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Overall Rating
3.43

Awesome38.13%
Worth A Look: 15%
Average: 16.25%
Pretty Bad: 12.5%
Total Crap: 18.13%

7 reviews, 118 user ratings



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by Mel Valentin

"Revolutionary? No. Evolutionary? Definitely."
4 stars

The television ads, trailers, and marketing promos for "Avatar," James Cameron’s ("Titanic," "True Lies," "Terminator 2: Judgment Day," "The Abyss," "Aliens," "The Terminator") return to narrative filmmaking (after a twelve-year hiatus) promise a revolutionary, game-changing experience. Never one to shy away from grandiose, hubris-influenced claims, Cameron hopes "Avatar," a 3D science fiction/action/fantasy epic, will transport audiences to a singularly immersive experience. That he comes close is a testament to that oft-used, oft-abused word, “vision” (that and an estimated production budget anywhere from $250 million to $500 million). Vision is exactly what Cameron brings to "Avatar" and its photo-realistic alien world, but it’s a vision partly undermined by clunky dialogue, awkward plot points, superfluous voiceover narration, and an over-earnest, over-obvious environmental message.

Avatar is set in a dystopian future (2154 C.E. to be exact), a future we learn about through the occasional dialogue or background references. Humanity has continued down an environmentally destructive path (Cameron sees himself as a” serious” filmmaker and as we know, serious filmmakers make serious statements in their films, regardless of their entertainment value or genre-specific pleasures). Non-renewable resources are gone or in short supply, the rainforests are probably gone (a comment about the absence of plant life on Earth indicates as much), resource wars are the norm, and the military (and presumably what passes for a federal or national government) has become an extension of multinational corporations, providing security for corporate interests. And if the lead character’s disability is any indication, universal healthcare has been indefinitely postponed (his disability can be fixed, but only at great cost).

The military’s role in protecting corporate interests brings us to Pandora, a lush, rain-forest moon orbiting Polyphemus, a Jupiter-like planet in the Alpha Centuri system 4.3 light years from Earth (it takes six years to reach Pandora from Earth). In interviews, Cameron has described Pandora as “Garden of Eden with teeth and claws.” Populated by fierce, dangerous animals, six-legged, multi-legged carnivores and herbivores on the ground and dragon- or pterodactyl-like creatures in the air, humans are too frail to exist on Pandora without the help of advanced military technology, including 12-foot tall A.M.P. (i.e., mecha) suits and heavily armed gunships, used to protect a civilian mining operation on Pandora to extract “unobtainium” ($20 million/kilo according to one character).

To interact with the Na’vi, 10-foot tall blue humanoid aliens, humans have turned to the “avatars,” human-Na’vi hybrids operated via neural link. Over the objections of Grace Augustine (Sigourney Weaver), the scientist running the avatar program, the corporation’s representative on Pandora, Parker Selfridge (Giovanni Ribisi), turns to Jake Sully (Sam Worthington), a paraplegic ex-Marine, to take his dead brother’s place (avatars are expensive to grow and maintain). Along with another scientist, Norm Spellman (Joel David Moore), Augustine, and Sully (in their avatars) leave the mining colony to explore Pandora. Almost immediately, Jake is separated from Augustine and Spellman, forcing him to fend for himself against a massive, puma-like predator, a Thanator. Neytiri (Zoe Saldana), a warrior princess from a nearby Na’vi clan, saves Sully.

From there, Avatar follows the familiar assimilation/acculturation story (e.g., Dances With Wolves, A Man Called Horse), with Sully overcoming resistance from Neytiri, Eytucan (Wes Studi), her father and clan leader, Mo’at, her mother and spiritual leader (CCH Pounder), and another Na’vi warrior (and next in line for clan leadership), Tsu’Tey (Laz Alonso). The Na’vi are a warrior-based culture (they have bows and arrows, spears and knives, but nothing else), but they’re also deeply spiritual, believing in an all-protective Earth Mother (Gaia to us, Eywa to them) and a Force-like connection between all living things. Their animist beliefs stand in contrast to the non-beliefs of the humans, military or civilian, on Pandora.

The Na'vi would be all the more clichéd if they were Africans (in their physical appearance) or Native Americans (in their culture). And they’re blue-skinned because few alternatives exist (green is already taken, for obvious reasons) and anything resembling human pigmentation (i.e., from pinks to blacks) would add an unnecessarily problematic subtext to Avatar, something Cameron was obviously intent to avoid. Whatever his artistic pretensions and political beliefs, Cameron strove to make a film with wide demographic appeal for audiences in the United States and elsewhere. A budget of $250 million (some estimates double that amount) demands nothing less.

