Movie Mom

Movie Mom


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posted by Nell Minow
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:Middle School
MPAA Rating:PG-13 for intense epic battle sequences and warfare, sensuality, language and some smoking
Profanity:About a dozen bad words (s-word, b-word, etc.)
Nudity/Sex:Skimpy clothes, very brief non-sexual glimpses of breasts, some alien making out (I think that is what they were doing), nothing explicit
Alcohol/Drugs:Smoking, drinking
Violence/Scariness:A lot of sci-fi/fantasy violence with many centuries worth of weapons, from arrows and knives to tich-tech missiles, tear gas, and flame-throwers, characters injured and killed
Diversity Issues:Diverse characters, strong female characters
Movie Release Date:December 18, 2009
DVD Release Date:April 20, 2010

NOTE: The DVD being released this week is a stripped-down 2D version. Later this year there will be another release with many more extras.

Writer-director-producer James Cameron (“Titanic,” “Terminator”) spent a record-breaking $230 million on “Avatar,” and the good news is that he got his money’s worth on the technology — the 3D motion capture technology is stunning, many levels above anything that has ever been done before. He has literally created an entire world, the planet Pandora, so that every insect, plant, animal, waterfall, humanoid creature, and landscape and all of the physical properties that govern the way they interact has to be carefully thought through and consistently applied so that it is at the same time imaginative and credible. If it manages the second better than the first, that is still very impressive. And if it runs out of imagination and even some credibility when it comes to the plot, well, there is still enough on the screen to qualify as entertaining eye candy.

It takes place more than a hundred years in the future. Sam Worthington plays Jake, a former Marine confined to a wheelchair following an injury. His twin brother, a scientist, has been killed and Jake is given the chance to replace him on a major project for a big corporation. Jake does not have his brother’s training and experience but he has something even more important — the same DNA. Jake’s brother and his colleagues have mixed some of their DNA with that of a humanoid race on the planet Pandora to create hybrids that can be used as sort of puppets, manipulated by the humans to interact with the creatures on Pandora. Since Jake’s DNA matches, he qualifies. And he has a powerful incentive to participate. With the money he will get, he will be able to afford the surgery that will restore his ability to walk, which is not covered by his VA benefits. (Apparently, even a century from now we still won’t have that health care thing licked.) So Jake goes into a pod sort of thing and the next thing and into a sleep sort of state and the next thing you know he is digging big, blue toes into the Pandorian ground (I guess you don’t call it earth if it’s on another planet).

Those are very big, blue toes. The Pandorians are 10-foot tall, skinny, long-limbed creatures, sort of like America’s Next Top Model if they were blue and had tails. They have cat-like faces and long, braided hair that surrounds a sort of tentacled membrane that can be used like a USB cable to plug into energy sources in plants, animals, other Pandorians, and whatever they call what we here call earth. And speaking of whatever they call things, I’m just going to refer to them as people from now on.

So the Pandorians are a gentle people who commune deeply with nature. They kill animals for meat but they do it respectfully. They plug into to the special tree as though it was a cell phone recharger and reach out to each other in kumbaya circles to get in touch with their ancestors. And here is where the juggernaut of Cameron’s budget and energy outruns his imagination and it all starts to look like it was pieced together from bits of “Ferngully,” Pocahontas, National Geographic, assorted historical failures of colonialism, imperialism, and international intervention from the Indians to Viet Nam and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, plus “Dances With Wolves.” “When people are sitting on [stuff] that you want,” explains one character, “you make them your enemies.” And, sure enough, the mercenary former Colonel calls the Na’vi “hostiles,” “aborigines,” and terrorists.

All of that work goes into designing the look of the planet and then the best name they can come up with is Pandora? As in the woman who unleashed all the troubles of the world, at least here on planet Earth? Why? And, since we know there has to be some sort of McGuffin (Alfred Hitchcock’s term for whatever it is that the hero and heroine have to get or do before the end of the movie) that must be difficult to obtain, let’s call it “unobtainium.” That sounds like something Dr. Evil would be cackling about while Basil Exposition brings Austin Powers up to date. It made me want to give Cameron an ultimatium.

