Avatar (2009)


Dave’s 3-Word Review:
Look, blue aliens.

This film was selected from ‘The 250’

I don’t know how he does it, but James Cameron is the man in terms of creating the highest grossing movies…ever. First came Titanic, then came Avatar – on the top of the highest grossing movies to have ever existed – and both very well done. Neither of these movies would I consider my personal favorite, nor a movie I would add to my own personal collection, but they’re pretty decent for a single-viewing. Others may disagree and rant and rave about it all they want – that’s cool. I ain’t stopping you, go for it. As for me, Avatar is just a real fun single-viewing type of movie.

So Avatar is really about Jake Sully, a parapalegic ex-marine who was selected for a special mission on a planet called Pandora. His twin brother recently died, and he was part of a special “avatar” program, and the only person that could operate his avatar was Jake. Basically, the avatar in question is a fake version of the native alien – and they’re needed because they are tall and good for special tasks regular humans can’t do, plus they look like natives, so they can interact with the actual planet the way the aliens do. Anyways, Jake loves his avatar because it can actually walk/run, and beore long, he gets separated from his people and runs into a tribe of natives who teach him the way to be a blue alien. It is there that he falls for a alien and his devotion is put into question.

Avatar has been compared most commonly to Disney’s Pocahontas, and for good reason. Other people would say it’s basically the same movie, but I would rather say….it’s just strikingly similar in some of the scenes and maybe the very basic plot structure/idea. Instead, you have an original story…for the most part. This was all based on something James Cameron has had in the back of his head for the last few decades, so throughout the years maybe some of his ideas have been done out of pure coincidence. No biggie. It’s not easy to tell anyway, because of the fresh look and conception of everything else is enough for self-sustainability.

As I watched, I was looking for the messages this movie was trying to get across, which was a lot of self-discovery, cultural shock/respect, with a big focus on ethics towards living creatures as a whole. It was also very spiritual and I think a big portion of the movie wanted to spread a green-friendly message of hug the trees! So, they had some good messages in there, but as far as plot direction goes, I’m not sure I actually cared so much about…much of anything. It was a lot of fun to watch, but I think that’s about it. The plot was about trying to get this…rock that is really uber important for this reason or that…I don’t know. They tried to say – okay, we really want this rock – really badly, but in the end, it was just a McGuffin.

So I wasn’t a fan of the plot. The action and the visuals were really nuts, though. For a movie that’s five years old, it’s still some of the best visuals I’ve ever seen. It also has some really beautiful concept art and original scenary – not to mention the models of the aliens themselves are really original and completely unforgettable. As far as how the movie looks – nearly perfect. I say nearly because the 3D is very depthy. Meaning it looks really good, but some of the live-action shots will hurt the heck out of your head.

It’s hard to really pinpoint how I feel about this movie, because I really do think it’s a fabulously done movie, but I personally don’t care if I’ll never see it again at the same time. Maybe it’s because it’s so long…maybe it’s because I don’t care as much about the plot, maybe it’s the 3D, or maybe it’s just not my type of movie…I don’t know. It’s hard to tell. It’s a good one-time viewing for sure, and you may love it so much you’ll have the need to buy it. Everyone is different.

The Good:

Avatar is a beautiful movie. The visuals supercede most of anything that comes out nowadays, and the originality and epicness is hard to forget.

The Bad:

Some people wouldn’t say this is original, and instead a rip-off of Pocahantas. They may also have trouble connecting with the overal plot. The chemistry from the characters are fine, but the story itself….meh.

The Random:

“Jake’s atrophied legs were prosthetics cast from the legs of a real paraplegic. Sam Worthington’s real legs were tucked into the wheelchair and digitally removed in post-production.” – I knew it


17 thoughts on “Avatar (2009)

  1. The unobtanium is really not the main focus of the plot. It just sets up why they’re there in the first place. The overall plot is about how, when money comes into the picture, we often lose our humanity. We ignore that these people are people, and we treat them like animals because they’re sitting on a goldmine. It’s not even all that much about the environment, although that message is certainly there, it’s about the nature of greed, and how it can destroy ourselves and others.

    Also, you seem to recently be using the word MacGuffin wrong quite a bit. A MacGuffin has to be the main focus of a story, much like the Ark/Grail in Indiana Jones, or the various cities Nathan Drake is after. It’s what everything is leading towards. In the beginning the unobtanium seems like it might be that, but it’s really not. The unobtanium is the reason behind everything that’s happening around the main characters, but it’s not the main character’s goal by any means. Jakes goals initially are to learn more about these people, and in the end, his goals are to become one of them and help them defend themselves.

    One thing you didn’t mention that I just love about the movie is its acting, particularly from the Navi, especially considering they were motion captured, the acting is really powerful and really shows in the motion capture work.


    1. no no, a McGuffin or however you spell it – is always something no one even knows…what. Like the briefcase in Pulp Fiction. No one ever knows what it is or what’s in it, but apparently it’s important. Everyone knows what the Arc of the covenant is, what the holy grail is, and most people know those cities in Uncharted. A mcguffin is placed JUST to move a story along, sometimes it’s used in self-aware humor, sometimes not. Everyone hates McGuffins though, because they are usually done without a lot of thought just to make sure the plot moves forward


      1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MacGuffin

        “In TV interviews, Hitchcock defined a MacGuffin as the object around which the plot revolves, but as to what that object specifically is, he declared, “the audience don’t care”. [George] Lucas, on the other hand, believes that the MacGuffin should be powerful and that “the audience should care about it almost as much as the duelling heroes and villains on-screen””

        MacGuffins ARE to move a story along, and in the end aren’t as important as they seemed, but they are still the main focus of the story.