The corporation and the military, led by Col. Quaritch (Stephen Lang), have other ideas for Sully: infiltrate the Na’vi and pass back information that might prove decisive in a military confrontation and that, of course, is exactly what we get in the third act. Rarely one to subvert expectations, Cameron gives us an almost completely virtual (with the exception of human characters), photo-realistic battle sequence. It might not be revolutionary or game-changing as the pre-release hype has suggested, but it’s a major step forward visually and narratively. It’s practically seamless and with Cameron exploiting the possibilities of 3D, the immersive experience Cameron has repeatedly promised.

Unfortunately, Cameron failed to write a screenplay equal to his talents as a visual storyteller (or the best visual effects money could buy). Clichéd, predictable plot points, on-the-nose dialogue, redundant voiceover narration (from Sully, mostly via a video log), and underwritten characters were all problems that could (and should) have been fixed at the screenplay stage. By his own admission, Cameron wrote the screenplay (actually a “scriptment”) fifteen years ago and put it aside when he realized the technology wasn’t available to actualize his vision for Pandora and "Avatar." Instead, we’re left with clunky, on-the-nose dialogue and logic-defying plot points that work against the visually immersive experience Cameron has crafted over the last four years ("Avatar" began pre-production four years ago). Whatever its faults (and it has many), "Avatar" has to be seen to be disbelieved, preferably on a 3D or 3D-IMAX screen.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=18294&reviewer=402
originally posted: 12/16/09 22:00:00
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User Comments

