Unreal Movie Review: Avatar


It’s hard to remember just when the last time there was a movie riding this high on a tidal wave of hype. And it’s not your typical, “this movie is supposed to be rather excellent” expectations, these demands are far greater. This movie is supposed to be a new Star Wars. This movie is supposed to blow our minds. This movie is supposed to change cinema forever.

And does it?

Yes. After Avatar, the landscape of cinema will likely change for the better, because of the new bar the film has raised for visual effects and its mainstreaming of 3D in feature films. That being said, whether it’s this generation’s Star Wars is another issue altogether, as it takes more than digital effects to make a film that literally becomes a legend. It takes a story and a rich mythology, and though I can definitively say that while the effects are the best in the history of film, I can’t say the same about the movie’s plot and the background Cameron has created for the Avatar universe. Whether those two pieces stand the test of time is something we can’t judge in the three days after its release, and we’ll see how much staying power the franchise has in the coming years, and more importantly, decades.

But there is no denying the film is absolutely incredible in many ways, and visually, Avatar is simply like nothing you have ever seen. There is nothing in any sci-fi film, or any film for that matter, that compares to the amount of detail, both artistic and digital, that James Cameron has put into this movie. Each creature, each plant, each floating mountain is a masterwork of CGI and the landscape of Pandora becomes a place that you do not want to leave after the lights go on.


No matter what clips you’ve seen on YouTube, you absolutely need to be sitting down in a 3D IMAX theater to know what I’m talking about.

The brilliant backdrop is only part of the visual experience, however; the most important thing Cameron has done with this film is to finally leap across the Uncanny Valley of humanoid CGI animation. After watching A Christmas Carol last week, and being thoroughly creeped out by every character onscreen, I sighed and feared that Avatar wouldn’t be able to bridge this insurmountable chasm that exists between CGI and real, live believability.

Well, I think he’s done it, or at the very least, brought us to the absolute brink.

For me, the facial capture CGI technology is the most remarkable part of the film by far, as it simply isn’t animators telling a computer generated creature to smile, it’s Cameron telling the actor to smile, and the technology translates not to just the smile, but the entire emotion of happiness into a nearly perfect 1:1 representation onscreen, despite the character wielding the expression being ten feet tall with a blue lion face. Each actor’s performance blasts through their avatar, to the point where your brain eventually gives up and views them as more or less real beings by the end. There are many powerful performances in the film, but I think Zoe Saldana’s extremely expressive Neytiri steals the show, as her energy makes the best use of the facial capture tech.


Could we see a nom for Best Supporting Alien Actress?

Cameron’s CGI has reached the point where the only reason what you’re seeing is still “unbelievable” is not because it’s lacking some sort of texture or rendering technique; it’s all nearly 100% photorealism at this point. The only reason you can’t accept it is because your brain just knows that this world, this forest, these aliens CAN’T be real, like the same way you would probably think you were imagining things if a dragon showed up on your front lawn one day. This is why Avatar never quite feels like reality, but instead it’s like a dream, an exceptionally lucid dream that you don’t want to wake up from.

All my raving about the CGI visuals however is separate from my thoughts on the 3D tech. After seeing Avatar twice now, and witnessing how thoroughly engrossed the audiences were by the 3D world, I fully believe this technology will completely take over at least the blockbuster genre within a few years time. However, unlike Cameron’s CGI, which is borderline perfect at this point, I believe 3D still needs work.

Avatar is unquestionably the best 3D movie I’ve ever seen, but when you’re comparing it to The Polar Express or My Bloody Valentine, that’s hardly saying something. It’s hard to pinpoint the exact issues that still plague 3D, but when the action picks up, it still feels a bit shaky and blurry, and even if in calmer scenes, if you shift your head even a little bit, it can have you seeing double.


It’s almost like you’re there, but not quite.

Another issue I found that I’m sure there isn’t a technical fix for as of yet is that when you view things in real life, you are able to focus your vision on whatever you feel like. For example, right now I can choose to look at this computer monitor, or I can focus my gaze a little upwards and stare out the window, or if I really want to, I can hold my finger in front of my face and focus on that. But with 3D movies, the film itself chooses what your eye should be focusing on, and if you decided to not focus on what the camera wants you to, objects in the foreground or background will seem blurry, and your eye will often have to jump around for a few moments to figure out just what exactly the camera wants you to look at. Camera focus is obviously something that happens in every non-3D movie now, but it becomes more of an issue with layered 3D images like in this film where your brain is telling you that you SHOULD be able to choose what’s in focus. As I said, this seems nearly impossible to fix, but it is a significant barrier in making 3D seem truly “real.”