        If you pay attention, in the end, El Dorado wasn’t what ended up being important about Uncharted. It was about stopping the enemies from unleashing a deadly virus to the world. In Uncharted 2, it became about stopping Lazarevic from becoming invincible and terrorizing the world, and Uncharted 3 was similar to Uncharted 1 in that it was about stopping the enemies from obtaining the poisoned water that would allow them to control their enemies through fear (basically, scarecrow’s poison)

        The same thing is true about Indiana Jones, since it basically follows the same formula. The object of everybody’s desire is the MacGuffin, but in reality, the same story could be told with any object, so it’s not so important what that object is, but how that object affects the story. In Avatar, unobtainium is the object of desire for the military guys, but not really for anyone else.

        Anyway, my point was that the unobtanium really isn’t the main focus of the story.


      2. Yeah, and I agree, and I think that was a mistake – because I immediately want to know more about it, and it just seems to be cheapily squeezed in there for no real reason. I want the puzzle to be complete and everything explained and have a regular A-B goal.


      3. and that’s the entire explanation right there – in that one single sentence. That is what I call cheap. Think about it in the writing room. “Hey guys, these aliens and the avatars, it’s pretty awesome…but why are they there?” “Oh…um. I don’t know, let’s just throw in some rock that they’re trying to get.” “Awesome, yeah, let’s expand on that” “let’s not.” Done


      4. Uhhh… not really. James Cameron is pretty darn pro environment, so he’s pretty invested in the whole mission of stopping people from destroying the earth. Not only that but it shows the contrast behind how something so simple can destroy their humanity, simply because of the greed it causes. It drives them to feeling okay about murdering innocent people, simply because it’s their mission to make profit.

        The whole story centers around those themes. It doesn’t matter if it’s unobtanium, or gold, or oil, but the object is there to bring out the contrast behind some simple object and the greed and inhumanity it leads to. It’s very important to the story that the object is there, it’s just not all that important what that object is, hence the generic name. James Cameron was flat out emphasizing the unimportance of what the mineral was, making sure the audience instead focused on what it caused the humans to do.


      5. No you can’t. Without a reason for those themes (the unobtanium) you can’t have them. The unobtanium is not plot. It drives the themes of the movie, and gives reason for the actual plot to happen. The plot of the movie is centered around Jake learning the ways of the Navi, becoming one of them, and protecting them against the humans. You seem to be acting like the military guys are the main characters. If they were the main characters, then Unobtainium would basically be the plot, and I would call it a MacGuffin in that case, but the military bad guys aren’t the main characters, Jake is.


      6. A plot is a goal – this in all honesty is coming of age – the things people do aren’t plot. It’s just…stuff. Plot is a goal from the beginning A trying to get to Z. Eventually Jake wants to become this alien, but it’s a journey that he doesn’t even know – that right there is classic coming-of-age – which I’ve never cared about


      7. Plot is anything that happens in a movie, it isn’t just a goal, and the main goal of a movie is not always right in the beginning. Sometimes they throw in a red herring to make you think the movie is about one thing before turning it around and showing you it’s about something else. The main plot of the movie is about Jake learning how the Navi live, what their lives are like, and then becoming one of them and protecting them. The protecting being the ultimate goal of the movie. Sometimes you don’t know what the main goal is at the beginning of the movie because the main character doesn’t have that knowledge yet. Learning about a foreign race of people isn’t “coming of age” (and there is honestly nothing wrong with those type of movies). Coming of age is where you learn things about yourself, and honestly there’s a little of that in practically every movie, but that’s not the main story here.


      8. When you ask- what’s this movie about – and you start just spouting off what someone does – that’s not a plot. Those are actions. A plot is what they do and why they do it – and if that changes many times throughout the movie, then there is no plot- just sequences of…stuff. When you follow a person through life watching and exploring as they do – with no real direction because it keeps changing every ten minutes – that’s coming-of-age – and really freaking boring. I want a reason to watch. Basically tell me where everything is headed by the end and I’m game.

        When you go to a baseball game – there are three outcomes – one team wins, the other team wins, or it’s a draw. That’s it. A protagonist, antagonist, and goal. I pick a side and go along for the ride. Now imagine all of the ball players wandering around seamlessly trying to decide which team to play for, and maybe changing their mind because that’s life, and then they decide to quit, and then they decide to come back because you never know what’s going to happen – that’s coming of age


      9. Every action that happens is part of the plot. It moves the plot forward. What you are saying is the goal, or maybe even the overall story idea, but the plot is anything that physically happens in the movie.


        “Plot is a literary term defined as the events that make up a story, particularly as they relate to one another in a pattern, in a sequence, through cause and effect, how the reader views the story, or simply by coincidence.”

        Everything that happens in a movie can move the plot in one way or another. The goal can change, and you don’t always know what that goal is going to be right away, and that’s just fine. It’s the journey that matters anyway. As long as you can understand what happened in the story and why by the END, then that plot can be delivered in any way a writer wants.

        If you understand story structure, you might be able to figure out what the goal is going to be at the beginning of the movie, but it doesn’t flat out say it until much later.


    2. “a plot device in the form of some goal, desired object, or other motivator that the protagonist pursues, often with little or no narrative explanation”


  2. I saw this in theaters, in 3D IMAX and it was one of my most memorable movie-viewings ever. And yes, I’ve been to the movies many of times. Good review Dave.


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