Posts Tagged ‘review’



December 19, 2009

‘Avatar’ is a visually stunning piece of work, best seen on as big a screen as possible. It is certainly not a revolution in filmmaking, and it will not change the way you see movies. It pushes the limits of CGI, thanks to the folks at WETA Digital, and James Cameron’s solid direction makes the entirety of ‘Avatar’ interesting to look at. Each frame is filled with life, and the experience (at least on an IMAX screen) was almost totally immersive.

A while back I had heard the movie being referred to as “Dances with Smurfs,” and “Dune without the sand.” After seeing ‘Avatar,’ I’d say those are good ways to describe the plot. Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) is a human who, through the power of SCIENCE, is able to transfer his consciousness into the body of a Na’vi, a tall blue alien native of the planet Pandora. The humans want to raze the forest to get their hands on a rare substance called unobtainium (yes, you heard me… more on that here), so they get Jake to spy on the Na’vi, who have been resisting the more technologically savvy (and much shorter) humans. Will Jake see the beauty in the world of Pandora and have a change of heart? What do you think?

Cameron pulls a neat trick to get us into the alien world of the Na’vi: he takes the human Worthington, and puts him in a box so he can become one of them. Jake’s Big Blue Alien is his Avatar, and Jake is ours. Like Jake, we’re sitting in a box and transported to another world. On an IMAX screen, in 3D, it’s an incredible experience.

Unlike what you might have seen in ‘Terminator Salvation,’ Worthington can carry a film. His accent is a little wobbly, but his physicality and sincerity more than make up for that. There’s no sense of irony in Jake Sully, and that’s nice to see. He was my main worry about ‘Avatar,’ but that went away about three minutes into the two and a half hour running time.

One of the great things about women in James Cameron films is that they’re never just “The Girl.” Zoe Saldana gives a convincing performance as Neytiri, a Na’vi warrior who befriends Jake. Not once did I think “Hey, that’s Uhura.” Sigourney Weaver is, as expected, incredible. Amidst seven trillion dollars worth of effects, she stands out as a powerhouse.

The Bad Guys(tm) don’t fare as well in the characterization department. In fact, they’re downright cartoonish. Giovanni Ribisi plays the logical evolution of Paul Reiser’s character from Aliens, and Stephen Lang plays Hardass McStereotype, the trigger-happy soldier with a penchant for cliches (he actually says “We’re not in Kansas anymore”).

The plot feels overly familiar, but that’s okay. The whole world is new, so a more traditional story keeps things grounded for us. If Cameron hadn’t touted ‘Avatar’ as changing the way we watch movies, then I probably wouldn’t give it a second thought. It was Cameron himself who set that expectation, so I couldn’t help going into the movie thinking “Okay, Cameron… back up your statement.” From what I saw on the screen, he didn’t make his point. I don’t think anyone is going to measure their movie-going lives as “Before Avatar” and “After Avatar.”

I don’t want to end this review on a negative note. I do recommend ‘Avatar.’ if you go in expecting a decent movie with great visuals, that’s what you’ll get.