By Samuel M Acosta
James Cameron’s blockbuster hit “Avatar” is finally getting a sequel after almost thirteen years. In honor of this, they remastered and re-released the original film in theaters. I ended up going to see it twice and I was reminded of how much “Avatar” offered audiences in 2009 and how it changed the way that films would be made.
First of all, “Avatar” is an incredible film overall. It blows my mind how Cameron created such an amazing world from his mind, being inspired only by history and being limited only by his own imagination. The story is interesting and the world is so dense with culture and life that it is hard not to fall in love with it. It was a film that nobody asked for, but I’m so happy it was made anyway.
“Avatar” tells the story of Jake Sully (Sam Worthington), a disabled war vet who is sent to the alien planet of Pandora to take part in the Avatar project, where he will “drive” an avatar version of the native species in order to learn their ways and pursue peaceful relations. As time goes on, he falls more in love with the native people and their world, and suddenly starts to wonder if the aggressive strategies of the human colonizers are actually wrong. Jake must decide whether to stay loyal to his own kind or to embrace the culture that he has fallen in love with. Sam Worthington stars alongside icons such as Zoe Saldaña, Sigourney Weaver, Michelle Rodriquez, and Giovanni Ribisi.
One of the most obvious aspects of “Avatar” that made it stand out so much was the technological achievements that it made. While CGI and 3-D technology had been used before, nobody had used them to the level that Cameron did. Instead of plastic and fake, this CGI felt genuine and real, especially when put side by side with human actors. With most of the creatures in the film being CGI, including characters and environments, it could’ve easily turned into an ugly-looking disaster. Yet, it was handled so masterfully that it created one of the most gorgeous environments I’ve ever seen in a film.
The 3-D is a factor that I did not expect to love. When I first saw Avatar, I didn’t see it in IMAX 3-D, so I never got that side of the experience. This time I did, and I was blown away. Cameron uses this technology to create a sense of depth in the world, making small things like trees or bushes feel closer or farther away from you. Instead of using the cheap gimmick of things popping out at you, things just seem to exist on multiple planes. This makes the world feel alive and real and is honestly mind-boggling. I felt like a little kid experiencing something new for the first time. I can honestly say that I’ve never experienced anything like it before.
Another contribution that I believe it made to the industry is demonstrating the importance of immersion in film. It is a general rule that a movie wants to transport the audience into its world. Few movies do so as well as “Avatar,” for a few key reasons. The first is that Cameron developed his world with such an eye for detail that it is believable and inviting. While this is a sci-fi film, it still creates a connection to realism through characters trying to make scientific explanations for unexplainable or potentially supernatural occurrences.
The use of botany and biology jargon in contrast with the very spiritual beliefs of the natives created an environment that I felt was oddly real. I think the fact that Cameron used history and the horrors of colonization as foundational elements in the story also adds to that reality, as the way the characters act in the story are the ways that they would in the real world.
All of these factors turned “Avatar” into the highest-grossing movie of all time, a title the film still holds, with a lifetime gross of 2.9 billion dollars. It beat the previous title holder, “Titanic,” in just 47 days. The franchise is now not only preparing for a sequel later this year but for three more films going all the way out to 2028. Even after more than a decade, its CGI holds up even against the most modern movies.
I think that what I love most about this film is how it was a movie that came out of nowhere and climbed its way to the top. It didn’t need a whole franchise of movies to build up to it like “Avengers: Endgame” did. It only had its own merit, and that was enough. If you haven’t seen this movie before, or haven’t seen it in IMAX 3D, then you need to go and acquaint yourself with the world of Pandora as soon as possible.
I give “Avatar” a 9.5/10
Sam Acosta is a Senior Theatre Comprehensive Major and an Arts and Entertainment writer for Cedars. He likes spending his time watching movies, drinking Dr. Pepper, and writing plays
Images courtesy of Disney