Avatar (Contains Spoilers)

Or, should that rightly be “James Cameron’s Avatar”? I’m not sure. Personally, if I were him, I’d stick my name all over this as well! James Cameron, throughout his career and within the film-making community, is widely regarded as someone who with each film he makes, pushes the boundaries of what is capable with cinema effects that little bit more. Terminator and Terminator 2, Aliens, Titanic – all are just a few examples of how his name has now become synonymous with creating ground-breaking effects in films. Avatar, it would seem, is less so much pushing the boundaries, but more giving them a great big kick square in the ass over the edge of a cliff!

When going to see Avatar (or James Cameron’s… ok, just Avatar for now!) it’s best to bear in mind that this film has been made using the most ground-breaking, cutting-edge technology that you can possibly get right now (so that’s where all that extra Oscar revenue from Titanic went?) and should therefore be viewed in the best possible quality. That’s why it was made, that’s how it’s intended to be viewed, and that’s the best way to experience it. 2D might not quite cut it in places unless it’s in the best digital possible, 3D will be explained in this review, and IMAX (I’m gonna guess here) would possibly make you open your eyes so wide they’d fall out of their sockets. Avatar was filmed with the intention of it being screened in Digital, 3D or better (IMAX, then) and they used filming equipment and CGI that would make all of this possible. The whole film is about 50/50 between digital effects and actual actors and sets. Right from the opening, you can tell that this will be visually amazing. Or, at least, that is what I’d hoped…

I would like to say, right at this point, that I am in NO WAY disappointed with the visuals of the actual film. Not at all. In fact, I’d go so far as to agree with the presses and film reviews that yes, this is in fact the most stunningly visual film I have seen lately, and does in fact push the boundaries of modern film viewing to new heights. Yes, yes, this is all true, and we’ve all heard it by now. No, my main qualm is this – whether it was just this particular cinema or not, I don’t know, but the 3D glasses you get seem to have a tint to them. Almost like they’re semi-sunglasses. I assume that this is what they use in the lens to make it (duh) 3D – but what this also means is that it dulls the brightness of the screen that little bit more. This really disappointed me, as I went to see this film to be blown away by the brightness and vividness of the scenery and the world of Pandora that James Cameron has created. Unfortunately, I had to partly sacrifice this for seeing the whole thing brought to me in 3D. Now, in hindsight, this might not be so bad – seeing it in 3D does make essential differences to the viewing that you would not otherwise get. But part of me couldn’t help wondering if they could have compensated for this by making the 3D version that much brighter on the screen?

3D visuals or not, this does not detract any more from the story itself. James Cameron has actually said that Avatar is his own personal “environmental” film, and they do not in ANY way shy away from that in the storyline. Certain reviewers have said that at points towards the end, Avatar gets a bit touchy-feely, a bit cliché, even a bit “tree-huggy”. Whilst this is true to a certain extent – there are distinct parallels between Avatar and other environmental statements such as Fern Gully or even Pocahontas if you want to go that far – it is easy to see how it COULD be hugely more cliché and soppy in the last hour or so. They’ve clearly been able to take a step back during making this and dial down the Hollywood Fodder in the scriptwriting process, and decided that actually people don’t need this rammed down their throats. As such, for me personally it was only bordering on getting crappily cliché.

I’m sure many people by now know exactly what Avatar is about, but let’s recap in brief anyway – Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) is a paraplegic ex-marine who gets enrolled in the Avatar programme on the planet Pandora which is inhabited by the Na’Vi race who are 10 foot tall blue humanoids who live in the forests. Sully gets an Avatar of a Na’Vi which responds to his brainwaves and he controls, and is sent to live with the Na’Vi and learn all about them. (It should be mentioned at this point that Sigourney Weaver plays her part very well also, and you grow to like her character throughout the duration of the film.) The Marines want to be typically human and blitz the place and mine the shit out of it for expensive materials, and Sully ends up siding with the Na’Vi after seeing all the wonderful things they can do and connect with in their world, and after losing the trust of the people then goes on to become a great tribal warrior whom they all now see as a great leader. Massive fights ensue, Sully and one of the local girls fall in love, then out of love, then in love again (que violins…) and ultimately Good triumphs over Selfishness once again. Cliche? Perhaps in theory, but when watching it, you’re not really thinking of the overall concept. Instead your focussing on the minor details. Like the parallel being drawn between the Settlers and the Natives in America, or the Deforestation of the Amazon. Or how the script comes worryingly close to being very cliché, but manages to disguise it just enough to avoid groaning at the screen. Or how cool that shot of a Ten Foot Tall Blue Dude jumping onto a massive flying creature looked…

