Review: Avatar

Note: Some minor spoilers are present in this post, but there’s nothing that will ruin Avatar for you.

I don’t know how it would be possible to not know about the movie Avatar these days. From newspaper headlines about it breaking box office records to other people talking about it, Avatar seems to constantly be in the background. And everybody is more than just a little pumped about the movie. One of my friends embodied the common opinion of Avatar:

Holy shit, Avatar’s basically the second coming of Jesus Christ combined with Santa Claus! It’s just that freaking awesome!

Overwhelming approval would almost be an understatement. It initially seemed like a repeat of the Transformers movies. All of my friends said that they were amazing, but when I finally saw them, there was really no substance, and I left the theatre with a sense of dissapointment. Yeah, there was lots of eye candy and running away from giant explosions in slow motion, but there was nothing behind that, and it ended up just seeming kind of lame.

I fully expected Avatar to be a reapeat of the Transformers experience. I almost wanted to hate it, since that way I could feel superior about having better taste and not being shallow. But I can’t. I was completely blown away by the entire movie, all two hours and 45 minutes of it. I wouldn’t hesitate to see it again if I get the chance.

You’ve probably been living under a rock if you don’t know the basic premise of Avatar, but I’ll quickly rehash it here anyways. The film is set on Pandora, an incredibly lush moon of the planet Polyphemus, located in Alpha Centauri. This planet happens to have a large amount of unobtainium, a resource that the people on Earth desperately want. A mining company, RDA Corporation, has set up base on Pandora so that it can mine for unobtainium and get ridiculously rich in the process. The problem with their plan is that Pandora happens to be populated by a large amount of Na’vi, the indigenous people (my sister described them as, “Magical ten-foot-tall blue people”). There’s also a great variety of other native species, many crazy sweet plants and animals. Of course, RDA Corp. doesn’t care about the local biodiversity. They just want to get the unobtainium so that they can make stupid amounts of money.

As part of the process, there’s a team of biologists that are there to try to make the company look more friendly in the eyes of their shareholders. These biologists have many high-tech tools, the most prominent of which are their avatars. Avatars are basically second bodies that take the form of Na’vi. The biologists can mentally take control of these avatars via what look like high-tech tanning booths.

The protagonist, Jake Sully, is an ex-marine who has lost use of his legs. He is completely untrained, but ended up on Pandora after his twin brother died. The avatars are tied to genetic material, so he was able to take over his brother’s avatar and allow the RDA to not loose money on a wasted Avatar. Jake Sully ends up meeting the indigenous Na’vi, and learning about their ways of oneness with their planet. He starts to understand the native people and love them, but at the same time, RDA wants to demolish their home so that they can mine the unobtainium. Jake is torn between the two, and his conflict between the Na’vi and RDA turns into the meat of the movie.

I can’t say that this is an incredibly unique plotline. Really, it’s a rehashed, futuristic version of Pocahontas. It may not be original, but it’s not a bad plot, and it does its job. The dialogue isn’t extraordinary, but it’s definately passible. The characters are fairly flat, but you don’t really notice. Despite these flaws, Avatar still manages to be magical.

Avatar is extremely similar to The Lord of the Rings in the way that it strikes you. For the whole length of the movie, you get totally sucked in, absorbed in the world presented before your eyes. Pandora seems like a truly magical place, so lively and vivid that you could reach out and feel the texture of the fauna. The world becomes real in front of you, and this is where the magic of Avatar lies.

Without a doubt, Avatar is one of the coolest experiences you will have in theatres. It’s 3D technology was very good, and only added to the immersion. Unlike the old red-green 3D glasses of the past that made me nausious (perhaps because I’m colourblind), the polarized lenses for RealD worked perfectly for me, and I never felt any dizzyness or nausia. The 3D was very tastefully done, with nothing that was in your face. I’m sure that the 3D is somewhat responsible for the world feeling so real, but I’d venture that it would still be totally watchable and almost as impressive on a two-dimensional screen.

Final Verdict

Avatar is an amazing film. While it may be average in terms of plot and characters, Avatar hits the ball out of the park in terms of immersion, spectacle, and enjoyment. The world that James Cameron has created is a wonder to behold, one that inspires the imagination. Truly, you owe it to yourself to go see Avatar in theatres and enjoy the marvel that it is.