Here I’ve already spent six hundred words on the visuals of the film, and though that’s clearly the most “important” part of this project, we can’t forget that this is an actual movie, with an actual story that must be cohesive enough to warrant us sitting through nearly three hours of multicolored dragon birds and explosions.

If the film has a weak point, it’s the lack of originality concerning the main plotline of the film. A man is recruited to fight a native people, he ends up in their camp, becomes one of them, falls in love with a local, and betrays his original allies to preserve his newfound family’s land and culture. It’s a story we’ve seen in Dances with Wolves, The Last Samurai, and hell, even a little bit of Ferngully is thrown in for good measure, so in that aspect Avatar is decidedly not very original.


Sam Worthington is a tad vanilla perhaps, but he’s more than capable of his leading man role.

It’s an interesting juxtaposition however, because around this overused story, is a mountain of creativity, as the Na’vi culture and the planet Pandora have been created by Cameron from scratch into a race of people we feel like we’re a part of by the end of the film. The creativity of the movie comes in the form of the technology, the artistry and the mythology that Cameron has painstakingly crafted, not so much from the story, which has clearly been done before.

The stranger in a strange land plotline is used frequently for a reason, as it’s very compelling (Dances with Wolves, The Last Samurai and even Ferngully are all great films), and that is certainly the case this time around, but the problem lies in the way the traditional pieces are used. For example, the way Jake is integrated into the Na’vi doesn’t involving him saving a tribe member or proving himself in battle. Instead it’s merely a suggestion from the Na’vi god, something that if you blink, you’ll miss, and you’ll wonder why exactly they’re letting him in their base and teaching him everything about themselves within a few hours, knowing their previous hatred for the “Sky People.” And the fact that they’re alarmed when bulldozers start wrecking their forest and staring cursing Jake doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, as in the very first scene we see a dump truck with a tire full of arrows, so clearly they’ve been expecting this. Did they really think the humans sent Jake into their camp to make friends? Are they really that naïve after so many hostile run-ins already? It seems out of place for the proud, strong, intelligent people they’re supposed to be.


I just needed to squeeze in here that everyone in the supporting cast is phenomenal, from Ribisi to Weaver to the fearsome Stephen Lang especially.

The film also lacks answers to questions about the avatar bodies themselves. It’s unclear if the Na’vi understand how the human-to-Na’vi avatar connection works, and if so, why they’re not more freaked out by it. I would have thought a big reveal of the film would have been Neytiri finding out that Jake is really a human, rather than some sort of look-a-like alien race the humans have brought in to negotiate. Also, this seems rather important, but what happens when an avatar body dies? Does the human host die as well like it’s The Matrix? You would think this would come up in the film as a pretty serious issue, but it never actually does.

Lastly, the love story is both a highlight and a hindrance in the film. It’s amazing to see how a romance can be convincing between two giant blue aliens, thanks to the emotional face-capturing tech I discussed previously, but the love story itself is oddly paced and doesn’t feel quite right most of the time. Neytiri thinks Jake is a dangerous idiot initially, but almost immediately when she starts training him, the connection is made, and seems almost too instant. More noticeably, the film more or less forgets that she’s actually betrothed to the next clan leader, something that really seems like it should have been a bigger obstacle to overcome for a woman so fiercely protective of her culture’s longstanding traditions.


Also, how come Na’vi mating doesn’t involve braid-bonding? I thought that would have been obvious.

It’s strange, the emotional moments in the film for me didn’t come during particularly tragic or uplifting scenes such as a notable death or a victorious battle. When I started to feel things swell up inside me, it was almost always because of the sheer beauty of what I was seeing onscreen. I was absolutely astonished by the banshee flying scenes, and the massive scope of the mother nature vs. the machines finale battle, the likes of which have nothing to rival them onscreen to date. In the end, it’s a film that moved me because of its visuals more than anything else, and honestly I think that might be the first time that’s ever happened.

