Let’s get one thing straight before we carry on. Avatar is not the future of cinema. Nor is it the re-invention of cinema, the re-birth of cinema or the re-imagining of cinema. Cinema has, and always will be, stories told with moving images. Once it becomes something else it will cease to be cinema. Simple.
After dismissing the ridiculously great expectations that’s not to say that Avatar isn’t stepping up the game for a certain type of movie-going experience. The blockbuster will, as long as the dollars and cents roll in, never look the same again.
Corporal Jake Sully (man du jour, Sam Worthington) is a grunt with a dead twin brother. Fortunately for Jake his brother’s death has made him the ideal candidate for a prestigious, highly paid job on the world of Pandora. Hired to pilot an avatar (genetically enginered human/alien hybrids that can be ‘controlled’ by the humans) and discover what makes the aliens (Na’vi) tick Jake finds himself drawn more and more to their way of life.
James Cameron has been wanting to make this movie since he was 14 years old. And it shows. It’s big, bright, short on dialogue, high on action, features guns and semi-clad big blue creatures; in short it’s every 14-year old’s dream. It would have been nice though, if the adult James Cameron, the one behind Aliens and Terminator 1 and 2 had paid a few more visits to set. Nice but not essential.
Because little boy Cameron has entirely succeeded in making the film he wanted to make. And it’s a film that many, many people will love. The sheer scope of what he’s accomplished with the world of Pandora is, and I’m using this word correctly, awesome. That the middle section of the film is arguably the boldest is something rarely seen in movies.
When Jake is getting to know Pandora and its people, the audience is there with him – almost literally, such is the depth of field that the effects and the 3-Dimensions offer. As I have far too much time on my hands yesterday I watched both 2-D and 3-D and my points raised here still hold water, but if you can, for a film like this, get the glasses out.
So the downsides, (which don’t appear to exist if you read the 5 star reviews). The voiceover, and almost all of the dialogue, is far too expositional. Yes it’s a hard thing to introduce an audience to an alien world without a little heavy handedness but at times it’s all far too condescending.
Apart from the excellent Zoe Saldana (as chief blue love interest) and the becoming-quite-dependable Worthington, the film has very little time for its other characters. Sigourney Weaver as a mix of Gorillas In The Mist Diane Fossey and first Alien Ellen Ripley gets a bit of a look-in as a maternal figure for Jake but such characterization is only gonna get in the way of Big Jim Cameron runing around his new planet some more.
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And boy does he love that planet. Fans of Aliens and T2 may be aghast at just how much JC embraces those trees and it will almost undoubtedly be the chief criticism by pissed off fanboys. But this would be remiss. The director has always been a bit of a tree-hugger.
He has always been on the side of ‘the others’. The Terminator films were a simple tale of how mankind can shit on it’s own doorstep and Aliens was taking on the big corporations way before Micheal Moore picked up a cam (to quote Ripley, “I don’t know which species is worse. You don’t see them fucking each other over for a Goddamn percentage”).
So before you buy you’re ticket, and I strongly suggest you do, remember that while Cameron made many of the films you love he also finished his biggest (Titanic) with Celine Dion (this time it’s Leona Lewis *shudder*). He’s not re-inventing cinema, he’s not the second-coming of Christ. He is however, a world class film-maker who has made another excellent product.
And he’s answered the age old question, “Would you bum a sexy, 10ft tall, blue, cat-like humanoid?” As I put the world ‘sexy’ in there you can guess my response.
Watch an exclusive clip from the movie