Avatar (2009)

avatar poster 2009 movie
6.5 Overall Score
Story: 3/10
Acting: 6/10
Visuals: 9/10

Strong visuals

Cliche filled dialogue and story with unbelievable characters, too long

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Avatar

Studio:  Lightstorm Entertainment

Genre(s):  Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Action/Adventure

Release Date(s):  December 10, 2009 (London Premiere)/December 18, 2009 (US)

MPAA Rating:  PG-13

avatar creatures

Welcome to Pandora…if the creatures don’t kill you, the Smurfs might

Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) is a soldier facing paralysis and no financial means to fix it.  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.  Things change for Jake when he befriends a Na’vi named Neytiri (Zoe Saldana) and begins to see into the heart of the Na’vi.  Now, the battle for Pandora is on, and Jake must choose a side…is he human or is he Na’vi?

These trees are kind of like your relatives…right? We should definitely have sex in the middle of them!

Directed by James Cameron, Avatar is a science fiction 3D action-adventure film.  The movie was released to positive reviews.  The movie became a blockbuster and over the years has traded places with Avengers:  Endgame for biggest box-office moneymaker of all time despite criticisms of the story.  The film won Oscars for Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography, and Best Visual Effects with nominations for Best Directing, Best Film Editing, Best Music, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, and Best Picture.

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…and a three hour runtime does not help.

The biggest problem with Avatar is a dull derivative story.  Cameron’s script blatently borrows aspects of  Dances with Wolves, Disney’s Pocahontas, and Ferngully:  The Last Rainforest.  It is loaded with cliché and filled with generic stock characters.  This is on top of red herring plot turns (like when Neytiri makes the grand statement that no one has ever ridden a Toruk in her generation…I wonder who will ride one…).  Plus (and I admit that this is just a personal gripe), couldn’t Cameron have come up with a better name for the mineral other than “unobtainum”.  It is a real word that describes non-existent or fictional metal…but Cameron might as well named it notpossiblenum or reallyreallyexpensinum?

Woah!!! He was able to tame the creature that no one has tamed for generations!?!?! Wish I saw that coming!

The acting is also quite questionable.  Once again, it is partially due to the stock characters and not entirely the actors fault.  Sam Worthington was really pushed to be the next thing at this time period, but he is not the most solid actor.  Fortunately, he is cast as a grunt type soldier and it works with his bland 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…they might as well broke into “maniacal laughter” in any scene.  Probably the best character in the movie is Zoe Saldana as the Na’vi who takes a chance with Jake…and I do feel halfway sorry for Michelle Rodriguez who simply seems to show up when needed.

avatar jake scully vs colonel quaritch stephen lang sam worthington

I will defeat you because you’re a cliche of every war-monger movie general!

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 animated film at this point and not a live action movie…and animated films 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 few times now, I still can’t get into Avatar.  The movie’s runaway success guaranteed a sequel, but Cameron waited to produce them (with plans to make multiple sequels).  He must have had to go watch other movies to “borrow” from.  Avatar is followed by Avatar:  The Way of Water in 2022.

Related Links:

Avatar:  The Way of Water (2022)

The 82nd Academy Award Nominations

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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