Sharkey on Film: James Cameron and old loves
While it's easy to be mesmerized by all the effects and the sheer beauty to be found in Pandora, the altered reality that filmmaker James Cameron has created in the 3-D marvel that is "Avatar," what he's also slipped in is a wonderfully hopeful, old-fashioned romance with its very futuristic couple.
The lovers in question are, of course, Sam Worthington's Jake Sully, the paraplegic Marine who's come to infiltrate the Na'vi people, a lean, long-limbed, bluish race that is disrupting U.S. efforts to strip-mine their exotic tropical paradise into rubble, and Zoe Saldana's Neytiri, a young warrior princess of one of the Na'vi tribes.
Using all the classic romantic tropes, Cameron lays out their story:
* It is not love at first sight -- Think "When Harry Met Sally" but in a galaxy far, far away. Instead of the college coed road trip where the bickering begins, in "Avatar" Jake ruins Neytiri's day when he comes face to face with some of Pandora's wildlife and finds himself in desperate need of rescue; for him, Neytiri, is not exactly his type; he's a fan of blonds, or brunettes, and she's, well, blue for starters
* There is a major obstacle keeping them apart -- In "Sleepless in Seattle" it was the country that separated Tom Hanks' widowed single father not sleeping in Seattle from Meg Ryan's Baltimore-based dreamer, and the fact that they'd never met. Here it is a species thing -- she's Na'vi, he's not. Never has being human been such a problem
* There are other rivals for Neytiri's affection -- For Sandra Bullock in "The Proposal," Ryan Reynolds' old flame was Malin Akerman, the sweetheart he'd known since they were in diapers who still had a piece of his heart. Here, Laz Alonso's Tsy'tey is the blue warrior with a major crush -- really angry about the whole "let's teach Jake our Na'vi ways" assignment that's been handed Neytiri by her father
* Families always complicate things -- Sure there was no blood spilled in "Meet the Parents," "Father of the Bride" or "The In-Laws," but conflict and fireworks? You bet. Still there's nothing like doing damage control with the honey after your Marine buddies (the only family Jake's got left) torch a big swath of Na'vi-land. Just doesn't put a girl in a good mood.
But I guess I should have expected "Avatar" to have a romantic side since Cameron was, after all, the filmmaker who gave us the mushiest romance of our cinematic times in "Titanic." In Cameron's worlds -- yes, I mean worlds -- a kiss is worth a thousand words and at least a couple million more dollars.
-- Betsy Sharkey, Film Critic
Photo: Zoe Saldana's Neytiri and Sam Worthington's Jake Sully in "Avatar." Credit: WETA/20th Century Fox.