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'Avatar' Movie Review

About.com Rating 5 Star Rating
User Rating 4 Star Rating (7 Reviews)


Sam Worthington, Sigourney Weaver and Michelle Rodriguez in 'Avatar.'

Sam Worthington, Sigourney Weaver and Michelle Rodriguez in 'Avatar.'

© 20th Century Fox
I don't like performance capture films. I'm not a big supporter of 3D and I hate, yes, hate (not just dislike or loathe) wearing 3D glasses. And I didn't drink the Kool-Aid and start out all gung-ho about James Cameron's return to directing with Avatar. I thought the first trailer was ridiculous and just a showcase for Cameron's new favorite technology. The aliens, or whatever they were supposed to be, looked like Lord of the Rings elves only taller and with bad blue tans. Avatar, as far as I was concerned, didn't have a plot and was all about the effects. That's what I got out of the teaser trailer.
First impressions last, and Avatar didn't make a good first impression. But the 'never judge a book by its cover' saying could easily be reworked to 'never judge a film by its first trailer.' You have to see Avatar to believe it, and even then it's nearly impossible to register all of what's on screen. In fact, stop reading this now, get a ticket, go see Avatar, and then you try and describe the experience. I dare you. I double dare you.

The Story

Avatar is set in a future in which we're able to travel to distant planets and interact (read exploit) the natives. A huge corporation, backed by military forces to keep the peace, needs to mine a rare substance from the planet Pandora. Pandora's populated with humanoid creatures known as the Na'vi. The Na'vi have blue skin, yellow eyes, elf ears, are incredibly athletic, and tall. They're peaceful but can be fierce in battle, shooting arrows dipped in a toxin which kills almost instantaneously. In addition to the Na'vi, the planet is full of exotic-looking, dinosaurish creatures, humongous birds which can be ridden in battle, and phosphorescent plants.

The substance the corporation is on Pandora to mine is located at the base of a giant tree, which is also the spiritual center of the Na'vi. The corporation is using a two-pronged attack to get to the substance. They've got the military out making excursions into hostile territory to try to get to the material. There's also a scientific research arm of the company that's working on making inroads with the natives through the use of avatars.

Sam Worthington and Zoe Saldana in 'Avatar.'

Sam Worthington and Zoe Saldana in 'Avatar.'

© 20th Century Fox
Mixing human and Na'vi DNA, creatures who look like the Na'vi can be manipulated by scientists linked to their own avatar. The scientist rests in a hyperbaric chamber, connects to his/her avatar, and thus is able to interact with the Na'vi. The head of the research program is Dr. Grace Augustine (Sigourney Weaver), a chain-smoking, no-nonsense scientist who doesn't tolerate fools. Under her guidance, the Na'vi have learned to speak some English and together they're working on trying to come to a peaceful solution.

Into this already touchy situation comes ex-Marine Jake Sully (Sam Worthington). Jake's lost the use of his legs and is recruited into the avatar program with the promise he'll be approved for the costly surgery that will let him walk again. Because his now-deceased twin brother was a scientist whose DNA was used to create an avatar, Jake can slip right into the program without any real training.

Jake's first outing in avatar form is quite an awakening. In his Na'vi form, Jake can run and is in complete control of all of his motor functions. He doesn't need a wheelchair, and the experience is exhilaratingly freeing. It's also fraught with danger, which he ignores in order to explore Pandora.

On his first trip outside the company's base, Jake winds up being attacked and is cut off from the rest of the research unit. Forced to spend the night in an alien environment he knows nothing about, Jake only survives because he's rescued by Neytiri (Zoe Saldana), a powerful Na'vi who decides not to kill him only after the interference of spirits that look like tiny jellyfish.

Believing she's received a sign from her ancient ancestors that Jake is meant for something special, Neytiri takes him under her wing, training him to survive on Pandora, and teaching him the ways of the Na'vi. As Jake learns more about these incredible creatures and their wondrous planet, he becomes fascinated with their culture, ultimately feeling more at home and more comfortable in avatar form among the Na'vi than back on the base with his human coworkers. He also falls in love with his teacher, a relationship that's frowned upon by her tribe.

As the ultimate showdown approaches, Jake's forced to take sides. The battle over the tree and the fight for the survival of the Na'vis' way of life dominates the last 40 minutes or so of Avatar, with James Cameron orchestrating a collision of the two races that's epic in scope.

The Bottom Line

What Cameron's done is deliver on every single promise he made regarding this passion project of his that's been a dozen years in the making. Avatar will change the way films are made and the way we watch movies forever. I don't care how he did it, what was involved in the process, or how much money he spent (although I believe every dollar of his budget is up on that screen). Don't tell me the mechanics behind it. I don't want to spoil the magical time I had sitting through 2 hours and 40 minutes of mind-blowing, visually striking effects, which made for a completely transcendental movie-going experience, by taking a peek behind the curtain.

Zoe Saldana as Neytiri in 'Avatar.'

Zoe Saldana as Neytiri in 'Avatar.'

© 20th Century Fox
What Christopher Nolan did for me with Batman Begins, James Cameron does with Avatar. Nolan made me care about a comic book superhero; Cameron made me a believer that performance capture and 3-D are viable art forms and not just annoyances. Gone are the soulless eyes and the mannequin-like quality of the skin we see in Polar Express and A Christmas Carol. Avatar is state-of-the-art filmmaking at its finest.

Avatar will blow your mind. I don't use sentences like that; it sounds like I've been time-warped to the '60s. But Avatar is guaranteed to knock your socks off. The acting is superb, the graphics are extraordinary, and the story - although a form of it's been done hundreds of times before - was compelling enough to make you forget you're watching completely made up creatures on a planet that doesn't exist.

Please James Cameron, visit Pandora again sometime soon. Don't wait another 10 years between movies. I want a return trip to this beautiful alien planet as quickly as possible. I plan on seeing Avatar again, in digital 3-D, and trust me, when you watch movies for a living it's very seldom you ever want to see a film twice in theaters.

Avatar is the event film of 2009. In a year where nearly every major release didn't live up to its hype, James Cameron's Avatar exceeded every expectation. I didn't expect to ever say this but...here it comes...Avatar is my favorite movie of 2009.


Avatar is rated PG-13 for intense epic battle sequences and warfare, sensuality, language and some smoking.

Theatrical Release: December 18, 2009

User Reviews

Reviews for this section have been closed.

 5 out of 5

Movie Review : A Mission to find Our Own Trueself. We are like a baby if we don’t know where we live in, what are the elements that supports human life. Do we treasure it. Do we know what we are doing now exactly? There are three main groups in this world, Those who study the nature, to maintain the nature. Those who make profit out of the nature, make use of those who don’t know anything. Those who don’t know anything and ignore everything about nature. Everyone of us could be anything if we learn it patiently, smart, even at times might sacrifice something. But do we know what we really want, need and our responsibilities? Now, which groups are we belong to? Which group is having the majority numbers now at this moment? The movie emphasizes connection with the bird, horse, trees, tribes, natures. Did Eywa really fight back? As human, who take our country or homeland, we would probably think of fighting back. As animal, being attack, would probably know how to protect themselves by making their territory. As plant, being attack, would probably try to stay alive if there is water and sun. As earth, being attack, would you know how does it fight back? *As earth fight back, that will be the day of the connection between bird, horse, trees, tribes, natures has been broken seriously. * Do we look like part of the biological link then? What is our effort so far? The Question again: Are we still a “baby”? Knowing “NOTHING” about ourself?

15 out of 17 people found this helpful.

See all 7 reviews

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