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

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  1. Oh yeah – I meant to add that the 3D viewing didn’t look as cheesy as the trailer portrayed it to be. In other words, the Na’vi didn’t look quite so smurf-like and ridiculous.

    I do think it’s rather ironic that a race of alien beings would be so very much like human Indian tribes and that they would kiss just like regular people do. Funny, that … :-p

  2. We had kids in our viewing group – the younger ones kept asking when it would be done. When the credits came on, my daughter said – very loudly – “FINALLY! It’s over!!”

    So, it’s certainly not something that will appeal to every young child.

  3. All I can think of is two words: “Atlantis” remake.

    It’s nice that he thought of this story line first but that’s all it is. It’s such an old plot that while the CGI was ahead of his time, IT was not.

    CGI? Breathtaking of course.

  4. BEST MOVIE EVER! At least that’s what i think.

  5. WOW, great movie. Cameron did wonders with the environment, characters and CGI. BUT…..I had one problem with the movie and it was the story. Not too far into the movie, did I feel like I was watching Disney’s Pocahontas, mixed in with Dances With Wolves and throw in a pinch of Fern Gully. I don’t believe Cameron created an original story, but a combination of existing stories.

  6. Sorry, one more point, and hopefully someone will agree with me. Did the Na’vi race not look like the Captain from Treasure Planet, Captain Amellia? Is Mr. Cameron sitting at home watching Disney movies as his inspiration? DiGi above mentioned Atlantis. Another good comparison. C’mon Mr. Cameron…….

  7. all i can say is i love the movie and when are we going to ever get any of this tech stuff in real life i want one of those computers and my own avatar

  8. This Movie blew me away, the visual effects are like nothing I have ever seen and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Jawdropping and enjoyable as the movie was, I couldnt help but find the storyline to be formulaic (as others have speculated). But average storyline put aside, the movie was amazing and would most likely attract any lover of science fiction or fantasy like myself. While watching the movie I found that I didnt mind the less-than-outstanding storyline, there is definately a compensation for that storyline with the visual effects and the characters humility(CGI and Human).

    On a similar note- I just today saw Sherlock Holmes which was also outstanding but had an opposite composer. Sherlock Holmes has a brilliant storyline, the characters are impressively sharp and funny to a degree I have never seen achieved. But sherlock holmes had average CGI, nothing to hurt its amazing story nonetheless, just as avatars average story didnt hurt its amazing CGI. Both movies caught me by surprise and I found a very inordinary enjoyment of them.

  9. oI just think it’s hilarious that people are complaining about the story of this being unoriginal, and yet I don’t hear a whole lot about the story in “Twilight” being unoriginal. . . I mean, how many vampires falling in love with a human stories can we see before it becomes tired? Not to mention not many complain about superhero movies being the same, or romantic comedies. . . is it only because James Cameron made it and it’s outlandishly huge, a great movie that people just don’t want to make themselves like, or because people are simple-minded? That’s the question I’m going to ask.

    Avatar was the best movie of the decade for it’s visuals and execution, as well as character development and emotional love story. It’s arguable, yes, but I’ve not seen any movie to rival it’s completeness at all in my life.

  10. Best movie experience ever, hands down. As for the best movie ever, no. I would still give that to American Beauty. I don’t care if the storyline resembles Dances with Wolves, it’s still completely different. I mean, the guy had to make a totally new language and culture. His imagination is second to none among all the directors of our time, including Speilberg. Or however you spell it.

    @Cyn, the reason that the people look like African tribes and resemble a lot of human traits, why there are birds and other sorts of animals like that? Because obviously, that is what works. As proved by humans. Wouldn’t it seem logical that life on other planets would seem strikingly similar to life on earth in that sense? I would think so.

    The CGI was groundbreaking and I hope that every movie is made in that type of 3-D. The movie is a real eye-opener and I hope that everyone that hasn’t seen it will go out and see it, I’ve seen it 5 times in a row and I still haven’t gotten bored. The storyline and everything else is just as good as the effects are and it is going to win Best Picture 2009, I’ll bet on it. What would beat it? Up in the Air? No way. This movie has been out 17 days and already grossed more than 1 billion dollars…unreal. A must see!

  11. “Avatar was the best movie of the decade for it’s visuals and execution, as well as character development and emotional love story. It’s arguable, yes, but I’ve not seen any movie to rival it’s completeness at all in my life.”

