You may ask why I recognize Avatar under my series of Alien and Predator reviews. The answer is twofold: on the most basic level, Avatar is a movie about Aliens fighting off greedy, corporate Predators intent on exploiting their land for profit. Alternatively, you could interpret the movie as a story about savage, treehugging Predators hunting down misunderstood, human Aliens, but that’s not likely the slant intended by the director. Secondarily, Avatar is a movie about naïve, trigger-happy corporate marines who penetrate an alien territory with the aim of extinguishing a biologically superior species yet are swiftly overwhelmed, in spite of their heavy arms, by an enemy empowered with greater resolve, strength of numbers, and battlefield awareness. I.e., in writing and directing Avatar, James Cameron was subtly ripping off his own movie, Aliens, which is an undeniably better film and is bound to outlast the former even without that picture’s flashy CGI and 3D imagery. Nevertheless, Avatar is still a fine addition to the Alien/Predator family and certainly deserves the numerous nominations and awards it received, if not the $2 billion it picked up at the box office.
One of Avatar’s bigger faults its lack of an original script. As other reviewers have noted, Cameron’s movie seems like a colorful, CGI-enhanced mashup of Pocahontas, Dances with Wolves, and An Inconvenient Truth, with a lot of Aliens thrown in for good measure. Cool though it is, the AMP suit vehicle in this film is basically a militarized power loader with a gun, and Sigourney Weaver is playing a redhead botanist version of Ripley. Parker is the movie’s Burke-figure with one difference, that being his idolatry of money rather than of science and the natural world. All the gung-ho, hoo-rah marines return from Aliens as if they never died, only to get creamed a second time even with the advent of their mechwarriors, gunships, and Halo-style helicopters, which apparently are no match for the Navi’s bows and arrows, “dipped in a powerful neurotoxin which will stop your heart in 1 minute”. Plausibility is another huge factor acting against Avatar. Like all of James Cameron’s pictures, the movie ends with an elongated, special-effects-filled battle of epic proportions. The winning side flips several times, accompanied by triumphant or tragic orchestral shifts to signal the appropriate change in pathos, and the Navi are getting stomped thoroughly when Eywa answers their prayers and commands nature to “protect the balance of life” by literally crushing the humans underfoot. To say the movie requires a hefty suspension of disbelief doesn’t paint an adequate picture of Avatar’s absurdity.
Grade rating: B