"Avatar": Movie Review (2009)

12/24/2009 Posted by Admin

Movie Review


Written and directed by James Cameron, 166 minutes, rated PG-13.

By Christopher Smith

The year’s most ambitious and visually arresting film is James Cameron’s “Avatar.” You’ve never seen anything quite like this, which works in its favor since the film’s sheer beauty is enough to detract you from the fact that Cameron, a competent writer, is not a great writer. Many of his characters are caricatures. Too much of the dialogue is stock.

The good news? Not a lick of it matters here.

Budgeted at nearly $270 million, “Avatar” spends every cent to create a world so rich and lush, so textured, real and surreal, you give yourself over to it and then lose yourself in it. Computers long have driven films, but not at this high a level and not with Cameron’s legions of gifted artists working behind the screens.

At nearly three hours, the movie is long, but the trick is that the storytelling is brisk, with Cameron focusing the bulk of his film on Jake Sully (Sam Worthington), a former marine paralyzed from the waist down and now confined to a wheelchair.

How a team of scientists get him out of that chair and on his feet is unconventional, to say the least, but the year is 2154, after all, and apparently anything is possible. Besides, getting Jake mobile is critical to the movie. Doing so involves the use of a scientifically created, 10-foot-tall avatar modeled after the Na’vi, an alien race that lives on the planet Pandora, which has the misfortune of possessing a mineral called Unobtainium that could save Earth from its dwindling energy reserves if enough of it is mined.

And so it will be mined--by force, if necessary, though the idea behind these manufactured Na’vi is to allow for assimilation in an effort to move this race to another part of Pandora, where the Unobtainium isn’t present.

Through sleep and science, Jake becomes his avatar--long and blue and lithe of limb, it’s a thrill to watch him run again--and soon he’s off to Pandora with Dr. Grace Augustine (Sigourney Weaver, nicely channeling Ripley from Cameron’s “Alien” franchise) and a handful of others. Once there, the beauty of Pandora shields a wealth of dangers. Anything can and does happen, with Jake eventually being separated from his crew and stumbling upon the cat-like Neytiri (Zoe Saldana), who mocks him, nearly kills him, and whose parents lead the Na’vi. Naturally, in spite of all her hissing, Jakes falls for her.

Since the film’s pleasures go beyond the brilliance of its visuals--Cameron’s strength always has been his ability to mount one mother of a climax, which he does here--it would be a mistake to reveal more. Safe to say that the supporting cast (Stephen Lang, Giovani Ribisi, Michelle Rodriguez) is solid; our own sorry, bloody history is evoked via the Na’vi, who recall the American Indian; and the love that grows between Jake and Neytiri is heartfelt and real.

But the movie isn’t perfect. The problem? Cameron’s use of 3-D technology.

For the most part, the effect works seamlessly, particularly along Pandora’s stellar landscapes, which are breathtaking not just in their complex, colorful realization (the set design will win the Academy Award), but in the depth of field Cameron achieves. When Jake and Neytiri take flight on their winged beasts and soar down and around a hive of floating mountains, you’ll feel each plummet in your gut. But when Cameron sandwiches his camera into tight quarters, focus issues occur and images warp to the point of distraction. This is a quibble, but it still was an annoyance and it should be noted.

So, consider it noted. Now, if you haven’t already done so, go and see one of the year’s most exhilarating films.

Grade: A-

View the trailer for "Avatar" below. Thoughts?

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  1. Katie ( megan) said...

    I liked the movie, but also found this review to be somewhat interesting. Give it a tumble.


  2. avatar movie review said...

    it’s a nice movie please visit my review

  3. Anonymous said...

    I give Avatar an A++. I saw Avatar twice the past week. This is the only movie that I've ever seen more than once where the 2nd viewing was even better than the 1st viewing. This movie brought tears to my eyes many times. I thought the story was just fine. The corporate guy and the paid mercenary were true to type. Yes there really are people like George W. Bush in the real world, Virginia. So the plot was fine by me. It is a plot full of strong human emotions, with much warmth. Watching it the 2nd time, I was even more struck by the portrayal of the delimma of Sully, the scientists, and the Na'vi. The 2nd time I saw it, I sat by a family who also were seeing it for the 2nd time. Out of 100, maybe 1 or 2 tiny flaws. Each time I came away from the movie knowing I'd just seen a great movie. It's an uplifting movie. And the visuals? Unbelievable.

  4. r4i kaart said...

    I just say that It's a magnificent technical achievement, a movie of such vast scale and ambition that you have to watch it on the big screen.

