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Avatar Review

Samrat Sharma / fullhyd.com
Can watch again
Good for kids
Good for dates
Wait to rent it
I know I have said this before: indulge me. One of the first recorded histories of cinema is a little film that simply was a train moving and coming on to the camera. Anecdotes have it that people watching that simple shot for the very first time were so terrified that they ran out of the hall. Such was the power of the moving picture in an enclosed hall with a collective, shared conscious, that it set in stone what was to become cinema's one undeniable virtue and invariably, duty: spectacle.

Avatar is a spectacle to behold like no other.

In every sense of the phrase, this is a true James Cameron masterpiece. By which, of course, I mean that the film delivers spectacle and true pulp action adventure like only a master can, and has flaws that belong incontestably to Cameron. His talent for action and slavish attention to detail are legendary in any film-watching circle, and Avatar is cut from the same cloth.

Unfortunately, the cloth has some smudges that must be dealt with first. It is not hyperbole to say that this is a result of 12 years of Cameron's hard work. It is also not far from the truth that this film also stands as a reflection of what matters or mattered to Cameron as a director. He has not only exorcised all his creative demons, he has made an intensely personal statement about other people's work in the process.

More than a few people will notice shadows of Dances With The Wolves, Hayao Miyazaki and Edgar Rice Burroughs in this film. There are countless other obtuse, but unmistakable, allusions to other science fiction works of cinema as well. The way the film is singularly a Cameron film, though, they all seem like his reaction or need for reference than outright stealing.

The story, of course, is the weakest link - Sam Worthington is Jake Sully, a paraplegic ex-marine who is asked to take over his deceased brother's spot as the 'driver' of a genetically linked 'Avatar' - a body that is an exact replica of the local fauna of an alien planet called Pandora. Called Na'Vi, these indigenous people have a deeply spiritual (and because this is Cameron writing, also literal) connection to nature, and simply want to be left alone.

A large corporation wants to dig up their land to obtain a silly-named mineral, and is using the avatars as ambassadors. Of course, when Sully meets a Na'Vi girl called Ney'tiri and goes native, and when the corp decides to exercise the military option, things go south fast, and the hero must save the day, the girl, and himself.

The aliens are the talk of the town, but only a master like James Cameron can lavish such detail on the humans. Acting as the audience's avatar on the military compound, Sully walks us through the facility, and everything feels so real and functional. The base, the equipment and especially the war machines look used, solid and workable.

Of course, when the alien world is explored Cameron unleashes the aforementioned spectacle. Richly detailed and with great emotional heft to it, the world is stunning to behold, majestic to experience. Every little detail about the world is sculpted and presented with care and eye for glorious beauty. The actual Na'Vi characters are great. Not earth-shatteringly mad, as some may lead us to believe, but as the next evolutionary step after WETA's Gollum, these creatures look believable and brimming with emotion.

Cameron likes to tell us the emotion through his characters theatrically, not show through actual depth - and the same is true here. The central conceit of pure indigenous people and evil pants-wearing white people is milked for all its clichéd glory. How clichéd? The awesome Wes Studi plays the Na'Vi war chief, that's how much. Despite, or perhaps because of, the sheer doggedness of the pursuit of the quintessential Cameron-ness of it all, this is not a serious impediment in your enjoyment of the film.

Overall, it is probably the acting that sells the film more. Sam Worthington is in every frame of the film - he is our eyes and mind through every moment in the film, and he carries it through. He is likable enough, and his body chemistry is amazing to watch. Sigourney Weaver is the real surprise - she starts off as a standard exposition-handing role, but delivers nuances to it that make the film what it is. She is the most major character in the film in that she represents the drab human science and the unknown Na'Vi science equally, and has the ultimate relationship with the film's over-arching themes. Saying anymore would spoil it for you, but she is the key to the whole mythology.

On the other end stands Stephen Lang. Much like Avatar is the culmination of a master director's life work, Avatar is the culmination of Lang's body of character work. Standing tall, chewing all the 3D scenery around and spitting forest moons in disgust, his is the sort of performance that rises to the tone of the film and raises it one hard-assed stare. His performance and physical work are what long-continuing fan discussions are made of, and in a just world he will be raised on the shoulders of his peers and feted by everyone.

