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Still shot from the movie: Avatar.

Avatar

Crippled from the waist down in battle, Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) knows he will never walk again. Then he gets the unexpected opportunity to become an Avatar -- the mind link that controls the body of a genetically engineered alien life form. When he is sent to the home planet of the Na'vi and his virtual self begins interacting with the inhabitants, the soldier starts questioning the purpose of his military mission.

Overall Grade: C+
Violence: D+
Sexual Content: B-
Language: C+
Drugs/Alcohol: C+
Release Date: 18 Dec 2009
Run Time: 161
MPAA Rating: PG-13

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In-Depth Review

Beating his own box office record for Titanic might be Director James Cameron’s biggest challenge with his latest film. His 1997 blockbuster made a tidal wave of money and still stands as the top-grossing movie to date. Yet, with Avatar’s budget rumored to be between $250 and $300 million, Cameron certainly hasn’t spared any expense in trying to maintain his title as the self-proclaimed King of the World.

To further ensure the success of this endeavor, the director has been hands-on in creating the exquisite details of the futuristic planet Pandora where the gentle Na’vi people live. The spectacular, spellbinding visuals and 3D effects solidify Cameron’s role as a master of the art of eye candy. He also sets an unprecedented standard for the film industry.

Yet all this focus on impressive images comes at a cost—namely the storyline.

The script is as common as last week’s leftovers and riddled with over-the-top, stereotypical depictions of military personnel that can’t do much more than grunt and fire. Among this force is Jake Sully (Sam Worthington), a war vet who lost the use of his legs during battle. After the death of his brother however, he is called into service at a scientific laboratory on Pandora. Hoping to connect with the local inhabitants, the research group, headed up by the cigarette smoking Dr. Grace Agustine (Sigourney Weaver), is growing their own avatars: living creatures created from human and Na’vi DNA, which are controlled by means of brain waves.

Experiencing the use of his legs again during his first mind link proves to be a heady event for the paraplegic. But Jake isn’t the only one interested in his newfound mobility. Colonel Miles Quaritch (Stephen Lang) heads up the security forces for capitalist Parker Selfridge (Giovanni Ribisi), the leader of a mining operation on the planet. More concerned about a bad quarterly report than the survival of the indigenous population, Parker is eager to move the Na’vi tribe from their spot atop the planet’s richest deposit of a highly sought after mineral. The Colonel is more than willing to oblige with the relocation efforts and is happy to do it by force. Nevertheless, after some pointed persuasion, he agrees to give Jake and his avatar three months to negotiate a more civilized move.

During his attempt to integrate with the Na’vis, Jake meets Neytiri (Zoe Saldana), a blue-skinned princess that sports traditional tribal clothing (meaning a loin cloth with a g-string and a carefully placed necklace that usually covers her female body parts). To say Jake is not immediately embraced the alien community is an understatement. (Some intimate embracing does occur later during a mating ceremony though.) It appears these forest people are a little leery of the sky people and rightly so. Yet given the depth and complexity of the plot, it doesn’t take much to predict that Jake will change his attitude about spying on the Na’vi before the Colonel’s time limit is over—necessitating of course, a huge battle scene with lots of opportunity for more visual effects.

While Cameron should be applauded for his advancement of the audience’s visual experiences, it is too bad he failed to give the same attention to his characters and story development.

Content Details: Beyond the Movie Ratings...

Members of the Na’vi tribe wear traditional clothing similar to what would be seen in a documentary film about some indigenous groups. A couple embraces and kisses, and participate in a mating ritual (without explicit description). A woman smokes in a laboratory setting on several occasions. She is also seen drinking. Crude comments are made to a paraplegic. Profanities, crude language, scatological slang and terms of Deity are repeatedly used. Characters engage in warfare, resulting in numerous injuries and deaths. Individuals are impaled, shot, blown up and thrown from aircraft. Animals are also shot. Both an animal and human are shown on fire. A man is threatened and attacked by animals. Weapon use includes knives, guns, poisoned arrows and missiles that cause massive explosions and fires. Corpses are seen along with the cremation of one character in a morgue. Characters engage in hand-to-hand combat and verbal arguments.

