Movie Review: Avatar

It’s not such a stretch to say that an Avatar craze is sweeping the nation right now, and I must admit, it’s for good reason.

I adhere to the classic rule of thumb that if it sounds too good to be true, it often is. Cue Avatar. Delightfully, I can say, the old adage does not apply here. Watch out boys and girls: this one’s a nerdgasm.

The story won’t blow you away. It’s something similar to the classic Dances with Wolves (a connection even James Cameron himself gave a nod)…just in space. It takes place on the fictional planet Pandora, an Earth-like moon that has the unfortunate coincidence of possessing a mineral known as unobtanium—something that the modern human very much desires. Unfortunately for humanity, the planet is also populated by an indigenous race of sentient humanoids—The Na’vi. Naturally, the aliens aren’t so keen on us taking all the unobtanium, especially since we have the nasty habit of burning and strip-mining their planet, as well as any Na’vi in the way, in order to get it.

The film follows marine-turned-scientific guinea pig Corporal Jake Sully, a paraplegic recruited to replace his dead twin brother. Sully is brought into the Avatar program, for which the movie is named—remotely controlled, genetically engineered human-Na’vi bodies used by humans to interact with the natives. Though at first he helps the humans to undermine the Na’vi, he begins to question his role on Pandora as he spends more time amongst the Na’vi—especially through his relationship with their princess, Neytiri.

While the plot may sound like nothing new, however, the production is flawless. It is a gorgeous, breathtaking movie—one of the loveliest I’ve seen. It stands as a testament to the power of modern technology, a beautiful blend of motion capture and full CG. Everyone and everything is computer generated, but with the full 3D and the use of new, stereoscopic cameras—designed to stimulate human sight—everything flows flawlessly.

The planet breathes. The ecology, the animal life—everything is well-thought out and designed, and everything moves so naturally that you feel Pandora. The aliens—Na’vi—are tall, slender, but majestically powerful, and they are absolutely beautiful to watch on screen. Even their language is enthralling, stirring memories of all those silly Trekkies rushing out to learn their Klingon (and I should note, there’s already a community out there with a full website to help you learn it). It’s fully designed by one Paul Frommer, a professional linguist, who took years to create a truly unique language—and it shows. I can’t say it’s going to send me running to learn it, but I can see it stirring such desires in many of the people that swing that way.

When you aren’t losing yourself in all the pretty, though, you’re also drawn into an intricate, well-delivered story. As I said, it’s nothing terribly new—but this futuristic spin on a classic theme is done very well. You want action? You’ve got action—and lots of it. The scenes of war are powerful and explosive. You want love? Every movie seems to have its romance, and this one’s no exception. The main characters, though predictable in the course of their relationship, are a pleasure to behold—and the characters are charming in their own ways. Drama, adventure, tragedy, romance—this movie truly has it all, and in good supply. I can’t say there’s ever really a point where I felt it dragged its feet.

Besides Sigourney Weaver (and you knew she couldn’t be kept away from James Cameron!), you’re not going to be seeing any of the big-name Hollywood hitters, here, but it doesn’t hinder the movie in the slightest. The cast is a fine selection of relative unknowns that nevertheless deliver sound, powerful performances oozing with character. Combine them with a solid script and you’re left with a winning combination. It’s definitely refreshing to see on the big screen.

So let this be a lesson for you Hollywood: get some new blood into the business! You don’t need big name stars to sell tickets!

Hands down, this is one of my favorites of the year. I couldn’t recommend it enough. And if you can see it in IMAX before it’s too late—do so. You won’t regret the experience. I get the feeling it’s going to lose something once it heads to DVD, though blue-ray might save the day.

Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars!

~ by Chris G. on January 4, 2010.

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