The latest from James Cameron took around 15 years in the making from script to finish and the film is probably opening a new chapter in filmmaking with its ability to blend live-action and computer-generated objects.

Set in Pandora where humans actively mine the highly prized unobtanium, a diplomatic effort is initially worked on to peacefully relocate the indigenous Na’vi who live around the unobtanium deposit. Genetically engineered Na’vi bodies able to be remotely controlled by humans are used to blend with the indigenous in order to gain the trust of the Na’vis so that the people will be willingly relocate to avoid more hostile efforts. One of the operators of these avatars (the genetically engineered Na’vis) is Jake Sully who takes over the job from his dead brother. Another is Dr. Grace Augustine, the head of the Avatar Program, a scientist who has been studying both Pandora and its people for some time.

Contrary to the initial expectations, Jake managed to adapt to the lifestyle of the Na’vis and gains the trust from them, while his relationship with Neytiri, the daughter of the Na’vi chieftain Eytucan, grows deeper. It is when the administrator of the miners, Parker Selfridge decided that the time for the diplomatic approach has ran out that Jake must choose whether to side with the miners or with the Na’vis.

This movie has its strength in the visuals rather than the plot or the acting. As previously noted, a new chapter of filmmaking has opened with Avatar, something that is likely to be utilized by other filmmakers. The remarkable blending between virtual and live objects in the film actually made everything seems to be so alive. In addition, the design of Pandora itself is amazing, from the plants to the wildlife, to the landscapes, including the floating mountains. The war machines wachines however, are limited to several ships and a mini-mech model like from Matrix.

Acting is not the main point of the movie, but it’s pretty good nonetheless, although most of the facial expressions are captured with cameras designed specifically by Cameron for this movie. Sam Worthington may not be a famous actor before Avatar, but I’m sure he is now. With the success of Avatar, it is likely that Cameron will follow it up with two sequels as he had told the press before.

The theme itself is a criticism on real-world situations where the strong used to prevail over the weak with the help of technology. From the ancient history of United States when the indians were driven out up to the modern imperialism where oil resources are being fought over. One line from the movie was evidently a total joke when the leader of the mercenaries Col. Miles Quaritch said that ‘terror must be fought with terror’.

We may be awed by the beauty of the nature in Pandora, but let’s not forget that we also have such beautiful landscape and wildlife here in the real world, gradually deteriorating due to human’s exploitation of natural resources. If we want to have such Pandoran beauty, we probably ought to scale back on our own exploitation of our beloved planet.

Overall, Avatar is a wholly remarkable movie in terms of its visuals. Cameron’s success in designing Pandora and visualizing it on screen (including designing its language) is what make this movie worth watching (in 3D if available). It seems that Avatar is already a candidate for the best movie in the next Academy Awards, which I believe highly probably. Along with it, Cameron probably grab the best director award as well.

Final rating: 9.0

Directed by James Cameron
Written by James Cameron
Starring: Sam Worthington, Sigourney Weaver, Zoë Saldaña, C.C.H. Pounder, Michelle Rodriguez, Giovanni Ribisi, Joel David Moore, Stephen Lang, Wes Studi, Laz Alonso.
Release year: 2009
IMDB Rating: 8.8

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