Discussion Ideas: Talk About the Movie...

How might Cameron’s talent for visually engaging filmmaking contribute to his lack of script development?

Why do people often use the term "savages" to dehumanize another race or group of individuals? Is there any humane way to conduct war?

Cameron’s film appears to attack the ills of capitalism, military invasions and the destruction of the environment. However, what impact does moviemaking itself have on these issues? Does the director’s supposed desire to make money support an anti-capitalist theme? What kind of environmental damage is created during a film’s production? What about the huge amounts of garbage produced in theaters? Does this film glorify violence while appearing to call it down?

Video alternatives

Forbidden love doesn’t just happen on the planet of Pandora. In Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones, a young Anakin Skywalker pursues the affections of older Queen Amidala who he has been sent to protect. In West Side Story, a young couple falls in love despite their ties to opposing inner city gangs. Living through another being is also the theme in Surrogates.

This movie should not be confused with The Avatar: The Last Airbender (an animated TV series), which coincidentally is also being adapted to the big screen under the name of The Last Airbender, to be released in the summer of 2010.

Home Video Notes

Blu-Ray 3D Notes: Avatar

Release Date: 16 October 2012

Avatar is releasing again. This time on Blu-ray in 3D.

DVD and Blu-Ray Notes: Avatar: Extended Collector’s Edition

Release Date: November 16, 2010

The three-disc Avatar: Extended Collector’s Edition is releasing to Blu-ray and DVD on November 16, 2010. Both formats will feature the original theatrical release, a special edition re-release, family audio track with all objectionable language removed and new collector’s extended cut with sixteen more minutes including an exclusive alternate opening Earth scene.

AVATAR Extended Collector’s Edition: (3-Disc) Blu-ray:

Disc One:

- Original Theatrical Version

- Special Edition Re-Release

- Collector’s Extended Cut (16 more minutes and exclusive alternate opening)

- Family Audio Track (All Objectionable Language Removed) of the Original Theatrical Release and Special Edition Re-release

Disc Two:

- Capturing Avatar: An in-depth feature length documentary with James Cameron, Jon Landau and cast and crew

- Deleted Scenes: Over 45 minutes of new never-before-seen deleted scenes

- Production Materials

Disc Three: Pandora’s Box

- Interactive Scene Deconstruction: Explore the various stages of production through 3 different viewing modes

- Production Shorts: 17 featurettes covering performance capture, scoring the film, 3D fusion camera, stunts and more

-Avatar Archives including original script, 300-page screenplay and the extensive Pandorapedia

-BD-live Portal with additional bonus materials

AVATAR Collector’s Edition: 3-Disc DVD:

Disc One: Avatar, Part One

-Original Theatrical Edition (includes family audio track with objectionable language removed)

-Special Edition Re-release (includes family audio track with objectionable language removed)

-Collector’s Extended Cut with 16 additional minutes, including alternate opening on earth

Disc Two: Avatar, Part Two

- Continuation of the movies from the first disc

- A Message from Pandora

Disc Three:

- Capturing Avatar: An in-depth feature length documentary with James Cameron, Jon Landau and cast and crew

- Deleted Scenes   including over 45 minutes of new never-before-seen deleted scenes

Home Video Notes: Avatar

Release Date: April 22, 2010

Avatar is releasing to Blu-ray and DVD on Thursday, April 22, 2010, in honor of Earth Day. This release will not be in 3D, nor will it offer any bonus extras. Those features will be added to the November 16, 2010 release of Avatar.

Avatar releases as a 2-Disc Blu-Ray / DVD Combo. This package offers:

- Theatrical Feature Blu-ray

-Theatrical Feature DVD

Avatar also releases as a single disc DVD.

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About the Reviewer: Kerry Bennett

Harry Potter Advance Tickets

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