Avatar (2009) Directed by James Cameron. With Sam Worthington, Sigourney Weaver, Zoe Saldana, Stephen Lang, Michelle Rodriguez, Joel David Moore, Wes Studi and Giovanni Ribisi.
What’s left to say? To date, the biggest grossing film of all time, the springboard for the 3D boom and the return to cinema of self proclaimed “king of the world“, James Cameron. Let’s face it, who’d argue?
One of the main things I noticed feeling after my viewing of Avatar, was fatigue. Of all Cameron’s films to date, the one it shares most common ground with is his 1989 action adventurer, The Abyss. Just like that film, it’s flawed by sometimes going over things to the nth degree, then hammering the point home a few more times just in case you didn’t get it the first, second or third time – in other words, it’s long, way too long.
Beautifully dressed though it undoubtedly is, the plot is guilty of treading all-too trodden turf, making many of the emotional character moments predictable and trite. Many noted similarities to Kevin Costner’s 1991 epic, Dances with Wolves, which lingers like an elephant in the room for those in the know.
So what’s works? Well, lots. Firstly, the alien world of Pandora is a beautifully realised creation. Cameron’s commitment has never been in doubt and the level of art design on show is mouthwatering. The heavy reliance on CGI is essential in creating these images and Cameron and his teams don’t disappoint. Whether it’s floating mountains or explosions of jungle colour, the animation helps us immerse with the characters and the world.
In terms of character, Stephen Lang’s ‘Colonel Quartich’ supplies all the best lines. From his introduction right through, Lang relishes his cartoon-ish role and exerts presence. Not quite fairing as well is lead actor Sam Worthington as Jake Sully. Worthington is a competent actor but lacks gravitas and seems emotionally adrift when it comes to the bigger scenes.
The ecological message is prevalent, although not as problematic as some reviews suggested. You can either tune in to Cameron’s commentary on our abuses of mother earth, or simply let the sub-text wash over you and enjoy the grand spectacle.
Boasting unforgettable imagery, it’s impossible to deny that Avatar isn’t superior entertainment. Its flaws are outweighed by sheer ambition, and while the hefty length makes a perfect case for bringing back the mid-session interval, it ultimately wows us into submission. 4/5