Avatar has shown us the future of what we can start to expect from blockbusters, and eventually probably all movies. The combination of 3D and photorealistic CGI will start to take us places we’ve never been and never thought we could go, and Pandora is a very promising first stop on that journey. My only caution to filmmakers would be to not lose the story because of the fabulous new effects you have to play with. Cameron comes dangerously close to this at times, but salvages the story into a moving one, despite its fundamental unoriginality. But remember, they called Star Wars unoriginal when it was first released…

Avatar is without a doubt destined to be a classic. Where it stacks up in the annals of film history is uncertain as of yet, but it’s without a doubt a massive leap forward for the industry, and hopefully we’ll start to see many more great films following the trail it’s blazed.

4.5 out of 5 stars


Long story short? You really just have to see it for yourself.

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  1. Ahhhhhhh i can’t wait to see this!!!

    My roommate and his brother went to see it and they both said they wish they could live on Pandora and that they didn’t want the movie to end. They’re not even sci-fi fans so that says something to me…

  2. oh hell, I just posted on your previous article on this movie. just for the purpose of trolling, I will post my opinion again below. Let the flaming begin. LOL.

    Am I the only person who didn’t think Avatar was the second coming of Christ.


    – Amazing CGI.
    – For what they were given, the actors did the best they could


    – Cliche out of the wazoo (both story line and dialog)
    – “this is not Kansas any more” (LOL)
    – “we will fight terror with terror” (ROFL) while not cliche, but come on, I’m a liberal, but really?
    – weak villan, there is nothing on the colonel’s mind but to destroy the noble native people. it makes me laugh in its simplicity.

    Bottom Line:

    Call me a nerd, but I’ve seen this kind of presentation a thousand times in anime. Why spend 300 million dollars with real people when you could have done the same with just animation in less than 1/3 of the budget. It’s easy to be impressed by the technical aspect of the film, but a movie in the end is about a story. When the initial amazement wears off, Avatar is nothing but Pochahontas in space. I left the movie feeling nothing…

  3. @ zero

    The biggest complaint against this movie is that the story is derivative. But who gives a shit? Is it Dances with Wolves and Last Samurai? Yes. But Cameron didn’t research older societies, he entirely created his own, complete with religion, ecosystems, and ecology. And THAT is anything but derivative.

  4. Excellent review, especially concerning the fact that you can’t accept it as real because it “just can’t be real.”

    As an add-on to the review, one of the coolest moments was towards the end (trying to not spoil…) when you see the sheer size of the Pandoran species compared to the humans. You forget that the Na’vi are 10 feet tall when you’re looking at only Na’vi.

    To request a follow up article – I’ve heard whispers of a sequel or series of sequels based loosely on the other moons near Pandora. Thoughts on that? I think it could work, especially if the civilizations are very centered on a specific type of tech/society… sort of like how each Final Fantasy game has its own theme pervading the civilization – like, one moon is consumed by industry and pollution… AND, what is the Na’vi lifespan? I mean, we’d want time to pass before a sequel, but if Grace taught kids that had grown up since she last saw them then they may be almost equivalent… OK, I’m done… keep up the good work!

  5. sorry for my sarcasm, but really, the na’vie’s whole religion and social structure is a mirror image of that of the Native Americans / African tribes. The big boss in the movie even refered to them as blue monkeys. A similar term was used for Native Americans in the past. For an advanced human society, don’t you think they would have said oh, wait, I think we’ve done something similar in the past.

    I’m just saying … and thank you for bring up dancing with the wolves and last samurai. My point exactly.

    Just a p.s. on the new ecosystem and creatures, game designers do that all the time. Pandora is basically a big jungle with 6 legged animals. Yes, the CGI on the environment and creatures are cool. I have to disagree on the originality of them. The creatures were derivatives of dogs, big cats, buffalo, and bats.

    Once again, I am in agreement with every one in terms of the technical side of the film. Cameron’s skills in story telling is my biggest problem. Without a decent story, it’s hard to suck me into a movie. Thank good, the actors were good…

    p.p.s. how come it’s always us discovering a less advanced society. I want to see us discovering a more advanced society. and the aliens end up want to conquer us. No, Alien doesn’t count.

