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Avatar (2009) - Movie Review for Parents

About.com Rating 4 Star Rating

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Avatar

Neytiri (Zoë Saldana, right) teaches Jake (Sam Worthington) the skills he'll need to survive on Pandora

Photo credit: WETA/Photo © Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All rights reserved.

Bottom line: A stunning live-action/animated telling of an exciting new story on another world, Avatar will definitely be enticing to kids. Parents should know that the PG-13 film transports viewers to a place where indigenous peoples run around mostly naked and are forced into a violent battle with the greedy humans who are trying to force them out of their home.

MPAA Rating: PG-13, for intense epic battle sequences and warfare, sensuality, language and some smoking
Genre: Action/Adventure/Fantasy
Runtime: Approx. 162 minutes
Release Date: December 18, 2009 (conventional 3D theaters and IMAX 3D)

Avatar - Overview

When Jake Sully's twin brother is killed, Jake's identical DNA gets him the opportunity of a lifetime -- the chance to take his brother's place on the mystical world of Pandora, where a corporation is trying to work with the planet's inhabitants in order to mine a very valuable material. His Marine background doesn't give him the scientific knowledge that his brother had, and the fact that he is confined to a wheelchair won't help in the dangerous and exotic environment, but Jake goes to Pandora anyway. His job will be to control an Avatar that looks just like the indigenous people, the Na'vi. The avatar is linked to Jake's consciousness, and allows him the ability to walk around freely in the Pandora environment.

Jake's mission, according to Col. Quaritch, is to get close to the Na'vi, learn their ways and gain their trust. When he is thrust into the alarming environment sooner than expected, a spiritual sign to a Na'vi woman, Neytiri, is the only thing that saves him from death -- either by her poisonous arrow or by the terrifying creatures that inhabit the land. Neytiri takes Jake to her father, the leader of the Na'vi, and it is decided that he will be allowed to live, and to learn their ways. With the help of scientist Grace, who founded the Avatar program, and her team, Jake lives the life of the Na'vi and returns frequently to report his findings.

As Jake is challenged by the extreme physical challenges of becoming a Na'vi warrior in this strange new world, he begins to understand the Na'vi and their strong connection to all life on the planet. Jake begins to fall in love with their ways, and with Neytiri in particular. But his enlightenment comes too late, because at the base, Quaritch has convinced corporate leader Selfridge to go ahead with a plan that will lead to a violent and epic battle -- one that will force Jake to decide between what's right and fighting against his own race.

Avatar - Guide Review

By far the best animation I have ever experienced, it is easy to believe that the world of Pandora and it's inhabitants are real. Avatar offers a movie-going experience like no other, and takes animation to a whole new level. The exciting story, amazing animation, and the fact that the movie is marketed to kids through toys and advertisements will have many kids begging to go see this one. The film also contains adult elements, though, including language (several swear words), sensuality, frightening scenes, and heavy violence.

In the world of Pandora, the Na'vi walk around mostly naked, and one "mating" scene occurs which is very sensual. Also, many creatures exist that are terrifying and dangerous. These snarling beasts snap at and chase characters, and in some scenes they kill humans (this occurs during a battle, and associated blood and gore is moderate). The epic battle between the Na'vi and the humans also results in violent bloodshed. Weapons such as gunships, machine guns, gas bombs, spears, arrows, and more are used, and there is also hand-to-hand combat.

*For more detailed info about the film's content, please see the "Content Overview" below (may contain spoilers).

Avatar - Overview

  • Violence (Extreme): While the film is not heavy on blood and gore, we do see it in battle scenes. Exotic and terrifying animals chase characters through the dark and strange forest snapping and snarling. Na'vi hunters must conquer and ride Banshees (pterodactyl-like animals which shriek and snarl). Characters engage in hand-to-hand squabbles and also use knives, spears and arrows. In the battle scenes, characters kill each other using machine guns, gas bombs, flying gunships, and more. Bodies are thrown off of air crafts and smashed into rocks and trees. The colonel has no regard for the sanctity of life, playing the stereotypical war monger, and the corporate head cares only about the mining and not about hurting the Na'vi or taking over their homes.

  • Scary Scenes (High): Content listed under "violence" may be frightening for kids. Many scenes in the forests of Pandora are suspenseful and kids may be scared of the creatures and, initially of the Na'vi people.
  • Sex/Nudity (High): The nudity in the film is generally not human, but the Na'vi have human-like bodies and they walk around wearing hardly anything. Much of the females' chests can be seen. In one scene, a Na'vi woman mates with a male and later tells her leaders that she has done so. The mating scene is sensual, and some kissing is shown. We also see the side of a nude human female and later a male, but the bodies are somewhat covered by plant life.
  • Drugs and Alcohol (Medium): A character is seen smoking a few times during the movie. Drinking is discussed.
  • Language (Medium): Several swear words are used in the film including the "a" word, "s" word, and the "b" word and SOB.
  • Disrespectful/Imitative Behavior (High): By and large, the humans on Pandora are disrespectful and intolerant of the Na'vi and their ways. They care more about war and money than life. Characters in the movie are at times confrontational and sarcastic with each other.
  • Sad/Unsettling Scenes (High): The Na'vi are devastated when their home is destroyed, their sacred grounds ruined, and many of their people killed. Some kids may be unsettled by the movie's premise that earth has been depleted and destroyed.

Avatar – Topics to Discuss

  • After seeing Avatar, kids may have questions about the following topics: other planets, alien life, spirituality, nature, mating, greed, the environment.
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