As should Cameron. This isn't the new sensibility cinema that Hollywood has gotten used to. This is brand new technology serviced to make an old-fashioned action adventure film with a deliciously pulp setting in a richly detailed and stunningly realized world, and no one but James Cameron could have made it like this. If you get tired of close to two hours of world exploration, Cameron still has 40 minutes of thoroughly mind-blowing action in store for you to shriek excitedly like a school girl over.

The last 40 minutes prove without a doubt that Cameron not only still has it, he has it more than anyone who dares make a tent-pole film. Exhaustingly awesome aerial combat and intensely personal alien on machine combat later, when you see relief wash over you, you will realize that while this may be a bit derivative and dodgily written, it is still the most striking film to come out this year.

I know James Cameron has done this before: indulge him. Such is the power of his flawed masterpiece experienced in a 3D cinema with shared collective conscious. It is virtuously and dutifully spectacular.
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Avatar (english) reviews
Rating is quick and easy - try it!
  • Cast
    Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Sigourney Weaver, Stephen Lang, Michelle Rodriguez, Giovanni Ribisi, Joel Moore, CCH Pounder, Wes Studi, Laz Alonso, Dileep Rao, Matt Gerald, Sean Anthony Moran
  • Music
    James Horner
  • Director
    James Cameron
  • Theatres
    Not screening currently in any theatres in Hyderabad.
1 - 11 OF 11 COMMENTS
Can watch again - Yes
Good for kids - Yes
Good for dates - Yes
Wait to rent it - Unsure
digitaldreamz on 4th Feb 2010, 4:41pm | Permalink
WOW is the first word that comes to my mind when i think of Avatar. It's a visual feast, I read somewhere that people are getting depressive that Pandora is only a fantasy and not a reality

As a guy from multimedia industry and an enthusiast in graphics, I bow my head and give my accolades to the whole technical team which could present us with such beautiful visuals. Oh god they are really very very creative folks. Their imagination has no bounds.

I wish i had atleast 22% of their creative skills. Not but not the least 222 rs is worth for watching it in Imax 3d

don't miss it out

Pros: Visuals, graphics and the lady pilot
Cons: lengthy
digitaldreamz on 4th Feb 2010, 4:41pm | Permalink
WOW is the first word that comes to my mind when i think of Avatar. It's a visual feast, I read somewhere that people are getting depressive that Pandora is only a fantasy and not a reality

As a guy from multimedia industry and an enthusiast in graphics, I bow my head and give my accolades to the whole technical team which could present us with such beautiful visuals. Oh god they are really very very creative folks. Their imagination has no bounds.

I wish i had atleast 22% of their creative skills. Not but not the least 222 rs is worth for watching it in Imax 3d

don't miss it out

Pros: Visuals, graphics and the lady pilot
Cons: lengthy
Movieluv on 28th Dec 2009, 8:20am | Permalink
the movie is great to watch on Imax 3D. It reminded me of "Matrix".
kkss on 26th Dec 2009, 4:07pm | Permalink
I think this movie should have been screened at Copenhagen 2009 the movie all about the nature and its power
gopalav5 on 23rd Dec 2009, 4:32pm | Permalink
The film does not stand to its expectations considering the hype it created.Like the Bollywood is not tired of making films on Hindu-Muslim conflict and terrorist movies wherein invariably one community is targetted and the Indian audience does not get tired of seeing such films again and again ( Wait for Karan Johar/Shahrukh Khans "MY name is Khan" which again seems to be dealing with s similar subject invariably inspired by the media hyped Security Check Episode on Shahrukh Khan at an Airport in USA), the Hollywood is not tired of making films on the ALIEN subject with digitally mastered odd looking people and the gadgets used for tackling them etc.etc. and again the audience dont get tired of seeing similar films again and again. AVATAR is again a film about ALIENS which runs for nearly 3 hours. The funny thing is you go to any GAMING CENTRE or watch your children downloading and playing these umpteen Computer Games, they are more or less smaller versions of AVATARs, 2012s, TRANSFORMERs etc.etc. except that AVATAR is on the BIG Screen with 3D effect. Nothing great.

Pros: 3d effect
Cons: length
aamchihyd on 22nd Dec 2009, 8:44pm | Permalink
(Warning! some phrases may be considered spoilers if you haven't seen it already, come back after you have!)

