Movie Name: Avatar
Studio: Lightstorm Entertainment
Release Date(s): December 10, 2009 (London Premiere)/December 18, 2009 (US)
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) is a soldier facing paralysis. When his twin brother is killed, Jake finds himself recruited to join an expedition to the planet of Pandora where an expensive mineral named unobtainum is being mined. Pandora unfortunately is inhabited by a race of warriors called the Na’vi who are fighting and killing the workers as they cut their way through the forests. Led by an anthropologist named Dr. Grace Augustine (Sigourney Weaver), Jake is given his brother’s avatar…the means in which Augustine is trying to reach the Na’vi. Jake is encouraged to infiltrate the Na’vi by Colonel Miles Quaritch (Stephen Lang) who wants all of the Na’vi dead and by the industrialist Parker Selfridge (Giovanni Ribisi) who wants their unobtainum, but things change for Jake when he befriends a Na’vi named Neytiri (Zoe Saldana). Now, the battle for Pandora is on and Jake must choose a side…is he human or is he Na’vi?
Directed by James Cameron, Avatar became one of the biggest blockbusters of all time. The movie was released to positive reviews and won Oscars for Best Achievement in Art Direction, Best Achievement in Cinematography, and Best Achievement in Visual Effects. It also received nominations for Best Directing, Best Film Editing, Best Music, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, and Best Picture (which it lost to The Hurt Locker). The movie also won the Golden Globes for Best Director and Best Picture—Drama. Most critics enjoyed the films 3D visuals, but were critical of the story.
I am not on the Avatar boat. I saw it in the theater; I saw it in 3D…but I was extremely underwhelmed and bored through most of the film. As with many big action films, I felt that it was too full of itself and lost interest as a result. It also doesn’t help that it is incredibly long.
The biggest problem with Avatar is a mind-numbingly dull derivative story. Cameron talked about the film like it was some great idea he came up with…It’s essential a mash-up of Dances with Wolves, Disney’s Pocahontas, and Ferngully: The Last Rainforest. The script is horrible and so cliché filled with generic stock characters and red herring plot turns (like when makes the grand statement that no one has ever ridden a Toruk…I wonder who will ride one…). Plus, couldn’t Cameron have come up with a better name for the mineral other than “unobtainum”…like notpossiblenum or reallyreallyexpensinum?
The acting is also quite questionable. Once again, it is partially due to the stock characters and not entirely the actors fault. Sam Worthington can’t act his way out of a bag, but at least being a grunt type soldier works for his acting style. Sigourney Weaver who is normally decent is rather obnoxious here (and why if the character’s goal is to blend in with indicative culture would the avatar’s dress like humans? I especially like that someone had to custom make a Stanford shirt Weaver’s avatar…I’m guessing they don’t come in blue giant-size). Both Stephen Lang and Giovanni Ribisi are awful as the really, really generic military/industrialist characters that could have been played by anyone. Probably the best character in the movie is Zoe Saldana as the Na’vi who takes a chance with Jake.
Despite having great visuals, I do have a gripe with them. I’m not a 3D person, but the 3D was done well. My complaint is that once the story goes all Na’vi, you might as well be watching Toy Story. It is a cartoon at this point and not a live action movie…and cartoons have looked great for years. The interactions between the Na’vi and the humans are decent, but there isn’t enough of that to just be completely wowed by the effects.
I know I’m in the minority among the viewers of this movie, but having seen it a couple of times now, I still can’t get into A. The movie’s runaway success guaranteed a sequel and Cameron claims he has new ideas for the follow-ups. He must have been watching a lot of other movies to “borrow” from. Avatar 2 is tentatively scheduled for a 2015 release.
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