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

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All flash and no substance. It sickens me. 21%

  • Jul 4, 2011
Okay, first of all, I'd like to say that when I watched this, I didn't have high expectations for it and even with that mindset, I still felt quite cheated when Avatar was over. What really amazes me is that this is the biggest box office success in cinema history, even though this movie wasn't groundbreaking in any area, save for those graphics, but great graphics alone never make a great movie. Avatar is no different from the overpriced, mindless swill that Michael Bay, Jerry Bruckheimer, and Roland Emmerich are puking out frequently. And what really saddens me is that this came from James Cameron, who is after all, the guy who made some of the most notable films in the sci-fi/action genre, which are Aliens and the first two Terminator movies. For him to fall from grace like this is just saddening. Anyway, let's break it down.


For a movie with so much time and money spent on it, I was really disappointed with the fact that Avatar's plot is nothing more than a sci-fi themed CGI wankfest interpretation of Pocahontas and Dances with Wolves. 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. A paraplegic Marine named Jake Sully is sent to spy on the Na'vi with an artificial Na'vi body referred to as an Avatar. However, Jake has a change of heart and helps the Na'vi fight. In other words, it can be broken down into the following simple structure.

"Bad guys send in spy disguised as one of the good guys to get information about them as to conveniently subjugate them, but spy has change of heart and helps the good guys fight bad guys."

Sounds just like the previously mentioned movies. If you watched a lot of movies, you can predict exactly what's going to happen as the movie progresses because this movie doing something original will throw off its balance in a fashion similar to a rhinoceros trying to give a blue whale and a prairie dog a piggyback ride while riding a unicycle. It has the predictable romantic development with the main male and female leads, the numerous "deus ex machina" actions done solely for the convenience of the plot and characters, and so much other predictable and corny traits that make this movie such a bore. A fine example of one of these many "deus ex machina" moments has to be when Jake (in Avatar form) manages to heavily damage a giant gunship with the Colonel (main bad guy) and as the gunship is falling down, the Colonel dons an armed mecha suit and just barely gets out of the plummeting gunship. Of course, this has to happen because if it didn't, we wouldn't get that mandatory yet predictable "awesome epic showdown" between the hero and the villain. In fact, my sister-in-law verbally predicted the said showdown as the Colonel was escaping the gunship.


Another nail in Avatar's coffin was the characters. I didn't care about any of them because they were all so stereotypical and flat. Sully was the "uncertain main lead," Grace was the "concerned ultra-smart scientist," and the Colonel was the "tough guy 'lets kill everything' army man," and Neytiri is the "sexy, smart, and benevolent native-type princess." None of them were interesting and morally speaking, were all one-sided. I HATE this because I find it so cliche and simple to belt out. I would have preferred that the characters had more complexity to their beliefs and reasoning, but we don't get that here.


Adding themes to movies can enhance them greatly, but if they're obvious and one-sided, they add next to no value to the film. And in Avatar's case, the themes and social commentary are one-sided and obvious. It sickens me as to how people are bleating about how "great" Avatar's message is about imperialism and destroying the environment. Though when you take the movie's theme about being environmentally conscious into consideration, it's extremely laughable because its one-dimensional nature brings it on the level of such one-sided slop like Ferngully, Wall-E, Captain Planet, and On Deadly Ground. While I'm personally not against taking measures to benefit the environment, I cringe at the whole "lets live in harmony with nature and take down technological progress" notion because I doubt that people will easily give up the technology that's essential to their lives (such as houses, computers, and cars) for the sake of benefiting the environment. At least with Princess Mononoke, it displayed the ecology message in a more realistic and complex manner. The messages about imperialism and militarism aren't any better because they too, are so obvious and one-sided. Of course, corporations with mercenary aid taking over other chunks of land is certainly a detestable thing, but the reasoning for it is so tacky and unrealistic. The only reasoning behind these heinous actions is that "the corporation needs a profit." What about the fact that this movie hints that Earth is low on natural resources and needs to power its civilization? Or how about people working in the energy industry needing a paycheck to feed their families? Of course, it has to be this simple and dumbed-down because if there was any complexity to these issues, mainstream audiences would be confused and the movie wouldn't have generated the unbelievably huge profit it got.


The only thing Avatar has going for it is the outstanding special effects and CGI used in the movie. Indeed, the imagery is unbelievable, and it's pretty obvious as to where a huge chunk of Avatar's $500 million budget went. I personally loved the military vehicles and weapons displayed in this movie because of the fact that I have an interest in military technology and the fact that while the vehicles and weapons were indeed futuristic, their appearances and functions were still largely based off current military technology. Everything else looked fabulous as well since every little detail hasn't been skimped on any object, animate or inanimate. However, I must scorn the idealistic physiques of the Na'vi because all of them looked like humanoid cat alien supermodels. Would a little physical diversity be too much to ask for? I guess it was another way for Cameron to show how the Na'vi have life down to a "T" as compared to those oh-so-evil humans.


If you want James Cameron's prime films, go check out Aliens and the first two Terminator movies instead of this (if you haven't already). If you want the best sci-fi/action film of 2009, go check out District 9 instead of Avatar because D9, while a little overrated, has much more believable and interesting characters with much cooler action scenes with more subtle, believable messages about humanity. D9 also had some good special effects to boot, almost as good as those in Avatar. With all of this good stuff, you might wonder how big D9's budget was. District 9's budget was $32 million, less than 1/15th of Avatar's. Just comes to show that you don't need to spend half a billion dollars to make a worthwhile movie, you just need interesting characters with engaging plots. Now if only James Cameron believed in those principles again, which made most of his films in the 80's and early 90's the classics people remember them as.

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July 26, 2011
Interesting points you mentioned. I agree with some and disagree with others, most notably the Neytiri character and final epic battle. Neytiri was a strong, non-comprising female lead and reminded me of many of Cameron's other lead females. Hell, she left Sully to die during one of the battle scenes once she realized where his loyalties lay. She never compromised her love for Pandora or her people. And in fact, she was the one who killed the evil colonel in the final battle. I felt that was a powerful message. She saved Sully and stopped the savage monster that was tearing apart her world. She was truly a leader for her people.
July 17, 2011
You've my effusive thanks for this comprehensive warning, encapsulating and emphasizing so much else that I've heard and read about this flick. According to that sidebar wiki, liberal estimates for this film's production expenses total $310M - its average minute costed nearly $2 million!

Your praise for this picture's CG is well-received, but I've seen clips of it on television and YouTube, and to my eyes, it merely looks like CG - first-rate CG, but nothing likely to fool my eyes. Doubtless, the vividity and realism of this imaging is enhanced by 2d and IMAX projection, but at such extravagant cost, I'd expect better, and much more inspired character designs.
July 05, 2011
much as I liked this one when I first saw it, I have to admit it doesn't hold up to repeat viewings. It is a good experience but the plot is very contrived. Nice review
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David Kozak ()
I'm a morbid cynic who thinks very, very differently from most other people. Chances are, if the majority says X is the greatest in its category, I'll disagree with that notion, because I tend … more
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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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