Good storytelling requires a variety of complex characters ensconced in challenging situations. Sci-fi fans embrace a very wide range of characters and situations that can take place on other planets and in future or past time periods. This weekend, "Guardians of the Galaxy" opened in theatres and was reviewed in this column yesterday. It provided an offbeat story including friendly aliens, and it has great audience appeal. Many other sci-fi films show aliens as villains. Another movie that features aliens with whom audiences can sympathize is 2009's "Avatar." Both films feature Zoe Saldana.
"Avatar" explores a situation in which one kind of being, in this case a human, develops a strong allegiance with another kind of being, the Na'vi, an alien race. However, powerful humans are inclined to exploit rather than embrace nonhumans. The movie focuses on Jake Sully (played by Sam Worthington), a paraplegic human soldier whose twin brother, Tom, recently died. Following his death, Jake takes his brother's job. Tom was working on the planet Pandora for Dr. Grace Augustine (played by Sigourney Weaver). Jake's new job is to go into a machine that will place his mind in the body of a Na'vi. This body is called in "avatar." Because he lacks experience, Grace is reluctant to have Jake assume this responsibility. She wants to understand as much as possible about the Na'vi, unlike Parker Selfridge (played by Giovanni Ribisi), who wants to mine for valuable material that is in their homeland. One day, as Jake is in his avatar, he gets left behind. As he is walking around, he meets Neytiri (played by Saldana), a Na'vi who takes him into their world.
"Avatar" is directed by the legendary James Cameron, who makes the film into one of the most visually stunning movies of the last several decades. The graceful Na'vi look great; they are blue and very tall.
Cameron also does a great job filming action scenes. The final battle between human soldiers and the Na'vi is quite big and impressive.
Sam Worthington is effective as Jake. He is an average guy who becomes more dedicated to helping the Na'vi as the story progresses. Zoe Saldana is also great as Neytiri, a tough warrior who falls for Jake. Another memorable performance is by Stephen Lang, who plays a colonel who hates the Na'vi.
"Avatar" is one of James Cameron's best films.