When I heard that James Cameron was talking about Avatar as “raising the bar” for all other movies I thought it was one of the biggest blowhard lines in history. Pshaw. Hooey.
Turns out I was wrong. This movie deserves to be a critical and box office success. With the release of Avatar in Imax 3D Cameron has significantly expanded the boundaries for what film-makers can do, not just visually, although he’s certainly done that – but conceptually.
The effects (done by New Zealand’s Weta Workshop, i.e. Peter Jackson) are so seamless you can’t tell where one ends and another begins. It’s as if the whole movie is one big giant effect, a bit like being strapped in to the most realistic video game / theme park ride ever. The world of Pandora is ovary-bendingly beautiful, and the action will put hairs on the chests of boys everywhere.
While some of the film dialogue reaches the not-so-Shakespearean heights of the second Star Wars trilogy, (the name of the exotic and massively expensive ore the company is trying to mine? Unobtanium…) some of the themes are about as subtle and complicated as a sledgehammer to the face, and the ending somewhat predictable; it just doesn’t matter that much – it’s still a fucking great movie.
The casting is excellent. While Sam Worthington (as quadriplegic marine Jake Sully) won’t be on anyone’s list as the next Phillip Seymour Hoffman, he’s still a very charismatic actor. Zoe Saldana (warrior princess & love interest Neytiri) is very expressive and sexy as a 10 foot tall blue woman, while Michelle Rodriguez (helicopter pilot Trudy Chacon) keeps being stereotyped playing kick-ass sexy tough girls because she’s damn good at it. Sigourney Weaver (Dr Grace Augustine) is totally convincing as a Gorillas-In-The-Mist type, and Giovanni Ribsi gets to play against type as a blithely evil corporate turd. Oh, not to forget Stephen Lang (marine Colonel Miles Quaritch) as a muscle-bound Hoo-Rah! guy getting down to business.
Ultimately it’s in the vein of Dances With Wolves where the hero starts out on the side of rapacious imperial colonialists and ends up on the other, morally superior indigenous side, with a very strong pro-environment message, which may sound slightly irritating on the face of it, but you really do have to see it (and make sure it’s in Imax 3D) to see just why Avatar is so compelling.
4.5 out of 5