10/30/16 morris campbell not bad but way overrated IMO its no star wars 3 stars
3/21/16 Frenzy Copy of a copy 3 stars
5/07/15 FireWithFire Umpteenth, Anti-White propaganda made by filthy-rich,White Guilt Leftists 1 stars
1/18/13 austin love it 5 stars
12/11/12 Jamie Green screen movie 2 stars
9/19/12 austin love it 5 stars
7/23/12 cr i love james cameron and weaver, but this movie has good effects, but overated. 3 stars
2/09/12 stanley welles a terrible, unoriginal movie. do not watch! 1 stars
1/17/12 The Velcro Warlock Overly simplistic "green" "values" keep it from being superb anthropological fiction. 3 stars
11/16/11 the truth an anti-corporate movie produced & distributed by companies. cameron lost it after T2 1 stars
8/16/11 Machine Gun Tom A piece of shit for lefty greeny tree huggers to jerk over! 1 stars
5/15/11 stephen nettles AMAZING 5 stars
1/22/11 Shawn E Weird characters, but loved the animation. Fascinating 4 stars
1/17/11 chaotik tom THE most over-rated movie EVER 2 stars
12/10/10 PookyP Once I left the theatre it was forgotten 2 stars
12/09/10 car i like cameron and i love sigouney , but the overall movie was pretty good at best. 3 stars
10/30/10 Harry Definition of "retarded": people who hate this movie 5 stars
10/29/10 Rolly Hyatt Absolutely breathtaking. Takes bits and pieces from every movie ever made, but who cares? 5 stars
10/29/10 Jerry If you hate this movie, you are an idiot and I feel sorry for you. Skxawng! 5 stars
10/15/10 Jack NOT overrated AT ALL! The pure greatness FAR outweighs the unoriginaliy! 5 stars
9/06/10 millersxing both story and spectacle shine. new worlds put on display that elevate the archetypes. 5 stars
8/07/10 Bob Truly wonderful movie; exciting, heartwarming, and not at all overrated! 5 stars
7/25/10 Joe smaltz 3D lackluster if it wasn't 3D it would have been a "B" movie! 2 stars
7/19/10 The Stick that Slaps I was rooting for the Colonel all the way... 2 stars
7/08/10 Ionicera worth watching for great visuals and action sequences - not for a cliche-ridden script 4 stars
7/03/10 ad i guess the story does not matter..? 2 stars
6/27/10 R.W. Welch The ultimate visual spectacular; less gripping dramatically. B- 4 stars
6/14/10 LINDA DOWDY Loved the story line and the graphics! 5 stars
6/13/10 Chris F most dull and boring film i have ever watched complete crap 1 stars
6/08/10 Flathead King A rare combination of style and substance but characterization could have been better. 4 stars
5/31/10 alex boring script, mediocre acting, would be 1 star if 2d 2 stars
5/20/10 Bill Technical virtuosity can't replace skillful characterization. 2 stars
5/07/10 Steve Hock What? No advanced Predator Drones? Cameron? Drones? 5 stars
5/01/10 Brian Moreau Brilliant work of art,the 'political' undercurrent says so much about the monster the u.s. 5 stars
4/28/10 Charles Tatum I loved it!...when it was called "Dances With Wolves" 1 stars
4/27/10 long river way overated. very disappointed 2 stars
4/13/10 Jeff Wilder A+ for the special effects, D+ for characters, story and dialogue 3 stars
4/01/10 the dork knight Good acting despite cliche script. Too many braveheart speeches 4 stars
3/30/10 Andrew Gonzales I LOVE THIS MOVIE 5 stars
3/30/10 Andrew Gonzales MY FAVORITE MOVIE EVER!!!! 5 stars
3/19/10 Pienaar A few good action scenes/special effects, but overall very forgettable 2 stars
3/15/10 K. Sear If you know James Cameron, you know what to expect. A simple story with exciting action. 4 stars
3/09/10 Al It gave me diarrhea. But that understandable, considering what I was taking in 1 stars
3/06/10 Ron Newbold Didn't think I'd like it but...What a movie - GO!! 5 stars
3/02/10 Brian Wilshire See Avatar at least 3 times, then wait for John Carter of Mars in 2 years' time. Awesome! 5 stars
3/02/10 chuck smith an electronic coloring book with hackneyed performances on top of a sophomoric script. 2 stars
2/28/10 Milly total crap 1 stars
2/24/10 Rain Unbelievable 5 stars
2/21/10 eclavu boring 1 stars
2/12/10 Dr.Lao I've seen a lot of cheesy, cliched movies in my day, and now I've seen one more 1 stars
2/09/10 Ralph Woods Ground-breaking visuals, poor story-telling, worth seeing, leave your high-horse behind 4 stars
2/08/10 king kong you people are missing the point. Mindless sheep blinded by great fx but terrible story 1 stars
2/07/10 Smitty A run of the mill plot but an absolutely beautiful movie - a must see in 3D Imax 5 stars
2/06/10 Jessica Absolutely spectacular!! 5 stars
2/01/10 KingNeutron SW's still Hot-Dont listen to critics-see 3D IMAX version and DECIDE FOR YOURSELF -- I did 4 stars
1/27/10 Dina Held my interest but definitely way over-hyped 3 stars
1/27/10 Martin what a stupid empty movie. a little better tham sw01 phantom menace 1 stars
1/26/10 Bluespapa Ah, wondersful 3D adventure. How could this not win best picture? 5 stars
1/25/10 polar opposite god you people don't know anything about film this is just a special fx masturbation 1 stars
1/24/10 Champion This movie is a must-see. I didnt see it in 3d but it was still unreal none the less 5 stars
1/24/10 Josie Cotton is a goddess Almost three hours long, but moves at such a break-neck pace that you won't notice 4 stars
1/22/10 Mike K Where did they find all those big blue actors ? - That's how real they look. Great SF. 5 stars
