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

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Best to see in 3-d -- as an immersive experience it's astonishing, as a movie it's been done before

  • Dec 21, 2009
It's best not to compare Avatar 3-D to an ordinary movie. It's more like one of those rides at an amusement park, where you put on 3-D glasses and sit in a moving chair, or like an Imax event, where what you really want is not so much a story but an experience, to see something new, something you've never seen before. Most of those films do not really have brilliant stories behind them, and the narration in Imax films is usually pretty preachy, but what you get from them is a few moments of immersion, an exciting new experience.

The basic plot line of this one is Dances with Wolves (or Pocahontas or The Last Samurai) in space, but each of those was, in its own way, a pretty powerful movie, in spite of everything that might be said about the bluntness of its message. Avatar combines the emotional impact and message of those films - of a vibrant culture and way of life on the brink of destruction by armies with big guns, and of a lone person who discovers how terrible that loss will be - and combines that message with the astonishing richness of a whole new world, with alien characters who come vividly to life and breath with realistic performances, and with incredible visuals that never quite overwhelm the characters.

Jake Sully is a paraplegic and former military special forces soldier, who is invited to take the place of his deceased twin brother on a mission to make contact on an alien planet. The planet is Pandora, and it is inhospitable to human life, so to really get close a select few are linked to genetically engineered hybrid human-alien "avatars" that they control with their minds while their bodies lie dormant. Best of all, linking with his brother's avatar gives Jake the experience of being whole again, of running and moving in ways he couldn't even have managed with his human body before the unmentioned crippling incident. He ends up befriending the Na'avi natives, and (somehow) ends up being initiated into their tribal wisdom in the course of a few months (perhaps implausible, but it works in the story). The only problem is, that was the deadline he faced for convincing the natives to leave their lands and make way for a major mining operation beneath their sacred tree. Initially gung-ho for the mission, Jake begins to identify with the Na'avi, leaving him with the important question where his loyalties lie when the military-industrial mining corporation decides to give up on diplomacy and use force.

Okay, so this is a James Cameron film, which means it wears its message on its sleeve, which means it will feature over the top and one-dimensional villains and gruff but lovable heroes, but which also means that it will show you something you've never quite seen before in film. For those who go into this looking to poke holes in the script, there are holes to be found - as a story this is not quite on the level of the The Lord of the Rings Trilogy trilogy. Still it's quite clever and complex in its own way, and in spite of the novelty of its look, this is classic Hollywood style epic storytelling, with a central character whose personal quest comes to coincide with a cause much larger than him, with a romantic subplot whose successful outcome is tied to the fate of the world. You can poke holes in most of the major classic Hollywood films too, if that's what rocks your boat, but if you are in the mood for a truly moving and immersive motion picture experience, best to let go of the inner critic and prepare to be overwhelmed and astonished. I was enchanted, and couldn't take my eyes off of the screen, and didn't want it to be over when it was. This is epic filmmaking, that has to be seen to be believed, and I strongly recommend that you see it in 3-d in theaters. This is the first "live action" film where I've seen 3-d that didn't feel like a gimmick - but was completely in the service of creating an immersive theatrical experience. This might be worth watching in 2-d and dvd and Blu-ray - though I expect on that level it'll lose much of its impact and the cliches in the story will be more prominent - but it's a unique and powerful event that really ought to be seen in a large screen 3-d theater.

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November 18, 2010
Yeah Pocahontas for sure and also Fern Gully, great review.
More Avatar (2009 film) reviews
review by . March 09, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
   I was waiting to write this review for a while because I had only seen it in 3D. I was utterly amazed because it was the first 3D movie I had ever seen. I wanted to go straight home and write a review giving it a +5 rating. Upon talking with others who had seen the movie and reading various criticisms and analyzes of the film, I began to doubt my initial reaction. Was I letting the CGI effects and the 3D elements hype the movie to a level it didn't deserve? So, I was determined …
review by . February 23, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
James Cameron, it seems to me, creates wonderful dishware in which to place the most nourishing and satisfying of those things we humans crave. All those J. Cameron-imprinted tureens and goblets took rare imagination and meticulous craftsmanship to make. Just one piece can cost a Wall Street banker's annual bonus. They boggle. But look inside that tureen and there ain't no vichyssoise. Take Avatar.       This is one of the most beautiful movies you'll ever hope …
review by . January 30, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Fly me to the moon
              It’s when Adventure meets Art,  you’ve got the human spirit all throughout this film. The good, the bad.   Learning is a way of life. Innocence is inherent. Trust in the invisible and the unknown. The spirit within each living thing. Every day is an adventure. Entertainment at its summit!   A Dreamland. A Wonderful World. A Stunning Visual. An Incredible Imagination. A World beyond words …
review by . March 01, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Great Ride & Groundbreaking Movie!
Well, here goes nothing.  I've not really done movie reviews before, and honestly am intimidated to a degree by the major film buffs who are incredibly adept at breaking down plots, themes, and drawing parallels to other films.  This is simply my totally novice, average schmo-ette attempt to share my thoughts ... so please be kind : )      My main take-aways: This will be the Star Wars for my young daughter's generation. I wanted to BECOME one of …
review by . November 12, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
*** 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 …
review by . February 21, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Thats Right I Didn't like this movie
Avatar is your basic outsider/broken dude finds himself in a place he dosent belong/fit in. And after being there a while he finds himself and he's a new man. Avatar felt like a play it safe movie to me. It was predictable and we've literally seen movies like this a thousand times. The 3-D in my opinion didnt really add anything to the film. So after all that why am I giving this movie a 3 and a half? Because Avatar is one of the most awe-inspiring movies Ive seen in a long time. I loved …
review by . December 29, 2009
Avatar: relegates Lord of the Rings to 'old hat'
 I bow to our friend, who prefaced his astonished and profound appreciation of the Avatar movie with "It drives me nuts.." (that they have to include the dominator thing.....) "But...."      The conversation that ensued resulted in all 8 of us (4 couples) going to IMax for the experience (that one couple's second viewing). We came out of there with 'sea legs' and we're still re-orienting.      It's significant in my little Universe …
review by . December 21, 2009
posted in Movie Hype
4 ½ + Stars: Absorbing Fantasy Adventure and Thought-Povoking Themes Make This a Blockbuster!
             Let’s get one thing out of the way, James Cameron’s “AVATAR” is the most expensive film ever made; with a staggering budget of $ 230 million (there’s a rumor that they ended up spending $ 260 mil), expectations for the film is very high. Cameron had impressed me with “Aliens”, “The Abyss”, Terminator and T2: Judgment Day” but I decided to keep my expectations low. He won …
review by . December 18, 2009
The Greatest Science Fiction Epic of All Time!
James Cameron has outdone himself!  He may have actually outdone the whole entire film industry.  Never in my life have I seen a film so brilliant and beautiful that it made me rethink the whole way in which I look at film.  Avatar is what movies are all about; transporting you into the film and making you feel as if you're really there.  Mr. Cameron has accomplished that with they way in which he has revolutionized the 3D genre of filmmaking.  Avatar isn't just another …
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 …
About the reviewer
Nathan Andersen ()
I teach philosophy at Eckerd College, in Saint Petersburg, Florida.      I run an award-winning International Cinema series in Tampa Bay (www.eckerd.edu/ic), and am co-director of … 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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