  5. Anonymous said...

    I'm sorry. But this movie was absolutely terrible. If you dress up a pile of crap with lots of pretty confetti, guess what, it's still a pile of crap. And that's what this movie is, if you were to pick one phrase to describe it I'd say "It's Pocahontas with Space Marines". The entire plot was cliche, and from what I've heard almost a direct rip from Orson Scott Card's Ender series. Sorry but the sob story was a bit too cliche, and the obvious try-hard connections to the war in Iraq were part of a theme that is all too popular in Hollywood. The movie for all it's flash was something that a highschool kid could write. Which is fine... for 30 minutes. and at 3 hours, this movie drags on way too long.

  6. howie said...

    The reviewer, Christopher Smith is greatly mistaken when he writes "(Sigourney Weaver, nicely channeling Ripley from Cameron’s “Alien” franchise)." Cameron was involved only with the second Alien movie. It is certainly not his franchise.

  7. ereba magi said...

    you are an idiot anonymous, i've read all of ender's game, speaker for the dead, xenocide, and children of the mind and this movie's plot does not steal anything from them. In my opinion i enjoyed the movie greatly

  8. Anonymous said...

    People are entitled to their opinions, but finding this movie "terrible" is just a terrible mistake! The only pitfalls into this movie could be entitles to the storyline itself and I 'm also a strong believer that the most important aspect of a movie should be the storyline that it offers! But the issue here is that, that general truth does not hampering the vividness into AVATAR! More positives into it than the negatives and you will be lot amazed when you leave the cinema than you entered it!

  9. Wise Up said...

    The Real Value of James Cameron's "Avatar"

    All the reviews of Avatar I’ve read seem to miss the real value of this visually stunning movie set on the fantastically alive planet of Pandora. While aspects of the plot are predictable, Avatar offers some powerful messages for our time once you scratch beneath the surface.

    For those who are not firmly entrenched in our mainstream culture’s cynicism and denial the movie, Avatar, is a powerful opportunity to sharply see and feel our current situation as a species that has lost its way. As we experience the lives of Pandora’s indigenous people our own predicament comes into contrast. We become visible as a species that has become trapped within its own culture and system of domination and control... cut off from what really enlivens us.

    It is surprising that a movie with some of the messages of Avatar could even come out of the corporate dominated “homeland” that the USA has become. I wonder how many of the people walking out of the cinema really get it... that we, the consumers (no longer citizens) of industrial civilization are on the side of the baddies in this film. Not just occasionally, randomly bad... not just a few bad eggs such as the cold-hearted leader of the mercenaries on Pandora, Colonel Quaritch... but that our whole way of life is portrayed for what it is... inherently, pathologically insane.

    When Quaritch declares “We’ll fight terror with terror.” he is speaking for us. We are the culture which for centuries has crushed all opposition to our vast insatiable resource demands. The Pandora native, Neytiri, speaks of their efforts to enlighten their would-be human “educators” and in one line says it all, “We couldn’t save them from their insanity.”

    That the writer and director, James Cameron, was given the freedom to convey his messages is probably due to his prior huge financial successes with Titanic and Terminator II. And, of course, he still had to include the requisite action and romance components for Avatar to receive the US $400 million in funding he needed.

    In the movie, the planet itself finally strikes back against the humans attempting to destroy nature for their short-sighted short-term gains. Some may disagree, but I see that there is symbolism intended here. Outside the movie, our own planet will also strike back. Perhaps not in as visually dramatic a way as on Pandora but in even more deadly terms over the time frame of the next 100 years according to the science on climate change. (For those still confused by all the hot air on the subject of climate change read the facts in Poles Apart: Beyond the shouting who’s right about climate change?)

    James Cameron is no fool. He could have just made a blockbuster. Instead, he is using one of the few remaining effective means of communicating with the masses in an age of information overload to say “wake up, look at the path we are on and get off it while we still can!” For we are, in fact, facing a perfect storm of six global threats of which climate change is but one.

    But unlike in Avatar, we don’t have another planet to flee back to.

    Mitch Lawrie
    Transition Strategist
    Wise Up To The Great Transition

  10. Dany said...

    i have 2 watch it ! still havent seen it :((

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  11. Anonymous said...

