Avatar Review

Published 5 years ago by , Updated December 18th, 2009 at 11:08 am,

Short version: Does Avatar live up to all the hype and expectations? In a word: Yes.

avatar new image2 Avatar Review
Screen Rant reviews Avatar

So, after endless fanboy hype (and hate) rivaling that of the months leading up to Watchmen, Avatar is finally upon us. The burning question (once again): Is this film worthy of all the hype preceding it?

Well, first let’s get to the story…

Sam Worthington plays Jake Sulley, a Marine who lost the use of his legs in battle. He has absolutely nothing to do with the Avatar project until his twin brother is killed (apparently in a senseless mugging). His brother was a scientist who had been working on and preparing for the Avatar project for three years.

This is significant because the bio-engineered Na’vi bodies created for the Avatar project are genetically coded to a specific human – and since Jake is the identical twin of his brother (despite having zero training in the project) the corporation talks him into joining it. Their logic is they can always use a Na’vi Avatar with combat skills on their side. Worthington’s character is not only a Na’vi Avatar, but also obviously one for the audience as well… the person who comes onto the scene not knowing anything about what is going on (like the audience) and the film’s exposition happens through his point of view for our benefit.

The planet Pandora contains a very rare mineral with extremely valuable properties (that are never explained, no need) called… Unobtainium. Yeah, I know. They only call it that once in the film, thankfully. Anyway, there are pockets of it scattered throughout the planet, but the biggest cache of it happens to be directly beneath the village of the Na’vi we come to know. The goal is to either negotiate with them to get them to move so the bulldozers can come in and mine or to expel them via military force.

Relations with the Na’vi have been shaky at best – it seems that olive branches were extended in the forms of schools, roads and supplies, but the Na’vi are not interested in any of it – and there have been some isolated clashes between them and the military. It’s decided that Sully (not being a scientist) would be an ideal mole – he can go in and gain the trust of the locals in order to gather intel that can be used against them should things come to blows. Sully is promised that the expensive surgery which could once again give him use of his legs would be taken care of if he goes along with the plan – which he does. He has three months.

Sigouney Weaver plays Grace, the fairly grizzled, smoking lead scientist on the project who is not happy (to say the least) to see Jake show up to take his brother’s place.  There’s another scientist who was friends with Jake’s brother and who comes to resent the fact that after he has put in so much time learning how to be a Na’vi, that a newcomer with no experience comes in and plays a central role in the project. The scientists are determined to find a diplomatic solution (although tasking scientists with this doesn’t really make much sense) and are constantly at odds with the military. They relocate their lab far away from central command in hopes that they can function more autonomously, without intervention from the corporation (represented by Giovanni Ribisi as the lead on the project) or the military.

avatar stephen lang as colonel quaritch Avatar Review

Speaking of the military, Stephen Lang absolutely shines as Colonel Miles Quaritch, a chiseled in stone older soldier with plenty of field experience who is in charge of military operations on Pandora. Scenes with him, Weaver, the sci-fi tech and Cameron at the helm took me back to the most excellent James Cameron film, Aliens. In some ways this almost felt like a continuation of that film – if not in story, then in characters and hardware.

And of course we have Zoe Saldana as Neytiri, who does a fine job as the lead female who is put in charge of teaching (Avatar) Jake the language and culture of the Na’vi. At first she intensely dislikes and mistrusts Jake, but over the course of the film their relationship’s development is the focal point as she softens towards him and he comes to respect and understand the Na’vi deeply.

So what’s the verdict?

(Click to continue reading our Avatar review)

If you’ve seen the movie and want to talk about it without worrying about spoilers, please head over to our Avatar Spoilers Discussion.

Please don’t discuss movie spoilers here in order to not ruin it for people who haven’t seen it yet.

Our Rating:

4 out of 5
(Excellent)

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TAGS: 4 star movies, avatar

328 Comments

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  1. Good review. Im going to see it in a few weeks, I know I was always a hater but I will give James Cameron the benefit of the doubt for now because he deserves it.

    Vic, is it really a game changing movie? It has been hyped as such. And will it still be enjoyable at home on DVD?

  2. Beautiful review Vic and I am glad to hear that it’s worth the hype. Why only 4 stars though? I read one comment on how the story *might* have dragged a little, but besides that, it was a glowing review. No 5 stars?

  3. Unobtainium… is it called that because it’s so unobtainable?? LOL

  4. 4 out of 5? Hmmm…Expectations hurt it I guess.

  5. @ Dan,

    5 Stars is reserved for movies that fulfill its purpose practically perfect.

    Visually stunning and an event movie yes, but Avatar isn’t perfect with its story from what’s being said.