  6. – About the matrix questions.
    Norm Spellman, the other dude scientist with an avatar. His avatar dies near the end, gets shot, after that Spellman jumps out of the tank all sweaty and out of breath touching himself in the chest (where they shot him) and nothing.
    So with that I take it that it’s not like the Matrix.
    (Also here you seem that you can “disconnect” from Avatar by simply pushing a button)


    – About the relation between humans and na’vi.
    As far as I understood by the movie, the scientist came first, built schools and learn each others languages.
    Then the companies saw profit from Pandora and came to exploit which lead to sour relationship between them. But the Na’vi knew it wasn’t the scientist fault for this.
    But yeah… some parts after that make less sense… =)
    But the movie seem to lay out a lot of clues.
    Like photographs, there is 2 base of avatar operation – one is in bad shape, they let Grace come back to the Na’vi… and so on.

    There is probably someone smarter than me that knows more answers.

    Great review… and the movie was totally awesome.

    /Ailise (sorry about the bad english and typos)

  7. @ zero

    Eh, I don’t know. There are Native American/savage themes, but literally connecting to the surrounding ecosystem and wildlife? Never seen that before.

    As for the big blue aliens, there’s a reason they’re tall and lanky, and it’s not bc it’s supposed to look cool. All the creatures were designed in such a way that would reflect how a creature would evolve on a planet like Pandora. So if life is derivative of life, so be it.

    Really, I had no problem with the story, and I pretty much knew what it was before going in. It’s all about how you tell a story, and Cameron is the master of that.

    Anyway, did anyone else notice the Christ allusions for Jake? Totally a Cameron move, too: He’s resurrected as a messianic figure.

  8. A great review, and I agree with you completely on it. I just wanted to express my thoughts on some of the things the film didn’t quite answer (Slightly Spoliery)

    Firstly, I agree that the film didn’t address the Na’vi view of Avatar’s nearly well enough. Judging by the fact that the tribe refers to them as “dreamwalkers”, I think they understand that they are a human construct, or at least are being controlled remotely by human minds. Perhaps Grace explains this to them in their schooling/discussions with the tribe. She seems like she would want to be honest with the tribe, as honesty seems the best route to get them to accept her.

    Also, as far as the death of an Avatar body, I think it’s hinted at a bit when the other avatar driver, who’s name I think is Norm, gets his avatar shot during the last battle. He looks to get hit in the shoulder/upper chest, and the Avatar falls, and the next time we see him is in human form, crawling out of his tube, and clutching his chest gasping. He lives, so presumably a wound, even serious, upon an Avatar does not correlate to permanent damage in the driver. I would guess that this would be different if say the Avatar was shot in the head. This mind-to-mind injury might have a permanent impact on the driver, but it seems most other wounds, even serious ones, would simply result in the driver re-awakening in his body.

    Anyway, just my thoughts, I’m going to have to see it again sometime soon, and hopefully that will shed some light on some of the other questions that remain.

  9. On your unanswered questions, I think they did know about the Avatar linkage between the human and alien body from Sigourney Weaver and the her team’s characters. They did have a little school/program for them prior to the movie’s events. And the question, if an Avatar dies does the human die? No, the other Avatar guy, I forgot his name, gets shot at during the battle and his Avatar dies but he wakes up in the pod and gets out to fight in his normal body.

  10. Also, with the complaints of lack of the story…Cameron was always pushing the “technological” side of the movie whenever he did promote it. I’ve seen and read many interviews with him about it, and 1. He wrote the script 15 years ago, again 15 years prior to many movies with the same theme/plot/etc. 2. Did anyone really go into this expecting a great story or a great visual experience? I mean hand it to the guy for waiting it out 15 years seeing many movies similar to a script you’re writing and still having the guts to go through with it.

  11. Concerning the part in the review when you say “but what happens when an avatar body dies? Does the human host die as well”. The other guy in the Avatar body, i forget his name, got shot and killed by the soldiers. When he woke up in the pod thing he felt as if he almost died, but he didn’t die.

