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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 brianorndorf

"James Cameron shoots granny-style"
2 stars

In the 12 years since James Cameron last directed a feature film (a little art-house number called “Titanic,” heard of it?), much has changed in the growing field of special effects. His latest picture, “Avatar,” reflects a filmmaker who’s spent more time polishing his impressive new tools than scraping the rust off of his once extraordinary storytelling instincts. A gargantuan production of obscene technical achievement, “Avatar” is freakishly cold to the touch; the work of man who felt he had to leave a Godzilla-sized footprint on the face of cinema when all the public wanted was simply to have him back in the game he once dominated.

150 years into the future, corporate and military forces from Earth have set up camp on the planet Pandora, a lush environment home to “unobtainium,” a miracle energy substance hidden underneath the surface. Pandora is home to the Na’vi, a race of 8-foot-tall, cat-like tribal creatures who want little to do with the invading humans. Helping to bridge relations is the scientific “avatar” program, where a human can assume the synthetic body of a Na’vi through a special coffin-like mental device. Signing up for duty is paralyzed marine Jake Sully (Sam Worthington, “Terminator Salvation”), who, along with scientist Dr. Grace Augustine (Sigourney Weaver), heads into the heart of Na’vi nation, bonding with Neytiri (Zoe Saldana), a fierce princess. Finding acceptance with the Na’vi and joy with his newfound ability to walk, Jake’s sense of duty is tested when troops, led by the wicked Colonel Miles Quaritch (Stephen Lang), head in for the kill, hungry to clear the Na’vi out of their forest home and plunder the natural resources.

I’ll be the first to admit that “Titanic” is a tough act to top. While hardly sitting around his palace drinking cosmos and losing himself in online chess tournaments, Cameron nevertheless laid low for over a decade, popping up here and there with deep-sea exploration documentaries and assorted media appearances. “Avatar” is Cameron’s reintroduction to the gladiatorial arena of blockbuster filmmaking, armed with the sort of technical research on cameras and the possibilities of 3-D to make his latest film an eye-popping return to form, worth the dismayingly extended wait between movies.

Still, while it’s splendid to have Cameron back where he belongs, I fear the “Titanic” explosion has made the man permanently soft; the crack-pipe hit of cultural omnipresence has dulled his edge.

Running an unnecessary 160 minutes in length (it’s not a fleet-footed film), “Avatar” is Cameron endeavoring to serve up another world-dominating, four-course cinematic meal after pulling off unimaginable, unrivaled success with his previous feature. “Titanic” was about embellishing history, “Avatar” is about creating it.

Cameron’s vision inflates to a gigantic scale with this picture, taking the audience on a 3-D trip to the mysterious realm of Pandora, as fully realized and colorfully populated an alien planet as I’ve seen in my lifetime. It’s a 360-degree portrait of bioluminescent flora that swallows Jake and the Na’vi, lending exceptional splendor and outstanding CG-enabled texture to the film, punctuated by imposing fauna, who stalk the forests hunting for wandering Na’vi to snack on. There’s no doubt that “Avatar” is Cameron’s most brain-bleedingly striking picture to date; an actual formation of a world at play and at war, with Jake as our avatar into an alien landscape teeming with thrilling peril and breathtaking beauty.

Also impressive are the Na’vi, entirely CG-created, mo-cap creatures with the sort of expressive features and behavioral nuances animators will be studying for years to come. Tall, blue beasts with little in the way of clothing, DNA tendrils stored in their hair for immediate USB-plug connection to untamed Pandora wildlife, and a tendency to hiss when backed into a corner, the Na’vi are the centerpiece of “Avatar,” representing Cameron’s technical triumph and his needed foothold into the larger Vietnam allegory of the film. The Na’vi are peaceful beings, spiritually one with nature; they’re a feral force of indigenous determination, and a visual exclamation point within a film of consistently astonishing special effect achievement.

What Cameron does with all these buzzing ones and zeros leads to a thwack of disappointment with the final product. While teeming with fantastical sights and sounds, “Avatar” remains a leaden viewing experience. Cameron, feeling empowered by the heavily rewarded simplicity of “Titanic,” scripts “Avatar” with a fragrant magic marker, crudely contrasting the angelic Na’vi with the gung-ho marines, lead by Parker Selfridge (Giovanni Ribisi), a maniacal corporate stooge who wants to steamroll Pandora and inhale all of its natural resources. There are no shades of gray permitted in the film, only graceless representations of black and white, brought to life through a few dreary performances (Worthington hasn’t developed anything in the way of a screen presence yet and Lang is cringingly hammy in the wild-eyed, G.I. Joe role) and a script fueled by pathetically amateurish dialogue.

Because there’s such a colossal amount of money at stake with the film, Cameron finger-paints in primary colors to appease the widest possible audience, ditching any hope for a soulful emotional connection to Jake and the Na’vi. “Avatar” is consumed with bigness, not sophistication; the demand for awe starts to grind the film down after the introductory, new-car-smell period, soon left with only one-dimensional characters making predictable choices while the backgrounds flashdance to stave off dramatic inertia.

Cameron saves his big guns for the finale, pitting machine vs. Na’vi in a battle for the future of Pandora. Sure, there’s plenty of futuristic military hardware to marvel over, but the film’s conscience is absurdly overstated (along with its explosions and exposition), muting the impact of the spectacle, scored anemically by James Horner, who doesn’t provide any sort of heroic or cautionary theme to savor throughout the film. A shame.

“Avatar” is a tremendous disappointment, but perhaps only a mediocre film. Again, I’m grateful James Cameron has decided to return from the void, back making movies where he belongs. Time will tell if “Avatar” is a rare, indulgent misstep or the commencement of a disturbing fixation on creative control and overpowering eye candy. It’s tough to shake the thought that after 12 years of dormancy, this is the script James Cameron came up with? All the ornate animation and 3-D trickery can hardly hide that fact that “Avatar” is a hollow, coldly executed misfire.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=18294&reviewer=404
originally posted: 12/21/09 05:14:33
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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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