    You’re right … it’s arguable … highly arguable. In no way can I personally view this film as “the best movie of the decade”. I’m glad you enjoyed it but my experience was that this is one of the most overrated films I’ve seen.

  12. “This movie has been out 17 days and already grossed more than 1 billion dollars…unreal.”

    You have to take into account that much of that is due to the inflated price of a 3D ticket (about 25-35% more than the standard cost).

    A more accurate representation of how popular a film is would be the number of ticket units sold. I’ve yet to find this information for Avatar. I doubt it would stack up to Gone With the Wind.

  13. @Cyn …That is very true, but I’d bet that by the time the movie is out of theaters it will have surpassed Gone With the Wind. And I’d bet that when there is a sequel, it’s going to sell even more units and shatter records. I bet people that didn’t even like the first one will still see the second.

  14. @Cyn

    Actually, 2D showings greatly outnumber 3D showings since not all theaters have the digital projectors needed for the 3D. But if it makes you feel better to justify it to yourself that way, that’s perfectly fine by me, just wanted to throw that factoid out there. :-)

  15. “I’d bet that by the time the movie is out of theaters it will have surpassed Gone With the Wind.”

    It will have to sell a megaload of tickets to surpass GWTW.

    “But if it makes you feel better to justify it to yourself that way, that’s perfectly fine by me, just wanted to throw that factoid out there.”

    Not sure what you mean by justification … not even Titanic could beat something like GWTW. I know there’s a lot of hype out there about Avatar but after viewing the movie for myself I think much of that hype is due more to the newness factor of the technology – and the purty colors of the people and animals of the alien world – rather than the quality of the story.

  16. @Ken J – also, regarding 2D vs. 3D ticket sales/showings, what I’ve read is that in online purchases, approximately “75%-89% of all Avatar ticket sales are for 3-D or IMAX 3-D screenings”.

    I can’t find the numbers you’re talking about (that 2D is outshowing 3D).

  17. @Cyn

    Your comparisons between GWTW and AVATAR are disingenuous at best and outright deceptive at worst. Then again you may truly not comprehend the flaw of your argument and if that’s the case then it would explain a lot.

    You can’t compare GWTW & AVATAR any more then you can compare Horseless Carriages and next years Models from Toyota.

    GWTW is from an entirely different world, a time when there was basically no competition. Back in those days you didn’t have to compete with any other releases for the most part to be successful; you need only produce a great film. If AVATAR where one of only a handful of movies released this year and successive years had the same small number of releases then we’d see more AVATAR ticket sales. Even then you still can’t get a completely accurate comparison because today we have many more forms of entertainment; something the theatres of the era of GWTW did not have to compete with.

    To get a true comparison between the 2 films you’d have to have never released GWTW and have that film made today using current technologies and methodologies. Then you’d have as close to a 1:1 comparison as you can get. And under that scenario, I seriously doubt GWTW would hold the weight it has from the past. A good part of GWTW’s lasting success has to do with a great film being released during a period when there was little to no other movies to compete with and there was very little competition in the area of entertainment.

    I’m not saying GWTW wasn’t a top 100 film nor that your own praise of it is in error but that your attempts to compare it to AVATAR and place it above AVATAR are seriously flawed.

  18. @BlueCollar – I’m being neither disingenuous nor deceptive with the comparison – nor do I appreciate such a snarky accusation. Also, I’m not ‘praising’ GWTW, just pointing out that many people have lost perspective with regard to the so-called phenomenon of Avatar.

    If you’d like, I can move the comparison closer to today’s time, which then brings us to Star Wars, E.T., and even Titanic (skipping over Sound of Music and The Ten Commandments). I’m not even sure how close Avatar will come to matching those particular films either.

    In other words, the film may not be as phenomenal as many people perceive it to be. I think that realistically, the only things that have garnered it so much gushing adoration is the technology involved and Cameron’s name.

    As far as there being supposedly little to no competition, you probably don’t realize that there were actually many, many movies released in 1939 when GWTW premiered:


    Additionally, 1939 is known as “the greatest year in film history”, because that year apparently “saw the release of an unusually large number of exceptional movies”.

