23 December 2009

Review: "Avatar"

Avatar may have been the most universally anticipated film of 2009, and although I had very little interest in seeing it, I do believe it is a film worth seeing. Visually, the film is spectacular, but the film's trailers revealed very little of the story. James Cameron last directed a film in 1997, Titanic, which (undeservedly) won Best Picture, over the far superior L.A. Confidential. In the twelve years that have passed, Cameron has produced four films and directed four documentaries. Avatar was supposedly conceived in 1994, and the budget for the film has been speculated to be over $300 000 000 (though the studio has reported it to only be $237M). James Cameron is responsible for writing and directing some of Hollywood's biggest blockbusters: Aliens, True Lies, and The Terminator. Due to the advances in technology, there was obviously a lot of anticipation for the graphics in the film, which are quite amazing and worthy of seeing in 3D. The film has one great fault: the dialogue. James Cameron's screenplay is full of cliches and seems to be scrapped together from other action films, especially every line of dialogue uttered by Michelle Rodriquez.

Set in the year 2154, Avatar takes place on a moon called Pandora. An American corporation, RDA, is mining the moon for unobtanium. Parker Selfridge (Giovanni Ribisi, who seems very out of place in this role) has hired marines to act as mercenaries. Pandora is inhabited by its own indigenous creatures and a group of human-like people called Na'vi. The Na'vi are much taller than humans and they live in harmony with nature. Humans are unable to breathe the air, and a scientist Dr. Grace Augustine (Sigourney Weaver) has created technology to enable humans to become Na'vi, through avatars. Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) has been tasked by this army to become a Na'vi and infiltrate their people so they will learn to trust him. Jake meets a young Na'vi girl, Neytiri (Zoƫ Saldana), and he begins to question the army's need to mine Pandora. The film co-stars Stephen Lang as the leader of the mercenary army, and CCH Pounder as the spiritual leader of the Na'vi, Neytiri's mother.

Avatar, while visually amazing and groundbreaking, suffers because of its story. The dialogue is ill-conceived and keeps viewers from fully sympathizing with the film's hero. The film's message definitely has parallels with our own world and how we abuse the environment, yet none of this is portrayed in the trailer. The film focuses so much on animation that the characters suffer. Avatar is a good film, but not a great film. It is worth seeing because it is so visually spectacular, but do not be surprised if you find the dialogue and characters to be underdeveloped.

My rating: 3 stars out of 4.

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