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If it can be done, it's been done. Originality is not always what makes a film great, and good films that get lauded as original are not necessarily so (Inception for instance).
I first saw Avatar three years ago. I loved it unabashedly and still do. At the time, I recognized similarities to Pocahontas and Halo, having grown up with no knowledge of Dances With Wolves, The Last Samurai, Fern Gully or any other such film. (Yes, this is possible.) This was before I discovered Tvtropes.org.
Time Skip Three Years Later...
Avatar isn't for everyone. It's a Reconstruction of the Planetary Romance, with some legitimate depth. It tries to be topical, dealing with Some Anvils Need to be Dropped issues like some modern corporations acting like colonial powers and Earth's ecology being damaged. The human technology in the film is high on the Mohs Scale of Science Fiction Hardness even if Pandora is not. Jake Sully is sometimes an Idiot Hero, but at least it's lampshaded. Vital information is in the Extended Cut and the official encyclopedia website. The film has a lot less Fridge Horror if you're familiar with either (for example, you'll realize that humanity doesn't need unobtanium for survival, just to make trains and spacecraft work). These are all reasons to watch the film that have nothing to do with the visuals.
That's not to say that the visuals aren't impressive. The movie's setting is a mix of Escapism and Wish Fulfilment: both the technology and the flora/fauna in this movie are wonderful. The Na'vi are often accused of being a Mary Suetopia but there are two things to say to this: (1) They're not nearly as bad as Karen Traviss' Mandalorians and (2) That's kind of the point. The Na'vi and their lifestyle are a metaphor/embodiment for a certain kind of Western escapism that the movie is deliberately trying to harness, for better or for worse. The film does not (despite many accusations to the contrary) demonize humanity or technology. It does hype up its Space Elves, but that's intentional. If this (or anything else) leads to Rooting for the Empire then, well, there isn't much anyone can do to stop it, but certain characters did cross the Moral Event Horizon and audiences should not forget that. I, at least, find the protagonists quite likable.
-I don't see how the humans aren't being demonized. The corporate guy running the whole things was portrayed as the slimiest, most arrogant, a**hole on the planet. The colonel was portrayed with having no sympathy at all towards the Na'vi. Not to mention the human soldier shouting out "Yeah! Get some!" when they were being trigger-happy with the Na'vi.
-Also, I suppose while the vehicles are high on the Moh's Scale of SF Hardness, the whole mind-control-a-live-Na'vi-body thing was definitely quite soft.
-As for the film being original or unoriginal, I guess the verdict really comes down to the finesse of the director or script-writer in coming with and telling a story in such a way that it fools the audience just enough so that we don't feel that the story is cliche/unoriginal. I personally felt Avatar to be slightly cliche. But I also do recognize that considering how much humans love stories and the vast amount of stories that have been told since humans existed, it is very difficult to come up with a truly original story. So, I guess (for me) Avatar just ended up coming off as a little too similar to Pocahontas, Dances with Wolves, and The Last Samurai.
The movie ends with he good humans being rewarded by no longer being human.
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