Avatar Review

by Ed Lau on January 4, 2010

avatar, James Cameron

I feel at this point there’s no need for me to introduce you to this movie, which is possibly one of the biggest of the year, the decade…possibly ever. The hype machine has been busy with this one and rightfully so as James Cameron’s first movie in over 10 years simply looks like no other movie before it.

Avatar opens with Jake Sully (Sam Worthington), a paraplegic marine, arriving on Pandora, an alien planet, after his brother’s death. In the year 2154, we can assume Earth is a barren wasteland which drives privatized military companies to seek out alien worlds that the can extract resources from. The resource in question here is the ridiculously named “unobtainium” (seriously couldn’t think of a better name there, Cameron?), which unfortunately lies under the sacred ground of Pandora’s indigenous people, the Na’vi. The more militant of the humans decide to take this by force while the scientists recognize the value in the knowledge that can be shared with the planet’s inhabitants. Jake, predictably, is stuck right in the middle.

avatar, James Cameron

The science team, led by Grace (Sigourney Weaver), traverse Pandora via “avatars”, which are basically home-grown alien bodies, produced from a mixture of Na’vi and human DNA that allow a human to remotely control the body and better survive the harsh climate and terrain of Pandora. I don’t remember how that goes but despite the lush, tropical environment, Pandora’s atmosphere lacks sufficient oxygen for humans. Soon, a routine exercise finds Jake lost and stumbling across the home team on their own turf.

I won’t spoil any more of the plot for you but honestly, there isn’t much to spoil. While Avatar has been gestating in James Cameron’s head for the last few decades, the story has been told several times in similar movies such as Dances with Wolves and The Last Samurai. It’s a simple story but one that we never really tire of being told. There’s plenty to grab onto here and much of the dialogue is designed to push your sympathetic buttons.

Cameron actually wanted to make this film years and years ago after he saw the way George Lucas made Star Wars. However, he didn’t want his film to look like a bunch of people in costumes or small scale puppets. He wanted the aliens to come to life and be seen in the same way that we might view real life. It was an ambitious project and one that would need to wait decades for technology to catch up. In fact, Cameron influenced the design of the Sony camera system on which Avatar was shot.

avatar, James Cameron

The result is…well, there’s no other way to say this…it is awesome. From the moment the movie begins right to the last scene, the visuals look bloody spectacular and there is no scene in the entire film that doesn’t take advantage of the 3-D wizardry. From start to finish, you’ll be saying “WOOOOOOWWWWWWWW!!!!”. There are some slower sequences where the dialogue isn’t very interesting but even then, there is something to look at and be amazed by. The Na’vi themselves are just gorgeous to behold and if you didn’t know better, you’d think Cameron found a cast of basketball players and supermodels and painted them blue to play his tall, agile and graceful aliens. Pandora itself also looks fantastic with a bright and diverse palette of colors and unique lifeforms everywhere. Cameron hasn’t simply created a generic alien planet with a generic alien race. He has created a lush, vibrant world and a unique and detailed people complete with an actual language and history.

I couldn’t find some of the better looking stills from the movie on the internet but…I probably wouldn’t post them anyways. Nothing should spoil the wonderful visuals in this film.

avatar, James Cameron

While the storyline is nothing new, the cast makes the best of what they’re given and puts on a great show. Worthington, who we first saw in the absolutely horrible Terminator: Salvation does a great job of being the hero. He seems to be the type to take the hammer and brute force approach to everything but demonstrates his inner conflict and transformation well as the story moves on. Weaver is the best she’s been in years in a supporting role and Stephen Lang is a badass as the colonel in charge of the military operation. However, the person that really steals the show is Zoe Saldana (who we also saw in this year’s Star Trek reboot) as Neytiri, the hunter princess of the Na’vi. It’s strange to say this as we know she’s on a green screen somewhere wearing a suit of lightbulbs but the performance she puts on is just amazing. She’s a kickass warrior but displays so much sensitivity and tenderness as well. I’d go as far as to say that if she was actually on screen without the special effects magic, she’s be attracting a bit of Oscar buzz.

avatar, James Cameron

It’d odd but watching Avatar, you can’t help but understand why Jake is attracted to the Na’vi people and their way of life. Their affinity with nature, their nobility, honor and sense of community is a beautiful thing to behold and it is strange that we can see more humanity in 10-foot tall, blue-skinned creatures packing bows and arrows than the actual humans in the movie.

Avatar is not the best movie of the year…it doesn’t have a strong enough story to make it a truly compelling film. However, what it has is a whole new method of film-making, one that has produced possibly the most gorgeous looking movie we’ve ever seen. This is as much a turning point in film as the addition of color and I cannot possibly recommend this enough to everyone. You must see Avatar…and when you do, make sure you get it in IMAX with some of those ridiculous looking glasses.

Verdict: 9.0 out of 10

in Entertainment,Tech and the Net

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Lesley January 4, 2010 at 12:44 pm

I’m surprised you didn’t have a commentary about Giovanni Ribisi’s character. He was just totally flat and cliched.

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glutamine January 5, 2010 at 2:36 am

The story was absolutely awesome the journey seemed like a day to day adventure and there wasnt one episode that seemed like a filler.

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Essays January 5, 2010 at 10:03 pm

Story moves to fast and we don’t feel boring at any part of the movie. Story line is written in such way that makes this movie interesting.

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Huggable hanger January 6, 2010 at 4:05 pm

Perfect movie.. I liked it very much..

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automotive January 7, 2010 at 7:20 am

awesome, i like this movie, thanks for tell me about this

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Sue | Vehicle Financing January 10, 2010 at 11:59 pm

This movie looks just unbelievable, like I said in the other review I have not had the chance to get to the movies and I can see that I am going to miss out if I don’t go soon, and this is a movie that one has to see on the big screen.

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George Michael music January 13, 2010 at 10:11 am

I want to see it too! But I’m ill and can’t go to the movies!

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Wood burning stoves January 18, 2010 at 8:02 am

I went to see Avatar 3D 2 weeks ago and was blown away by the effects. The story line is pretty good too, but the 3D was what really impressed me.

James

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