Unobtainium is some very rare and precious ore underneath a tree sacred to a Pandorian tribe called the Na’vi that the evil corporation headed by Giovanni Ribisi wants to get at any cost. But for some reason, the Na’vi have resisted their efforts to cajole or bribe. When they agree to teach Jake their ways, the corporation realizes that if he gains their trust, they can use him to lead them to the tree. And then no more Mr. Nice Corporation. Bring out the bulldozers and the private army. Meanwhile, Jake is getting very close to the daughter of the Na’vi leaders (Zoe Saldana, with this and “Star Trek” now the 2009 fanboy dream girl). Apparently, another thing that is universal is kissing. And also falling for the guy your parents don’t approve of.

I am willing to believe those things occur on all planets, even the pervasiveness of the evil corporation as bad guy, too. But there are other elements in the story that just seem unoriginal and not very well thought through. The creatures seem like tweaked versions of Earth animals. Putting an extra pair of legs on a horse is, like stretching out a human form, not all that exciting, though it does add a bit more thunder to the hooves. The Na’vi wear conventional noble savage attire (skimpy, lots of beads), but the human avatars somehow fit cargo pants and t-shirts onto their Pandorian bodies (dealing with the tails must be a challenge).

But let’s face it, the unobtainium we seek in a movie like this one is not profundity. If the story is not new, the visual effects are. Even the subtitles (for when the characters speak in Na’vi language) help give the frame additional depth. The 3D is inviting and immersive, adding to the sense of vertigo or constriction. The integration of the live action and CGI footage is seamless and the performances of Worthington, Sigourney Weaver as a scientist, Michelle Rodriguez as a pilot and Stephen Lang as the Colonel provide some of the depth and grounding that the pixels and script do not deliver. And the pixels deliver the kind of fun that movies — and fangirls like me — were made for.



  • bob cappello

    o k

  • Sis Ivd

    I think I’ll skip this one due to all the different types of graphic killings. The kid’s are disturbed enough. Sounds interesting though!

  • David Crowley

    My wife and I actually walked out of the movie after about an hour into it. I guess my first offense at the movie was the fact that like the $print commercial before the movie where they made fun of us Christians for believing in Decency, by making a non human hedgehog character wear pants…
    Well, lets just say, that even though the aliens are blue…they still have the same anatomy as humans, just 10 feet taller… and no fur. There are painted women that walk around without tops at mardi gras, that are probably blue as well, and also wear beads. Doesn’t mean I want my kids to see it. And I can understand that maybe he was going for the early Native American decency rules, or aboriginal decency rules for the aliens, but do we really want to throw out our own beliefs just because others don’t have the same ones?
    Cameron seems to enjoy putting nudity into every one of his movies, especially the PG-13 ones. This one is no exception. But he feels justified in doing it because they are aliens. I felt awkward and uncomfortable sitting next to my wife and life partner watching this movie.
    The other issue is the dozen or so of bad words. I hold a special belief that because there is a specific commandment to not take the Lord’s name in vain, that there is no place for multiple uses of language that do that same thing.
    I wish that I would have enjoyed the movie, I enjoyed the atmosphere of Pandora and while the story was flimsy and poorly acted, I was willing to overlook that to keep seeing the planet of Pandora. In a lot of scenes, you could really visualize yourself there. I was just disappointed that this movie pushed the envelope on decency (I know it is my opinion, but I had wished that someone had at least mentioned it in any of their reviews).

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/moviemom/ Nell Minow

    Thank you, David. As you can see, I did mention the bad language and skimpy attire in my review to alert those like you who are not comfortable with that kind of material. I am sorry to say that any PG-13 film I can think of will include this kind of content; indeed this film has less bad language and sexuality than many PG-13s. I am sorry that the content spoiled your ability to enjoy the visual effects but I think you and your wife did the right thing by leaving the theater.
    Please note, however, that it is not only Christians who believe in decency and observant followers of all faiths are committed to modesty. I do not believe that the cell phone ad at the beginning of the film was anti-Christian (or even anti-decency). They were making fun of humorless corporate types and there was no indication of any religious element. I do not believe it is appropriate to take offense by considering it anti-Christian and I am sure you did not intend to slight other faiths.

