16 December 2009

Movie Review: Avatar


2009, 160mins, PG-13
Director: James Cameron
Writer: James Cameron
Cast includes: Sam Worthington, Stephen Lang, Zoe Saldana, Sigourney Weaver, Joel David Moore, Michelle Rodriguez
Release Date: 17th December 2009

“Avatar” is an astonishing cinematic gambit and clearly one of the best films 2009 is going to deliver. Having been out of the game since a little 1997 film called “Titanic” James Cameron has been an elusive Hollywood presence but with “Avatar” his name is stomped firmly back onto the map. Those who doubted the movie on the basis of promotional material from a few months back will be retracting their words after viewing the audacious and majestic finished product, a triumph from both a visual and storytelling perspective “Avatar” truly is a groundbreaking feature.

Set 150 years in the future “Avatar” sees’s humanity having landed on the lush and fertile planet of Pandora, seeking a valuable energy source that is in bountiful supply below the new world’s soil. The indigenous species called the Na’vi aren’t pleased about the invaders but unless they vacate their jungle habitat, humanity has made it clear war is the only option. In a last ditch attempt to avoid bloodshed the humans cook up the “Avatar” program, the avatars in question biological reconstructions of the Na’vi that can be controlled through machinery by humans. Jake Scully (Sam Worthington) is an ex-marine tasked with using his avatar to make contact with the Na’vi and after enduring a series of trials and training he is accepted into the alien culture. Jake is recruited by the nefarious Colonel Miles Quaritch (Stephen Lang) to feed back info concerning the Na’vi so Quaritch can plan ahead for his impending campaign of terror. However as Jake ingratiates himself further into the Na’vi social strata and begins to fall for a young Na’vi warrior called Neytiri (Zoe Saldana) he begins to suspect it is the humans who are at fault and not this new and environmentally astute species.

“Avatar” is visually a true rollercoaster ride of a movie, in 3-D it is certainly the most lavish and impressive looking picture of the year. Cameron shows imagination in nearly every aspect of Pandora’s conception, ranging from the strangely imposing Na’vi to its other more lethal inhabitants and luscious fauna. Every so often a film comes along that simply ups the standard for visual effects, titles like “Jurassic Park” and Cameron’s own “Terminator” sequel immediately jumping to mind. “Avatar” is one such movie and its meticulous deployment of 3-D is beyond anything that audiences have been treated to before. Whilst creating a compelling surface is less than half the battle “Avatar” accomplishes the feat with panache and flair only a true master of filmmaking could muster, the world of Pandora surely set to become one of the all time greatest movie landscapes.

The acting ranges from adequate to excellent, Sam Worthington continuing his stake to be taken as a serious thespian presence in tinsel town. After doing a good job in “Terminator Salvation” Worthington imbues the potentially one note character of Jake with a terrific dose of heart and a sense of fearful uncertainty. His romance with Saldana is blissfully engaging despite the heft amounts of CGI and creature designs it requires, the actress herself also handing in a polished and emotionally rich performance. Stephen Lang is a little broader and less refined as the villain of the piece but ultimately he does suitable work and the ever brilliant Sigourney Weaver knocks her scientist role out of the park. Even generally awful performers like Joel David Moore and Michelle Rodriguez are bearable, truly a testament to Cameron’s filmmaking prowess if ever there was one. Cameron clearly understands acting and whilst he is renowned for pushing his casts to the edge of their sanity with his standards the results are nothing short of marvellous. “Avatar” certainly gives viewers plenty of human meat to hang their own experience on.

The screenplay is epic and at 160 minutes in length so is just about everything else, the story unfolding steadily and with a confidence and understanding that a man out of the business for 12 years really ought to be missing. Some of the dialogue misfires but the plotting is superlative and weaves in a plethora of underlying environmental messaging and even what appears to be messianic imagery. These additives don’t grate but are subtly knitted into proceedings, providing Cameron’s science fiction labyrinth an extra helping of depth and relevance in the world today. Interestingly Cameron also clearly takes another swing at the sort of corporate behemoths found in “Aliens”. Here it’s equally as pronounced and intriguing as it was in 1986, the horror of war and the unknown used to emphasise the killer and carefree instincts such industrial tyrants exercise.

The movie is structured so that the action and scope become gradually more bombastic and Cameron closes on an absolute gem of a final battle. Throwing everything at the audience in one intensely prepped and heated burst of visual ferocity Cameron has probably concocted the blockbusting climax of the year, the money is all up on the screen and boy is it enjoyable. Explosive action has always been a key asset in Cameron’s filmmaking DNA but in “Avatar” he completely rips the screen to pieces and manipulates 3-D to full effect in the pursuit of his destructive and chaos filled passion, shooting the action with a machismo and skill that few others could hope to attain, all the while retaining a steady hand and keeping the plot in strong focus. The editing work is flawless and the musical score from James Horner a respectable addition to this cinematic treat. The photography and various fantastical beasties are equally pleasurable; some of the monsters in “Avatar” showcase an almost completely authentic and threatening look.

“Avatar” is a joyous diversion and one of the best fantasy pictures since Peter Jackson brought Tolkien to life. The digitals and 3-D are just as outstanding as anyone might have hoped and the plot doesn’t fail to impress either. James Cameron has returned to filmmaking with the sort of level hand and swagger that we really ought to have anticipated, but what he has wrought as a consequence is probably amongst even his best works. “Avatar” stuns and surprises in equal measure and deserves to be seen by as many as possible. After all, “Titanic” has to be knocked off that box-office perch sometime.

A review by Daniel Kelly, 2009


r4i software said...

Movie was pretty good i like it's special effects i will going to see it again and also i will see it in 3dmax..

hanum said...

great movie.. great technology used..

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