I am not a Sci-Fi girl. At all. My few exceptions to that are that I loved Ender’s Game. But not enough to read the sequels. I love Star Trek, and, of course, Star Wars (but that’s mostly because of Harrison Ford).

So when my man wanted to go see Avatar, I was less than thrilled. But I’m a good wife, and like any good wife, I went with him to see this 3 hour movie. (I should say that had Nine been out, I would have fought hard to see that instead, but husband is a pretty good sport for the most part, so I figure I can sit through Sci-Fi heaven.)

Avatar. I had NO idea what to expect. I hadn’t seen trailers, or read anything online. My only frame of reference was the cartoon Avatar that my kids watch, and that did not appeal to me.

I had no idea, for example, that Sigourney Weaver was in the movie. She’s such a great actress, and plays badass heroine archetypes. That was a perk I hadn’t expected. And the hero Jack Sully, played by Sam Worthington, was appealing, and even more so when he became his Na’vi Avatar.

Even the the animated characters, the indigenous humanoids, were nicely developed overall. Neytiri has a few gut-wrenchingly emotional scenes, no small feat for computer animation. The story itself plays along predictable lines; it’s the special effects that make the movie something special. It’s a spectacular event, and writer/director James Cameron uses every opportunity to make bold statements. He purportedly planned this movie in the mid-90s, but needed to wait for technology to catch up with his vision of what he wanted it to be. He succeeded. Avatar is the top grossing movie of all time (and Cameron is in the top 5 twice–the other movie is, of course, Titanic) and there are rumors of a sequel.

Jake immediately elicits sympathy because he’s a former marine and he’s paraplegic. He’s the quintessential lost soul, searching for how he can ever belong or be whole again. He’s damaged, and the way he’s defined himself no longer fits. He’s in a wheel chair, self-sufficient, but unhappy and wanting nothing more than to have the surgery that can fix his legs.

His brother is dead, and Jake is taking his place on the planet Pandora. Avatars are made especially for the human host, and Jake’s brother, his twin, and he shard the same DNA. Instead of waste the millions (or billions, or whatever it cost) to create his Avatar, Jake is brought in to take his place.

Dr. Grace Augustine is vehemently against Jake going in to make contact with the Na’vi. Jake is not a scientist, is not trained in working with an avatar, and is motivated by his selfish desires, not by a desire to understand the indigenous people of Pandora or to truly help build diplomatic relations with the Na’vi.

Turns out, of course, that Grace and Jake come to a great understanding of each other, and grow to have a mutual respect. That was a nice development and I liked seeing their friendship grow.

I plan to see Avatar again, and take notes on the Hero’s Journey. That is something James Cameron knows how to do with a character. Each character, in fact, is the hero of his (or her) own journey in Avatar, and the steps are quite clear. This makes the movie emotionally satisfying, Sci-Fi or not.

Avatar is a super popular movie. Did you see it? What did you think of Jake as a hero? Was it a satisfying ending for you?


3 replies
  1. Vicky Polito
    Vicky Polito says:

    I also went mostly because my spouse wanted to see it. I was wary, from past experience, of investing too much in the hype I'd heard and seen about the movie, so I had fairly even-keeled expectations.

    I liked it and thought it was fun to look at. I probably will not see it again but may one day catch it in 2-D only because I'm really not sure the 3-D did all that much to enhance it. I'd like to see if I'm right about that.

    The story was clean and simple, maybe too simple. I think that since it was so effect-heavy, the choice was made to keep the story down to the very minimum of complexity. And, that was probably the right decision. I'll add that I don't think story depth is Cameron's strong suit. In my opinion Titanic was not very good, with a poor story that didn't have strong enough special effects to over come that flaw.

    Back to Avatar: did like it. Didn't really feel it was that long, though that may be because I came in prepared for something long. The thing I really liked most: the ideas of dignity and spirituality of the natural world that we're just one part of that the movie put out there, in wide distribution. That whole "hunting with respect", etc. stuff really speaks to me.

    All that said, I wonder if it's just being jaded (I've seen a lot, been a fan of a lot, and even worked quite a bit in the animated film world), but in the end I was not blown away by Avatar in part because of the story being sort of thin and in part because all that film tech seemed to make it just a very sophisticated, very pretty cartoon. Enjoyable, sure. Amazing, no.

  2. Misaramirez
    Misaramirez says:

    Thanks for commenting, Vicki! I agree about the story, though I did like it. Simplicity is often better than complicated, especially when elements like special effects and aliens are part of the equation.

    I did enjoy it…a lot more than I'd anticipated, and will watch again with my kids. It's not a mystery, but not everything can be!

  3. Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith
    Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith says:

    Loved Avatar–really thought it more fantasy than sci-fi.

    Thought the whole Na'vi people resembled our Native people including much of the spiritual beliefs.

    As for what people perceived as political undercurrents, I suppose you can find them in anything. What happened in the movie has happened over and over through the ages and in many countries–just never in quite such a beautiful land.

    Hubby and I enjoyed it a lot. We love movies.


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