Avatar ★★★★½

Avatar is a Blockbuster with a capital “B”. A Movie movie. It doesn’t hesitate or downplay its ambition; its story, its world, its battles are grand, and its heart beats loudly underneath every shot of pure spectacle.

We are guided through the world of Pandora by Jake Sulley, a disabled former marine. Jake is not a scientist; he ended up on the mission to Pandora by chance, after having to take his dead twin brother’s place. Jake doesn’t know anything about the natives, the Na’vi, or the world they inhabit and has never heard a word of their language. Nor has he ever piloted his avatar, an artificial Na’vi body that allows humans to explore Pandora freely, without breathing masks. So when he steps on Pandora for the first time, as his avatar, being able to walk and to run through the wilderness, he is completely mesmerized by its beauty and feels it deeply. Then, he meets Neytiri after she saves his life and decides to join her people, leaving his own behind.

Avatar positions Jake in the middle of a conflict he has no part in and shows him choose the side with the highest stakes, fighting alongside it relentlessly. Between aliens and natives, he chooses natives. Between rationale and emotion, he chooses emotion. Between technology and nature, he chooses nature. He chooses to ensure their survival, and because we’ve experienced everything as vividly as he has, the heartbreak and the rage at the indifferent destruction caused by the “Sky People” are felt beyond the screen, and Jake’s choice is only natural.

While Avatar’s story may be a variation on themes explored many times before, it would be a disservice to dismiss the originality of the package. James Cameron created an entire world – language, customs, and all – from scratch, carefully laying out each block of information and building towards something that feels fully realized. Pandora existed before the first glimpse at it lit up the screen and will continue to exist after the credits have started to roll.

Generally remembered as the “most forgotten popular movie”, Avatar became perhaps too popular for its own good. Its achievements, both as a technological breakthrough and as an entirely original concept that sold more tickets than sequels to massively popular franchise films did, are remarkable but have also brought it so many detractors that it’s just not in fashion to see it for what it did right anymore. To me, a “good” blockbuster is one that manages to transcend its event nature and has a strong enough core to hold up outside of the theater. I didn’t have much faith in Avatar. I was surprised and happy to be proven wrong. Hopefully, the long-awaited (or not) sequels will lead to a newfound love for this world.

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