  • Keith Demko

    I laughed out loud at the name “unobtainium,” prompting a rather harsh stare from the people around me, but I really couldn’t help it .. There really is a dichotomy between Cameron the director and technician versus Cameron the writer … That said, I mostly loved this movie, especially the world of Pandora (awful name, as you pointed out), and the 45-minute-or so finale, which was just a stunner

  • C. Shaw

    First, a 5-second search on Wikipedia would have let you all know that “unobtanium” is a real term:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unobtainium
    Second, it’s comments like the ones from Mr. Crowley that makes me understand why some “non-Christians” think we are bunch of crackpots.
    Third, great review. I was awaiting your review before I decided if I wanted to take the kids outright or pre-screen it first. After reading this, I will be taking my kids this weekend (if we can find the time among all the Christmas prep!).
    The violence sounds like typical cartoon violence, and clearly something they have seen just watching the Clone Wars on TV (which they love). The “sensualtiy” sounds like some hugging and kissing. And skimpy outfits on a blue alien seems like nothing more harmful than a day at the beach.
    Thanks again!

  • David Crowley

    Wow! beat up on Mr. Crowley day at the box office. :)
    I am not offended by skimpy clothes. I have lived near the beach my whole life. I am offended by topless people, whether they be 5 feet tall and tan or 10 feet tall and blue. There were many scenes were the beads dropped away from covering the aliens. Let’s see someone in today’s society get away with walking topless down the street with only beads covering them… except at mardi gras as I pointed out.
    I don’t believe that Christians are the only ones with decency values. I happen to be one, and that is the one I am comfortable speaking about. I wouldn’t presume to know all the teachings of all the world’s religions, so I of course don’t utilize their beliefs when I speak. I am sure that those of other religions would prefer I don’t pretend I know about their beliefs either.
    My point I was trying to get across was that *I* find it offensive as a *Christian* that James Cameron felt obligated to make a movie where the main characters in the movie have topless scenes, just because they are alien and blue.
    I apologize if my Christian viewpoint offended people. Or that people think I am a crackpot for my Christian beliefs and that I give Christians a bad name for believing them. That is the great thing about the Christian faith, I can forgive you. :)

  • bax

    I feel, that this movie as a whole was one of the best of the year. I tihnk that most people that comment on the story, have formed this opinion before going after reading something trendy about it on the net. I am not a fan of sitting in a movie for to long of a time, I even got antsy at LOTR, which i enjoyed. With this moviue I didn’t even realize the time until it was over. There is a few parts where they show more than maybe some would want to see, but the movie is stunning from graphics to story to the over all combination of both. This is a movie that if u miss in theaters and wait for dvd/blueray, you will be sad you did so. I have seen it regular and in 3d(which is how it should be seen). Anyway a must see imo.

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/moviemom/ Nell Minow

    Thanks very much, David, for clarifying your thoughts. As I said, I was sure you did not mean to slight other faiths. But I was concerned that saying that the Sprint ad “made fun of Christians” for wanting pants on a cartoon character for “believing in Decency” could be interpreted that way. And of course it is not only Christianity that calls on followers to practice forgiveness.
    It is interesting that your real issue with the movie is similar to the corporate character’s humorously portrayed issue about the hedgehog in the ad — the level of nudity of animated characters. I was not looking too closely at those beads, but do not recall seeing any female alien who was inappropriately uncovered, Mardi Gras style. If I see it again, I will see if I can find what you are referring to.
    I do appreciate your comment, which will be very helpful to people who are deciding whether the film is appropriate for them and their families.

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/moviemom/ Nell Minow

    Thanks for the comment, C. Shaw, and let me know what you think when you and your family see the movie. “Unobtanium” is a real slang term like “John Doe,” but I don’t think that makes it a good choice for this movie. It was a joke that took me out of the story. “Star Wars’” dilitheum crystals are a much better example of a believable name for whatever they are trying to get.

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/moviemom/ Nell Minow

    Thanks for a great comment, bax — you are right about the 3D!

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/moviemom/ Nell Minow

    Thanks, Keith! Agreed!

  • Joyce

    Thank you for the thorough review, Neil. My daughter has been begging to see this movie but I’ve been waiting to read your review before taking her. To be honest, the nudity doesn’t concern me much if it’s presented as the aliens’ normal state of existence. I’m much more bothered by lascivious shots of bikini-clad women that send a message to young girls that their main purpose in life is to serve as eye candy for men.

  • AKenjiB

    just saying, i dont think the sprint commercial made fun of christians. I thought they said “American families want pants” not “christian families want pants”

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/moviemom/ Nell Minow

    Thanks, Joyce. I agree — “normal state of existence” is a good way to put it. It is not prurient or exploitative. And thanks, AKenjiB — that’s how I saw it, too. I think that just as important as easy forgiveness of offense is being slow to be offended in the first place.

