“Sometimes your whole life boils down to one insane move.”
So Avatar is one of the most expensive films ever made, unsurprisingly, given the frankly massive amount of CGI that it features. Set on the paradisical planet (well, actually a moon of a gas giant, but “paradisical moon of a gas giant” doesn’t sound so snappy) of Pandora, a world that businessmen want to mine for its precious minerals but already plays host to the Na’vi, a species of blue aliens with their own language, it follows Jake Sully, paraplegic and ex-Marine, who’s been hired as an “avatar-driver”. The avatars are basically Na’vi bodies that human minds can inhabit. Can Jake and his fellow drivers make peace between the ravaging hordes of human miners and the Na’vi whose home is being destroyed?
I’ve been told that this film is basically Pocahontas with aliens and CGI. Never having seen Pocahontas, I can’t comment, but it’s the kind of film whose plot is immediately obvious once you’ve seen the trailer. But then, practically everything is, these days, so I suppose I shouldn’t complain. There are shades of The Matrix, too, and Star Wars, and, well, practically any sci-fi film you could care to name.
There’s an important ecological message in there, too. I didn’t realise it at first, but Avatar is actually set in the 22nd century, when, apparently, the Earth is a lot worse off than it is now, and humanity is threatening to do the same thing to Pandora (whose green forests and floating mountains are rather obviously visually contrasted with the squat grey human buildings and helicopters). This is exactly the sort of thing sci-fi and fantasy is good at: taking a real issue and putting it somewhere else, in a new light. Because, of course, in Avatar the greedy forces of capitalism become the baddies, and the aliens are the goodies. Are we on the right side, after all?
Did I say the plot was obvious? Well, yes, it is, but the film is still worth watching for the brilliant CGI, some excellent acting from Zoe Saldana (alien love interest) and Sam Worthington (Jake) (they had to learn a whole made-up language for this film, but they speak it like natives) and, most of all, the way it puts humanity in a new light.
Apparently, there are going to be three Avatar films, although I can’t quite see where you could go from the first one. I suspect they might follow the Rule of Sequels, viz., they will get successively worse the further they get from the original, because that is what happens with expensive franchises. Still, one can only hope.