If there’s one movie that has been hyped over the past few months, or even years if you’re a movie-buff, than it must be Avatar. This is the movie that is going to change how we make and view movies, or so the rumours went. If that is the case I’m not sure, even after seeing Avatar in 3D. The first 3D movie I watched ever, other than some theme-park rides like the Panda-dream in the Efteling or a movie with Leslie Nielsen called Pirates: 3D Show. I never saw movies like The Final Destination and My Bloody Valentine in 3D because that just seemed a waste of time and money. Like similar horror movies from the past (Friday The 13th Part 3, Jaws 3 and Nightmare on Elm Street Part 6) the 3D effect is only used to throw stuff at the audience not to enrich the world we see on screen. That is what James Cameron nails in Avatar as the 3D effect is everywhere and truly adds and extra dimension to the movie.
For 2,5 hours you’ll be taken in deep into the rich world of Pandora. This is a world in which a lot of effort has been put to bring it to life and some people mention that this hasn’t occurred with this detail since Star Wars was released. Saying that does do a great injustice to Peter Jackson’s Lord Of The Rings Trilogy which in my opinion succeeded equally in bringing Middle Earth to life as a complete new world. Pandora is a stunning planet and very realistically created. In this world the most advanced species is the Na’vi, who live in touch and harmony with their surroundings. They are civilized in a way Indians were civilized before Columbus came and robbed them of their land. Which is what this movie is basically about. Humans want to plunder Pandora because of a mineral it contains, a very expensive mineral. With this mineral we can save our dying Earth as well as make the people supplying the mineral very rich. Unfortunately the largest supply of this mineral is located under the tree in which the Na’vi live in. The plan is to infiltrate in the Na’vi through so-called Avatars. Bodies created to look like Na’vi but controlled by a human mind and linked to each other through DNA. Due to the death of his twin brother, paraplegic Jake Sully takes his place and because of a series of incidents gets taken in by the Na’vi where he gets to learn their culture. Jake is now torn between the country he serves and the civilization that he starts to understand better and better everyday.
The entire time I had myself gazing at the screen, and marveled at the 3D effect which is really astonishing. Every scene feels like it’s part of an existing world and we’re practically part of it. I found myself moving my head just to watch the perspective change slightly. Where Avatar does come up short is with the storyline which I found rather underwhelming. 15 years in development and this is the best story they could come up with? It’s basically a rehash of Dances With Wolves and Pocahontas mixed up with Aliens and even a bit of Harry Potter (they should’ve let Robbie Coltrane explain all about the beasties). It’s not that it’s a bad story, but it feels too unoriginal for its own good and it could have actually been an new installment of the Alien Franchise: There’s a big evil company who wants to conquer a planet for it’s riches. There are Marines, Aliens, scientists, Sigourney Weaver and even those big exo-skeleton robots we first saw in Cameron’s Aliens and later on in the Matrix Revolutions.
For the first time the cg-characters are convincing and believable. The avatars resemble their human counterparts eerily, especially Sigourney Weaver and Joel Moore. The latter made quite a career-jump by the way: Only a year ago he starred in the dreadful Paris Hilton vehicle The Hottie & The Nottie, now he’s in the most hyped movie of the year. Cameron went for smaller but still recognizable names during casting: Michell Rodriguez plays the part of a tough-girl helicopter pilot and at one point gets to go for the babe-of-movie-part when she sports some cleavage. That title actually goes to Zoe Saldana, who plays the Na’vi-woman Neytiri. She brings her character to life in a way Gollem was done a couple of years ago and who runs around almost naked. Chances are we’ll get to see the Oscar going to an animated character for the first time.
Stephen Lang is the bad guy of the story as he really wants to destroy the Na’vi population instead of trying to do it the diplomatic way. He turns out to be quite hard to kill. Giovanni Risibi plays the Paul Reiser character form Aliens. The untrustworthy company man. He looks like he just came out of school and got this position due to his daddy. Sam Worthington is the star of the show and I see him becoming Hollywood’s next action hero for the next couple of years as he stole the show in Terminator Salvation earlier this year and now carries this movie on his shoulders with ease.
As most people I was underwhelmed with Avatar when the trailers hit the net and even the 3 minute preview did not make me eager to see it. On the big screen and in 3D it is an entirely different case and that’s why I’m wondering how this movie will hold up when watched at home. Stripped from its rich 3D effect the movie will probably look like a videogame, a point of criticism that I had on the trailer and the preview.
It’s a good movie and the finale is epic and moving, but when you take the 3D effect away it’s not the masterpiece many will make it out to be.