  • Alicia

    Did this movie live up to your expectations, Nell? Personally, I’ve been on the fence about seeing “Avatar.” I really enjoyed “Terminator” (T2 had great FX, but the story was neither as exciting nor as clever). And “Titanic” is a great guilty pleasure movie I can watch over again.
    However, I’m leery of 3-D, because I’ve always thought of it as a gimmick that takes away more from the experience of watching a film than it brings to that experience. However, I have heard that the use of 3-D in “Avatar” is brilliant and innovative. As for the somewhat “boilerplate” story and plot, I’ll probably watch the movie for the visual world Cameron creates and try to ignore the rest. Generally speaking, I prefer movies with good stories and believable characters rather than movies with great effects. However, I realize that George Lucas and James Cameron have made great technical advances in movies, whatever their failings as storytellers.
    BTW: The evil corporation is such a hackneyed villain: I enjoyed “Jurassic Park” more than “The Lost World” because the “villain” in “Jurassic Park” was far more interesting – it was not a villain but a human failing – scientific hubris, the idea that we can control everything and predict all outcomes. That was much more interesting and thought-provoking.

  • Ben

    Fam…
    Don’t get me wrong this is a good movie and worth seeing. If not for anything eles just to experince the 3D James Cameron goodness.
    THE GOOD…
    I love the, communial spirtual respect for life the Navi have, and the whole rights of passage celebration was so good were actually thinking of adopting it for our new church members. The CG 3D is absoultly breath-taking. I saw it with my brother a we found ourselves saing “WOW” like 5 time (and he hates everything!)
    I also enjoyed the development of the navi relationship with The Daughter Princess
    THE BAD…
    The “Marines” had no heart at all. Although the head security dude was jive mannly and hardcore to the floor raw! He wasent the villan you loved to hate type… you just wanted him to die.
    THE UGLY…
    The story left much to be desired, why must the “White Man” ride in to steal the local girl and become the main leader rally the troops to “Save the Day”
    ala -Dances with Wolves … The Last Samuri …10000 B.C….Shall I go on ….
    I mean really its like they spent years on the Anamation(and it shows)
    and 3 months on the actually story and dialouge. I meant honestly did we really even need “jake sully” at all?
    Over all go see it to be amazed and irritated at the same time… It makes for great water cooler banter..
    Ben

  • Don

    I went and saw the movie last night and have been debating on weather or not to take my son to see it as well. Like above, he loves the Clone Wars – even though I’m not too happy with the violence. Avatar’s violence isn’t cartoon – having a couple arrows sticking from your chest (arrows the size of spears owing to the Na’vi proportions) isn’t cartoonish. Also the death of the animals and people in the air and on the ground is quite intense.
    The skimpiness of the aliens isn’t an issue for me, at the beach and the pool you’ll see just as much skin. And in Europe, seeing someone topless isn’t a big deal. In the movie, there really isn’t much detail anyway, everything being ‘blue’.
    But I really do like the story/message. Grasping the concept of living in harmony with your environment and not creating unnecessary waste whether for food or killing in defense are good things. Also seeing the bad side of the corporation showing the unswerving pursuit of money and what the effects could be if you’re just interested in the return on investment.
    Yes, this could have been a story hear on Earth, but putting it such an lush and different world helps to soften it a bit. I’m still not sure what I’m going to do. I’ll probably buy it when in comes out on BluRay anyway, but seeing it in the theater in 3D is an amazing experience.

  • Sheryl

    Very poor and predictable story line, and seemed to be a very expensive commercial for tree hugging, and moral issues such as “taking natives land”. Made good into evil, and evil into good, which was quite twisted in my mind. To me, 3D doesn’t make the movie, the story does, so I give it 2 thumbs down.

  • Laura

    My husband, two teenage children and I just walked out of this movie after about an hour. This wasn’t just skimpy attire (that doesn’t even begin to describe it). There were multiple side shots of the blue breasts (including nipple), all leading up to a full-frontal flash (I don’t know what happened next – that was when we left). So unnecessary. What I want to know is how they managed to get a PG-13 rating when showing this much skin (whether it is blue or not). Totally inappropriate and I really wish you had included this in your review. I probably wouldn’t have gone to it and DEFINITELY wouldn’t have taken my teens. I think you dropped the ball with this review. Try to be more accurate next time.