  12. Dear James Cameron,
    I am a 22 year old male who loves movies of all kind. I can truly say I’ve never understood the whole “fanboy” craze and people going nuts about comics, movies and things of that sort. I use to actually laugh at them and make fun of them for being “dorks” or “nerds”….You can now officially call me a fanboy seeing as I have never had a movie on my mind like this one afterwards. I cried, I laughed, I grabbed the edge of me seat until my hands hurt. You have done it, I understand what it’s like to be a fanboy now….one question, when’s the first Avatar convention…oh and ill be working on my Na’vi costume for halloween next year ASAP

  13. I was looking forward to this review! I

    t’s been a few days now and I still can’t make up my mind if the movie was “good” or not. I’ve told a dozen friends to watch the film, but there’s always a caveat that the story…is…weak. I have no idea how the script got approved. I’m still confused about my feelings but am hoping the movie does well so studios push money into special effect orgies. Overall, I’m glad something like this exists in the world, but disappoint that it ended up being so shallow.

  14. Well I just hope it makes enough money for Cameron to do a sequel. He has said that he would very much like to, but this one needs to make some serious money for the backing to be there. Just my thoughts. Just because something is simple doesn’t make worthless or mundane. The plots of transformers 2 was convoluted and weak, but not simple, the plot of wolverine had twists and betrayals but it wasn’t good. A simple flowing plot with good pacing can be a wonderful thing. Especially after these summer movies with absurdly complicated plots lines. Why did people see Titanic when they knew what would happen? They story doesn’t matter as much as how you tell it. Simple is good, if done correctly.
    And Cameron in my opinion did it correctly.

  15. I’ll adist the story wasn’t mind blowing or original but it was well done for what it was. The Na’vi culture was interesting and the world was absolutely beautiful and those two things, for me, more than made up for the standard anti-imperialism tale.

    I agree that I thought it was strange that the movie just glossed over the fact that the girl was betrothed to the upcoming tribal leader. It just seemed like they should never have mentioned it at all because oit seems like its being mentioned to set up a conflict and then nothing comes from it.

    It definitely seemed like there was more of a background to the Na’vi/Human relations than we are shown. Grace once having schools in the village is just kind of thrown out as an after thought and what exactly happened between the Na’vi and the humans to create the rift was never mentioned. I kind of feel like a lot of the background there may have been lost to editing/time.

    One last thing I have to throw in. The one thing I really hated in the movie was the name of the damn mineral the humans are looking to mine. Unobtanium? Seriously? I think it was only mentioned by name twice but both times it completely threw me out of the move as I tried to stifle laughter. There had to be something else they could have called it, make up some vaguely sciencey word and call it that but don’t just add ium to unobtain and call it a day.

    Still overall I loved the movie and I will likely see it again as I didn’t get to see it in 3D the first time.

  16. @ Diego

    Totally agree. Sometimes simple works if it’s done well. I don’t know why people were expecting a script like Chinatown to accompany the visuals anyway.

  17. I know there are other ium elements so it’s not a stretch to call it that, and it had been used successfully before (Adamantium) I think it’s more the unobtain part, because they have some so clearly it’s not unobtainable so why would it be called unobtanium? It just strikes me as cheesy. I know I’m nit picking it way too much but it just bugged me.

  18. @ Warren

    Yeah, it’s undeniably cheesy; I won’t argue against that. But in a movie on another planet with humans entering giant blue cat aliens as avatars, I think I can get past it.

  19. Well, actually, the spirit/seeds things (Neytiri says so herself) go all around him, kind of hinting that the goddess has chosen Jake for something. Same thing happens when she is about to kill him, the seed stands on her arrow, preventing her from shooting, being the spiritual beings they are, we understand later why this seeds make a sign that is so important.

    Alas, I don’t think they were expecting them to go THAT far with the bulldozers. Remember, there are other clans that don’t live in the tree, maybe they were the ones shooting the bulldozers, or maybe some hunter parties, when they see the damage they are doing to the trees and to nature. And he didn’t find the camp on purpose, he stumbled upon Neytiri who was the one who lead him into the camp AFTER the sings from the seeds.

