Immediately after teaching my last class of the day, I ran out the back door and raced across town to pick up my son at school. We slipped into the theater seats just as the previews ended and Avatar began. The screen was all fuzzy until I slid on the 3D glasses, and my vision popped open wide. Once my eyes adjusted, I said to my son, “Whoa! Now that’s some high-definition 3D!” He said, “I know, it’s totally wicked!”
While nothing very important happened in the first 5 minutes, I was incredibly entertained by the effect of this new form of movie viewing. I felt inside the movie, but it didn’t seem strange or overwhelming like a theme park ride. Simply put, it is the most visually-interesting movie I have seen since I saw the first Star Wars in the theater when I was a young boy (I saw it seven times in the theater).
Aside from the truly spectacular visual effects, I want to offer some other thoughts about the film, in no particular order.
Is it appropriate for a young child? I was leery of taking my 11-year-old son to see a PG-13 movie, but after a little research, it seemed like there was nothing that would be too harmful for him to see. In the end, my research proved true. While it contained some bad language, none of it was awful (although I didn’t appreciate the use of G/D). And while there were some views of scantily-clad female aliens and a scene with some sensuality, I felt it was appropriate and just fine for a boy his age to see. The violence was typical fantasy stuff with lots of people and aliens dying in the midst of the chaos of battle – no blood and gore (although the main villain gets impaled in the end, which isn’t pretty). All in all, I’d say it’s not appropriate for ten-year-olds, but good for 11 to 13 with a parent.
Although the plot has been maligned by some, I found it creative and compelling. While some story elements had been recycled from other places, many elements were entirely fresh and clever. It is not a work of artistic dramatic literature, but it doesn’t claim to be. As a science fiction film, it keeps you interested for over two and a half hours, regardless of the special effects. I give the plot, setting, characters, and major themes a B, while the special effects and action are an A+.
I think it’s important to keep in mind that it’s just a science fiction / fantasy movie, so don’t take any of it too seriously. I had to remind myself a few times to not get angry about a few of the minor themes in James Cameron’s film. It’s obvious that Mr. Cameron has a worldview that is strongly against military aggression, against big corporations, for protecting the environment at all costs, for animal rights, for preserving indigenous people, and in favor of science over religion. The movie doesn’t exactly give a balanced view of any of these things, but again, it’s just a work of fiction. In particular, I didn’t like how it portrayed the US military as a purely colonizing, destructive force, led by a psychotic general and a greedy corporation. But again, it’s just a sci-fi flick. It’s true fantasy, not a 5th grade history textbook or a high school documentary, so I don’t see the harm in these minor issues.
On the whole, I greatly appreciate what this film teaches through its main character. Jake Sully is a true hero who makes a good role model for young people. As a US Marine, who lost the use of his legs in a prior war, Jake continues to face life with valor in spite of his disabilities. He is a tough young man who loves to serve his country with his body, mind, and heart. He is a free thinker who is willing to break from the ranks of his command when it is clear that his assigned mission is genocidal. He is a lover who learns to give more of himself in faithful service to his friends, his community, and the woman who becomes his wife. He defends the lives of the weak, fighting against the bullies at his own peril. He is fearless in the face of great danger, not for the adrenaline rush, but for a noble cause – saving others. I won’t mind one bit if my boy steals a few characteristics from Jake Sully.
So, all in all, I love this movie. It’s worth every penny and more. And make sure you see it in the theater in 3D. I can guarantee that, if nothing else, it will be a visual treat for you and an absolute delight for your boy.