  19. I loved this movie since the first time I saw iT!! It’s great, apart of the tecnology of 3-D graphics and details of avatars that are really great and real!! When you see this movie you go to another part, you feel like in another planet :), the defects that it has are really unimportant details… for me and some people said that is a copy of Disney movies or when americans stolle natives gold…. But that is the reality of the movie and in this particular movie you can see the perspective that another creatures have about us when we destroy their habitat. And makes you think and you conect emotionally with omaticayas, and makes you think that maybee we are in some way conested with our natural environment :). And you always knew that humans will atack villagers, but I never had imagined all that happend at the enD REALYYY, the main character agains humans, that he rides Macto the red bird, and i say to myself what the f*** they will do against that????!!!!… reallyyyy haha. And the movie really touch me I don’t know all of you but I think that if an Alien come to your planet and destroy your home or your natal country for say something… you would feel terrible! :( . So I really conect with history, and characters, really good actors. yeha a Great movie!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! It will win Oscars, Maybe best movie and special efects ;) Happy new year!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  20. I had already seen this movie twice and it was really great!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! And really i were like stupefy haha the 3-D efects are awesome, and in 2-D is really awesomw too ;) great work on details they see very reaal and also in special efects :) yeha great!!!!!!!!!!!!
    The history has been really atacked at internet, like the Na’avis and also by humans xD. But really all compare this movie with pocahontas and also with Atlantis… because of the gold, or well always treashure, but it isn’t the truth???? people only wants money and money and all of us want…codicious people …. And I think that James Cameron insert that stuff in the movie thinking in the mistakes that humanity have done to the world all that he have seen, all that we have destroy people that humans have killed for build without care of nothing?? thats the between lines message that James Cameron gives !!!! :O :O !
    And well talkin about the history in his totality Well some of you must say, well we always knew that the humans will attack tha aliens since the movie begin…. But when they start I thought what they will do???? REAllyyyyy.. haha.
    I never imagine all that happened O-O
    Soo you maybe think too but there we are the bad guys?? what is that?????? But that is another thing at the movie that calls my attention, the connection betwen the Omaticaya and their environment OOOOO, awesome and it really touch me.
    So I will sound ecologist or something like that but is the perspective of the weak creatures in front the stronger ones, and makes you fell in their place, what do you would feel if some huge aliens attack your house or your natal village for say something and destroy it. I don’t know you but I would feel really sad :( and thats the another thing that touch me of this movie.
    Also it is really entertaining that this is the most important in a movie thats their reason to exist right??? and In this movie i got bored 0.00 minutes. iD
    So really a good movie, good actors, good efects, fun history but also sentimental. ;)
    AND the world of Pandora is really great and wild like nature, a really great movie I beat it will win oscar’s!!!!
    Happy New year!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  21. @Cyn

    I didn’t cite any numbers at all. I’m speaking just from the fact that in every theater I’ve visited so far, they only have one screen capable of Avatar in 3D and they have the 2D version of Avatar on at least 2 other screens. And they are all sold out. So logically speaking, in all of those theaters Avatar in 2D should have outsold Avatar 3D (numbers, not gross) 2:1. Unless somehow I just so happen to live around the only theaters in the country where the 2D version is shown on more screens than the 3D version… Not to mention there are some smaller theaters that don’t have the 3D version at all…

    I suppose that during the week most of the ticket sales could be going to the 3D showings and the 2D showings are not getting sold out. But who knows. Regardless, just because you didn’t like the movie, doesn’t mean you should ignore the fact that the movie is an “epic success” like the other article states. I don’t let my opinions blind me from the facts, I really dislike the Pirates of the Carribean movies, yet I am able to recognize how much of a success they are. I don’t like Transformers, but that was an “epic success” as well. A fact is a fact, 3D or not, the movie is doing far better than a lot of you naysayers “predicted” it would. I’m glad I don’t take advice on the stock market from you folks, lol.

  22. Oh, not to mention, if you read my statement, I said: “2D showings greatly outnumber 3D showings

    And yet your “rebuttal” focused on ticket sales… Not exactly relevant, but ok…

  23. @Ken J – I read your statement. But ‘showings’ don’t necessarily equate to hard ‘sales’. According to what I read (so far, anyway), it’s the 3D stuff that’s generating the most sales overall. And the 3D stuff is more expensive.

    Also, I never said that I ‘didn’t like the movie’. It was okay – but just that … ‘okay’. In other words, I liked it alright but wasn’t blown away – at least, I wasn’t as bedazzled as I was led to believe I would be! By the visuals – yes, it was great. But the overall package? Meh. IMO, it certainly didn’t even come CLOSE to touching the excellent work that was Terminator 2 or even TDK.

