Volume 22, Number 33 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | December 25 - 31, 2009
Koch on Film
By Ed Koch
I did not like this film at all: In my opinion, “Avatar” has been hyped beyond the point of forgiveness.
The “fly people,” who are earth whites escaping from a destroyed earth perhaps due to climate change, land on the far-away moon of Pandora to dig for the mineral, unobtainium. To do so, they have to demolish huge trees similar to Sequoias which unlike Sequoias have an extraordinary ability through their roots to contact one another. Most important, the trees are sacred to the indigenous people known as the Na’vi. The Na’vi appear to be human but are constructed differently in face and color (blue) and have lion-like tails.
The movie quickly turns into a Cowboy vs. Indian type of picture. In the year 2154, when this encounter takes place, the whites have huge war machines with which to attack the Na’vi. The Na’vi are assisted in their battle by dinosaur-like creatures — some of which fly and are used as airplanes on which they ride. The Na’vi, of course, are wonderful people while the whites, I mean the fly people, are vicious.
While the movie is intended for every age group, I believe the pitch is to adults, and the intent is to create a sense of guilt. We see a replay of Custer’s Last Stand with the Indians who won that battle now joined in history by the Na’vi who win this one.
Sam Worthington plays Jake Sully — who controls his Avatar, a Na’vi. Zoe Saldana portrays Neytiri, daughter of the tribe’s chief. Sigourney Weaver plays Grace, one of the few good white people. Then there is the evil Col. Miles Quaritch (Stephen Lang), who wants to kill the Na’vi. The Avatar for Sam Worthington becomes Neytiri’s lover.
When Jake inhabits his human body, he is crippled and unable to walk. As a Na’vi, he flies through the air on the back of what appeared to be a pterodactyl or flying reptile.
The film is the brainchild of James Cameron — who also wrote and directed “Titanic.” I would have preferred if he had given us “Titanic II.”
The movie is presented in 3-D. Believe me, the 3-D glasses did not add much to the film.
Rated PG-13; 2 hours, 40 minutes. Now playing at, among other places Clearview’s Chelsea (260 West 23rd Street). For screening times, call 212-777-3456 x597.
The two brothers in the title are Sam and Tommy. Sam (Tobey Maguire), a captain in the Marines, is married to Grace (Natalie Portman). The couple has two young girls: Isabelle (Bailee Madison) and Maggie (Taylor Geare). Tommy (Jake Gyllenhaal) has just been released from prison after serving time for a bank robbery. The boys’ father, Hank (Sam Shepard), adores Sam and detests Tommy.
When Sam is sent back to Afghanistan for another tour of duty, his helicopter is shot down and he is presumed dead. In fact, he and Marine private Joe (Patrick Flueger) are actually prisoners of the Afghan insurgents, and the treatment they receive is unspeakable.
Back home, Tommy rises to the occasion of Sam’s assumed death. He straightens out his life, and an intimacy understandably develops between Tommy and Grace. Sam eventually returns home, and the memories of his captivity dominate the remainder of the movie. The final denouncement is enthralling and heartbreaking.
Is the film first-rate on any level, e.g., a personal story of a dysfunctional family or the effect of the Afghanistan war on our soldiers? The answer is no. The picture is not superb in terms of its storyline or the performances of the principal characters with the exception of the children, particularly the oldest daughter, Isabelle (Bailee Madison). She superbly conveys the feelings of a bewildered child totally overwhelmed by her father’s emotional outbursts and not able to fully understand the relationship between her mother and her Uncle Tommy.
Although “Brothers” is not a first-rate film, it informs us about the after-effects of war and is worth seeing while we wait for better ones to come along. I saw it at the AMC Loews Kips Bay Cineplex, which has 15 large screens and wonderful stadium seating.
HS said: “I liked the movie although it was basically sad. It was novel to see Tobey Maguire in a military outfit rather than his Spider-Man costume. I enjoyed watching Jake Gyllenhall and Natalie Portman, who are brighter than most actors. It is unusual today to see a movie in which Americans are not depicted as evil. The plot had several implausible twists, but there was enough action and drama to keep me absorbed.”
Rated R; 1 hour, 50 minutes. Now playing at, among other places, Regal Union Square Stadium 14 (850 Broadway). For screening times, call (800) 326-3264 x628.