December 23, 2009

Review: James Cameron's 'Avatar'

Writing about web page http://tieyourcamel.co.uk/movies/review-james-camerons-avatar


About four months ago I was invited to watch a long preview of James Cameron's hugely expensive'Avatar'</a>. I predicted it would be 'Pocahontas in Space'. I continued:


Civilised-but-crippled (just physically?) white man gets out of his depth in an alien world, has his life saved by a native woman (with a strange accent!), slowly assimilates into their culture and way of living managing inexplicably to better the natives at their own way of life before, for some reason, the white civilised culture (with token ethnic characters) tries to 'save' or attempts to eradicate the native population.  


It turns out I was exactly right. If you're looking for a highly-original plot, Avatar's not the film for you. But then Cameron's speciality isn't really originality; it's the ability to take a cliche and make it fun, exciting and interesting. And I have to admit that I was misguided in my expectations. I thought the film would be terrible. I was wrong. It's an awesome cliched monster of a film that is best enjoyed in a cinema with a big screen.


So what is it really all about? A former marine, Jake Sully (Sam Worthington), gets roped into working with the 'Avatar Program' on an alien world ('Pandora' - what will happen when we open up this box I wonder!). The program's a corporate-bought scientific exploration into the planet's native flora, fauna and 'indigenous'. Sully's role? To replace his brother (and save the company money regrowing an 'Avatar') and to use his marine expertise to safeguard the science crews. He also has another mission: to spy on the indigenes to find a way to remove them from their central home-place; a giant tree called 'the Mother Tree'. In this he's enlisted by a hard-ass Patton-type character, Colonol Quaritch (Stephen Lang) and Mr Big Corporate Parker Selfridge (Giovanni Ribisi). 


Nothing original here. Cold-hearted Sully, uncaring cog in the colonial machine lives with the indigenes for a while and 'goes native'. He realises how awesome their way of life is and does all he can to protect it. He bests the natives at their own game and becomes a demi-God/chieftain in the process. We've seen it all before: Pocahontas, Dances With Wolves, The Last Samurai etc. 


The dialogue is not great and at times it's pretty atrocious. The actors manage to lift the film above its hideous script and the awkwardness sometimes becomes more convincing when delivered by any of the 'Na'vi' or Sam Worthington. Subtlety isn't really present in this film's themes. The indigenes are more in tune with the environment than the colonisers who view them as savages? Well I never! I have expected the characters to burst into 'Colors of the Wind'. There are even some Ferngully-esque bulldozers romping around. 


The CG, however, is top-notch - monumental even. But then again what did we expect from a Cameron film? He's gone beyond the CG and created an entire eco-system. Although the Biological Internet and hair connections aren't very convincing, he's at least consistent. Most of the animals have six legs, suggesting a common ancestry. The flora is lush and varied.


This is not really a film - it's a spectacle. I doubt it would be as interesting on the small screen (yes, even in HD on our large HD Televisions). It needs a large, clear screen, a set of 3D glasses and a throbbing sound from high-quality speakers. You don't want to over-analyse it; just enjoy the ride. Go watch it while it's still available!


Rating: 7/10 


NB - I would have rated this film more highly had it had something resembling decent dialogue. As it stands it's really good fun but not much more. It should make an excellent game but, apparently, the tie-in they've licensed is predictably terrible (tie-in curse). Perhaps an MMORPG will some day be in the works?


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