritch), Michelle Rodriguez (Trudy), Giovanni Ribisi (Parker)
Poster image courtesy ofTwentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation.
Karen Wilson is a freelance writer living in New York City.