Theatrical Review: AVATAR

by: GATW Guest Writer
December 16th, 2009

avatar imax poster

Rating: 8.5/10

Writer: James Cameron
Director: James Cameron
Cast: Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Joel Moore, Stephen Lang, Sigourney Weaver, Giovanni Ribisi
Studio: Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation

After many years of hearing about the project, a supposed budget of $500 million (including marketing) and the use of cutting edge tools and techniques, we now have one 162 minute 3D film as a result in AVATAR.

After all this, it almost seems that unless James Cameron's AVATAR is anything less than the greatest thing a person has ever seen (including the birth of one's child and the episode of "Family Matters" where Urkel creates Stefan), the film would be disappointing. Judging by these standards, AVATAR would be a little disappointing, but judging on a more realistic scale, AVATAR is a technically stunning, exciting movie event that gives you many reasons to keep paying attention through its lengthy run time.

With AVATAR, we're in the future, and paraplegic ex-marine, Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) has been offered the opportunity to use an Avatar (a lab-created body that can be controlled mentally by a person plugged in to it) created to look like the indigenous people of Pandora, the Na'vi (probably not a coincidence that Na'vi sounds like the word native, cute Cameron). Pandora is very rich in an expensive and valuable resource and the company trying to obtain the resource wants to move the Na'vi, as their home sits on a huge supply of the material. That is where the Avatars come in, those in the Na'vi-like bodies can hopefully convince the Na'vi to move.

The company needs Jake because of the DNA connection to his brother, something needed to operate his brother's Avatar (each one is designed using the DNA of a particular person). Jake accepts the opportunity, the idea of being able to control a body with leg function again no doubt sounds good to him. So, Jake goes to the dangerous planet of Pandora where at first it seems that everything's function is to kill outsiders, a sentiment conveyed by the man in charge of the company's artillery division, Colonel Miles Quaritch (Stephen Lang).

Soon, Jake is contacted by Quaritch to be his man on the inside, even though Jake is there for Dr. Grace Augustine's team, the science people that want a peaceful solution. Jake corroborates because Quaritch plays to his military loyalties and most importantly, promises to get him the surgery that will allow him to walk again. Eventually Jake becomes accepted by the Na'vi, who think they must teach him their ways, with Neytiri (Zoe Saldana) as his teacher.

AVATAR is an epic film that has many similarities to other epics; an outsider falls in love with a new world (literally) and leads them against the true intruders. However, the world Cameron creates in Pandora is so fascinating and impressive (I could use those words 100 times, easily, in this review) that the familiarity of the story doesn't matter, we are there for Pandora and that is where Cameron continually wows us.

Pandora is full of many spectacular digitally created species and settings. When Jake first explores Pandora with Dr. Augustine, we see two new creatures quickly, and also get an elaborate chase sequence between Jake and one of the animals through parts of the beautiful planet. It's a great way to let you know what you should expect from the rest of your time with Jake on Pandora - stimulating sequence set against wonderful digital images.

There are many treats for the audience in AVATAR, and the technology used (and in some cases, created) by Cameron was worth the price and effort. The movie is gorgeous with great special effects. It is almost too much to take in while you watch the film since there is so much to be wowed by. There is a lot to like here, but the most awesome sequence has to be the climax where the Na'vi, Jake, and few other humans battle against Quaritch and his men for Pandora. It's a thrilling testament to the great showman that Cameron is.

You have done great things again, James Cameron, and come admirably close to living up to the film's massive hype. Well done.

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  • dustinflynn

    Was Poul Anderson credited for the story?

    I'm going to see it like a sheep with my family, but I still think it looks pretty stupid. Reviews don't convince me otherwise because from what I'm getting is a lot of “WARGARBL 3D GRAPHICS JAMES CAMERON SHITTY STORY WOW AMAZING 3D”.

  • http://www.gordonandthewhale.com RustyGordon

    How do you feel about Cameron's other films? If you are a fan of his work, I THINK you will at least end up liking AVATAR more than you hate it.

    No Paul Anderson didn't get credit for the story. Too bad Chase didn't ask Cameron about that when he saw him at Comic-Con.

