First of all, let me get it out of the way: yes, Avatar is visually stunning. With better scenario and dialogs, it could have been a very good movie; alas, it was completely predictable, and fancy special effects alone do not make a good movie.
Let's start with the picture. As I said before, the special effects and computer animation are really good; the textures feel very real, and the degrees of liberty that CGI animation allows in terms of camera angles and movement is well used for dramatic effects. The luxurious vegetation of the forest and the CGI-animated wild animals are a treat to the eyes. In terms of artwork, there is a definite influence from Nausicaa (the forest-world, the spores) and Starcraft (the vessels, the goliaths). I saw the movie in an IMAX movie with 3D glasses, but I am not convinced that they used the full potential of it - quite honestly, the Haribo commercial before the movie made a better use of it. I find it more strenuous to watch a movie with the 3D-glasses - some details are blurry, and it feels likewise when the camera makes swift lateral movements.
Now, the scenario - the movie disappoints in that area. The plot is very Manichean, and it feels like a remake of Pocahontas, interspersed with elements from / tributes to Star Wars (Pandora and the Na'vi look like Endor and the Ewoks respectively), Nausicaa (the forest as an entity, the destructive impact of civilization on nature, the spores in the forest), Starcraft (Colonel Quarritch and Dr Augustine bear some resemblance with Arcturus Mensk and Sarah Kerrigan), Matrix (the concept of controlling another image of self), and maybe even Independence Day (the pilot fighter suicide) and the Lion King (the father's death, "go, and never come back!", ... am I going to far here?). But I can honestly say that I haven't been surprised at any point in the movie. You know from the beginning that he will be accepted by the Na'vi, that he will fall in love, that he will defect, that he will ultimately prevail after suffering some heavy casualties, and that he will find a way to permanently transfer his mind into the body of his avatar.
It would have been interesting if the movie had dealt in more depth with the issues related to transferring one's mind into another body for instance, maybe a la Twelve Monkeys Army, where the "hero" is clearly deeply affected by experiences that the mind is not used to deal with (time travel in that case, but it is not that different from what we have here). Likewise, the love interest of our hero seems very indifferent to the fact that he really is a human remotely controlling a human - Na'vi bastard. I was expecting someone (him, her, or even one of the other humans in the scientific group) to show at least some kind of surprise / doubt when these feelings emerge. I was expecting more complexity in the social interactions of the characters, and their personality.
I also take issues with some big stereotypes: corporations and the white men are greedy, indigenous people are pure, brave, and connected to the earth, but dumb - thankfully there is a human to teach them how to fight those who come from the sky. To some extent, the movie feels like a remake of the colonization of the Americas; just replace the Na'vis by native Americans, the aircrafts by ships, and modern weapons by muskets, and you have it. Except of course the colonization of the Americas did not have such a happy ending for the native tribes.
On the whole, the movie is beautiful, but it feels like the main goal was to showcase fancy special effects. The movie would have benefited from more detailed characters, and a less linear and predictable plot. My rating is 6/10.
Action / Adventure / Fantasy / Sci-Fi
Action / Adventure / Fantasy / Sci-Fi
When his brother is killed in a robbery, paraplegic Marine Jake Sully decides to take his place in a mission on the distant world of Pandora. There he learns of greedy corporate figurehead Parker Selfridge's intentions of driving off the native humanoid "Na'vi" in order to mine for the precious material scattered throughout their rich woodland. In exchange for the spinal surgery that will fix his legs, Jake gathers intel for the cooperating military unit spearheaded by gung-ho Colonel Quaritch, while simultaneously attempting to infiltrate the Na'vi people with the use of an "avatar" identity. While Jake begins to bond with the native tribe and quickly falls in love with the beautiful alien Neytiri, the restless Colonel moves forward with his ruthless extermination tactics, forcing the soldier to take a stand - and fight back in an epic battle for the fate of Pandora.
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April 22, 2012 at 05:13 PM