1/22/10 Abhishek Chakraborty Story's pretty much ferngully ripoff...but still it looks too awesome to reject 5 stars
1/20/10 nic cage just a special effects driven film at the end of it, bad cliched story and terrible acting 1 stars
1/20/10 Stanley Thai Run, don't walk, to your nearest theater. This is a movie you should see before you die. 5 stars
1/18/10 jethro BO is letting his expectations get the better of him here. This is 2.5 or 3 stars, easily. 3 stars
1/17/10 odowd The movie effects are incredible. The story was not equal to the effects. 5 stars
1/13/10 Quirinius Snobb If you like shiny objects, you'll love avatar. Unless you also want plot, characters, etc 1 stars
1/12/10 powermore just blah 1 stars
1/11/10 Koitus Wow! Yeah, kind of a Sci-Fi "Dances With Wolves," but a must-see in a theater! 4 stars
1/11/10 DLA It suggests the military and corporate business are bad guys--left-wing communist garbage!! 1 stars
1/09/10 powerball very mediocre film 1 stars
1/06/10 Croweater888 James Cameron's big environmental statement on human greed - that cost 300+ million to make 1 stars
1/05/10 mr.mike Dances with Wolves Redux. 4 stars
1/05/10 Glen Gummess A fabulous visual feast, and a formulaic plot that works. 5 stars
1/04/10 mwildema unreal 5 stars
1/04/10 Ry Horrible story and plot. Blatant and typical incorrect representation of capitalism. 1 stars
1/03/10 Luke The most spectacular movie-going experience I've had since... well, Titanic. A MUST SEE! 5 stars
1/02/10 Linda Fabulous imagery,incredibly lush visuals. Will see again. 5 stars
12/31/09 damalc story? seen it before. effects? never seen that before. 4 stars
12/30/09 topman really wanted to like it, great sfx but poor cliche storyline 1 stars
12/29/09 Obi Wan Beautifully done. Amazing visuals, very good overall! 5 stars
12/29/09 Kaisersushi Cowboys vs. Indians deja vu. Doesn't Neyteri look like Joan Allen? 4 stars
12/29/09 FrankNFurter An orgasimacally breathtaking technical achievement. Easily the best film in years! 5 stars
12/28/09 Hmm Not bad, some great scenes but let down by limited script and characters 3 stars
12/28/09 Jeff S. Well...Mr. Sobcynski, there goes any credibility you hoped to ever have as a critic. 5 stars
12/27/09 Jon D It is the best special effects movie i have EVER seen. Must be see in 3d to get full effect 5 stars
12/27/09 randy todger helen bradley stick to cooking you lesbian bastard 5 stars
12/27/09 John An empty vessel. 2 stars
12/26/09 M Amazing 5 stars
12/24/09 Wendy and Lisa Stunning visuals (5 stars), laughable script (2-3 stars). See the IMAX 3D version. 4 stars
12/24/09 Hayden It was great story wise, visual wise, and action wise. Everyone SHOULD see this movie! 5 stars
12/24/09 Louise Not my thing. And it did not need to be in gimmicky 3D. 3 stars
12/23/09 Pile Movie magic at its purest. Go see and allow youself to dream. 5 stars
12/23/09 Paul Amazing technical breakthrough, could have spent more money on the script, worth seeing 4 stars
12/22/09 Neytiri awesome 5 stars
12/22/09 ag_krish 3D is not up to the expected level. The sequel (If any!!) of this may be good. 4 stars
12/22/09 pavel there is nothing to watch 1 stars
12/22/09 ES fan-fuking-tastic! 5 stars
12/21/09 Mishyana @ SupeG: As opposed to the myth of the noble modern man? 4 stars
12/21/09 Helen Bradley Too long, too boring, lousy plot, too much violence 1 stars
12/21/09 DHaneyArt Stunning and thoroughly entertaining 3D experience. Sobczynski mussa been sittin on carrot 5 stars
12/21/09 Chopper3 I read the script(ment) 12 years ago and couldn't have imagined how well it turned out 5 stars
12/20/09 Kelly Fraser Great film, but the 3D dragged me into the film like no other 5 stars
12/20/09 Quigley Visually mind-blowing; totally pulls you into its world; script could have been better 5 stars
12/20/09 SupeG Visually stunning but too politically correct. Embraces the myth of the nobel savage. 3 stars
12/20/09 Adrian Awesome! Never seen anything like it. I like how the 3-D is used for subtley for immersion. 5 stars
12/20/09 chief wiggum sobczynski is a cunt.amazing film critics are wankers 5 stars
12/20/09 action movie fan great imagery decent story a bit too long andit has all been seen before-still worth a look 3 stars
12/19/09 PAUL SHORTT A TECHNICAL WONDER THAT REPRESENTS A FAILURE OF NERVE 2 stars
12/19/09 Jesper Magical 3D experience, but cliched to hell otherwise, still worth a look 4 stars
12/19/09 Gog Top notch eye candy, but everything else is a complete snooze. 3 stars
12/19/09 Todd One of the best science fiction movies I've ever seen. Best movie of the year. 5 stars
12/19/09 Bob Dog I bet Sobczynski had this review written 5 years ago... 5 stars
12/19/09 mick I agree T2 was a technical marvel in its time, same thing this time but shit story. 2 stars
12/19/09 Darkstar I don't know what movie the reviewer watched. I saw one of the most amazing movies ever! 5 stars
12/18/09 kaz AMAZING best animation EVER 5 stars
12/18/09 Flounder I'm torn. The film is utterly breathtaking to watch but is a narrative mess of banalities 3 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  18-Dec-2009 (PG-13)
  DVD: 16-Nov-2010

UK
  N/A

Australia
  18-Dec-2009
  DVD: 20-Apr-2010




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