You know, few movies achieve the kind of buzz that Avatar has been creating for seemingly the entire decade. The buzz on James Cameron’s next project has been in the making for what seems like an eternity, so is the juice worth the squeeze?
The premise of the movie is actually pretty simple. An ex-Marine who has lost the use of his legs finds himself as an Avatar after the death of his brother, as a human mind in the body of one of Pandora’s Na’Vi, it’s native race. He finds himself torn between the two worlds, wishing his avatar life was his real life, and his real life the fantasy.
First and foremost, I will say this. If James Cameron doesn’t win every award for Best Director this year, there is a flaw in the system. This is one of the most ground breaking films to come out in the last twenty years, and it completely rewrites the book on what to expect from movies in the future. The special effects are absolutely mesmerizing for the entire run-time of nearly 3 hours, and thankfully never feel gimmicky or distracting.
And, if you’re going to see this film, I will emphasize this. Pay the extra 3 bucks and watch it in 3-D. Of course, the regular version is basically the same movie, but I assure you, it will not be the same movie. The 3-D effects are at times so mind blowing it’s puzzling to consider where films are headed after a movie like this.
Of course, this has been a brainchild of Cameron for a number of years, and he apparently (though I’d never really realized it) has one of the most vivid imaginations in Hollywood. This is such a remarkably original premise, and it’s executed with great care by him on all ends of the spectrum. You can almost feel the passion coming through the screen for this project, and it’s refreshing to find such a fervorous approach to directing. He’s not making this film to make it, he’s doing it to change the cinematic experience in the future, and the future is now.
The cinematography is breathtaking at moments, and Cameron and crew really create a visual buffet on the screen. There are moments where your eyes won’t know where to look, everything is so gorgeous. Pandora is an absolute feast for the eyes at all times. Everything from the Na’Vi to the other creatures, to the trees and the blades of grass and dirt, everything is as vivid as you could possibly imagine.
The story of the film is jam-packed with themes that I wasn’t quite expecting, but were actually implemented in a very understated way. Obvious themes including global warming, the War in Iraq (or the War on Terror), and even potentially the colonization of the United States and biblical references.
The dialogue is pretty basic, and even the scientific terminology is simple enough to not be patronizing. The language was actually a little saltier than I had anticipated, but it’s never as crass and out of place as in Transformers 2 or other films. The dialogue is even more impressive when you consider that Cameron concocted his own language for the Na’Vi to speak, and that it actually sounds legitimate. I’m sure there are even going to be some Avatar nerds who start speaking it in 2010. Happy New Year.
The acting is as good as it needs to be. There aren’t any campy characters who exist in only stereotypes. Sam Worthington plays Jake Sully, a wheelchair laden ex-jarhead. This is the first major role I’ve seen from Worthington, and he does account very well for himself in what is destined to be his true breakout role. He toes a fine line between the “real” world and his interactions within his avatar, and the tension between him obviously wanting to remain as his avatar is quite palpable. He has the ability to walk, run, jump, and most importantly, he is accepted into this new world. We go on this learning experience with Jake, and Worthington sells it just fine.
The supporting cast does just as well. Stephen Lang and Giovani Ribisi are pretty memorable as the dickhead Colonel and corporate mastermind respectively. Sigourney Weaver and Joel David Moore (apparently my doppelganger) play the other side as scientists who also have avatars, and their pursuit of natural understanding of this planet and its inhabitants is pure and true to the core.
The film is long, so you might want to pack a lunch. But, even if you go exhausted, the visual feast will grab your attention and refuse to let go for the duration of the runtime, which is quite impressive. You will forget how hungry or tired you are, and you will be immersed in this film from bell to bell.
The film’s star is the special effects, and the direction of Cameron. I defy anyone to go into this movie and not find themselves in awe of the visual environment that is set in front of you. There are moments of jaw-dropping beauty, and this film is a true cinematic achievement in that regard. The acting is good enough, and the strong themes within the film add a rich texture to it that could have been absent otherwise. Splurge and get your 3-D glasses on, because this is where movies are headed in the future.
- Visual feast
- Special Effects
- Underlying themes and subtext
- James Cameron’s Mind
- Non-Alienating (haha) Dialogue
- Plays like a 3-hour movie
Score: 9.1/10 (Oustanding)