Definitely the most immersive experience at the movies, perhaps the only one of its kind thus far, and watching it only on 2D, DVD or plain 3D WILL be doing it and yourself a disservice, especially considering the IMAX technology that was required to make this a 'Go', for which it took around 8-10 years, and spawned Cameron making 2 documentaries - Ghosts of the Abyss, and Aliens of the Deep, both IMAX movies. Do ignore the cheesy lines/situations that keep popping up from time to time, its not asking a lot to enjoy the rest of the movie, which truly is a major masterpiece. And yes, it borrows heavily from the Dune books (a dumbed-down version like Star Wars and a few Trek episodes?), the battle spectacles remind one fleetingly of the LOTR trilogy, Ferngully did the same thing in an animated fashion, and Cameron cannibalizes liberally from his own previous works (Abyss, Aliens - the Paul Reiser character in Aliens=Giovanni Ribisi here, Michael Biehn's character in Abyss=Stephen Lang's character in this) and yada-yada-yada, but none of them were as immersive (save perhaps the Dune books), most of them did not have Cameron at the helm, and Jackson screwed up by not having Imax versions of his best.

Pros: Direction, Visuals, Sound, Engaging action sequences, certain scenes, all lead performances, Stephen Lang, Sigourney Weaver, Editing, Music
Cons: Cheesy lines, screenplay (most of it, not all of it), Length, Worthington's on-again, off-again Ozzie accent (didn't bother me much, but got distracting on occasion), screaming crowds, no deserved commeuppance for some baddies, Some cheesy scenes/sequence
Laxman Tathireddy on 21st Dec 2009, 10:53pm | Permalink

Pros: everything
Cons: nothing
buddhainabar on 20th Dec 2009, 3:57pm | Permalink
An awesome spectacle.... Kinda ironic though that James Cameron had to use cutting edge tech to give an anti tech message.

Pros: great performances, amazing level of detail and aliens who actually look good
Cons: poor..poor storyline
MAHARSHI on 19th Dec 2009, 8:02pm | Permalink
and one more thing if u wanna see VATAR see it in iMAX.
MAHARSHI on 19th Dec 2009, 7:43pm | Permalink
Hi this is MAHARSHI,

i wanna thank my mom for giving me Rs. 250 for iMAX ticket,
i wanna thank Prasad for iMAX theatre,
i wanna thank James Cameron for this greatest visual experience.


I have never before experienced this feel. The story has everything to bang box office records, and the making which took 4 years has shown off on the screen. I agree with the brother above who quoted Lord Of The Rings, Christopher Nolan and all things that happened in 12 years. But this technically marvellous movie is nowhere in comparison with those.
It would have been appropriate if he had quoted SURROGATES.
It is a bit similar to AVATAR concept wise.

The love story between the lead characters is awesome and the underlying message of protecting the environment is tremendous.
Pandora, the planet shown in the movie, is a place one would like to jump to. The detailed work of every aspect of Pandora is superb and the creation of the animals, though resembling hippos, bats, dragons and dinosaurs, is outstanding. The first time when hero goes out into Pandora and one animal attacks him, the whole thing was something that made me feel WOOOOW. But at that point of time i dint know that it was just the "jhalak" of the coming of the coming never-before visual experience. The final fight was a visual treat.
This movie left me with a lifetime experience of movie watching.

The only sad thing is AVTAR concept matches mostly with a story i wrote 3-4 years ago, when nothng was heard abt tht.
As a wannabe director i lost a few path-breaking stories in the form of SURROGATES and AVATAR. Though they don't match exactly with my stories the visuals and the concepts match a lot. :(

Anyways my long wait for AVATAR came to an end when Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) opened his eyes with my eyes stuck on to the giant screen of iMAX with look-like-a-bee 3D spectacles on my -6 eye sight glasses.

Pros: evrything
Cons: no issues
XLNC on 18th Dec 2009, 4:25pm | Permalink
This is what has happened in the 12 years that James Cameron has stayed away from Hollywood:
1. Lord of the Rings
2. Star Wars Sequel Trilogy
4. Christopher Nolan

Now seeing that he missed out on the first 3, he mixed all of them and formed a story line, one thing he missed out even today was the story line and screenplay that Christopher Nolan can bring on screen.

The performances are a tad on the lower side, and the script too has not delivered the amount it had to.

The visuals and direction though are exceptional along with the soundtrack.

The expectations are met but only for people who can sit through the movie for the entire three hours.

This movie which is touted as a breakthrough in film making technologies is not as great as they say it is, nor as bad as it may appear on screen!!

Pros: Visuals, Soundtrack and amazing direction
Cons: performances, length and predictible story line
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