Space marines on a far off planet posted there for the reason of conquering it for human greed has long been the plot to many of the most popular video games of the past five years or so. It was only a matter of time before someone decided to revisit the topic as the plot for a major motion picture release. It seems only fitting that it would be James Cameron who brings the concept back.
In 1986, Cameron wowed the world with Aliens, the sequel to the 1979 hit Alien, a movie about space marines fighting for their lives against a planet being overrun by acid drooling flesh eating killing "machines". The movie, much like a lot of Cameron's work, was not just a monster hit with fans of the genre (sci-fi), but also changed the game in regards to the use of special effects in film. As did 1991's Terminator 2: Judgment Day, and 1997's Titanic. And after winning Oscar gold for Best Picture in 1997, Cameron went underground. Finally we know why...
A science fiction tour de force, Avatar came out with a tidal wave of hype. Nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Picture three days before its release date and proclaimed by many who had seen it prior as the film that will change cinema forever the expectations for Avatar were high. But these reviewers were tentative to buying all in, remembering how George Lucas' CGI monsters essentially ruined two of the most recent three Star Wars movies.
The film stars Sam Worthington as crippled Marine Jake Sully, brought on board to a top secret project because of his twin brother's untimely death. His mission is to go to the far off moon called Pandora and- with the use of his "avatar" (genetically engineered bio-puppet, for lack of a better description)- infiltrate the native tribe of the Na'vi, the native tribe of the moon. But as Sully goes deeper into the mission, he learns a lot about this strange and mystical tribe leading him to have to choose between helping his species or the overmatched Na'vi in the film's climactic battle. The film also stars Sigourney Weaver, Michelle Rodriguez, and Giovanni Rabisi.
So does Avatar live up to the hype? Or is the idea of giant blue cat people defending their homes from invading human soldiers something better left for the video game world.
- - Let's just get this out of the way now. The movie, visually, is maybe the most stunning thing I have ever seen. There is no reason to bother seeing this in its 2D presentation. The movie was intended to be seen in 3D. And before you start rolling your eyes at the idea of a 3D movie, bear in mind that this is not the 3D of your youth. Cameron uses the 3D technology to create depth in the movie; so instead of things flying out of the scene, they fly in. The CGI used in the movie is also stellar, as Cameron had no issue putting a lot of this film's 300 million dollar budget right on the scene. For the impressiveness of the look of the movie alone, it is worth the price of admission.
- - The story behind Avatar is heavy in the sci-fi, but it does a pretty good job of making sure that its concepts can easily be followed by casual fans of the genre.
The plot is strong, and the acting is very good as well (though when the Na'vi speak in their native tongue it does sound an awful lot like Jodie Foster in the movie Nell).
- - Strong performances from Sam Worthington as the crippled Marine torn between two worlds and by Stephan Lang as the jacked up Colonel Miles Quaritch. Zoe Saldana, cast as Neytiri- a prominent member of the Na'vi tribe and friend to Jake Sully.
The Not So Good
- - The movie runs for roughly three hours and as entertaining as it is, you feel every bloody minute of it. At times, the movie gets bogged down in itself, as though James Cameron got lost in his sweeping landscapes.
- - [Rafa] The movie gets a little preachy at the end in regards to the destruction of our natural environment.
- - While one might be tempted to bring a child to see this movie (as it looks like a kid's film), we would strongly urge you to reconsider. Considering the 3 hour running time, a good thirty minute or so span in the middle where the vast majority of the film's dialogue is delivered in the language of the Na'vi (and subtitled in English) , and one scene of blue cat person sex, there might be more family friendly options out there.
As we stated earlier, considering the early hype this film was getting and that it was directed by James Cameron, the odds were stacked against this film to meet expectations. Taking all of that into consideration, Avatar is a wholly entertaining movie, offering plenty of action and thrills this holiday season. A little long and slow at times, Avatar manages to be overall a very entertaining film which may very well revolutionize the way movies are shot.
Our review for Avatar is a very solid 4.5 flushes. Fun, beautiful, and visually stunning Avatar has set itself up as a must see this holiday season... just make sure you clear some time on the calendar before setting off to catch it. And seriously, make sure you catch it in 3D.