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

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A Worthwhile trip to Pandora, courtesy of James Cameron

  • Nov 12, 2010
*** 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 and lacking the human emotion of a life-time, but it’s an entertaining, thrilling film overall. It’s unforgettable only because of the advance in technology that it presents. It indeed does break the mold, but then again so did Peter Jackson’s “King Kong”, which got a lot less recognition for its technical beauty. I guess “Avatar” just looks prettier to some. Thankfully I still like pretty things. Otherwise, I would have been bored out of my mind. However, I cannot truly imagine a sane human being to be bored by such a visually stunning film. Only the heartless will be uninspired. And I mean it when I say that. This is a genuinely well directed film that is far from the masterpiece that some will claim it is. Most people just simply don’t know how to look at the film correctly, resulting in the “easy” opinion: It’s a perfect movie. But “Avatar” is not a perfect movie. James Cameron has never made a perfect movie, to say the least. And I expect that he never will. Although I’m not a big fan of his works, I praise “Avatar” for looking finer than any film out there. I also praise Cameron for making Two Hours and Forty Minutes feel like a mere Hour and a Half. It goes by pretty damn fast. Thank god for speedy story-telling.

“Avatar” begins with a sense of wondrous originality. It stays original for quite some time, but alas is becomes a clone of “Dances with Wolves”. It can’t be called a direct ripoff of “Wolves”, but it feels awfully similar. So enjoy the originality while it lasts. And then enjoy the less original aspects of the plot. Ex-Marine, handicapped Jake Sully is called in to the planet of Pandora after his brother is unexpectedly killed. The planet of Pandora is inhabited by blue, impish beings called “Na’vi” as well as other creatures. Each one of these creatures is most likely dangerous, and the Na’vi themselves aren’t exactly easy kills. Sully is asked to participate in the “Avatar Program”. This program/operation is meant to place marines/ex-marines in the shoes of a Na’vi via an avatar body. Sully agrees, since temptations are thrown at him (if he succeeds, he gets his legs back) like the forceful bullets of his “allies”. Jake goes in willingly, and experiences the world of Pandora first hand. On the first day, he battles resident creatures of Pandora and befriends the locals. His first encounter with the natives is that of Neytiri, a female Na’vi. They form a strong bond, and Jake agrees to plunge further into the world of the natives in order to gather information. All goes wrong when Jake’s relationship with the natives grows a bit too strong, and soon he must pick a side. Unfortunately, the “forces” who were presumably on his side want to go in and directly kill the Na’vi for their own greedy pleasures. In the end, Cameron seems to be depicting a familiar concept: Humans are often cruel, greedy, and careless of their often violent actions. The story is easily copying “Dances with Wolves”, but it’s not a terribly bad tale none the less. It is entertaining and mostly absorbing due to Cameron’s more-so original universe that he’d been working on for much longer (than the actual plot). The creatures are nice looking, but the characters don’t always feel much fleshed out. But at least Cameron does the job right. “Avatar” looks very pretty. That’s all that the job really called for.

Ah, Sam Worthington. I’m not really that fond of him. He plays the hero, Jake Sully, pretty decently. I can’t say that it’s a star turn for him, and it’s not a particularly good performance. But I will admit that there was something likable about the way Worthington portrays his character and almost proves himself worthy. Maybe someday he’ll actually do it. Maybe someday, I’ll stop hating him. But not yet. Zoe Saldana gets herself Na’vi-fied and is shot entirely with motion capture technology. Needless to say, Saldana is still as mediocre as ever. Sometimes, she can be quite annoying, but at other times she can serve a damn good purpose. Sigourney Weaver is as lovely (and pleasant) as ever. It’s good to see her return to the world of James Cameron. Dileep Rao is as awesome as always (goddamn it, I’m waiting on a lead role for him!), and Giovanni Ribisi is as decent as ever. Nothing too new here. Some good talents here, and some more decent ones there. I can’t say I was particularly surprised. But at least James Cameron can give me hope that maybe Sam Worthington will actually do some real acting one of these days.

“Avatar” is yet another visually stunning effort from James Cameron. He always knows how to keep the audience hooked with CGI, and it often seems as if Cameron knows his audience well. He is an intelligent director because he seems to know pop culture like the back of his hand. He can almost instantly summon the “new thing in filmmaking” like that, although it always takes time for him to shoot it, create it, and distribute it. He likes taking his time, clearly. “Avatar” is abundant with lots of colors and flowers as well as creatures and blue monkey people. There is not a dull moment within the film, and it’s constantly entertaining throughout. The world of Pandora is very, very lush with life and color. The film just never stops looking beautiful. The film could be said to be “well shot”, since as far as editing and cinematography goes, this is on the top of the list for sure. The music in the film is pretty decent, although the Leona Lewis song essentially ruined it. Therefore, the end credits made me very, very depressed. All and all, “Avatar” has enough CGI and action sequences to appeal to a large crowd. Some will criticize it because they have the unfortunate inability to sit through a two and a half hour film, and others will choose to dislike it simply to be “different”. I can’t say I consider the film to be a landmark, but it was very good none the less. It’s genuine entertainment that never lets go of its grasp on the audience. It’s a film that most people will enjoy out of pure awe.

James Cameron’s newest film is a visual wonder indeed. Not so much a narrative tale of powerful proportions, but a very much watchable, entertaining trip to Pandora. It’s one of a kind in its own way, although it should not be considered flawless. It has a damn good ways to go, as does every James Cameron film. It’s not necessarily moving entertainment, although at some moments, I was oddly touched. The themes of the film were very strong in some instances, although much weaker in others. Overall, I was pretty satisfied with the experience. This is a high budget epic that really works. It’s yet another example of an easy way to get rich with all the money that you have. Cameron once again proves that you can have CGI, you can have semi-good actors, but you can’t always be King of the World. That’s damn right.


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November 14, 2010
Excellent review, I liked this movie but it was way over hyped.
December 06, 2010
(Somewhat) Agreed.
November 13, 2010
nice review...btw, do you go on a 1-10 scale?
November 13, 2010
Yeah, I usually do. Why?
November 13, 2010
Oh, just curious, everyone rates their movies differently in this site. I noticed that your review sometimes has a 3 rating but upon reading the review, you liked the movie. Perhaps you can add a 7/10 or 4/10 and such at the bottom....just a suggestion. I actually think a 10 scale is better than a 5 scale but I got used to the 5 star scale.

This is a great review, you get the full 3 thumb spread from me.
November 17, 2010
I've featured this one. Please send me a message which reviews you see as one of your bests. I am working on something to highlight both our newer and veteran members.
November 17, 2010
I will definitely do that, sir!
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Ryan J. Marshall ()
It's very likely that the only kind of reviews I'll ever post here are movie reviews. I'm very passionate about film; and at this point, it pretty much controls my life. Film gives us a purpose; … more
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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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