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Movie Review: Avatar

 
Prinz Lee image

Prinz Lee wrote this review 5 years and 2 months ago

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Written 12/18/09

Before I start on Avatar’s review, I have to confess this is the first film with so much hoopla I did as much as I could to dodge any reviews or comments or spoilers or anything remotely close to any inside information. Having seen the trailer twice (and glad it was the same one) I made it clear to myself that I’d just sit and immerse in the project which took SO long and cost SO much to make and come up with my own opinion.

So it’s here, I saw it and all I can say is OH MY F’NG GOD!

Really, that’s the best reaction I can give; and some advice. Drain your bladder before you start because you really don’t want to get up at any point during the just about two hour and forty minute run of the movie. If you must have a drink with you - go slow with it. The movie is an amazing visual feast even in 2D (don’t know if I can handle 3D for the whole run time of the movie, but I’m not willing to pay RM17 for that experience) with director James Cameron fully investing in the moon called Pandora, creating a fully thought out environment in which to tell his tale.

That tale, however, falls a little short of the grandeur that is presented within the concept and the visuals itself. Ex-soldier looking for a new start in the frontier... feels a little like “Dances with Wolves” especially once you get to mixing with the indigenous tribe of Pandora. Corporate idiocy in pursuing the almighty buck, well, that’s a Cameron staple from “Aliens” and even “The Abyss” to a lesser degree. Military personnel going all gung-ho beyond normal reasoning (granted they are a privatized security company, but still), shades of “Aliens” and to a lesser degree “True Lies”. To be fair though, Cameron’s been working on this movie for well over a decade when rumors were abound that Arnold Schwarzenegger was tapped for the lead role. If the story feels a little “been there, done that”, at least it’s being done in a very captivating and almost fresh way. After all, the simpler the story, the easier for the audience to get into it. Aside from the technology of the titular Avatars (which computer savvy viewers will get straight away); there is little complexity to wrap around your head.

Cameron’s intention is to draw you, the viewer, into the world and the effects work that make up the world is truly astounding stuff. A whole ecology, not just with the Na’vi tribe (who stand a good ten feet tall and are blue) but also with the biology, geography and the animal life of the moon (yes, it’s a moon orbiting a giant gas planet that looks like a blue Jupiter, not that it’ll matter much) is at work. Just how much of it is real and how much is computer enhanced is difficult to really determine. If what is reported is true, than up to three quarters of the movie is fully computer generated, making it a live-action animated feature unlike “Star Wars: Return Of The Sith”. So what do we make of the blue-hue actors?

Sam Worthington, who plays the paraplegic marine, Jake Sully, does well in both the human and Na’vi forms. It is hard to determine just how much of the Na’vi performance comes from the actors until we get the Blu-Ray discs and check out the features (which hopefully will be plentiful), but the character of Jake is the driving force of the whole movie. It is his journey that the story revolves on and
Worthington pulls it off remarkably well (not that acting is something we actually look for in a James Cameron film, but there are moments to savor). The scenes with Jake in Na’vi form relate very well to his human counterpart, especially so in an early scene when Jake gets to ‘try out’ his new legs.

As a reflection on how well the effects integrate with the humans, the best example is Sigourney Weaver’s Dr. Grace Augustine as her avatar looks and moves exactly as we expect Weaver to move (based on her previous movies as a reference point). That alone would suggest the actors taking a very active role with their computer-generated characters. Leading on that, Zoe Saldana’s Neytiri is extremely graceful and deadly at the same time. The performance is remarkable in itself, but it works better with slightly more known actors such as CCH Pounder as Moat and Wes Studi as Eytukan where one can see the mannerisms of the actors coming through. This is beyond just acting under heavy make-up, and it’s mostly thanks to the same effects team at Weta Digital that brought Gollum to life in “The Lord of The Rings” movies.

Beyond the world, the environment and the Na’vi, the rest of the effects come down to the more familiar objects such as the Human technology of machinery and computers. The spaceship design in the opening sequence was one I got into although the amp-suits in particular are like anime mechas come to life and that in itself is a lot of fun to watch. Action fans will enjoy the battle scenes that make up the final act. They may find getting to the point a little boring though with the thoroughly heavily dramatic middle, which is buoyed by James Horner’s, stirring score.

In all, 3D viewing is probably a must as the visuals are amazing with not too much of those typical 3D gimmick effects (like say, a Na’vi shooting an arrow directly at the screen, which really isn’t there), especially in experiencing the world of Pandora. Otherwise, I feel the 2D version is eye candy all on its own and a visual feast just the same. The big question is probably, “Will Avatar outperform Titanic?” With the increased ticket prices, they are trying hard to break that opening weekend tally, and I would say that this is one movie that has to be seen on the big screen. I just don’t think it was worth the extra price increase.

And just maybe, the whole, “You Jump, I jump,” just might get replaced thanks to a whole new way of declaring one’s love for another in this movie.

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