Movie Review – Avatar

Plot:  It is years into the future.  The Military travels to the planet Pandora in the hopes of digging up hordes of rock that is extremely valuable to Earth, but they are met with resistance by the planet’s inhabitance, the Navi.  Jake Sully (a paralyzed soldier) is put in the body of a Navi (an Avatar) in the hopes that he will find a weakness, but Jake ends up growing attached to their culture.   

Avatar is a very good movie.  I thoroughly enjoyed it and think you should go see it, but it’s not an “Oh My God, I can’t believe what I just saw!  Holy crap, I’m going to be talking about this for the next twenty years” type movie.  Although I’m sure most people will have that sentiment.  I’ll say this about Avatar:  For the first third, I was pretty damn close to thinking that way.  The special effects are the best I’ve ever seen…for maybe about a half hour.  Unfortunately, my big gripe with Avatar is with the second half.  It was a “been there, done that,” and I wanted more based on how the first act began.  But let’s dive into this near three hour budget breaking bonanza, shall we?

When we first see the humans put into their Navi-Avatars (those blue guys in the trailer), my jaw dropped.  I’ve never been a special effects guy.  I’ve always felt special effects should be in the background and maybe enhance a movie’s story here and there, but when I do see remarkable special effects, everything else takes a back seat.  It’s rare, but Avatar gets that distinction.  The effects especially had me tingling when you see the Navi interacting with their environment.  Holy crap.  This is astounding.  The facial expressions were downright scary in how realistic they looked.  I felt like I was more CG than these things.  The lighting and how the trees and forest react to the Navi is mesmerizing.  The animation in the creatures was all amazing.  Yadda, yadda, yadda.  This is all pretty early on in the movie, but here’s the problem: This is three hours long.  The special effects don’t develop or give you any more variety after the first 30 to 45 minutes.

To be honest, it got pretty boring.  The effects get so repetitive that even though they were unbelievably impressive (and I can’t stress that enough) I got sick of them.  It was either close-up after close-up after close-up of the Navi, or it was particles of trees moving around their bodies.  Show me something else with these awesome effects, or don’t make a three hour movie!  Enough already, I get it.

Then we have the big huge action scene at the end, it was no more special than what I’ve seen in recent movies like Helms Deep in the Two Towers, or the lava planet in Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith.  Yeah, I compared Avatar to a Star Wars prequel.  Go cry about it.

But enough about the special effects, because there is actually other stuff to discuss.  Now the story is mediocre.  It serves its purpose, but mediocre.  I really liked three of the characters quite a bit.  This movie would have been a lot worse if Sigourney Weaver was not in it.  She is great as the doctor in charge of the Avatar program.  She is capable of carrying a scene entirely on her own.  The other great performance was Zoe Saldana as Neytiri, the Navi we get to know the most.  Her tone and voice flow beautifully with the intention of the scene.  Remember, she was also Uhura in Star Trek this past summer, so big things are ahead for this actress I’m sure.

Then there’s Sam Worthington as the protagonist, Jake Sully.  A very likable guy, solid performance.  You sympathize and enjoy following his character.  There are big things ahead for Sam Worthington as well.  Unfortunately, everyone else in this movie is excruciatingly cliché and predictable.

The biggest problem is the antagonist, the generic strong armed military man, Col. Miles Quaritch (Stephen Lang).  He’s so cliché, that he makes other movie clichés seem original again.  I mean really, this was pathetic.  And I’m sorry, I know it’s a movie about special effects, and if it was just a secondary character, I’d let it slide, but this is the antagonist.  It’s too important.  This hurt the movie significantly, especially in the final action scene.  As there’s such an underdeveloped whatever bad guy, I just didn’t feel a whole lot of emotion at the end like I wanted to.  The main protagonists were all good characters, but I needed to see more from the bad guy.

All in all, Avatar is a solid movie.  I like the main characters and the special effects were revolutionary, but the movie is so long, that the effects get stale during the course of the film.  It’s so repetitive and predictable in the second half that I can’t be completely and utterly impressed with it.  When comparing it to something like Star Trek, it’s just not as good because Star Trek gives you so much variety with its effects.  You get planets imploding into themselves, people teleporting in mid-air, epic space battles and that movie had much better characters and a much better story (although I know a lot of people hated the story in Star Trek).

James Cameron is a great director, but this is not his best work.  I’ll take Aliens, Terminator 2 and The Abyss any day.  Those movies had not only ground breaking effects, but moments and scenes of great tension with memorable villains.  While Avatar has some great moments, there are no great scenes.  It sounds like I dislike this movie, but I don’t.  I enjoyed it a great deal.  It’s a very good movie, just not a great one.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.        

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