Tuesday, February 2, 2010

AVATAR THE REVIEW: HOLLYWOOD REINVENTS


Avatar sure delivers on the hype and shows 3D technology in all its wonder and majesty.

Finally, we watched it. Movie critics worldwide have long agreed that whatever Hollywood director James Cameron touches is certain to be a box office hit. But his $300 million dollar 161-minute film, Avatar, broke the limits. In just seven weeks after release, it has crossed the $2 billion mark, further eclipsing Titanic’s worldwide box office gross record of $1.843 billion. The 3D animation distributed by 20th Century Fox show is about blue-skinned aliens trying to defend their space against US invaders has continued to stun millions of viewers worldwide with its breathtaking special effects, 3D scenic wonders, surreal animation and powerful theme.

Set in the year 2154, Avatar is the story of human adventure into the exotic world of aliens; the distant jungle moon called Pandora and home of the alien tribe Na’vi, 10 foot blue creatures with yellow eyes and haunting looks. The Na’vi live in harmony with nature and worship a mother goddess called Eywa. In an amazing progression of arresting visuals, Pandora becomes an expedition site for human curiosity – the US based RDA Corporation, an seeking to mine a valuable rock called unobtainium (a fictitious term coined by engineers in the 1950s to describe any extremely rare, costly, or unavailable or practically impossible material to use) from ‘Hometree’ – home of the Omaticaya clan of the Na’vi (get the joke, unobtainable –ium). Parker Selfridge heads the mining operation, which employs private military contractors for security.

The adventure into Pandora truly begins when scientists create avatars, hybrids grown from Na’vi and human DNA, to enable research of Pandora’s unfriendly biosphere and communications with the Na’vi. Pandora gradually becomes a love nest and then a battle field for both aliens and humans. The hero of the plot is Jake Sully (played by Termination Salvation star Sam Worthington), a disabled ex-marine who is drafted into the team to replace his late twin brother, a trained avatar operator, as his DNA matched with the avatar. But, Grace Augustine (Sigourney Weaver), head of the Avatar Program, considers Sully unfit to take his brother’s place and assigns him as a bodyguard.

Jake, together with anthropologist Norm Spellman (Joel David Moore) and Grace finally leave the US base in their respective avatars on the mission – to collect biological samples and data in the Pandora forest. An attack in the forest splits Jake from the group and he is left alone to ward off the predators by himself, until he is rescued by the beautiful female Na’vi huntress, Neytiri (played by Zoe Saldana), and brought to Hometree. Neytiri’s mother Mo’at, as the tribe’s spiritual leader, is convinced by Jake’s story and mandated her daughter to teach him their way of life. Like in all Hollywood epics, there would always be a love twist to the tale. Sully not only learns the language, culture and war strategies of the alien natives, he also falls in love with Neytiri.

After spending over three months, Jake wins the trust of the Na’vi and the heart of Neytiri, who become his mate.

There is a further twist in the tale when Jake’s allegiance is brought to question when he disabled an RDA bulldozer while it embarked on a destruction of the Na’vi’s Tree of Voice, a sacred and gigantic tree revered by the tribe. Jake is forced to reveal his true mission to the Omaticaya. Neytiri is shattered and accuses him of betrayal. Both Jake’s and Grace’s avatar are then captured. RDA still goes ahead to destroy Hometree, killing many Na’vis in the process, including Neytiri’s father and the Tribe’s chief Eytucan. Back in RDA, Jake, Grace and Norm are imprisoned for betraying RDA, but then escape with the help of Trudy Chac√≥n (Michelle Rodriguez), a security force pilot who doesn’t agree with Quaritch’s methods. Jake finds the Omaticaya and regains his trust by taming Toruk, a powerful flying beast that only five Na’vi had ever tamed. However, Grace, seriously wounded during the getaway by Quaritch, could not be healed by Mo'at at the Tree of Souls.

Fast forward. Jake, together with Tsu’Tey (leader of the Omaticaya) and Neytiri, help to raise thousands of warriors from various Na’vi tribes to fight against the human – RDA Corporation. The Na’vi suffer heavy casualties and Quaritch finds Jake’s avatar link unit where his human body is located and attacks it, exposing Jake, in human form, to Pandora human-unfriendly atmosphere. Again, Neytiri comes to Jake’s rescue by killing Quaritch. Neytiri sees Jake’s human body for the first time and both declare their love for each other. “I see you,” They both say. After the attack is defeated, Selfridge and the rest RDA personnel are captured and expelled from Pandora. However, Jake, Norm and some other scientists stay back with the Na’vi tribe. There, a ritual is performed that transfers Jake from his human body into his Na’vi avatar, permanently.

Avatar has been described in glowing phrases – extraordinary, delivers on the hype, produces sensations of wonder, awe and delight, stuns the eye and seduces the heart, the most beautiful film in years – but TIME’s Richard Corliss might have captured its whole essence when he rightly noted that “for years to come it would define what movies can achieve, not in duplicating our existence but in confecting new ones,” he wrote in his review of Avatar. For its development of 3D viewing and stereoscopic filmmaking with cameras that were specially designed for the film's production, Avatar gives a captivating bird’s eye view into the future of filmmaking technology.

Love, suspense, passion, loyalty, betrayal, salvation; Avatar has it all to make the epic of all times. Or what else do you expect from a movie that played in the mind of a Hollywood director genius for fourteen years? And in the end, 161 minutes seem too short a lifetime for 3D cinematic beauty. Only a daring few would bet against it not sweeping the Oscars. And then a sequel.

© ARUKAINO UMUKORO

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