    Well Christopher, I guess you tossed all your movie education down the toilet by giving this movie such a high grade. Go with the flow dude, just go with the flow;)

    You see, the biggest issue here is - by giving it such praise, you have placed this film along with 2001: A Space Odyssey, Citizen Kane, The Battleship Potemkin, 8½ and The Bladerunner. But none of it matters - just go with flow dude hehehe;)

  12. watch free movies said...

    first, i want to say that this is the longest movie that i have ever seen.. but the story is very good and interesting...well, you might say it is so unrealistic, i mean how can u control an avator in a sleeping state.. like i say real good movie nonetheless

  13. Anonymous said...

    Most of these comments seem to have been written by people with a sixth grade education, which is exactly the same people for whom the movie was made. It is racist, sexist, sickeningly sentimental, filled with cliches, long, loud, boring, and of course (being American) violent, violent, violent. In the movie, as in life, the US marines are here to teach everyone in the world that only violence wins in the end, no matter if the end is the destruction of the planet.
    Wake up and use your minds!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  14. Anonymous said...

    did that last guy even see the movie?

  15. Anonymous said...

    Avatar was abysmal. "We're not in Kansas anymore. We're on Pandora." opens up your first look at Pandora? Are you kidding me?? Apparently a USC professor was brought in to develop a working language for the tribe in this movie, it's a complete shame that a similarly qualified professional was not brought in to write a working language for the human characters in the movie. The script was just awful. I was bored to tears through the over extended chase scenes and weak if not embarrassing story line. This is what nearly half a billion USD can get you? Perhaps if you plug your ears the entire movie you'd have a great experience staring at all the CGI effects, but then again you'd still have to read the subtitles and that in itself could be enough to ruin the movie.

  16. Anonymous said...

    I must admit i thought this movie was going to be a flop. After watching the trailer i thought no ones going to watch this! The storyline was weak,its basically pocahontas in space! But my sis forced me to watch it and after 3 long hours I took back all the negative things i said. Its Visually Amazing!!! For the 3 hours watching it i was in Pandora!(as chessey as it sounds) Even though you may not like the storyline we can pretty much agree the movie was captivating!!!Whether your a fan or not this movie changed the way we do CGI!

    Plus i would want to give it up for the talented Zoe Saldana for her role playing Neytiri!She was phenomenal!!!

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  18. Anonymous said...

    I'm 70 years old & now have seen the movie twice. I consider myself educated individual. I was throughly entertained & it brought back the "kid" factor in me. I do agree the storyline was the weakest element. I still would put it up there with the 3 movies I believe are the "great's 2001, Lawrence of Arabia & Bridge on the River Kwia for entertainment purposes.

  19. jenny said...

    the storyline was predictable and simplistic and it should have been boring. But I loved this movie! It transported me to another place and time and that, in my books makes this movie great. I was thoroughly entertained.

  20. Roumen said...

    This movie blew my mind! The graphics were stunning! The story was beautiful. For all the numbskulls over there who can't get it, this story resembles what happened to the American Indians, but it was a lot more profound. The contrast of tribes with arrows to the way these tribes communicate with the trees, animals, plants and everything around them asks the question - who is more developed: the humans with the fancy guns or the people who talk to every organism around them! These creatures have put another sector on top of the Maslow Pyramid, and it is the ability to sync with Nature and all around us. We, humans, have a long way to go before we can comprehend and grasp this 6th sense.
    Once you get over the spectacular graphics which no doubt are breath-taking you come to realize that maybe, just maybe there's a beautiful world somewhere, sometime. It makes you realize how primitive the human race is and that maybe, just maybe there's hope for us. You come to question whether money and pleasure are the pinnacle of human satisfaction, maybe they are just an illusion that you live well, they're just a whimper compared to happiness of another dimension, happiness coming from understanding what great part each and everyone of us plays in the Universe, happiness of understanding that each live is energy taken from Nature that eventually must be given back to Nature. Absolutely profound!

  21. Anonymous said...

    This was very, very poor remake of Dances with Wolves. I expected Larry Joshua to pop up and say, "Turned injun, didn't yeh." The only - and this is small - redeeming value was the beautiful love letter Cameron produced to CGI effects. But that does not overcome the crappy, crappy story.

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  24. Joel V said...

    I thought the story was amazing! To be able to travel into a completely new body has to be one of the coolest things ever. I hope we can do that one day. It was definitely one of the best movies that I've seen. I just finished watching Avatar on DISH Online and I love it more every time I watch it. As a customer and employee of DISH Network, I have been using DISH Online for a long time and it is one of the coolest sites. Just for being a customer of DISH, I have access to thousands of movies and TV shows that I can watch anytime I want! I definitely recommend taking a look at dishonline.com, because I know that it has something to offer everyone whether you are a customer or not!