    As far as the ‘epic’ stuff, well – I don’t think it’s really that ‘epic’ when held beside so many other films that have far, FAR exceeded whatever Avatar will probably end up doing. The reason you may perceive it to be ‘epic’ is because we’re talking about the here and now. Of course it seems big and shiny and grand, because we’re experiencing it IN the moment!

    But over the long run …. epic? Eh, I can’t go that far. IMO, epic doesn’t – and shouldn’t – depend on mere visuals alone. Visuals are only ONE part of the equation of an epic movie (again, imo). Avatar comes up short on the OTHER end of that equation.

  24. every body has such a long detail about the movie all i got to say is WOW for the amount of time and money spent making this movie it was great i saw it in the imax in 3D and it was amazing and i will go and watch it again CONGRATS to the makers of the movie it was my all time fav of the year

  25. There is absolutely no argument against Avatar being the most visually impressive movie of all time. The iMax 3D version is hands-down, without competition- the greatest theater experience ever produced. So in that regard, yes, it is the best MOTION PICTURE ever made. Is the plot the most substantial? No. Is the characterization and acting the best? No. But visually, Avatar is the winner by all measurements.

  26. @Danny – and you are perfectly within your rights to have that opinion. But it is only that – your opinion. Others will agree with it, and others will not.

    I do not agree that Avatar is the ‘most visually impressive movie of all time’. Nor do I agree that it is the ‘best MOTION PICTURE ever made’. I also don’t agree that ‘visually, Avatar is the winner by all measurements”.

    But we do agree on a couple of things – that the plot is not substantial and the characterization/acting is subpar in some respects. I also agree that the visuals were impressive – but for me, this does not translate into BEST motion picture ever made.

  27. Like many, I enjoyed this movie on several levels, from the technological aspects to the story-line.

    That said, I was distracted by the “3-d” aspect of the movie, and will shy away from future 3-d movies. Done right, 3-d movies pull you into the “events” of the film, but in this movie, the effects were not “compelling” enough to warrant using it. What I mean is that there were limited scenes in my opinion that benefited from 3-d. Most of the scenes were at “angles” and distances that did not lend themselves to the 3-d experience. And the “depth” that the technology creates was limited.

    I am sure I will get opposing “views” regarding this. All I am saying is that I’ve seen better use of 3-d.

  28. @Danny – as much as I agree with you about this being possibly one of the most visually impressive movies I’ve ever seen – and I really did love seeing it the 3 times I’ve done so thus far – I’ll agree with Cyn in stating that it still won’t be my vote as “Best movie EVER”. Really, it’s just so hard to quantify something like that. I’ve long held Gladiator as my favorite movie of all time. For ME, it works on every single level, and I regard it (again for ME) as simply brilliant.
    Avatar is to me brilliant as well, but for other ways.
    Could I regard either as the “Best” movie ever. It’s pointless for me to state it as such. Others will always have different opinions, as Cyn as rightfully pointed out.
    However, I’ll agree with you Danny – it’s a gorgeous movie, and I found none of the “problems” in it that others have had – story/acting, etc. Though, if I were going to point out what I felt was a weak performance, it would HAVE to be Ribisi. I felt his was by far the weakest performance of the movie.

    @Ron – I think I get what you’re saying about the 3D. I completely disagree with you about it not being effective in this movie however. If I understand you correctly, it seems like what you’re saying is that you were expecting more “in your face” aspects to the 3D usage. The old “pointy-stick-in-your-face!!” usage. Nope. None of that here. And they certainly had plenty of chance to do so with all the spears and arrows flying around!
    But I found the experience to be very nuanced, and immersive.
    I’ve seen the movie in 2D, and it was a very different “feel”. For me, for the first time ever, the 3D really worked for me brilliantly in a movie. Perhaps if you were to see it again, you might have a different experience. Maybe check it out in 2D??

  29. @CrankyJ
    Thanks for your insights to my comments. I think I will take your advice and see it again in 2D. That certainly will give me an opportunity to compare the two versions. Also, I may as well see it in IMAX 3D as well! This way I will be able to pick up on missed portions of the movie and compare the 3 available delivery methods. It will be interesting to see what I glean from each display of the film! More later! Best…