Rotten Tomatoes rating: 84%
My rating: Full Price!!
Avatar is the story of a paraplegic ex-Marine, Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) who finds himself thrust into hostilities on the beautiful, exotic alien planet of Pandora. As an Avatar, a human mind in an alien, or Na’vi, body, Jake is required to learn Na’vi custom and language to negotiate the buying of land. Driven by a desire to walk again, he finds himself torn between two worlds: the human fight for resources (ashamedly named Unobtainium), and that of the freedom of the indigenous people. As he attempts to bond with the alien society he finds himself in love with his reluctant mentor, Neytiri (Zoe Saldaña), the princess of the tribe. Then the shit hits the fan when Colonel Miles (Stephen Lang) steps over the leader of the avatar program (Sigourney Weaver) and decides to just wipe out the Na’vi and take full control of the planet. What follows is the battle for the planet.
The plot is basically Dances with Wolves or Dune for the ADHD generation. No longer can we brood and immerse in show character building interactions, now we rush through it all at pace and trust that the characters are so predictable that everyone knows we are meant to emote with them. So Jake falls for a Na’vi lady, but we only really have the film’s word for it. Sure, they interact as mentor and student and we have some nice physical contact as she teaches him the art of bow and arrow, but that’s about it. They attach in that standard movie format of 1+2=3, in that 1 = woman, 2 = man, and 3 = future child/love. This is the Star Wars level of attachment and comes off worse for it.
That said, you totally buy into the world of Pandora as it is presented. The human tech is fantastic and completely believable, mostly because it is technology that is currently being researched by the military. It looks worryingly close to the Halo tech, the Samson is basically the Vulture, and Dragon basically the Vulture, but the vehicles in this film are more believable. Human weapons are still projectile and their armour is still susceptible to four foot long arrows. The Na’vi world is believable also in its own little way. Everything interacts via tentacles, something sure to keep the Japanese enthralled, and the world is thought out well enough as a splendid, unified alien world.
This is greatly helped by the fantastic CGI with a near-three hour film carried by half a CG cast of characters. It’s mind-boggling. We’re not talking Jar-Jar Binks flopping all over the place in occasional scenes; we’re talking constant interaction throughout. I think the best way to look at this is from background forwards. The background is completely believable. Completely. The animals are damn near perfect, the only thing bringing it back being a lack of hair and non-terra colouration. The Na’vi are also really close but we are a long time away from picture perfect. Until CGI models have nerves which control blood vessels which run through tendons which join muscles which twitch under skin which raises hairs, we are not going to fully believe. The Na’vi look near perfect and carry well due to their individuality, but you know they’re CGI, but perhaps this is because we know this before entering. I wish no one had told us and we had came out thinking they had painted humans blue. The fact that the eyes focus on different light levels just won me over. It is a perfect mix of fantasy and sci-fi: Dragons vs. Helicopters, Arrows vs. Guns, and the fight is well matched.
Colour-wise this film is lush. That’s probably the best way to describe it. The film is unbelievably beautiful with pretty much every colour in the light spectrum. This is always a winner for me; compared to the brown and grey of most things these days (don’t get me started on faux black and white). No, this film is beautiful and has millions of beautiful flowers, glowing trees, multicoloured animals, fluorescent floaty things and blue chicks. The army base is generic green-grey and you would think they would change to match the colour of the planet but at the same time, this colour range really places their tech as human.
Cinematography-wise though, the film is a mixed bag. Usually it is beautifully filmed, everything we need to see is always on screen, but the filming suffers ever so slightly from the damage of 3D. Sometimes the shots are taken too wide just to show off that multi-layered quality, but at other times, when close-ups are shown, the 3D just disappears which begs the question; why it was there?
Regarding the 3D, yes it’s excellent, who gives a damn. If you really think 3D is needed in cinema you’re a cultural pollute. Go watch it, it’s good. Clap.
The music is slightly disappointing. This was scored by James Horner, the man who brought us the music for Aliens, Titanic, and Apollo 13. I must say I expected more. Most of the film’s music is just mediocre, nicely backing the scenes but not really bringing much to the experience. However, in the last hour he pulls out all the stops and it is just epic. Perhaps for some the great ending music is enough, but for me, I would have liked a bit more quality.
Colonel Miles’ dialogue is dull and most of the humans are portrayed in the predictably horrible evil species, Giovanni Ribisi is the standard evil tycoon and so on. The written element of the film is nothing very new but the look and the CGI is simply breathtaking. It didn’t, however, make me change my avatar on all my internet sites to one of a Na’vi. This may change cinema for a little while with the idiots that need 3D, but for now, we’ve seen it. But it is spectacular.