    About the bodies, the drivers are meant to take care of them because they cost a Bazillion dollars and the time and care it takes for the bodies to become fully grown is 5+ years. That is told at the beginning of the movie. The Na’vi learned about this Avatars through the scientist first. You know, the school they put so that they could communicate. Dr. Grace sure know a lot, so probably she explained before hand what they were and how they worked, and all the minor details. And at the end of the movie we see how Dr. Spellman’s Avatar dies in a firefight, so he feels it when he wakes up, because his brain felt it, but his body doesn’t have anything damaged, so he is actually fine. It’s kinda like waking up from a bad dream, like the matrix without really dying.

    The film also lacks answers to questions about the avatar bodies themselves. It’s unclear if the Na’vi understand how the human-to-Na’vi avatar connection works, and if so, why they’re not more freaked out by it. I would have thought a big reveal of the film would have been Neytiri finding out that Jake is really a human, rather than some sort of look-a-like alien race the humans have brought in to negotiate. Also, this seems rather important, but what happens when an avatar body dies? Does the human host die as well like it’s The Matrix? You would think this would come up in the film as a pretty serious issue, but it never actually does.

    And as a final note, she never says she has selected Tsu’tey as a mate, it just implies that he is going to be the next Father (Tribe leader) and that she is going to be the next mother (The shaman), it never says that both mother and father should be mates. Dr. Grace explains everything, listen closely to her dialogs and you’ll understand everything about the movie and tha Na’vi.

    Any questions? xD

  20. Actually took the time to look up unobtanium on wikipedia. It seems to be a placeholder scientists use to describe a material that exceeds our current known elements in strength, flexibility etc. So basically a scientist would say “to build a fusion reactor we need to make a building out of unobtainium to hold in the heat.” My guess is that it probably started off as a placeholder word, and was just left in either because Cameron liked it, or as a wink and a nod toward the scientific community.

  21. I can’t label this a classic or great film, the story is just too unoriginal. Star Wars borrowed from mythology and folklore, but it brought something new to the table. It put a new spin on everything it borrowed from. I don’t feel Avatar does that, as great as it looks (and it does look GREAT.) James Cameron essentially remade Aliens and inverted it with a green message. He borrows from himself, that’s the problem. We’ve seen much of this before in Cameron’s own work.

    As the guy ultimately in charge, Ribisi should have been more in the middle, morally, to strike a balance between Weaver and Lang and give a little weight to the native dilemma that is played out. Instead, it’s clear from the get-go that it’s only a matter of time before he sends in the muscle. It makes Weaver’s and Worthington’s effort seem futile from the beginning. The military action should have seemed like a sudden and tragic solution to an attempt at peace and cooperation. Instead, military action is inevitable from the beginning and I think that hurts the entire story.

    I will see it a second time though, for the visuals alone.

  22. I think this review was very fair.
    Overall the film was enjoyable, and definitely one of my favourites, but there are a few cons, such as the slightly rushed climax [literally] of Jake and Neytiri, and the overall passing of time. More angst was needed concerning the relationship of Jake and Neytiri, mostly surrounding her previous betrothal, and more of a build up to their eventual ‘moment’.
    Perhaps with better planning and more thought, the film could have been split into two, the first one ending with the destruction of Hometree. Just a thought.
    As a media student, you cant help but notice alternatives.

    Loved the film, don’t get me wrong, I just think the plot needed tweaking slightly, and maybe if the film had been divided between two, more plot twists, character development and overall enjoyment would have been produced.

    Once again, just a thought. 🙂

  23. I agree with everything in your review, except one thing; though the storyline may have been used before, I think cameron succeeded very well in making it believable and, thanks to the actors, emotionally charged. Maybe because I’m a spiritual person myself (you might not believe it from some of my posts, but you’ll just have to take my word for it), but those moments when the Na’vi express their spirit of communion, of harmony and respect, that message that Cameron brings across of a united race.. Well I can assure you it made me well up inside. For me, everything in the movie was suffused with this vision of unity. Together with the visual effects, it was breathtaking.

    And Neytiri.. Honestly, she may have been only cgi voiced over by an actress, but the combination of excellent voice-acting and amazing face motion-capture made for one of the most engrossing, appealing and touching performances I have ever seen. She was VERY impressive. Also her mother, I liked that character very much, and the Sigourney Weaver avatar was one of the most successful of the lot. I’m defo seeing this one again!

