It seems that every time James Cameron makes a new film, a significant portion of the filmgoing audience wants him to fail. It doesn’t hurt that he has made The World’s Most Expensive Movie three times now—first in 1991 with Terminator 2, then again in 1997 with Titanic, and now, once again, with this year’s Avatar. I guess people want to see somebody with that kind of hubris humbled. Me, I just want to see what the guy who gave the world Aliens has to show us next. In this case, with his newest film, he has shown us not so much The World’s Most Expensive Movie (rumoured to be in the neighbourhood of $500 million!), but The World’s Most Expensive Amusement Park Ride. That’s not necessarily a totally bad thing, but it doesn’t exactly make it a great motion picture, either.
The plot of Avatar concerns a future where Earth has used up its natural resources, and is looking to distant worlds to provide its energy sources. On a faraway jungle moon called Pandora, a sinister corporation has found what it needs in a substance called, with a straight face, Unobtainium. Unfortunately, this stuff rests under the village of Pandora’s indigenous, intelligent lifeforms, a race of ten-foot-tall blue cat people called the Na’vi. However, the military-supported Company—personified by Giovanni Ribisi as a corporate sleazebag cut from the same cloth as Paul Reiser’s Burke in Aliens—has a plan to gain the Na’vi’s trust and get them to relocate by sending human envoys whose consciousness has been transplanted into genetically-engineered Na’vi bodies called Avatars. The film’s protagonist, Jake Sully (Terminator: Salvation’s Sam Worthington), is a wheelchair-bound ex-Marine who hopes that his assignment as an Avatar will earn him the money to have his legs restored; all he has to do is either convince the Na’vi to move their village so the company can mine the Unobtainium, or provide the company’s military, led by battle-scarred hardass Major Quaritch (Stephen Lang) with valuable intel that will point out the Na’vi’s weak spots if a military solution is required. Of course, Jake eventually goes native, falling in love with his warrior princess guide Neytiri (which is pretty easy when she’s played by Star Trek’s Zoe Saldana) and learning about how the Na’vi live in harmony with their world instead of stripping it of its natural resources. Torn between two worlds, Jake must find a way to keep the trigger-happy space Marines from wiping out the Na’vi.