  • Alejandra

    Please…it is just a movie..a great movie..

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/moviemom/ Nell Minow

    Sheryl, I agree, as I said in my review, that the story was a bit mundane, but I cannot say it made good into evil and evil into good. I think it was an intentionally provocative response to both the good and evil that has been done in the name of commercial exploitation. Watch the documentary “Crude” (a very balanced film that examines these issues in real life) and see how you respond.
    Laura, I am sorry you were disappointed in my review. I am seeing the film again later this week and will see if I can identify the “flashing” you refer to.

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/moviemom/ Nell Minow

    Thank you, Alejandra. I am so glad you enjoyed the movie and would be glad to hear more about what you liked.

  • Varvara

    We went to see Avatar on Christmas Day with my children 25 and 16, both liked it very much. Great entertainment, very decent, beautiful ideas of interconnected universe and unified society, love story versus excessive greed, hot topics of health care and personal choices between money and conscience, overwhelming special effects. Did not see no flashing by the way.

  • Laura

    Are you people blind? Pay attention to the part where she lays down on her hammock. She lifts up her arm and there is full frontal of her breast, nipple and all. Before that, there were multiple shots of her from the side with her breast in silhouette..including nipple. Yes, I was focusing on that because I had my 13 yr old son with me. I am sure the movie had all kinds of good points but I found the nudity distracting and disturbing. I don’t expect others to feel the same way I do but for heaven’s sake don’t pretend it isn’t there.

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/moviemom/ Nell Minow

    Thank you, Laura. I am seeing the movie again and will try to look for it. But I am interested in the focus on this issue of brief non-sexual nudity of an alien creature as opposed to the intense and graphic violence and the portrayal of cruelty and greed. I will be writing more about this film later.

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/moviemom/ Nell Minow

    Thanks very much, Varvara! I really appreciate your comment, which will be of great assistance in guiding those who are deciding whether this film is appropriate for their families.

  • Jim Mahalak

    Laura? Seriously, your 13 year old seen an alien breast and your bent out of shape about that? I’m thinking you don’t let your kids watch TV or surf the Internet, or fraternize with other 13 year olds. A parent that desperately needs to climb from the helicopter.

  • kathy

    My husband, his brother , my 15 yr old son and 13 yr old nephew just saw it yesterday and when I mentioned to them about frontal nudity of the Navi.. by husband and son both looked at me like I was crazy.. neither of them saw it.. not even the 15 yr old boy! They were too busy looking at the whole visual image and the action.

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/moviemom/ Nell Minow

    Thanks, Kathy! I tried to see it the second time but there was so much on screen I missed it, too. In any event, it was very brief, non-sexual, animated, and an alien. In that context, I do not think it is inappropriate for a PG-13 movie.

  • J

    Nell-
    I just read your review and found it to be fairly accurate. I saw the movie several days ago with some friends and am now in the process of convincing my family to go, which is how I ended up here. I just have a few responses to some of the earlier comments.
    I myself am a 15-year-old girl, and am usually very offended by any form of nudity. To me it simply seems distasteful and unnecessary. However, I had no problem with the supposed flashing present in Avatar, as it was not done in an explicit or sexually provocative manner. It’s not fair to equate that with the nudity and innuendo found in much of today’s media. In fact, before Avatar actually began there was a preview for a horror film which zoomed in on girls partying in bikinis for nearly two minutes without giving any sort of synopsis as to the plot. I found this to be far more insulting, despite the fact that there was no actual nudity, because it was only there because the movie clearly has a thin plot and without it nobody would go see the film. On the contrary, Avatar features two strong female characters, and the Na’vi are dressed scantily in order to further illustrate how they live in harmony with nature. To the parents who object to this, I would like to point out that most Greco-Roman sculptures are done in the nude in order to exemplify the beauty of the human body, as well as with many paintings of the Renaissance. Would you object to your children seeing those as well? Despite it being a movie, the world that James Cameron created is art as well.
    As for those who are critical of the plot, once again I have to disagree. Yes, I suppose if you do not actively watch the movie and only focus on the panoramic world of Pandora, the movie would be a bit of a bore. However, afterwards I engaged in discussion on such topics as American imperialism and militarism, and found it to be quite rewarding. While it may be somewhat predictable, the film is still rich with moot points.
    Overall, I thought that Avatar was a great movie and would highly encourage people to see it. I understand that because of my age I might lose some credibility, but still wanted to share my opinion.