  24. i agree also. i think he’s done a good job, and i absolutely love the film, its just i believe that there could have been afew small adjustments. The characters are fine, and i dont mind that the plots similar to whatever other film people compare it to. its a damn good film 🙂
    there was emotion and depth in the characters, but i kinda want more. theres news going round for a sequel. Im hoping so 🙂

  25. My biggest complaint about the film isn’t the story. I couldn’t care less is the theme has been done before. No its lack of character development. All the main players in the movie did not get enough airtime before heading into the heart of the story (Which IMHO started on Jake’s first trip out into the “woods”)

    there should have been at least 10 minutes of footage on base with the various characters before Jake even showed up to give us an idea of what these people were about. As it is I didn’t really feel moved when something happened to one. Why should I?

    Sorry but in Aliens when Vasquez and Gorman were in the airvent and about to blow themselves up. I knew these characters because of the bits and pieces of dialog throughout the movie up to that point. I, for lack of a better term, cared about them.

    The characters in Avatar? Not so much. And it does annoy the crap out of me since Cameron up to now has been DAMN good with creating fascinating characters.

    With that said. Saw it at midnight when it came out. And I can guarantee you that I will see it a least another half dozen times or more before it leaves the IMAX. It will also probably be the sole reason why I will pick up a blu-ray player when the movie comes out.

  26. Good, not great…how sad is it that a movie needs to be seen in IMAX 3D to be “appreciated?” Thats like saying watching Godfather on VHS makes it less of a movie…technology can help a movie, it cant make it.

  27. The movie was just OK IMO……..The effects and 3D are what makes this movie worth while to watch.

    As far as the story goes, well I can’t really say that there was a part that was memorable…….it’s basically what’s going on in the middle east right now, and like how other posters above me said; it has already been done (300, Dances with Wolves, Last Samurai, bunch of anime movies, Southpark…lol).

  28. The movie had great effects but I was bored with it after 60 minutes because the story was very lacking. The Na’Vi are 10 feet tall but they barely showed them kicking the humans butt and the final battle was rushed and unoriginal. I like CGI movies but after 154 minutes of Jake narrating his thoughts(like Costner in Dances with Wolves) the special effects wear off.

  29. Since your review focuses more on the technical aspects of the film, I can only say that you’re right on. Unlike you, however, the technical wonders of Avatar did not translate to my love of the overall film. My main problem is the story. While I wish I could experience a world like Pandora (in regards to its utmost beauty, clarity etc.) I could not fully immerse myself in the film because I was distracted by the derivative storyline. Not being a hard core movie buff as most who visit this site seem to be, the one film I kept thinking about was Ferngully with bits of National Geographic documentaries, The Little Mermaid, Pocahontas, The Matrix, among others thrown in. I didn’t even like the romance that developed between Jake and the Na’vi chick. It seemed…unrealistic and random in development. In fact, I felt no particular attachment to any of the characters. Even the animals in the film I thought were unoriginal. I thought of rhinos, wolves, sea horses and dinosaurs. Since I only went to see Avatar because I was captivated by the scenes I saw in the previews at the movie theater and therefore had no expectations, I did not regret spending $13 to see it. But, I think you gave it too high a rating; I’d give it a 3. The technical aspects do not make up for the lack of originality for me in the plot/ storyline. I found the original Matrix more engaging and captivating.

  30. It’s a pretty good movie, the visual is amazing but seriously…Did anyone pay attention to the story line? It was so predictable with 2 dimensinal characters and some parts were too long and dragged on. Did we really need to watch that girl flying on the dragon for so long? Or when he first got on his dragon flying thing?

  31. @Chapu and OP about the human connection with the Avatar. Within the movie, Tsu’tey referred to Jake as a possessed demon or something of that nature, hinting at their knowledge these were empty bodies possessed by the humans. When Jake and Dr. Grace drop unconsciously, he used that to validate his “possessed shell” theory.

    To me, this implied they understood these bodies were controlled by humans through some unknown means. This is also why Ney’tiri was not shocked to discover he was human; she considered it when she went looking for him in the bungalow.

  32. Philip, I agree. I thought they knew or thought that Jake and probably Grace too were humans.
    I thought it was clear from their reaction to finding him not being able to speak their language and being dressed in what they could probably tell were humans clothes.

