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James Cameron's epic sci-fi fantasy film released in 2009.

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Believe the hype. Well, almost...

  • Dec 22, 2009

Let me get this out of the way first: Avatar is the best 3D movie ever made. Although it doesn't quite deliver on the lofty "revolution in film-making" claims made by director James Cameron, it is definitely the best example of the technology to date.

I went into this movie with quite a lot of expectation and I'm glad to say that I didn't leave the cinema disappointed.There is so much to admire about Avatar, mainly from a technical and visual standpoint. The skill and attention to detail employed by the artists, designers, animators and technicians to bring to life the world of Pandora, and its myriad of creatures, is nothing short of breathtaking. I would say that it's the most complete and believable realisation of an alien planet ever committed to film, surpassing even the recent Star Wars prequels in terms of detail. Science fiction movies of this scale, and with this much ambition, rarely come along, and I doubt one will be made like it for some time. Cameron set himself and his crew a mammoth task in making this film, and they've pulled it off with style.
The Na'vi alien race are a triumph. At times, they are scarily lifelike. At many points throughout the film, I completely forgot they were just data in a computer and accepted them as living, breathing creatures. Following their work on Lord of the Rings and King Kong, the talented team at WETA have now proved themselves to be the undisputed masters of realistic character creation and animation. The range of expression and movement these characters have is head and shoulders above anything seen in other movies.

Sadly, the story of Avatar just feels a little flat compared to the visuals. The film is littered with clunky, almost comic-book-style, expositional dialogue, and the material itself seems overly familiar. Nature Vs technology is a well worn idea, as is the "outsider accepted by the natives" concept. Direct comparisons can be drawn to other films - Dances With Wolves and The Last Samurai spring immediately to mind. And there are echoes of many other movies, from Ferngully and Last of the Mohicans to Cameron's own Aliens.
There are some nice character and dialogue moments, which are mostly saved for the hard-as-granite marine Col. Quaritch (played magnificently by Stephen Lang), and company slime-ball Parker Selfridge (essentially the Carter Burke character from Aliens), played by Giovanni Ribisi.
Sigourney Weaver does well with the material she's given, playing the stern but fair scientist, Dr Augustine, and Zoe Saldana gives an impressive "performance" as Na'vi warrior, Neytiri.
Sam Worthington is a likeable lead, although, strangely, I felt he was more charismatic as a Na'vi than he was in human form. Maybe that was deliberate to help bring the CGI creation to life.

James Horner's score is effective, if a little unmemorable and hackneyed. At times, he seems to riff on his own score from Aliens. Oh, and be warned, the song that plays over the end credits is horrible - I suspect Cameron and Horner are hoping to score another "My Heart Will Go On" style hit.

My other major gripe with the film is that it's about 20 mins too long. The movie feels a little flabby as a result.
Still, Avatar is movie not to be missed. It has many flaws, but there's no denying the sheer spectacle and enjoyment of it all.

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November 18, 2010
I was thinking Pocahontas and Fern gully when I watched this, still a good movie, great review.
June 04, 2010
This film was an experience and not just a mere movie. Despite its derivative plot, I really had fun with this movie and while it was a formula film, it had some things that made it more deeper than it actually seems to be at first impression. Nice review!
March 08, 2010
I agree with many of the same points you are making here. I'm writing up my review for the movie still. I had to see it twice before I felt comfortable tackling everything about it. I hope you check it out when it's complete and let me know what you think. :)
December 27, 2009
I liked it a bit more than you, but drew some of the same conclusions.
December 23, 2009
Thanks for sharing, Simon!  I've yet to catch Avatar (hoping to this weekend!), but I dig your assessment and breakdown of the film.  Another My Heart Will Go On, eh?  I guess I'm going to have to see if that's a good or a bad thing! :P
December 23, 2009
It's a bad thing. Trust me ;) Thanks, Devora!
December 24, 2009
Hahaha, then I hope I don't hear it everywhere like we all did that Celine Dion song!
More Avatar (2009 film) reviews
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review by . November 12, 2010
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*** out of ****   James Cameron knows how to build hype. He also knows how to spend money very well. “Avatar” is the result of how Cameron spends his time and money, being a technical masterpiece but none the less a terribly familiar trip. Sure, it’s very engaging. Sure, it looks pretty. But when watching it, I noticed that everything Cameron shows or does is something that has been done before. Some of his choices often result in “Avatar” being very predictable …
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review by . December 29, 2009
Avatar: relegates Lord of the Rings to 'old hat'
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review by . December 21, 2009
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review by . December 18, 2009
posted in Movie Hype
It's been years since James Cameron released a film.  The last movie we got from James Cameron was the mega-huge blockbuster Titanic way back in 1997.  When you make the biggest grossing film ever, you normally have to follow that up with something big.  For James Cameron it's Avatar.  An idea he's been tinkering with for over a decade (since before he even released Titanic, in fact).  This is the time when Cameron's film could finally be done.  When he first got the …
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Simon Lee Tranter ()
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Member Since: May 8, 2009
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About this movie


Avatar is a 2009 American science fiction epic film written and directed by James Cameron and starring Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Sigourney Weaver, Michelle Rodriguez and Stephen Lang. The film is set in the year 2154, when humans are mining a precious mineral called unobtanium on Pandora, a lush moon of a gas giant in the Alpha Centauri star system. The expansion of the mining colony threatens the continued existence of a local tribe of Na'vi—a sentient humanoid species indigenous to Pandora. The film's title refers to the genetically engineered Na'vi and human hybrid bodies used by several human characters to interact with the natives of Pandora.

Development on Avatar began in 1994, when Cameron wrote an 80-page scriptment for the film. Filming was supposed to take place after the completion of Cameron's 1997 film Titanic, for a planned release in 1999, but according to Cameron, the necessary technology was not yet available to achieve his vision of the film. Work on the language for the film's extraterrestrial beings began in summer 2005, and Cameron began developing the screenplay and fictional universe in early 2006.

Avatar was officially budgeted at US$237 million. Other estimates put the cost between $280 million and $310 million for production, and at $150 million for promotion. The film was released for traditional two-dimensional projectors, as well as in 3-D, using the RealD 3D, Dolby 3D, XpanD 3D and IMAX 3D formats, and also in ...

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Director: James Cameron
Genre: Action, Adventure, Drama, Fantasy, Sci-Fi
Release Date: December 18, 2009
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Screen Writer: James Cameron
Runtime: 162 minutes
Studio: 20th Century Fox
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