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Avatar is a 2009 science fiction film written and directed by James Cameron. Its stars Sam Worthington, Sigourney Weaver, Joel David Moore, Zoe Saldana, Stephen Lang, Michelle Rodriguez, and many others. It is released and distributed by Lightstorm Entertainment, Dune Entertainment, Ingenious Film Partners, and 20th Century Fox.

Plot. The movie explores the world of Pandora, a lush habitable moon of a gas giant in the Alpha Centauri star system. This world is inhabited by 10-foot-tall blue-skinned, sapient humanoids called as the Na’vi. These creatures live in harmony with nature and worship a mother goddess named Eywa.

 In 2154, the RDA Corporation is mining a valuable mineral called unobtanium on Pandora. The Hometree, dwelling of the Na’vi, sits on the richest deposit of unobtanium for hundreds of miles. The humans are challenged on how to acquire this great deposit from the aliens. To accomplish this, scientists use Na’vi-human hybrid called avatars that are operated through mental link by genetically matched humans.

In the beginning, Jake Sully, a paraplegic former marine, replaces his twin brother, an avatar operator who was killed in a robbery. His avatar is assigned as a bodyguard of Dr. Grace Augustine, head of the Avatar Program, and scientist Norm Spellman on their expedition to collect biological sample and data in the forest. Unfortunately, Jake’s avatar is attacked by a jungle predator, strays from his team, and gets lost in the forest. Jake accidentally meets a female Na’vi named Neytiri who happens to be the daughter of the clan’s chief Eytukan, and since she sees omen from the Eywa, Neytiri takes Jake to the whole clan.

Jake gets included to the community and she is taught by Neytiri the way of life of the Na’vis. Just when Jake gains the trust of the whole clan, the forces of the RDA Corporation moves and attacks the Na’vis. The aliens then learn of Jake’s original mission. But Jake has fallen for Neytiri and for the whole clan. With his last ounce of courage, he successfully scuffles against a powerful predator and redeems himself. With the help of his human friends, Jake leads a massive war – humans against the Na’vis and all the Pandoran lives.

In a heart-warming ending, Jakes undergoes a ritual dedicated to Eywa to permanently transfer him into his avatar.

Film Background. The idea for the movie began in 1994 and filming is supposed to start after the completion of Cameron’s 1997 film Titanic. Due to the unavailability of appropriate technology, filming was forgone.  Work began again by 2005.

The language of the Na’vi was created by Dr. Paul Frommer, a linguist from USC. It has a vocabulary of about 1000 words with some 30 added by Cameron. It is loosely based from some sounds found in the Amharic language of Ethiopia and from New Zealand Maori.

The humanoids Na’vi was inspired by a dream that Cameron’s mother had, long before the Avatar was started. In her dream, she saw a blue-skinned woman 12 feet tall. Cameron thought it was a good color, and it seemed to have a connection to the Hindu deities.

Review. Avatar is one of the best films ever created, both because of its mesmerizing production and the message behind the film.

Avatar is visually engaging. Films always portray aliens as scary humanoids or distorted monsters. The vision of blue-skinned creatures with a heart for nature and balance of life is very new and inspiring. The film has successfully blended animation with live action. The special effect behind the movie is very powerful with a great live sound to match that every character seems to pop out of the screen. The new world it created, Pandora, though based on many real sites on the planet, feels so unique, vivid and dynamic that audience would love “visiting” it again and again. The storyline may be reminiscent of other movies or popular books, but the creativity in every aspect – the alien world, the human technology, the battle scenes, and all, made it very unforgettable, lovable, and enjoyable.

Avatar also crosses both social and political themes. First, the love of nature is highlighted in the film and the struggle of many separate groups in protecting it from the few vicious minds. The opposing forces in film best represent militarism, capitalism, and imperialism in the real world. Avatar has profoundly put on film the struggle of nature against the erosive forces of capitalism. The movie has also touched in a very touching and unique way lessons of love, respect, appreciation, trust, and hope. The only bad criticism I can give to the film is that, once again, “a white guy becomes the hero of a non-white culture”. However, the ending compensates for this somewhat discriminating point. The “white guy” embraces the foreign culture, accepts them, and becomes part of them, an admission that “whites” may not always be superior and that they can succumb to other societies.

Unforgettable scenes. It is hard to pick the very best part of the movie for it is packed with beautiful and entertaining moments, scenes after scenes. I suppose the part near the end when Jake links to a pterodactyl-like predator really made me jumped off the chair. But the battle, all Pandoran lives against human, would be the most heart-pumping, triumphant moment of the movie.

Reception. Critics generally love Avatar. Rotten Tomatoes reported that 83% of its critics gave a positive review with an average rating of 7.4 out of 10. Metacritics gave a rating of 84% based on 35 reviews. Time ranked Avatar #10 in their list of “Best Movies of the Decade,” while IGN listed it as #22 on their list of the top 25 Sci-Fi movies of all time.

Avatar was a huge commercial success. It broke several box office records during its release and became the highest-grossing films of all time worldwide, surpassing Titanic which had held the box office records for the previous twelve years. It was also the first film to gross more than $2 billion.

Rating. Without a shadow of doubt, Avatar is an epic masterpiece. For that, five stars out of five for the film.

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