  33. ANoter thing, Chapo you say
    “Also, this seems rather important, but what happens when an avatar body dies? Does the human host die as well like it’s The Matrix? You would think this would come up in the film as a pretty serious issue, but it never actually does.”

    Didn’t we see in the film that when the avatar body was injuryed or killed that the host just woke up and got out? Then for Grace and Jake they got taken to the tree to be healed up, but in Jakes case both his bodies were dead.

  34. @everyone saying that we saw Norm’s Avatar get killed.

    I watched Norm’s Avatar get shot in the shoulder twice, with him then waking up, out of breath, but ready to go fight.

    It can be argued that yes, he was killed, but getting shot in that area can by no means be classified as a killshot.

    They should have made it pretty explicit if that was the case, and I think the movie leaves it pretty unclear, when it should be a pretty big deal.

  35. Madison, thank you for the great review. I always enjoy reading your stuff, and I think that your review hit on many excellent points. I am certainly glad that I took the chance to see this film in a theatre and also in 3D. (I did not have the chance for the IMAX experience and can only imagine how that might have further displayed the fantastic visuals of the film.) This was my first experience with a modern 3D film, and I really liked the fact that the 3D aspects did not come across as a gimmick, but instead just added an additional layer of depth to the world that Cameron has created. I chose to see this in 3D, because to me it felt like this was the way that the movie should have been consumed. I do think that this is an important movie. For many years, it seams that we have been reading articles that warn of the death of the theatrical experience. With home viewing technology improving by leaps and bounds, we’ve gotten to the point where the theatrical viewing experience is not as essential to the enjoyment of a film as it was in the past. With Avatar, Cameron has created a reason to get up off of the couch and back into the theatre. This is an accomplishment that should not go unmentioned. I tell everyone I talk to that this is a movie that you have to see in the theatre, with all of the 3D effects to fully appreciate the artistry that has been put into it. I don’t think you can wait to see this one on DVD or Blu-Ray and get the same experience.

    Many here have already touched upon the derivative nature of the story, and I wont lie. It was the weakest part of the film for me. I can honestly say that when I left the theatre I did not have any strong desire to view the film again. If I were to view it again, it would only be if I had the chance to do so in IMAX 3D, to gain that additional perspective into the technical wizardry of the film. The story would not be the reason that I would come back. I will say, that I do not necessarily agree that the “been there, done that” nature of the story in and of it’s self is the problem. This is not the first time that Cameron has made a gigantic blockbuster that is a retread of earlier works. Titanic was basically Romeo & Juliet on a boat with an iceberg. I think what bothered me most about the story is the fact that the ultimate confrontation (as others have pointed out) between the humans and Navi is never in doubt. Knowing that it is eventually going to come down to a war between the races makes most of the middle section of the movie feel unfortunately unnecessary. Given the actions of the human military, it is hard to justify why Jake was given his 3 month window to get to know the Navi. They claim that he is being given the chance to negotiate a peace, but we never see that. You really get the sense that the military could have decided to bomb the tree whenever they felt like it. The only thing that comes of them letting Jake play native for 3 months is that it makes the humans seam like bigger d-bags and it makes the destruction of the tree and the Navi civilization inside of it that much more disturbing. (Which it was, and I am sure that was the point.)

    All that being said. I did enjoy my time with Avatar, and I am glad that for the first time in quite a long while we as movie viewers have been given a reason to venture out to a theatre. This is no small acomplishment, and it should be commended for returning to the movies an “event like” quality that has been sorely lacking for quite sometime. I think it is a good thing, and obviously a trend that I would like to see continue, because when you go to a film in a theatre you should be presented with a unique experience that justifies the price of an expensive movie ticket. I hope that this signifies a new trend in the direction of motion pictures, but am cautious if the awe of Avatar is truly the beginning of a new era in film making, or if it will be relegated to a momentary blip on the radar.

    Thank you again for the wonderful review.

  36. Wow to be honest, I am realizing you and I just have different tastes in movies. Sorry if I exploded earlier on On Stranger Tides & Robin Hood reviews. I love those movies and I am sick of how much hate they get. That being said, sorry if I exploded at you earlier at those two reviews Paul. I am realizing you have different taste from me. I personally really disliked Avatar.

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