My Love Affair with Avatar

Alexa Leo, Staff Writer

To immerse yourself in film is to immerse yourself in adventure. For some, that may be easy. For others, the attention to the screen will not last. As for myself, I have never found it hard to sit and watch movies – unless they were bad, of course. 

I have a long list of movies that I love, curated from hours that I have spent in theaters or at home. I enjoy watching movies instead of, say, sports or homework, because I am better at it. Most times I try to watch a different feature for my different attitude for the day, but I always fall back to one movie. One piece of work that is the pinnacle of the human imagination… Avatar.

I remember first watching this movie when I was 13, on a summer evening in 2018. I had been putting off watching it for a very long time, intimidated by it’s hefty length of 2 hours and 40 minutes. But, I was going to Disney World in a few months and I wanted to appreciate the new “World Of Avatar” land to the fullest degree. That was the reason behind my decision to take that leap of faith of sitting myself down and pressing play. Little did I know that that single moment would change my life forever.

Set in the year 2154, US Armed Forces sent a mission to travel to a moon-like planet, Pandora, in order to obtain a valuable mineral located in a forest inhabited by the Na’vi. The Na’vi are the native species of Pandora. They are slender giants, towering at close to 10 feet tall. They have humanoid features, but their skin has a light-blue tint and they have long, animated tails.

Because humans cannot breathe the air of Pandora, the only way they can immerse themselves in the planet is to organically grow an avatar – Na’vi clones. To work the avatars, the humans are set in a wired-up-contraption that connects the minds of the human to their clone.

Enter Jake Sully (Sam Worthington), an ex-marine paralyzed from the waist down. His brother working on the mission suddenly died, and considering that the human and the avatar have to have the same DNA – as well that the avatars are extremely expensive, Jake is brought in to fulfill his brother’s role.

All of that said, the time has come for some of the more important and in-depth details of the film. Director James Cameron already had two smashing sci-fi movies under his belt, “Aliens” and “The Terminator”. Twenty years after the release of those movies, he decided he wanted more. That “more” in question was what would soon become the world of Avatar..

The fact that I found most impressive about this movie was that Cameron waited ten years after finishing the original screenplay before pushing it into production. The decision to wait was decided because the technology used to create the visual effects were not advanced enough to fulfill his vision. Lucky for both him and his audience, that the technology did advance–saving the world from what could have been a much crappier movie.

From the overall color palette to the minuscule details of textures in the plants, the attention to detail makes you believe that Pandora is actually real. The distinct features in the Avatar creatures are equally as compelling, with their entrancing gold eyes and speckled skin. Interactions between the flora and fauna of Pandora as well as the human characters look natural, a feature that most visual effects cannot accomplish.    

Don’t be fooled folks – I am not usually this gracious on the topic of visual effects. Probably because movies that are heavy on visual effects tend to lose two things: emotional touch and a clear storyline. That is what sets apart Avatar from other junk action movies – the fact that you are able to get a perfect blend of CGI madness and psychological investment. Viewers are able to watch how Jake Sully develops throughout his time in Pandora, and similarly how the Na’vi learns from him. The balance between the emotional and visual elements is perfectly timed so that no minute is wasted in the storyline, flowing as if natural. 

In reality, the plot is as simple as the good guy vs. the bad guy. In spite of that, Cameron incorporates elements of the characters and the story that elevates it.. Even in visually stunning scenes where our minds are focused on what we see, character and story development never wavers.

Watch it or don’t, I really couldn’t care less. But if there are some of you out there that see the brilliance of this film the way I do, I hope we can meet together one day and discuss the phenomenon that is Avatar.