  • Michael

    J, I don’t think you will lose credibility because of your age, in fact, you are an example of a typical teenager that can understand and enjoy a movie like this. As for the brief nudity, OMG!!! Reminds me of the 1/10th of a second boob flash that Janet Jackson showed during the wardrobe malfunction performance. Is it really going to destroy society or the mind of teenagers? I highly doubt that. I went to sex ed back in elementary school and saw more than what they showed in the movie. It was just a little over a century ago when teens used to get married and have children. The rating is just right at PG-13. I agree with Nell and believe or not, the MPAA. If you think the movie’s nudity is too offensive, something is wrong with you. I’ve been in many other countries were most people are not offended by mothers breastfeeding their babies in public. Just don’t stare at them. The movie has so much beauty and everything else going on and you just focused on the nipples? As far as I know, everyone has nipples. Even pets and animals. Oh well, you can’t please everyone. Nell, I miss listening to you on the radio every Friday morning. I hope Little Tommy with Jeff and Jer will get a hold of you soon in 2010.

  • George

    Nell,
    First let me say thanks for the work you do – invaluable! As the father of a 13, 11 and 8 year old,
    I have found you so helpful in evaluating what film is appropriate for whom. You pick up on
    issues/items that I often miss, and you suss out great topics for discussion. Thank you.
    My 13 year old son and I saw Avatar this evening. Incredible movie. We were not distracted by blue
    breasts or blue nipples. We saw a wonderful story about people – human and pandoran – who
    overcame suspicion and fear and came together to stand against self-righteous certitude. Against
    impersonal professionalism. Not evil, mind you – I don’t for a second believe any character in this
    movie is evil (apologies Sheryl!). The manager of the mine was not evil: he simply had profits he had
    to deliver. The head of security was not evil: it was clear that he was doing his best to protect his men
    and women. But the fact that the manager of the mine and the head of security were PERFORMING
    EVIL in the context of their non-evil goals is a profound, thought-provoking, excellent opportunity
    for discussion with your teen. When does performing your job to the best of your ability cross over
    into doing evil? When do you realize that what you are trying to accomplish does not in fact align
    with your beliefs? That Jake had to sacrifice his profoundest desire – the healing that the Company
    would provide him, that would let him walk again – in order to protect the Na’vi – this is an act that I,
    as a Christian, realize I would be called to. I hope I would have the same strength.
    Ben, that’s why we need a Jake Scully.
    Not recommended for pre-teen though, emotionally too intense. (sorry, blue boobs don’t register on
    my moral radar. Too many bigger things to worry about first. Like the impoverished, the imprisoned,
    the ill and dying, the least of my brothers, the things Christ told us to pay attention to. Until those
    are solved I’m not going to worry about 2 seconds of blue boob).

  • Your Name

    Avatar was absolutely incredible. The scenery = amazing. After I watched it I was blown away to find a tv channel that believes in many of the same ideals. http://www.TheSkiChannel.com talks about the mountains and how they are meant for everyone. Preservation is important right this very minute. Great stuff on there as well an unbelievable scenery.

  • Your Name

    Referring to David Crowley and Laura – Why are people getting so bent out of shape over some barely clothed asexual beings? You are loosing sight over a greater concern of the message given – mercenaries, military, greedy corporations are bad; “tree huggers” are good. It’s such a black-and-white movie, no gray area of choice. Did the main character really give up his ability to walk to choose the right path? In the end, no. Everyone was “just doing their job”.
    When the mercenaries mention the beings’ “deity”, the mercenaries actually laughed as if it was a silly thing. The military action was referred to as “shock and awe” – sound familiar?
    Referring to Jim Mahalik – careful when you let your kids surf the internet. There’s a lot out there, much, much worse than Avatar.