  • dustinflynn

    I think he is a fantastic director, but I think stealing others ideas for use is one of the worst things a person can do artistically. James Cameron will forever be a douche bag in my eyes for that reason.

    • Rusty Gordon

      I don’t know, man. I think a lot of films resemble each other, possibly through coincidence or borrowing (which a lot of filmmakers do). The plot is pretty similar to other films, but it is also pretty basic at its core, so I don’t know how much of a blatant rip-off it really is. Please do not hate me forever for feeling this way. And I agree with you- he is a fantastic filmmaker. TITANIC is his only film that doesn’t do much for me.

  • dustinflynn

    And I like his other work, other than the tom foolery with the Terminator and now Avatar.

  • http://www.gordonandthewhale.com RustyGordon

    I don't know, man. I think a lot of films resemble each other, possibly through coincidence or borrowing (which a lot of filmmakers do). The plot is pretty similar to other films, but it is also pretty basic at its core, so I don't know how much of a blatant rip-off it really is. Please do not hate me forever for feeling this way. And I agree with you- he is a fantastic filmmaker. TITANIC is his only film that doesn't do much for me.

  • dustinflynn

    Yeah, you're right. Its hard to get a completely real original idea out there. But James Cameron has been caught red handed before, and the coincidence of Avatar's plot and Call Me Joe are just too similar for me to give him the benefit of the doubt.

    I mean, Call Me Joe is about a disabled man operating an artificial body on Jupiter. I'd really like to read it, just haven't gotten around to it.

  • http://www.gordonandthewhale.com RustyGordon

    I actually read somewhere that Cameron said his influences for AVATAR were Sci-fi novels he read as a kid. Call me Joe was written in 1957, so it is very possible Cameron read the novel and it did inspire him. I mean, I’m sure he did. Which brings up the question of is it OK to borrow an idea if you ultimately do your own thing with it? And let me just say there is a lot of borrowing going on out there in the film world. Maybe the borrowing done with AVATAR is too close for some, but Cameron did make a really enjoyable film using that idea, if he did take it from that novel. It is a gray area for me: borrowing to make something great that isn’t an exact copy, but clearly influenced. Not sure how to rule on it.

  • marykate

    hahah stefan was a pretty impressive invention. i loled at that remark. i can't wait to see this!

  • dustinflynn

    Well, I think that taking an idea and shaping it into something different is one thing, but he really doesn't.

    I know he's James Cameron and all but I think its deplorable. I once had “Science of Sleep” plotted out in an idea I once had, years before it came out. Then I got really mad and abandoned the idea because Michel Gondry is a somebody and I'm nobody so I pouted (you can ask James, he'll remember I thought of it first! It is uncanny how similar my story was) Point being I think an idea needs to be drastically overhauled if someone else thought of it (especially if they beat you to the punch).

    In short, Michel Gondry is a telepathic thief!

  • dustinflynn

    I'm pretty conflicted on this movie.

    Great fun to watch, because it looked great. Kind of like a video game that looks amazing but is a bore to play. A movie I can't fathom ever needing to watch again. Movies, I think, should be about the story more than anything. Isn't that the point? This movie could give two shits about that, because every element is ripped from something else. I am pretty damn sure he plagiarized the main scifi concept, but was surprised at how much he just ripped off the entire plot. I don't think James Cameron is a movie god or anything, but I certainly expect more out of him when it comes to the story side of a movie.

    I think this movie is bad for the industry in general. The story was terrible, dialogue I am convinced was ghost written by George Lucas.

    UNOBTANIUM

  • dustinflynn

    I'm pretty conflicted on this movie.

    Great fun to watch, because it looked great. Kind of like a video game that looks amazing but is a bore to play. A movie I can't fathom ever needing to watch again. Movies, I think, should be about the story more than anything. Isn't that the point? This movie could give two shits about that, because every element is ripped from something else. I am pretty damn sure he plagiarized the main scifi concept, but was surprised at how much he just ripped off the entire plot. I don't think James Cameron is a movie god or anything, but I certainly expect more out of him when it comes to the story side of a movie.

    I think this movie is bad for the industry in general. The story was terrible, dialogue I am convinced was ghost written by George Lucas.

    UNOBTANIUM

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