James Cameron’s Avatar is in many ways exactly what Cameron wants it to be; a great leap in film making. This is not an endorsement but a technical fact, Cameron will likely be remembered along with people such as D.W. Griffith, and the film will probably be perceived like the “Jazz Singer” or the more obvious and far more recent Star Wars Episode 3. Ten years in the making, a new dual lens camera built in cooperation with Sony, a new motion capture technique called “Performance Capture“, and damned near photo realistic CG… All this and Cameron has managed not to loose focus on what he does best, and that’s story telling.
We all know Aliens, Terminator 2, and Titanic, most of you probably love or like at least one of these films, and without any doubt in my mind I can say with certainty he has far surpassed any of those films with Avatar. Sure, the movie is not without its flaws, the 2 hour and 40 minute run time can be daunting to some but its well worth it. Even with the long run time particular parts still feel rushed over, like the main Protagonist- Jake Sully’s background feels brushed aside in favor of Pandora and time spent as an Avatar. This choice seems deliberate though, not forced just a need- so that the movie does not break 3 hours. The actors are all on spot with delivery, Zoe Saldana especially shows her stuff in this film rising high above any of her previous performances, her character a Na’vi princess of sorts is incredibly strong, yet at the right moments shows a truly gentle and warm side. It’s actually rather amazing when you consider that until now her performance would not have been her own in this type of film. Let me clarify, take Lord Of the Rings for example, Gollum was done in a very similar way to the Avatar’s in Cameron’s film, but even Gollum’s features had to be adjusted by programming, his smile had to be dialed up a bit or down a bit given a certain feeling that was being portrayed. In Avatar the new technique “Performance Capture” allows absolute delivery of the actor’s feature’s down to the smallest tick- Every single inch of their face’s were mapped, nothing needed altered. So, when you see Zoe’s Avatar your seeing Zoe, painted blue basically even though it is most definitely not Zoe Saldana your seeing but a ten foot tall Na’vi.
Sigourney Weaver shows her usual stuff, Giovanni Ribisi, and Stephen Lang also do very well as our Antagonist’s. A special note for Michelle Rodriguez who seems to deliver a much more honest and genuine performance than we are used to seeing from her. The character and story Archetypes and structure are familiar but it does not feel tired or old but actually quite the opposite, in the world of Pandora even as familiar as some of the story elements might be to some it ends up coming off as fresh and new.
Beyond a doubt the story is phenomenal, it’s heavy (but not heavy handed in message), paced well, action packed, and worth the near 3 hour length. I am electing not to go into detail where the plot is concerned; as it is something that people should see and decide on for themselves. Now for the 3D, I pointed out at the beginning of this review that Cameron helped develop and design a new dual lens camera for Avatar. He did that and so much more, the camera not only allows for precise 3D (non headache inducing), but it also afforded them the ability to have a pre-visualization of the Pandora landscape. If they were shooting in a blank room with just actor’s and some prop’s Cameron was able to look at a screen attached to the camera(or at a station of networked mini super computers) and see what the scene would look like in a rough form. Something that very likely gave him and the actors the ability to place them selves on Pandora (metaphorically speaking) in a way not remotely possible before hand. Imax 3D is most certainly the way to see this film, now I assure you it’s still everything you want in a movie in 2D but the level of immersion when you see it in IMAX 3D is multiplied exponentially.
Closing Thought’s and Personal View:
As a science fiction fan I am always excited for what’s next, and I am always looking forward to any well told stories in SciFi setting’s. Avatar is of a quality we very rarely see in this respect it’s as if Cameron tried to pimp smack The Abyss, T2, and Aliens, with his well known Titanic. It worked or damn near worked. The 3D is not gimmicky, things don’t come flying at you for the sake of things flying at you, it’s all about immersion in that respect. The CGI is so beautiful to look at that 99% of the time you will absolutely not know what is real and what is not. Frankly I have to say that Cameron succeeded in everything he set out to do. On a more personal note I loved the depth of his hidden message’s, without giving to much away- the plot parallel’s some of our more current issues like Mercenary companies in Iraq or Afghanistan (Black Water, etc) at one point someone even uses the phrase “Shock and Awe”. Yet, as I had said before the heaviness of his messages are subtle and not over baring they do not feel forced and more over add to the level of reality in this very fantastical universe. Like great story tellers before him Cameron has gone so far as to hire a USC professor of linguistics, and many other expert’s to create an entire language, music for the Na’Vi people, and even all the Flora and Fauna are named and explained in the Pandorapedia. Another thing worthy of mention is that Sam Worthington’s character is a paraplegic and makes the statement “Maybe I was sick of doctors telling me what I can’t do” another sub theme that is more than worthy of note. In the end this is about bringing movies back to what they should be. From the ten foot tall blue people to the humans the relationships feel natural (impressively so), the story is rich in metaphor, and basic moral’s, but really all Cameron has done here is this; He gave us a movie that will excite you, move you, and make you giggle. As movies once did when we were small the world was still big and movies still felt like magic.
I suggest you all go find out for yourselves, ignore the hype, and the hate. Just see this for yourself.