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Overall Rating

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 MP Bartley

"Blue Movie"
3 stars

I've often wondered what it were to be like when talkies wiped out the sound era, or what it was like when colour banished black and white films to the past. Well, I'm alive and well when a 3D film has established itself as the biggest earner of all time - but I'm yet to be convinced that we're at the beginning of a new era of cinema.

It's 2154 and humanity has established a scientific and military base on the planet Pandora. They want a precious mineral, Unobtainimum (yes, really, and annoyingly it's never established just what it does that makes it so precious), but are facing conflict with the natives of Pandora, the Na'avi who guard their homelands, the source of Unobtainium, fiercely. In order to smooth things over with the Na'avi, Dr Augustine (Sigourney Weaver), has constructed the Avatar programme, by which human and Na'avi DNA is spliced together to form a Na'avi-esque body into which the feelings and thought processes of a human controller can be downloaded. One such driver is marine Jake Sully (Sam Worthington), who finds himself enlisted by not only Augustine, but Quaritch (Stephen Lang), the colonel in charge of the marines who views the Na'avi as not something to be studied, but something to be swatted aside, and Sully's interaction with the Na'avi gives him exactly the tools he needs to complete this objective. Sully, being a grunt, agrees, but once his Avatar blends in with the Na'avi he finds himself attracted to Nery'iti (Zoe Saldana) a Na'avi warrior, and finds himself caught in a power struggle between the two races.

Of course, this all happens in 3D and the first question is should Avatar be reviewed as a film in its own right or as the biggest pointer we've had to the future of cinema?

If we do look at this purely through our 3D glasses, then it's an astonishing success. Cameron has made sure that the 3D process is not just a gimmick, but simply another tool he has grafted onto his story to immerse us in the world of Pandora. It's an experience, unlike any other and there are moments that will take your breath away - not just the alien landscapes, but scenes such as Jake waking up in a free-floating medical bay that seemingly stretches on forever. Cameron has always been at the forefront of invention and reinvention and, once again, can take great pride in his heroic attempt at reinventing the wheel. Avatar is the most stunning use of 3D we've seen yet. However, this wheel is still missing a few spokes.

The 3D is only part of the story. After all, we don't judge the first colours or talkies purely on their innovation, and beyond the fresh, unique trappings, Avatar has to be viewed as any other film should be, and in that regard it's substantially lacking. I'd stop short of labelling Cameron the new William Castle, throwing a new trick at the audience to distract us from his shortcomings, but the shortcomings are there nevertheless, and no amount of 3D can mask that.

One of Cameron's greatest strengths has always been his ability to tell taut, streamlined stories, while keeping them intelligent and engaging. Avatar is a windy, baggy film. An age passes from Jake's touchdown on the planet to the final 40 minutes of the film, where the tension between the humans and the Na'avi finally simmers over. This 40 minutes is an incredible sequence of action cinema, cutting between an air battle and a land battle, and is as good as Cameron's ever done. But it takes an age to get to it. Most of the build-up is spent with Jake intergrating himself into the Na'avi culture, but the problem here is that they're an awfully dull lot to spend most of the film with. Beyond the cliche that they're a mystical race with a deep link to the nature around them, there's nothing particulary interesting about the race and they come off like one of the myriad of thinly-drawn races that Lucas populated the Star Wars prequels with - all pretty pixels and predictable dialogue (can you guess what the brave warrior who Nery'iti is betrothed to, will make of Jake's intrusion? And how their relationship will eventually end up? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?). The many comparisons to The New World or Dances With Wolves were inevitable, but what they have, and what they draw their mythic and affecting power from is the human factor, which Avatar doesn't. I'd like to think that's an ironic self-commentary, but I can't give Cameron that much credit, sadly.

As thinly-written and performed as they are, they also don't convince on the level of say, Gollum, or even Jackson's Kong, when it comes to the much-vaunted realism of their actions. That's also the problem with Pandora itself - most of it feels exactly like Kong island and as much as Cameron is pushing boundaries here, he's also creating a distance between the story and the audience. The alien world looks spectacular, but it never feels real. You can't feel the mud under your feet or the rain on your face, like the truly great sci-fi/fantasy films make you feel - did someone mention Dagobah or Middle Earth? It's a sad irony that it is exactly Cameron's achievement in one area that torpodeos another. His films are exceptional when it comes to making you feel for the characters, no matter the genre (who else could wring as much emotion as he from Aliens or make The Terminator a genuinely affecting love story?), but there's nothing to hold
onto, no-one to root for, under the razzle-dazzle of his new wrapping. It's ultimately a rather hollow experience and remarkable that for a 160 minute epic utilising 3D in a way never seen before, there's so little here that's actually memorable.

Another of Cameron's gifts, and one that is often underrated, is his casting and direction of actors. His characterisation rarely rises above anything that is more than necessary - Cameron's characters don't do complexity - but he has always countered that with charismatic actors and engaging performances. Weaver, Biehn, Harris, Hamilton, Winslet, Paxton - it's something he's rarely given credit for. But it's something else he forgets here. Worthington is unfathomably dull, Saldana can't really bring her CGI character to life and the usually dependable Weaver is given little to work. None are helped by Cameron's writing - quite often a flaw anyway, there's so much dreadful exposition and clunky dialogue here, it all sounds like a first draft, badly in need of a polish, with Worthington's innane voiceover rattling in the ears particularly badly. For all the poetry he finds on Pandora, Cameron has none for the characters. I'm surely not the only one to have South Park's Cartman in the back of his mind at times - "What the hell is this tree-hugging hippy crap, anyway?"

The fiery Cameron of old has seemingly disappeared to be replaced by a new touchy-feely Cameron. Happily, he's still retained that thirst and desire to bring something new and unseen to the table yet again - but if this is the future that Cameron is determined to live in, I'd like him to have a little more fire in his belly next time round. In some ways he's as sleek as ever, but in others he's getting far too flabby.

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originally posted: 02/19/10 01:42:22
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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 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
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  DVD: 16-Nov-2010


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