  • Volkl AC50

    Yeah I have heard good things about the 3D aspects of the movie, but only so so reviews on the actual storyline. I’m not sure if I can sit through something that long with such mixed reviews.
    Volkl AC50

  • Sarah

    I enjoyed the movie, but I found it problematic in the same way that Dances With Wolves, The Last Samurai and a whole host of other movies were. They follow the same basic formula of white guy is adopted by people of color, white guy learns their ways, white guy becomes best person of color and saves the day. It seems more like a fable to assuage white guilt while still reinforcing the idea of superiority than a statement on environmentalism or tolerance.

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/moviemom/ Nell Minow

    A very good point, Sarah, thanks. However, I think there is some validity to the notion that only someone trained by the oppressor/invader culture understands it well enough to be able to defeat it.

  • Teenager

    Well, this is a crappy review.
    “They plug it into a special tree as if it were a cell phone charger”? “Kumbaya circles”?
    Are you a highschool drop out, or just illiterate?
    This review does not capture the feeling you get when you watch this movie. You explain what they do in such a mundane way.
    My god, I can’t believe this review. Next thing I know you’re gonna go call Pans Labyrinth “An adaptation of Alice in Wonderland.
    The main character meets a goblin, and…”
    I, a 14 year old girl, could do better than this asanine “review”.

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/moviemom/ Nell Minow

    Hey, Teenager, thanks for writing! But your comment reflects poorly on the literacy and astuteness of your critical faculties. I’m sure you can do better. My review captured the feeling I got from watching the movie, which is what a movie review does. If the feeling you got from watching the movie led you to post a comment that confused insult with argument and attack with ideas then perhaps you should watch it again. If you are going to accuse someone of being illiterate, for example, you need to provide some evidence. And it undercuts that point if you can’t spell correctly.
    Now, if you’d like to share your views on the movie in a way that has some thought to it, I’d be very glad to hear them. I can tell from what you wrote that you are capable of much better (and can probably use spell check, too), so please try again.

  • grok

    Finally got to see this with my two (pre-teen) boys. We all loved it. the 3-D was fantastic. It was long though. Kind of overwhelming after a while. One thing that I thought was done very well in the movie was the transitioning between scenese in the “human” world and scenes in the Navi world. As they said explicitly in the movie, you start out feeling that the human world is the real one and the Navi world was a dream. And then by the end of the movie it is the Navi world which seems real and the human one a (bad) dream…
    I’ve read some of the comments above that they were disappointed that the Navi world wasn’t more different. Like they just tweaked the horses and the rhinos to look just a little bit different. I think this kind of misses the point. It is true that actual aliens (if they exist) would likely be radically different than us. So much so that some people question whether any communication would be possible at all. But I think its impossible to realistically make a movie incorporating that kind of strangeness. We just couldn’t relate. So the approach the movie took is really the only feasible one. Take Star Trek for example.

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/moviemom/ Nell Minow

    Thanks, grok! I agree.

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/moviemom/ Just another movie patron

    At the risk of exacerbating an already polarized field of reviews, let us back up a moment. Yes, the storyline is one that has been retold again and again in a plethora of entertainment forms the core of it’s message remains as true as it has in each iteration. We all cheer for the “little guy”, the oppressed or the disadvantaged. In each of our lives when have we not wanted to play the long odds, when have we each not wanted to be the hero of the day. How many of us have spent at least one moment in our lives dreaming that we could be a part of a desperate battle against incredible odds. Do we not, each of us, in one way or another wish we could know whether or not we could bear the weight of such a decision, given the opportunity. The very message tugs at our humanity and conscience, regardless of race, creed, or (in this case) species. The storyline does not have to be detailed – our own desires and emotions fill in the gaps for us. It is that intent for which the storyline was chosen – evoking an emotional response. And it does that very well. We don’t have to be fed the entire historical details of either society to formulate a (relatively) accurate depiction of the events at hand.
    With regards to the remarks about the “white man” becoming the best person of the society, and their only chance – please recall that near the climax, they were loosing, and badly. It was the inclusion of the wild animals; “Ewa” herself that tipped the balance.
    As has been said many times before the CG is beyond belief, an entirely new level of detail and integration. The movie also will win no awards for physics. But is that really the point? The movie makes no claim to the real world. It’s told from the same point of a view as a dream. It’s immersion therapy for your mind.
    Hate it or love it, I believe Avatar is, like others of it’s time, the penultimate culmination of cinematic entertainment of the day. Like Gone With The Wind and Casablanca set the standard for drama and entertainment roles for the sexes, and Star wars set the stage for “larger than life” stories; Avatar represents the precedent where “The Stage” itself can seem just as real as the actors, seamless integration. By no means do I bash Lord of The Rings here (also one of my favorites) however, the integration in some places was apparent. Not so (to my eyes) anymore.
    I grew up in a time when going to the movies was a family event. A rare, special treat. I have not seen audiences this captivated and enthralled by the experience since Star Wars. I’ve found myself going back to this again and just being “wowed” once more.
    Do yourself a favor; see the show. But leave the hype and the preconceptions at home. Leave the perceived pseudo enviro-social machinations and post mortem subliminal socieo-economic messaging to the world of the internet blogs. The only perquisite of this movie is that you be willing to open your eyes and watch and enjoy. At the end of the day it’s a movie. It’s not real; it doesn’t even try to be. It isn’t intended to change your life– it’s intended to make you enjoy a couple hours of it.

