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

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Just Cause Everyone Says It's Good Doesn't Make It Good

  • Jan 4, 2010
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Simply put James Cameron's "Avatar" is terrible.  The story is one cliche after another, with plot elements that all worked better in previous movies.  Basically this film is "Dances With Wolves" with substantially better graphics but with a story that is a mere shadow of Kevin Costner's touching and powerful Academy Award winning film.  Everything is telegraphed well in advance, from the total lack of subtelty in the foreshadowing of the Toruk to the bad video game feel of the hand to hand combat between Stephen Lang's Col. Quaritch and Sam Worthington's Jake (which, by the way, I liked a lot more when it was final scene of "Aliens").  Beyond Jake, who as the protagonist is required to have his character evolve, the only person who shows even the slightest character development is Giovanni Ribisi's Parker Selfridge, and I credit the actor and not the script for that (his name is "Selfridge," get it, "selfish," huh, huh, get it?).  Cameron, as a director, is good, but unlike his previous action films, ie "Aliens," "Terminator 2," and "the Abyss," in which a story that could collapse under its own weight is helped out by a fantastic ensemble cast, here we are given Sam Worthington who does not seem capable of the same feat of acting strength performed by someone as charismatic as Sigourney Weaver, Bill Paxton, Ed Harris, or Arnold Schwarzenneger.  The same can be said of the supporting cast who, outside of Weaver and Ribisi, seem largely incapable of being anything beyond snide (Michelle Rodriguez), dopey (Joel David Moore), or bitter/angry (Stephen Lang).

That said, the film does have certain remarkable qualities.  As previously mentioned, Cameron is a very talented director and has an eye for action.  When he stops the characters from talking and lets the story be shown instead of told the film gains a certain grace, a sense of momentum.  The non-hand to hand fighting is well choreographed and avoids the obviousness the rest of the film falls victim too.  Then there's Zoe Saldana, a breath of fresh air in this otherwise stale afair.  She is capable of showing a wide range of emotions and sentiments, even beneath a computer generated frame, and is an actor who, if her character were switched with the static and predictable Jake, might have carried this film to greatness as Weaver and Linda Hamilton did in previous Cameron vehicles.  Which brings me to the trademark of all Cameron films: cutting edge technology.  "Wow" is the only thing I can say about the graphics; as with all of his previous films Cameron hits a homerun in the visual department.  The film looks real, it looks like it was filmed on Pandora, not in front of a green screen.  In the end, though, Saldana, Weaver, Ribisi and all the computer graphics in the world don't make up for a story that has been told a thousand times, and told better most of those times.   

And one final comment.  Cameron hired USC professors to invent a real language for the Na'vi and to train Weaver how a botanists work is done to make the film as realistic as possible, and yet he throws the basic elements of physics out the window.  I have no problem suspending my disbelief at a movie, I believe the avatar technology is possible, I believe faster than or near light speed travel is possible, and I absolutely believe in the existence of sentient lifeforms on alien worlds, but that does not mean I will simply forget 6th grade physics.  Gravity is a law, not a suggestion.  I would even be fine if Cameron put in a throw away line like "the unusual biodiversity of Pandora allows for certain laws of physics to be bent or broken," but we are given nothing, just floating mountains, mocking the intelligence of everyone in the theater who has gone beyond elementary school.

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February 04, 2010
Well said. I think we agree on many aspects of this film & you're review mirrors mine in many ways.
January 06, 2010
You're dead-on in regards to the story (perhaps South Park's "Dances With Smurfs" captured this best), but for me, the story is just one piece of the entire movie experience. I didn't get too bent out of shape that the story is a derivative of something else I've already seen, as the rest of the pieces more than made up for it. In some ways, I thought it was good that you didn't have to think too hard to follow this story so you could spend more energy just taking in the Pandora world. (although, I too would have liked at least some explanation as to why the mountains could float...) Anyway, even though I thoroughly enjoyed this movie, I really enjoyed reading your take on it. Thanks for the review!
January 05, 2010
I've been fighting off everyone who's wanted me to see this because it seems to be just one overblown visual effects extravaganza. Ever rave review has include the fact that it's unoriginal and has been done many times before. For someone like me who prizes originality and is bored by speical effects, this movie seems like a waste of time. And yet I'm afraid I'll miss something if I don't see it.
January 07, 2010
I saw it twice, one with the 3D and the other w/out; while I thought the 3D thing was great, I liked the way the movie felt when I saw it w/out the 3D gimmick, made me dissect the story much more.
January 08, 2010
Maybe I HAVE to see it in 3D so that the unoriginality of the story won't bother me so much and I won't constantly be thinking how many Maurice Devereaux or Jet Eller movies could have bee made for what this flick cost.
January 30, 2010
Nope. The negative reviews I've read have comvinced me that this movie is everything I dislike in a film. I'll wait.
February 01, 2010
I have one, that's why I'm being careful about how I use it. The fact that everyone is saying that the big screen 3D are the only way to see it is turning me off more and more. it sounds like a special effects extravaganza. Now if it can hold up on my 25" Tv, then I'll know it's good.
January 05, 2010
You are a much more critical movie viewer than I will ever be. I was totally taken in by this movie, suspended any ideas of scientific laws (who can be REALLY be made into an avatar, for example), and just had a good time. Although I liked the character of Jake, I would have appreciated a bit of background to see whether, by joining the tribe, he was leaving anything behind. In general Jake seemed to be a real military guy who was enraptured by the island people. The scenery was astounding. This was an eye-opening movie for me --and shows me what the next century of movie-making will be.
January 04, 2010
Glad to see the "other side of things" in this review. I really have no interest in seeing this movie. Even though I haven't even seen it I feel like I agree with what you said completely, lol.
January 04, 2010
Are you a well-versed scientifically?  Because that science fact completely flew over my head while I was watching to movie and still continues to do so :P  I thought this movie was pretty cool, so I think that we're going to have to agree to disagree, but I still enjoyed reading your review.  Thanks for sharing, Justin!
January 04, 2010
I dug the film, so I'm not going to nit pick at those things too much. Of course, I'm also no science fiend, so it didn't bother me much! Nothing wrong with going against the grain if he feels that way. You can take a Voltaire stance on it, "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it" ;)
More Avatar (2009 film) reviews
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review by . November 12, 2010
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review by . February 21, 2011
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Thats Right I Didn't like this movie
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review by . December 29, 2009
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Justin Freiberg ()
Ranked #526
I love art, all forms of art. Be they painting or film or literature or dance or scotch Ilove all the beauty that man has brought forth on this planet, from the earliest cave drawings to thepure blinding … 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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