  6. Story is everything, and it doesnt matter how good the effects are, if the story isnt up to scratch.

  7. Weird how 4 out of 5 can be disappointing. Just shows what we expect of James Cameron.

  8. @M-Cat
    Yep, Cameron has really dug himself into a hole, creating such great films. Like Vic said, James has still got it.

    @Vic
    Thank you for this great review. Hopefully I can check this out next week.

  9. @DrSamBeckett

    I would highly, highly recommend that Avatar be seen on the big screen. I plan on going to see it in IMAX once it opens. Having said that, I’m sure I’ll be picking it up on Blu-ray once it’s released. Once you see it you can determine for yourself whether it’s a “game changer.” I was skeptical about that myself, but I believe it is.

    In regards to my 4/5 rating – Like with Star Trek, perhaps I’m holding myself back a bit in order to not let my inner fanboy take over. While it was amazing visually, the story really was fairly run of the mill as far as I’m concerned. Really the big deal with this film IS the audio-visual presentation, but don’t take that to mean that the story is in any way “bad.” This is nothing like a Bay or Emmerich movie with their paper thin plots and laughable character development.

    Perhaps I should have gone 4.5/5, but really as an overall package it didn’t leave me in a state of mind that movies that I give 5/5 to, do.

    Personally (and this may change over time with repeated viewings) I put this movie here when it comes to Cameron’s films:

    Aliens (director’s cut)
    Terminator 2
    The Abyss (director’s cut)
    Avatar (3D)
    Terminator
    Titanic

    Vic

  10. Vic,

    I’m waiting to read the full review until after I see it because I want to go in fresh but I was wondering if they showed the IM2 trailer. Any news on that?

  11. Vic

    you don’t put T2 in there?

  12. I am going to see it, just for the visuals. But I am cetain of one thing: the tired old story will turn me off. Let’s see:
    “Evil, Capitalist, War-Mongering English-Speaking White Man seeks only to rape and pillage nature and mother earth (Pandora) and stripmine the place to satisfy their greed, while also committing genocide against the nature-respecting, peace-loving, completely pure and innocent native people of color, to satisfy their xenophobia and bloodlust.”

    Does that sound about right?

  13. This is “Pocahontas meets Ferngully meets Dances with Wolves meets Ewoks”.

  14. *gasp!*

    No T2 in that list?!?!

    Now, that just ain’t right!! T2 – best film of all time as far as I’m concerned … followed very, very, very closely (if not in a near tie) by The Dark Knight.

  15. ACK!!! Let me edit my comment, how could I forget about Terminator!! (slaps forehead)

    Vic

  16. ChosenOne – yeah, that’s the vibe I’m picking up on the film. It’s one of the reasons I’m not so thrilled about catching this latest Cameron flick. Same old crapola.

  17. @ChosenOne

    LOL, actually it was to satisfy their greed. 8)

    Think “Dances with Wolves” on another planet and with advanced technology.

    Vic

  18. @Vic

    *whew* I was beginning to wonder about you for a moment there …

    Question – Is Avatar playing 3D everywhere? And if not, would watching it sans 3D ruin the visual experience?

  19. Dances With Wolves and/or The Last Samurai … on another planet and with better technology. That’s how Avatar is coming across.

  20. Excellent review Vic.
    When it comes to story, really, there are only 7 different story ideas which are basically retold again and again.
    Die Hard, Under Seige, Speed, Passenger 57, these four films are basically the same story when you think about it.
    BUT, the difference is how you tell the story.
    Tarantino has made a career of taking older film stories and putting his unique vision.
    Avatar may be “Dances with Na’Vi” but it is how Cameron tells it which is most important. And knowing Cameron, he is a great story teller. This has my ticket.

  21. Vic

    Why do you prefer T2 to Terminator? Just curious…

  22. Vic, did you see Battle for Terra? I want to know if my suspicions are correct

  23. Well, I know what I’m doing next Thursday. :D

    Good review Vic.

  24. Vic ,
    So, when South Park did their Dances with Smurfs spoof of Avatar they wernt far off?

  25. @Kyyle

    No, I haven’t seen that movie.

    @Gary

    I missed that parody.

    @DrSamBeckett

    I just thought it was much better in terms of story, characters, VFX, everything. That doesn’t mean I think the first Terminator movie isn’t good, I think it’s great. I just like the second one better.

    Vic

  26. Vic

    no IM2 trailer before avatar?

  27. i did see battle for terra. both that and avatar look very simaler.

  28. Hmmm, I was going to forego the extra drive and cash to see this in 3-D, but from the review I think it might be worth the extra effort.

    Thanks for the review, Vic. I am also curious if the Iron Man 2 trailer was there.

  29. The plot also sounds a little like (everyone’s favorite), “Star Trek Insurrection.”

    Sounds cool, I’ll check it out. I have a mild interest in seeing it,,,

    Here’s the 140 mil dollar question, will it beat “New Moons” opening weekend take?

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