Essentially, if you’re going to watch Avatar you should be a bit prepared for certain things. Firstly, it is a long film, clocking in at about 2 hours 30 minutes. Not THAT long compared to certain other effects-driven blockbusters (Thanks, Lord of the Rings!), and it doesn’t really drop into being slow at any point because you’re still fixated on how amazing the whole thing looks, but you should not expect a short film in any case. Secondly, the message of environmentalism will NOT be discreet. It will, in fact, be very prominent, but not to the point of rubbing it in the audiences faces. Much. BUT, that’s the whole point behind Avatar – it’s mixing action with a vital purpose, really. Thirdly, it does get a bit spiritual – the “connection” that the Na’Vi have to all the life (sometimes a literal connection, with their ponytails connecting to the creatures they ride in a slightly creepy way…) on Pandora gets a bit spiritual at points, but again, this is just one more metaphor that they draw. Fourthly, the violence is relentless at points. The Marines bomb the living shit out of the Na’Vi homeland and don’t blink an eye. People die. A lot. So, unless you’re ready to explain to your five-year-old about casualties of war when they were expecting a film about big blue hippies, you may want to prepare. But again, strangely, this is actually something I liked – it doesn’t hold back. It’s harsh, yes, but at least it’s truthful and real. It doesn’t sugar-coat anything at these points, and that’s an actual eye-opener. Good on you, Cameron…

And lastly, YES, those big mechanical things the Marines use to blitz the living crap out of things? Those ARE, basically, the Powerloaders from Aliens! Stop pointing that out, people! James Cameron came up with those, he can use them as much as he likes!

Anyway, regardless of the fact that I’ll probably have to see it again (but IMAX next time!) so that I can appreciate the visuals and details that little bit more, Avatar was a hugely entertaining film that did in fact amaze me visually. The story perhaps could have run ever-so slightly deeper, and strayed ever-so slightly further away from the cliche-border, but as it stands they did a good job of getting the message out there and mixing it with the action sequences just right as well. I’d probably have to give (James Cameron’s…) Avatar about a 7 out of 10, but that could be likely to change once I get to see it again without the colours being dulled by 3D glasses!

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6 Comments

  1. Didn’t Ridley Scott direct “Alien”, not James Cameron? Also, despite the 3D glasses perhaps being relevant to your cinema, is it really relevant to the overall review of the film? The review of the film, not the cinema.

    • Thanks, you’re absolutely right! I was thinking too much about what OTHER films he’d done to notice that I put one in he didn’t do! But thats been changed now, so thanks. As for the 3D glasses, this was my first time seeing a cinema film in 3D and perhaps my expectations were too high, I don’t know. You’re right in the sense that it should make no difference to the film OVERALL, as it doesnt change anything about the script. I think I mention that, actually. BUT, that being said, it was made to be visually epic, and if the medium you’re watching it in dulls those visuals, then you’re not getting the full intended impact of the film. But again, seeing it in IMAX might be different, I dont know yet. Thanks for your feedback, though!

      • Easy mistake to make! Yeah, I’ll agree that I had high expectations when seeing a film in 3D too. I can see your point about the medium dulling the visuals, seeing as that film is designed to be, as you said, visually epic. Nice review though, had a look at the others on here – I’ll be coming back to read regularly!

      • Thank you!! You’re very kind, and I’m glad that you like reading the stuff on here. I’m planning on trying to put some more stuff up eventually, so if I know that more people are logging on to have a look, then I’ll know there’s people to write FOR! Thanks again!

  2. Hi. Nice review. Saw it for myself Sunday and agree with you about the visuals, simply stunning! I think my glasses were ok but I don’t wear 3-D glasses much though so I probly don’t know really! You see any opening for a sequel?

    • Thanks, its always appreciated to get feedback! This was actually my first ever time seeing anything in 3D, and maybe my expectations of it were just far too high! I remember going to Disneyland one year ages ago and seeing that weird Micheal Jackson thing in 3D where shit pretty much came RIGHT out of the screen at you, and I thought it would be just like that. It still made it good, though – I just think that the dulling of the colours wasn’t expected! haha! And if they made a sequel, then it would probably shit all over the message theyre getting across for this. They’d basically then be saying “Screw the message in the first one, we can make money off of this!”. They can make all the money they want from the merchandising, really!


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