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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

Jan 24, 2010


“Avatar” was the only foreign film being shown in local theaters during the Metro-Manila Film Fest at SM IMAX theaters in MOA and North Edsa. Now that the film fest is over, it’s back in many other theaters. It’s been 12 years since James Cameron won an Oscar for “Titanic,” the top grossing movie of all time. He now comes up with “Avatar,” a spectacular epic that makes use of stunning special effects in amazing 3D images seamlessly woven into an engaging story about an alien civilization fighting the intrusion of humans, just like in “Battle for Terra.”

The narrative is actually a combination of various plot strands from such sources as “Last of the Mohicans,” “Pocahontas,” “Dances with Wolves” mixed with “Star Wars.” Set in 2154, a large corporation backed up by the US military is currently mining a powerful mineral in the distant planet called Pandora, aimed to help solve the earth’s energy crisis. The planet is populated by creatures called Na’Vi, a tribe of species about 10 feet tall, with agile slender bodies and with long hair that can be connected like USB to the ears of animals to control them. Dr. Grace Augustine (Sigourney Weaver) has designed an avatar program where she mixed human and Na’Vi DNA to come up with a Na’Vi-like entity meant to mix with the natives.
Recruited for the program is Jake Scully (Sam Worthington), a disabled US marine who just woke up from years of cryogenic hibernation in the distant planet called Pandora, replacing his identical twin brother. Jake, who’s bound on a wheelchair, is used as a “driver,” a human being whose mind is connected to an avatar that he operates through remote control (just like in “Surrogates”). He is tasked to infiltrate the Na’Vi and research on their culture to convince them to cooperate with the mining operation being conducted in Pandora.

When his life is threatened by some ferocious animals, he is saved by a Na’Vi princess, Neytiri (Zoe Saldana), and is taken care of by her family. He eventually learns to understand and love the culture and values of the Na’vi who respects nature so much. The Na’vis have a mystical connection with the forest where the live. As humans start to move in to their planet and capture their mineral, Jakes finds his loyalty torn between the human race and the Na’vis who he has learned to appreciate.

Cameron uses a new motion capture technique for animation with Weta Digital (who did “Lord of the Rings”) for this film and the result is outstanding. The faces of the animated characters are really expressive and even the full body motions can be tremendously believable, making them as lifelike as actual humans and exceeding the animation techniques used in “Kingkong,” Gollum in “Lord of the Rings,” or Robert Zemeckis’ “Beauwolf.”

Almost all the sequences set in Pandora are animated but, honestly, it’s difficult to tell which ones are real and which ones are CGI. The lavish attention to detail is evident in every frame, from the images involving various creatures and colors to the alien language that was invented for the film. One of the best sequences shows Jake choosing his personal bird called Ikran. He has to choose the correct creature for him then tame it or he would die. The flying sequences amidst the breathtaking floating mountains of Pandora are really spectacular and you’d marvel at how James Cameron’s imagination soars to take us to new heights of fantasy and adventure. Of course, the best way to watch is in IMAX 3D as it gives you the feeling that you’re actually in the world of the Na’vis.