Directed by: James Cameron
Starring: Sam Worthington, Zoë Saldana, Sigourney Weaver, Stephen Lang, Giovanni Ribisi, Joel Moore, Michelle Rodriguez
20th Century Fox
Release Date: April 22, 2010
Avatar. The biggest movie that has ever been made by any film director on this planet. Ever. Oh, my. Where does one even begin? By watching the movie, I suppose.
Going in, I was about as unsure what to expect as I have ever been with any movie. Over the past couple of years, myself and many others have heard what seems like constant updates and information regarding director James Cameron‘s game-changing film. How huge it would be; how revolutionary the effects would be; how immersive the cinematic experience would be. And all of these promises were seemingly confirmed when a select group of eyes was introduced to 24-minutes of footage in 3D, which led to a level of high-praise that we’ve never heard before. At this moment, buzz and excitement was in orbit, higher than anyone could possibly think to reach.
Then came the first official teaser trailer, and everything seemed to change. People weren’t so sure that Avatar could live up to all the hype that had been created now that they had seen with their own two eyes what it looked like…and I was one of these people. Don’t get me wrong, it still looked like a lot of fun and I was excited to see it, but the “game-changer” looked more like just your typical summer blockbuster than anything else, and this was a little depressing.
This is why entering the film, I had absolutely no idea what to expect. And when it was over, what the one and only question that entered my mind?
How could ANYONE not absolutely love this movie?
I actually asked this question after seeing the movie, and someone who disagreed answered simply: “Because I like plot.” This could only make me wonder in return: “What did you expect, and what more do you need?” Does Avatar have the thickest, most intricately weaved plot we’ve ever seen? Absolutely not; it’s a summer blockbuster that’s built on its awe-inspiring effects and wow-factor. But that doesn’t mean that there’s no plot, either. The movie has a good, solid-but-simple storyline that works perfectly for this production. Think of it in comparison to Best Picture-winner The Hurt Locker, which was great, but also more of a character study and collection of really intense situations in a politically significant setting than a traditionally structured storyline. Saying “plot” was the flaw is a stretch, and I fear people sometimes forget how to just go in and enjoy a film for what it is. Allow it just to be what it wants to be, and don’t assume or expect it to go one direction or another, or live up to misguided hype and expectations.
Avatar takes place on the planet Pandora in the year 2154, where humans are the aliens and have set up scientific and military bases on the planet. The story revolves around Jake Sully (Sam Worthington), an ex-Marine, who has been confined to a wheelchair. His twin brother Tom was part of a major mission on Pandora, but tragically he was killed. Though the loss was great, Jake is a perfect genetic match of his sibling, and is offered the chance to take over his brother’s work. Being in a wheelchair, the job is life-changing for Jake; it allows him to be entered into an avatar body, replicated from that of the planet’s native people, the Na’vi. The Na’vi are blue and 10-feet tall, but this avatar also allows Jake to walk, run, and jump as he never has before.
The downside to this opportunity, is that it puts Jake in a very delicate situation. Being an ex-Marine, Jake is guided by two completely different sides to the same operation. One is Colonel Miles Quaritch (Stephen Lang), who wants Jake to get as close to the Na’vi as possible, win them over, earn their trust, and then share their ways with Quaritch and his boss, Parker (Giovanni Ribisi). The reason for this is so that they know everything they need to know in order to remove the natives from their home, which happens to sit on top of a massive deposit of Unobtainium, an amazing mineral that fetches $20,000,000 a kilogram and can save Earth from an energy crisis. On the other side stands Dr. Grace Augustine (Sigourney Weaver), who works with Parker and the operation, but wishes to study the Na’vi, learn their ways, and prevent the two sides from killing each other.
With Colonel Quaritch promising Jake that the surgery required to fix him and his legs would be entirely taken care of if he helps them get what they need, the decision is easy at first, and he shares much information with them. Over time, however, Jake bonds with a Na’vi girl named Neytiri (Zoë Saldana), who shows him everything about her people, and how beautiful, free, and alive their world is. This leaves Jake facing a major moral dilemma: help his fellow humans get to the Unobtainium and get his legs back, or save the Na’vi and their world to try and preserve the bonds he has made.
It’s hard not to get excited about something that seems born of myth and legend long before it’s even actually released, but that’s what Avatar was, and it became so much more than I thought it would be while watching it.
Most importantly is of course Pandora. This world that James Cameron created is beyond what anyone has ever created before, and I was speechless while taking it all in. If you haven’t watched this film yet, when you do, don’t refrain from paying attention to all of the smallest details. The vegetation and plant life of Pandora, the creatures big and small (as well as their anatomical features, such as the way that they breathe), and the way everything there isn’t forced on you or overkill, but just simply exists. Then remind yourself that this is all computerized, born from the mind of James Cameron and his ridiculously-talented team. This isn’t just some random stuff thrown together to create a setting; they created a world, and it’s absolutely mind-blowing to see. The music composed by James Horner is a wonderfully epic score that compliments the world and the movie very nicely as well.
The acting overall is solid, but nothing incredible. It is said that Cameron was upset that his actors weren’t recognized with Academy Award nominations, and though there were some appalling nominees, there was nothing here deserving of an Oscar that I saw. But just because something isn’t Oscar-worthy doesn’t make is bad. Zoë Saldana’s performance-capture performance was much better than certain aforementioned appalling nominations, and everyone plays their part well.
Speaking of Academy Awards, one of the biggest controversies of the year was how Avatar could possibly be nominated for Best Picture at the most recent ceremony. I thought for sure it would be a lot of fun, but also found it pretty absurd that it landed a Best Picture nod. By the end of the movie, my mind had been changed. This movie is such an unparalleled cinematic achievement, and whether you like the movie or not, these effects and this world that Cameron created are 100% deserving of the nomination. Due to the lacking other elements of the film, I would not say that it should have won the award — not at all — (to me, Inglourious Basterds was by far the best of the nominees) but it all makes a lot more sense than it did before.
To wrap things up — it really saddens me to see such a large number of people so hateful and negative toward Avatar. It’s not to be ignored that the movie is rating at an 8.4 out of 10 on IMDB and at 82% positive on Rotten Tomatoes, but still, too many bash where bashing is not deserved. A lot of this negativity is sadly due to two things: either these people have forgotten just exactly how to have fun at the movies, or they only desire attention. These people are major pet peeves of mine. Aside from that, everyone else who disliked it is obviously entitled to the opinions that are best suited to their own personal preferences.
For the rest of you, I must beg: give Avatar your own chance. Don’t read what people say (unless you’re reading this, in which case, thank you!), and don’t watch all the trailers and videos. Just get the movie, preferably on this Blu-ray disc, and watch it on the biggest TV you can find. Decide for yourself whether you like it or not. The Blu-ray I’m reviewing also comes with a DVD copy, but after seeing it in Blu, I’m not sure that I’ll ever use that.
When it all comes down to it, ladies and gentlemen, Avatar is really what watching movies is all about. Beauty, spectacle, action, story, fantasy, conflict, heartbreak, love, honor, and glory — it’s all there, waiting for you to take it all in.
The one flaw to this Blu-ray/DVD combo is that there’s no special features. Not one. It’s said that this is because Cameron wanted it to be just about the movie, and so that the quality of it wasn’t diluted by extra content on the disc.
Unfortunately, it’s more likely that this was just so you’d buy this first quick release — otherwise, why not just make it a 3-disc set including the Blu-ray, the DVD, and one for just features.. It all likelihood, another release is well on the way, and it will have lots of special features and probably some extended scenes.