Here we go then, this is one of the big ones for the “10 Decades” marathon, as it was the highest grossing box office film for many years, and a sci-fi film to boot, and yet I never watched it. Why? Well, all I ever heard about it was how seeing it in 3D was amazing, and real experience in the cinema, that sort of thing, but I hate 3D, it gives me a headache even with the glasses on, so I didn’t bother. The story sounded dull and cliché anyway… Just about a decade later and I finally sit down and watch it, and guess what? It looks nice, but its dull and cliché… Let’s have a look in more detail anyway, because why not?
On the lush alien world of Pandora live the Na’vi, beings who appear primitive but are highly evolved. Because the planet’s environment is poisonous, human/Na’vi hybrids, called Avatars, must link to human minds to allow for free movement on Pandora. Jake Sully, a paralyzed former Marine, becomes mobile again through one such Avatar and falls in love with a Na’vi woman. As a bond with her grows, he is drawn into a battle for the survival of her world.
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
Cast of Characters:
“Wow, what do you call these?” “Flowers.” “Oh, right…”
Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) – Jake is a paraplegic former Marine who is chosen to “pilot” his dead twin brother’s Avatar on Pandora, and finds not only walking again to be rather enjoyable, but many more things too…
Neytiri (Zoe Saldana) – A member of the Na’vi Omaticaya clan who is betrothed to Tsu’tey, but wouldn’t you know it, she soon falls for Jake’s Avatar.
Col. Miles Quaritch (Stephen Lang) – Col. Quaritch is your classic military-minded idiot who sees nothing wrong with killing anything in the way of a mission.
Dr. Grace Augustine (Sigourney Weaver) – Dr. Grace is an exobiologist who is sympathetic with the Na’vi and wish to see them work hand-in-hand with the human race.
Trudy Chacón (Michelle Rodriguez) – Trudy is a combat pilot who, much like Jake, eventually sides with the Na’vi in the inevitable conflict with humanity.
Tsu’tey (Laz Alonso) – The best warrior in the Omaticaya, Tsu-tey is also to be wed to Neytiri, at least that’s the plan to start with…
Plus many more!
Still impressive a decade later, though given the cost you’d hope it would be…
Much like all the reviews of the time, I will say that even in 2019 and without 3D, the film does indeed still look stunning. With the blu-ray on and the lights off, I’m pretty sure the bright and well-defined colours of Pandora burned my retinas out… in a good way? The big fight scene between the Na’vi and the military is quite the sight to behold as well, well-directed despite, again, being mostly CGI (not that I should act surprised that James Cameron directed something well…) I can see why this on the big screen with a new form of technology could have brought the audience in droves to not only see it once, but more than once. As for the film judged purely as a film? Well… Not good.
I will say that despite being entirely CG, the Na’vi are well created, and the world of Pandora is strangely believable as an alien-to-us world and civilization. Zoe Saldana does a good job of emoting behind the layer of computer generated blue skin. I’ll also mention that Jake being paralyzed was a good idea, having him see the Avatar as an escape to the person he used to be puts a different spin on his “mission”, and would make the choice of siding with the Na’vi at the possible expense of being able to walk again a harder one. It made the time he was technically spying on them more believable, more likely that it would be hard to him to turn his back on his own race, and potentially his own life…
Col. Quaritch finds out someone ate his lunch by mistake. You should see him when someone betrays orders!
It’s just British colonialism, innit? Mixed in with a message about depleting resources. Now, don’t get me wrong, looking down on a tribal people as lesser than you is wrong and I strongly dislike my ancestors, if they were directly involved with it, for doing so, and obviously future generations may well be completely screwed due to our using up of natural resources without searching for an alternate answer sooner, but this film does what I just wrote but over the course of over two hours… No subtlety, no interesting characters or deeper plot, just an on-the-nose message with pretty pictures.
Jake is your classic “cool Marine” who then gains a heart and fights for the people, Miles Quaritch is the most boring military hard-arse stereotype you’ll ever encounter, and Dr. Grace is the “seems like she’s uncaring, but actually cares more than pretty much anyone else” scientist. That being said, at least they have tiny ripples in their personality, the rest of cast is created using the random sci-fi character generator…
You think that a film with such a long runtime and with such a high reputation box office-wise I’d have more to say, that I’d write paragraphs and paragraphs, but I don’t. It was visually stunning, but the characters were paper-thin and the plot was incredibly obvious and generic. If this was one of your first ever forays into sci-fi, then I’m sure the plot might have had you hooked, but in reality there is nothing new here, no deep plot, no twists or subtlety. It’s “Johnny’s first sci-fi script” with a billion dollar paint job.
For reality there’s still an awful lot of CG imagery…
Avatar can hold your attention due to its visuals, but if you’re anything like me, you’ll find your mind drifting as what you assume is going to happen happens exactly as you thought it would. The message it tells is a good one at its core, but its told so straightforwardly here that it’s just boring. The characters don’t help this by being extremely dull either… Nah, I’m sorry Avatar fans, but after all this time the film lived up to what it sounded like: it was an amazing experience in the cinema I’m sure, but as a film by itself, it’s just an average sci-fi script with dull characters and pretty effects.