Sunday, December 27, 2009

Movie Review: Avatar

Directed by: James Cameron
Written by: James Cameron

Enter a world filled with exotic creatures that all hold a deep, emotional and physical bond with the planet they call home.  This planet, with all its beauty and wonder, contains a very important mineral which holds the key in solving the ever rising energy loss on Earth.  Now, Earth has established a military outpost where scientists are doing research to help find this valuable mineral and extract it.

However, with the toxic air on this planet, known as Pandora, scientists developed a biological program called the Avatar.  Humans, with extensive training and research, inhabit a remotely controlled, biological body that greatly resembles the “Indian-like” natives called the Na’vi.  This allows the scientists to research and be among the Na’vi without endangering themselves, breathing in the toxic air.

Jake Sully, an ex-marine now confined to a wheelchair, is brought out to link up with one of the Avatars and assist the science excursion.  However, the Colonel Miles Quaritch has bestowed upon Mr. Sully the task of infiltrating the Na’vi as to better prepare themselves to strike at the natives and drive them out of their homes.  Jake, agreeing to help the colonel, finds himself becoming emotionally attached to the Na’vi, and more importantly, to a beautiful Na’vi woman named Neytiri. 

Through a series of tests and tribulations, Jake Sully must now decide where his loyalties lie.  Will he help the colonel and continually feed information to the military, or will he betray his own race and side with the Na’vi and fight the invasion of humans?  

My Thoughts

How does one measure the quality of a film?  What standards must a person expect from films in order to judge their film making quality and ingenuity?  I used to think that a film could not be judge on two separate playing fields.  If the story is great, but the other aspects of the film are terrible, then I typically throw the baby out with the bath water and dub the film as garbage.  My film critiquing philosophy is to take all the aspects of the movie, analyze them, and come to a conclusion on the quality of the film as a whole.  However, director James Cameron has defied all boundaries and forced me to stray away from my mode of thinking for one night; for never have I been so torn between hating and loving a film than I have with Avatar.

First, let me just point out that this script is nothing new.  I’m sure even our most ignorant intellectuals in America can see the Pocahontas resemblance, especially when Neytiri hovers over Jake Sully’s Avatar body right before the coup de grace.  But of course, the entire script screams Native Americans fighting against the oppressive English Colonists trying to take land that isn’t theirs, right?  Of course, how can we not also give credit to Avatar’s other film inspirations such as Fern-Gully, Dances with Wolves, The Postman, Remember The Titans, Radio, and many other films where the main character develops a new realization about him or herself by accidentally being introduced into a “savage” community.  How many films have done this in the past, and how many more times are we going to continue to see this pattern of story telling in the future of American cinema?

But to make matters worse, the story is so incredibly predictable that it’s on the verge of being embarrassing.  I couldn’t help but wonder why this film wasn’t made by Disney Entertainment or some other type of family oriented film company where the stories follow a certain set of rules in telling a simple narrative.  I literally slapped myself in the face when the hordes of animals came charging in, attacking the humans towards the end.  In that moment, my exact words were “how Hollywood of them.”  There are no decisions or actions made by any character that comes as a surprise and truly is a disappointment on the literary side of things.  I’m not trying to imply that the message of the film isn’t incredibly moralistic and powerful, I only wish James Cameron hadn’t of used an easy and unoriginal way of telling a truly moving story.

On the other hand, what an incredible piece of visual artistry!  James Cameron was right when he said this will be the film in which all other CGI based films will be judged.  If it hadn’t of been for the brilliant special effects, animation, and acting, I would have been bored out of my mind.  The creatures of the planet Pandora had the same affect that Spielberg’s dinosaurs had in his adaptation of Jurassic Park.  The disconnect between what was real and what was animated was virtually non-existent.  The intricate detailing of the air crafts all the way down to the native clothing was perfect and undeniably superior to anything that has hit the big screen in the history of film making. 

The world of Pandora in and of itself is enough of a sight to see, let alone all of its creatures and inhabitants.  The animation team hired to put this world together should be given an Oscar for their undoubtedly tiresome work.  Every blade of grass, every flower, tree, grain of said, leaf, etc, were all perfected down to its tiniest detail.  How some people can say it’s immensely cheaper to make an animated film rather than a live action film have no idea what kind of work it takes to recreate the world on an animated level.  Avatar is a landmark in innovative and remarkable CGI technology.
I can honestly say this is FAR from being the best film I’ve ever seen.  With its absolutely horrid and predictable plot, along side all of the recycled movie themes and unoriginality within the script; I just can’t justly say this film was good.  In fact, as far as the script is concerned, I would say it’s downright awful!  But everything else that encompasses this film, especially it’s visual aspects, I would say it’s definitely worth going to see. I will never own this movie, but might rent it or watch it via Netflix, purely to gaze on its visual mastery.  But even then, it won’t compare to seeing it on the big screen.

Rating: 5 out of 10 stars.

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