  • Mia

    “They plug it into a special tree as if it were a cell phone charger”? “Kumbaya circles”
    Trivializing the more emotionally powerful moments of this film with such generic real world references shows the severe lack of depth of the reviewer.
    I agree with Teenager. Perhaps someone a bit more empathetic would be better suited to appropriately convey the finer elements beneath the surface of the masterful work of art that is “Avatar”.

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/moviemom/ Nell Minow

    Thanks, Mia! I welcome everyone’s thoughts, especially those who find more in a movie than do. But your own empathy and appreciation of finer elements is questionable when you attack the reviewer rather then defending your point of view.
    I liked the film a lot. I’ve seen it twice. I gave it a good grade and recommended it to my readers. But to the extent that the storyline was derivative and thin — and replete with real world references — I believe my comparisons conveyed my concerns without trivializing the film’s strengths. If you would like to tell us more about the finer elements you found so powerful instead of throwing around insults, it would give you an opportunity to persuade the readers and demonstrate what you learned from the film as well.

  • Ellio

    I’m surprised, and saddened, when people are so much more concerned with nudity than violence. I would rather my children be “exposed” to bodies in their natural (some would say “God given”) form than graphic violence.
    I agree that the plot in the movie wasn’t exactly innovative, but I do think it could spark some really interesting conversations about choices and repercussions, about conflicting responsibilities and finding your own moral compass.
    Visually, I have never seen anything like this. The 3D had a subtlety to it that made it constantly remain in sight but without being so obvious that you were constantly aware of it. Very hard to describe but incredibly well done. The best example of this were the scenes from inside the helicopter. The windscreens were scratched and dinged which was clearly in the foreground while you were looking at action happening farther away. It honestly felt like being IN the helicopter. I agree with others who have said this film will change cinematography and the experience of the moviegoer forever.
    As always, Nell, I think your review was very astute. I had considered taking my elementary school kids to this because many of their friends were going, but will be holding off (not because of blue boobs, but because I’m concerned over the violence). Thanks for all you do for parents like me.

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/moviemom/ Nell Minow

    Thank you for a thoughtful comment, Ellio. I am always surprised when parents ignore violence — sometimes very graphic — to focus on the kind of brief, alien, non-sexual nudity that this movie includes. I wonder whether they keep their children from going to museums to see statues and paintings. It’s always all about context, and I agree with you that the visuals are stunning and the story presents some important topics for discussion. Thanks again and all best to you and your family.

  • AKenjiB

    noticed a couple people made comments about this whole “white man” THE FILM IS NOT RACIST! I’m not even white and im not offended by a white protagonist. If the hero isn’t allowed to be white then it seems kind of racist towards white people. Besides, the cast was pretty diverse anyways and though the film has the european settler vs. native american metaphor, its not a film about race and it really shouldn’t be. I never thought of Jake as the white protagonist. I just thought of him as the protagonist. Seriously. Yes he’s white. Yes he helps the Na’vi. yeah that sure is racist all right.

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/moviemom/ Nell Minow

    Great comment as always AKenjiB. I agree entirely.

  • Mike

    You say that it would be better to buy Avator later in 3d not 2d. Does that mean we need 3D TV and 3D disc player in order to play 3D, or am I missing something in the translation.
    Please explain
    Thank you

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/moviemom/ Nell Minow

    Hi, Mike! This DVD has no extras — the background features will be included on another DVD to come out later this year. We also expect a 3D version designed to work (as well as possible) on standard television with included glasses.

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