You’ll forgive me if I dispense with the usual layout of a review with a plot summary, some teasers, the good, the bad, the ugly and a score and just say this. Avatar is the best 3D movie ever. Sometimes just admiring beauty is good.
This is a spectacular sci-fi movie with plenty of action and a display of what the latest in 3D technology can do to immerse an audience in a film. And believe me, this is one of the most immersive and visually impressive films of the year with or without 3D.
James Cameron’s world of Avatar is just that, a world. An immersive, vibrant, living thing with its own cultures and food-chains complete with the exotic creatures and plants that inhabit the place. The combination of imagination and design spent on aspects like the tech-heavy human colony and vehicles to the creatures and environment along with their behaviour is strong enough to make it all believable while 3D is used in an understated way to increase the atmosphere. This is a world you would love to explore from the floating mountains to the forest floor. At one point, I took my 3D glasses off and the film was as visually impressive, hence the release of a 2D version, but the 3D adds that extra depth. Seeing Sam Worthington crawl out of cryo-sleep along with other people in the background or the Na’vi nimbly pick their way through the deep forest, one is convinced that there is real depth to the scenes. From the first scene to the last, the 3D works as part of the world.
Another astounding aspect is the look and physicality of the big blue Na’vi. The fluidity and believability of their bodies is helped by the world they inhabit being a collection of luscious colours so they fit in. However, the most inspiring feature of the Na’vi is seeing how the facial features of the Na’vi resemble the actors . When you see Sigourney Weaver shed the doctors lab-coat for the blue skinned avatar and sport a huge smile that is identifiably hers you realise just how impressive the strong computer enhanced performances are at channelling the actors facial features through their Na’vi. Overall you feel these characters are real as the emotions conveyed by the Na’vi are palpable helping them look less like CGI dummies and more like the actors. The only downside is that the Na’vi design is so reminiscent of the noble savage and the stereotypes that are exuded from them. This also serves to highlight the cliché ridden aspects of the story: militarism and capitalism bad environmentalism good but you should just ignore it and enjoy the film.
All of this imagination and technology is moulded together in the huge battle scenes which are equally stirring and beautiful to look at. Ecology, colonialism, militarism, all of these themes and story elements are nearly overwhelmed when the explosions happen. Let’s face it you will be much more swayed by the look rather than the familiar story where you can work out what is going to happen before it happens and which at nearly three hours begins to feel like it.
As far as the characters, they are broad brush strokes. Worthington is fine as Marine Jake Sully. It is the Cameron’s trademark tough female characters and the secondary characters that are the most enjoyable.
Sigourney Weaver is excellent as the highly intelligent, prickly but humane and humorous Doctor Augustus while Michelle Rodriguez is enjoyable as she interprets the delight the planet can convey helping to suck you into the world. Giovanni Ribisi gives a delightful portrayal of corporate monster Parker Selfridge showing all the cultural and ecological insensitivity that big business is famed for in the hunt for the precious ore called ‘Unobtainium’ (a name which raised more than a few guffaws of laughter in the theatre). The reason? Balance sheets. Then there is the wonderfully evil, military hard man Colonel Miles Quaritch as played brilliantly by Stephen Lang.
Don’t let the story and dialogue put you off as this film is visually spectacular and breathtaking. The fact remains that this is probably the biggest justification for the use of 3D in films and perhaps the most stunning looking film of the decade. Every aspect of the film did indeed benefit from 3D, gone were the cheap tricks of spiky things thrown at the audience. There is real depth to this movie, visually at least, enough to immerse any audience.
Directed by: James Cameron
Sam Worthington – Jake Sully
Zoe Saldana – Neytiri
Sigourney Weaver – Dr. Grace Augustine
Stephen Lang – Colonel Miles Quaritch
Michelle Rodriguez – Trudy Chacon
Giovanni Ribisi – Parker Selfridge
Duration: 162 Minutes
Released by: Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation