A Review by Jason L. King
Starring: Sam Worthington, Sigourney Weaver, Giovanni Ribisi, Michelle Rodriguez
Directed by: James Cameron
Rated: PG-13 for intense epic battle sequences & warfare, sensuality, language & smoking.
Movie Released: 2009
Everywhere you turn someone is telling you that Avatar just may be the next best thing since sliced bread. James Cameron’s December blockbuster is barreling forward trying to take down Cameron’s previous box office record set with Titanic years before. I’ve talked to people who have seen it 3 or 4 times, I’ve read reviews that say going forth Hollywood will talk about films in terms of “before Avatar” and “after Avatar.” Needless to say, the film is getting a lot of positive press, but the big question for those who haven’t seen the film is if it is worth getting off the couch for?
My focus on BoxOfficeBoredom.com has been to try and give you all alternatives to the box office, not because I don’t think theater is a great thing, after all that’s how I make my living. But instead, I know that people who really love movies just don’t always have the time or the money to make it to every flick on the big screen. And with the ever changing world of high definition televisions and surround sound that can stand toe to toe with a theater in your own living room, sometimes a true cinema geek just wants to stay home. However, Cameron’s Avatar just may be a film you’ll want to leave your comfy chair for.
Set in the distant future, Avatar is the tale of a wheelchair bound marine named Jake Sully who signs up for an avatar project in the distant land of Pandora. Using neuron technology, humans have found a way to use their own brains to control a stem cell based body that closely resembles the blue native inhabitants of Pandora. Jake is sent to infiltrate the Pandora natives clan, and to live amongst them and find out what they would be willing to trade for their land, which is rich in a substance called unobtanium- an element the humans greedily desire. However, as Jake lives amongst the natives as his Avatar, he starts to care for the group of natives he was sent to investigate and is forced to make a choice when battle lines are drawn.
Visually, Cameron has quite possibly made the movie of his lifetime. He has created a 3-D world that is so rich with color and depth you actually want to strain your eyes just to take it all in. From start to finish this is one 3-D joy ride that pushes the limits of the current technology. If you haven’t seen a film in Real D 3-D yet, this isn’t your Mom and Dad’s red and blue eyed 3-D glasses. Instead this is far more stunning visually, and all of it is laid out while you watch a movie wearing something that is no different than putting on a pair of clear lens plastic sunglasses. From start to finish, viewers will be taken in by the rich jungle like forest and the carefully constructed characters and creatures. Even scenes where there is only humans on screen in seemingly boring military lab seem new and exciting with the depth and realness Cameron is able to create.
Cameron makes use of a wonderful cast of actors including Sam Worthington, a relatively newcomer on the A list scene, seen previously in last year’s Terminator Salvation. Worthington is the next big Aussie sensation and will be nipping at the heels of other Aussie greats like Russell Crowe in the future. Alongside him is a stellar cast of Giovanni Ribisi, Sigourney Weaver, and the always scary, yet sexy Michelle Rodriguez. Along with a cast of lesser known actors and actresses, James Cameron and friends bring to life the world of Pandora right in front of your very eyes. They each do a wonderful job in the film and should be highly commended for a job well done.
What Avatar doesn’t bring to the table unfortunately is originality when it comes to the film’s story line. We’ve seen variations of this story time and time again. Whether it be Dances With Wolves, The Last Samurai or even a hint of Fern Gully: The Last Rain forest. Cameron took a plot line that has been done over and over again and gave it his own sci fi spin. Rest assured he’s not winning any points for plot point originality, however I don’t feel that ever was his goal. Sadly enough though, a sci fi version of the same ol’, same ol’ somewhat leaves you salivating for more. However, what Cameron does is create a sci fi tale that unites the masses. I’ve heard very positive things from people who say that this type of film isn’t their usual genre. Even my wife, who hates all things sci fi found enjoyment in the film.
From social standpoint, Cameron’s film like many films now days seems to make us feel guilty and apologetic for the human race as if we are indeed the monsters of the world. I for one have begun to grow weary of the tales that make me leave feeling as though I am responsible for the death of the earth and the entire universe because of the ignorance of my race. This film definitely gives off that vibe that makes you feel guilty if you aren’t “green” because you (like all of the human race) don’t care for you earth mother and will ultimately kill her. It also shows the humans as naive, ignorant, trigger happy bullies just wanting to pick a fight. I understand the reason they played it up this way- it was to build the battle between good and evil but I think the film didn’t give the humans their due. Was it truly greed that led the humans to try a hostile take over of the natives? What does unobtanium do for the future of mankind? I personally felt the film could have been just as effective if it would have made both sides seem civil and not just the natives. Perhaps they could have shown the civility of both races, and show that it was their cultural differences that led them to a lack of understanding each other and ultimately fighting each other. In my opinion, films like The Last Samurai have done it with more success and I wished Avatar would have done the same.
Much like this review is becoming, Avatar is lengthy. The film runs a one hundred and sixty two minutes from start to finish. Now if anyone tells you going in that this isn’t going to feel long, they are simply lying to you. It is a long time in the theater, and you do realize it. There were points that I would have been looking at my watch if I had worn one, don’t get me wrong. However, the film is very entertaining. I would be very hard pressed to find things that I would take out of the film just to shorten up the film’s run time. As a viewer, I think if you go in mentally prepared that you are going to be watching a lengthier film than the average summer blockbuster you’ll be absolutely fine.
If you haven’t gathered already by this review, Avatar is worth the money to see it in theaters. This is the type of film you are going to look back on and be glad you saw it in theaters and in Real D 3-D. Make sure you are watching the 3-D version though. Theaters are going to charge you an extra few bucks for the 3-D experience but when it comes to this film I think it is well worth the extra $2-$3. There is something about this film that can’t be replicated in standard 2-D and won’t be the same in your home entertainment system. Even with Panasonic bragging about the release of a new 3-D television in the upcoming months, and even if you make the assumption that a 3-D version of Avatar would be available on Blu-ray in your life time (which it probably will be some day), I’d still suggest jumping in line, putting on those 3-D glasses and be prepared for a great movie experience. If you are one of those families or the person who only sees a few movies in the theater a year, I really think Avatar should be on your short list.