Well, it has finally arrived. James Cameron (Titanic) has put his considerable reputation—not to mention his considerable ego—on the line with Avatar. The film had a rumored $300 million budget and employs the latest cutting-edge 3D technology. There are groundbreaking special effects, and the film, for the most part is visually stunning. If only someone had put some effort into the plot and the acting, it might have been a decent film. As it is, it’s Heart of Darkness meets The Smurfs.
Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) is a wheelchair-bound marine. When his twin brother, a brilliant scientist, is murdered in a mugging, Jake is tagged to replace him in an experimental alien study. The men are assigned avatars—DNA-linked alien surrogates—that they operate with their minds, the goal being to study the tribal aliens of the planet Pandora. There are, of course, darker forces at work as Parker Selfridge (Giovanni Ribisi) and his beyond stereotypical crew are eager to displace the indigenous tribal people in order to mine for a valuable substance.
It doesn’t take Jake long to embrace the culture of the Na’vi, and with his guide Neytiri (Zoe Saldana), he soon sees that these spiritual tree huggers are doing things right and that the war-mongering, rape-and-pillage Americans are the evil ones. With only a handfull of enlightened earthlings—including his mentor Grace (Sigourney Weaver)—he must help the natives mount a defense against the seemingly unstoppable humans.
The metaphor is about as subtle as a train wreck, and the plot is as predictable as a train schedule. With dialogue like, “after a tour on Pandora you’ll want to go to hell for a little R & R,” one wonders if anyone proofread the script. Steven Lang is laughable as the drill sergeant straight out of central casting and Weaver simply phoned in her best Gorillas in the Mist Dian Fossey. Sam Worthington is charming and believable, and his character, Jake, and the avatar are on screen almost the entire movie. The plot, sadly, is so predictable I found myself saying lines of dialogue before they happened. In the end, when you factor in the amount spent and the complete lack of originality of everything but the spectacular special effects, all I kept thinking was, what a waste of money. It's a 5.