Avatar Movie Review

Fun: 9
Action: 7
Drama: 6
SF: 9.5
Fantasy: 6
Sex: 6* – see review below
Violence: 7.5
Effects: 10* – see review below
Other: 8* – see review below

I saw this movie at the regular flat screen. S.O. and I are planning to see it in 3D, because the non-3D version is just that good.

Overall: Avatar is great! Go see this movie. It is a landmark in film production, even if the story has been done over several times before. Cameron has done it well. The extremely well-done SF setting pushes this into the category of Must See Movie.

(Fun: How much did I enjoy the movie?
Action: How much engaging action?
Drama: How much did the drama “get” me?
SF: How did this rate as science fiction?
Fantasy: How did this rate as fantasy?
Sex: How much sex was there in the movie?
Effects: How were the special effects?
Other: How did any other parts of the movie, such as the Moral Of The Story, work?)

SPOILERS!!!! DO NOT READ ANY FURTHER IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN THE MOVIE


I MEAN IT. SPOILERS BELOW.

Okay, here we go.

Avatar is great.

Fun:
The CGI is beyond good. Shrubbery moves like real shrubbery. Critters and characters move like real live beings. There were only two points where I remembered that a scene was all CGI. They slid on the hard science to make this movie, but only a little. For an SF geek like me, there were only a few transgressions that had me going, “Hey, wait a minute…” Naming the precious mineral “Unobtanium” came across as a way of saying, “Yeah, we know we’re playing fast & loose with the science.” The alien biology and physiology were interesting and fit very well with the story. One of the items that threw me out of the story was that too many of the life forms have a built in neural link that the alien natives, the Na’vi, can use. I can let it slide because that evolution could be guided very subtly and easily by the Na’vi’s god(dess). Likening a planet-wide set of neurons to a network with more connections than the human brain spells it out directly for the non-technobiologists.

All of that totals up to a really fun movie.

Action:
Scarred-up villain, gun-toting mercenaries, 10′ tall blue, tiger-striped aliens with big anime expressive eyes, carbon-fiber-laced bones, muscles to match, weird gravity, flying dragons, gunships, missiles, hand-to-hand, CRITTERS with BIG TEETH!!!, and a female lead who can fight.

Drama:

If you’ve seen Kevin Costner’s Dances With Wolves, you’ve seen this story without the SF, Fantasy, and Effects.

In fact, this story has been told so many times that it actually hurts the movie: Big bad corporation/country/military obliterates peace-loving, nature-worshipping, low-tech natives to get the land/natural resources/money. Soldier joins the natives, passes their tests and trials, falls in love with one, and turns on his Corporate employers.

The SF adds to the drama and keeps it from becoming boring. Cameron skillfully weaves those elements in so that we’re not stuck with a complete “seen it before, minus the space ships.”

The villains are believable Hollywood stock. The heroes are believable Hollywood stock. The alien animals are simply incredible – and their introductions are used to good effect while casually blowing anything Hollywood has tried before out of the water. The natives are barely alien enough in psychology and biology to be believable – a feat that would not be possible without the advances in filmmaking technology that Cameron showcases here.

What Cameron has done is taken a story you already know, told it to you again – very, very skillfully – against a science fiction backdrop. But the real magic is in the techniques and tools. This stuff will rock your world!

There is little here that will make you cry, plenty that will make you laugh, and lots of vistas and scenery that will simply make you go WOW!

SF:
I’ve already covered some of this. There is so much cool stuff here, backed up by at least plausible science, that I expect every viewing of this movie will show new elements of the planet and its environments. The atmosphere renders you unconscious in a couple dozen seconds, then dead in four minutes – and gives the natives a distinct advantage in a fight. Very believable, and also reinforces planetary conditions ripe for biology similar to, yet alien enough, our own world. The bioluminescent effects are a bit overdone, but definitely add to the story and environmental immersion.

The Na’vi themselves are a crowning achievement in computer animation. Simply incredible.

Where Peter Jackson made Tolkien’s well-studied and lore-filled world come to life in Lord of the Rings, Cameron now shows us the next step – creating new worlds complete with ecosystems and entirely CGI characters capable of motion and emotion beyond the limits of human range. Very simply, the CGI characters are ~part~ of the scene, not a pasted-on after-effect. They emote with more than just eyes or shape of the mouth. They have real expressions in their faces and bodies. Flesh moves like flesh.

Cameron gets it right: A ten-foot tall alien with carbon-fiber-laced bones and muscles shooting a seven-foot long arrow at you is going to do a lot of damage. No shaky-cams to hide poor choreography. No jerky-cams giving you whiplash and nausea. Just highly skilled cinematography letting the action, and story, speak for itself.

Fantasy:
I don’t think you can have a story like this without introducing some fantasy elements. We killed our own planet (“There’s nothing green left”) without wiping out %90 of our population? Aliens that experience love the way humans do? The main animals seen in the movie all have biological neural links that the natives can use?

The fantasy elements will discourage hard-core SF fans. But I think they can easily be overlooked.

Sex:
Plenty of views of bare-chested aliens. I’ve read about some reviewers taking this as too close to too many bare-chested human females. In my opinion, that’s too much of a leap – it makes me wonder how upset they get over watching a farmer milk a cow.

Slight jiggle factor contributing to the above.  I can easily foresee another industry refining the uses and applications this new technology.

One love scene.

The above items should discourage most parents from allowing their small children to go see the movie. The levels of violence should take care of the rest. This is a good thing – it’s a 3 hour flick that would surpass the self-restraint of most kids.

Violence:
Ok, we have large-scale battles with lots of natives getting machine-gunned down, blown up, falling off cliffs/dragons/aircraft to their deaths, etc. Very little in the way of blood, though. There is also the climactic battle between our hero and the villain. No body parts flying. No blood splatters – they used tablespoons instead of buckets. We also have impalements and critters biting and flinging people.

Effects:
The World Has Changed.

This is why you must see this movie. The effects are the backdrop on the movie. But they are always there. And then you forget that they’re effects. And then Cameron owns your imagination.

Other:
I don’t quite feel clubbed with the Moral Of The Story, but it’s close. You see characters conflicted over where their loyalties lie, over the ethics and morals of the choices they make, and dying for them. Cameron crammed a heck of a lot of story into three hours, along with loads of new effects, science, character background, backstory, character growth, and so forth. I expect the Editor’s Cut will simply be astounding.

Final Thoughts:
Cameron has changed filmmaking. The first few flicks using his new toys are going to be expensive pieces of work. Then the price will start coming down – on parts of it. Yeah, Avatar is a lot of fun to watch. I can’t wait to see what some other imaginative folks do with these tools!

11 Responses to “Avatar Movie Review”

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  4. Sanjay says:

    I first saw this movie at the Cinesphere. The huge screen, the fact this is about a true story, it was very papalble! To see it in 3D would have even more dramatic impact I think. Yes, I would go to see it in 3D.

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  7. […] actual big, buffed guys in monster suits for the Predators. With the exception of Cameron’s Avatar, the CGI can’t get the many nuances right for a completely CGI character. Also, you […]

  8. Avatar had to be the greatest movie ever.

  9. PookahBoss says:

    Hello, Hailey!

    I don’t think Avatar is simply a fantasy. Cameron, and his writers, know that a good story has multiple layers so that it will appeal to more people. What you get from this movie may be very different from what I, or S.O. get.

    In the strictest sense, Avatar is more science fantasy than science fiction or fantasy. There are fantasy elements (aliens that experience emotions the same way humans do) in a setting that is well supported by science (superconductors, atmospheric composition, technology).

    As a science fiction fan, I enjoyed the scenes where we had arcs of superconductor-bearing rocks majestically arched over the landscape – it immediately reminded me of the shape of magnetic or even gravitational fields, and blended nicely with the concept. Superconductors float in magnetic fields… we have floating mountains. Lower gravity… taller aliens and plant life. Gas masks hooked up to filters… straight, utilitarian, and effective. I didn’t get beat over the head with the science. It was there as part of the scenery. The way it should be.

    The environmental aspect of the film, combined with the political and social commentary, was over-the-top in my opinion.

    Is there a message that the directors were trying to enlighten us with? Maybe. I think the environmental/economic/social commentary was very much there. I don’t find any deeper meaning, spiritual or otherwise, in the movie. Doesn’t mean it’s not there; just that I don’t see it and that it doesn’t affect me that way.

    Then again, I’m somewhat known for sitting against a big oak tree, running my fingers through the moss around its roots and moldy leaves, closing my eyes, and leaning back against something so majestic and alive. It’s one of the things I love about our portion of the primordial scrub.

    It also drives Pookah nuts.

  10. Hailey Wren says:

    Ia Avatar simply a fantasy? or is there something more important to it? Are the directors trying to enlighten us?

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