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

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  1. Reading these interesting comments, there are some issues I would like to offer my opinions on.

    1.) “Best” vs. favorite
    You can like what you like, for whatever reasons. Unless you explain and defend your criteria for choosing, what you like isn’t the “best” of anything.

    2.) The 3D experience
    Cameron wanted a small camera that could be hand-held to heighten the excitement of battle scenes. He did not shoot Avatar using IMAX cameras, therefore viewing Avatar in IMAX 3D actually REDUCES the resolution of the 3D by blowing up the image beyond its original 2k HD cam spec. To see Avatar as Cameron shot and edited it, see it in RealD, Dolby 3D or XpanD 3D. IMAX makes anything that sticks out at you directly go all fuzzy at the end, and amplifies motion blur. (Though you may prefer that unreal emphasis, since it makes Pandora even more psychedelic than the filmmaker intended.)

    3.) Movie or Theme-park Ride?
    I think Avatar is more intended as an “experience” than as a movie, so discussing it as a movie will always lead to confusion. If you go expecting a movie, I agree with those who were disappointed by the unoriginal plot etc. Most of those who wrote about how great Avatar is are talking about it as a ride, not as a movie.

    I hope everyone finds something to enjoy in the experience.
    At that high a ticket price, Avatar must be expected to deliver as a Grand Entertainment. That’s exactly how Gone With the Wind was marketed, so I’m glad to see how others had intuitions about similarites between the two.

  2. I have seen it twice; both in 2D and 3D. In all honesty I could not understand the derision over the dialogue and plot, it struck me the lead parts were mostly played well and carried the story in a believable fashion – though heavy-handedly in minor instances – and far far better than in many other multimillion blockbuster titles. Yes, the story is similar to any number of existing pieces, but through good character portrayal and sheer immersion into the well-developed world James Cameron has created, it is a story well told especially when you consider the original script had far more content and had to be diminished due to running time constraints (http://chud.com/articles/articles/21969/1/PROJECT-880-THE-AVATAR-THAT-ALMOST-WAS/Page1.html)

    I found it thoroughly enjoyable I look forward to future sequels, go see it!

  3. Great special effects, pity that it had to have actors.

    I think that was how Cameron felt about it anyway.

  4. I’m amazed this film is being so well received. The plot is shambolic and forced as to verge on comedy. From plot convenience to plot convenience the film lurches on. They have the technology and money to build alien clones and invest them with consciousness but they don’t have the technology or money to just DIG under the magic tree? They have hundreds of fighting machines but NONE of them are equipped with glass that can repel wooden spears? The giant cat folk somehow KNOW that they can transfer consciousness permananetly into an Avatar – where could they possibly have learned this?

    And the film just feels like episodes of other films. From the opening bug encounter which brought nothing new from even Starship Troopers to scenes that felt like Aliens rip offs. Even the production design was overly familiar, except for the, still rubbish looking no matter how well the CG has been done, cat people.

    This film was always destined to do well in the cinema, both with hype and overinflated ticket prices. I saw it in 3D and the 3D is no more or less spectacular than any other 3D film I’ve seen, The effects and gimmicks need to work in service of the story and there was none of that here. The humans in the story were presented as infuriatingly 1D – the General in particular couldn’t have been any more overtly evil if he’d been stood on top of a cage full of children while cutting the heads of puppies. And that final fight in which a robot has a knife fight with Rumpleteaser? I actually laughed! Minor point but if you were designing military robots wouldn’t you build in guns rather than a robot with hands that had to hold the gun? You could at least then mount guns on either arm or shoulders or something and still have your hands free. But this plus single-glazed glass were necessary to hand the Na’vi their ridiculous and unlikely victory.

    It’s rare I feel I have to comment on stuff but this film is one of the worst written I have seen in a long time.

  5. @jp – you’re hilarious. Really.
    Perhaps you’ve missed your calling as either a scriptwriter, or robot designer. Clearly, you’ve presented yourself here as knowing a great deal more about it than the guy that’s credited as having created some of the best sci-fi movies ever.
    You’re definitely entitled to your opinion, such as it is, however I’m still stumped as to what “opening ‘bug’ scene” you’re referring to – the one that reminds you of Starship Troopers. Seriously. I’ve seen Troopers several times, and simply can’t think of a similar scene between the movies.
    Also, you’re one of a couple that have mentioned that you thought the CGI done was terrible. I’m wondering by what measure you’ve come to determine this. When everyone else (those in the industry as well as just average viewers) have found the animation, motion capture, etc to be groudbreaking, what is it you were seeing that you felt was still just “rubbish”? I’m honestly asking here. Perhaps I, and most others have missed something, what with the overwhelming production values presented on the screen nearly blinding us in their brilliance. That’s completely possible.
    Was there a specific scene, performance, or method used (other than the 3D…different subject altogether) that was the key point of your observation??
    I’d be interested in finding out, and perhaps revisiting those aspects again the next time I watch the movie.
    Thanks.

  6. @JP

    First, you really can’t dig underground with a large and heavy structure on top of it. If you do that, a cave in is possible. Second, the glass DID block the arrows, however, at the end, the Na’vi had the advantage of gravity pushing it even faster, not to mention being on a huge beast that’s moving fast. You drop something off the top hill of a roller coaster and it hits someone it could kill them. And when you’re pulling back on a bow from a higher distance already moving at a fast speed and you let that arrow go it is pretty damn dangerous no matter what. That’s physics. Third, using the mind and thoughts to power other things is nothing new. People who are paralyzed from the neck down can move their chairs just by thinking it, so it would make sense to be able to actually transplant one’s own mind into a blank body 100 plus years in the future. Fourth, you do present a good point about the being able to transfer from body to body. But, think of it this way, it was described as a global network. So it’s much like a computer where you can upload and download data/memories. So, think of the Avatar and the human body as being USB memory sticks to your computer. But yes, it is a good point. Fifth, you build guns into the arms it would make it heavier and less agile. With the gun being held, it creates the ability to move quicker and use the hands in any and all situations.

    So, looking at what you said I can’t help but think that you went into the film knowing you were going to hate it no matter what, and that’s not a good way to go into something. Because I really can’t see why you hated it so much when those things that you complained about could easily be explained away if you watched the movie at all and paid attention to what was being said.

  7. @CrankyJ

    What I was getting at was that yes the motion capture has improved, yes the sense of weight has improved etc, but that no matter how well you render something that is badly designed it will still be a bad design. The catfolk are very well animated but they’re still ridicuolous looking. My comments have been with regards to the production design rather than the CG. I saw nothing in this film that was especially above and beyond the effects of Jurasic Park, the modern Star Wars films. Lord of the Rings, or the Matrix films. The key difference has been the amount of money thrown at them. There were certainly MORE CGI scenes, but were they so much better than anything that went before? And having a debate on the “technical” accomplishments of the film pretty much enforces the point that there is very little here to write home about in any other field. The technical accomplishments are largely in the methods by which directors can visualise their product, but with the exception of improved motion capture, this is not visible on screen. What is visible is more of everything, not necessarily anything better.

    While James Cameron is well regarded for his contributions to SF he is quite widely derided for his contributions to plot and character and never has this been more on show than in this film, even down to the embarrasing deus ex machina moment where the hero basically asks God to help and God sends in all the animals. You don’t need to be the worlds greatest writer to know that this is the oldest and weakest plot device in any writers toolbox. And the issue of robot design is also a narrative weakness because if they had been designed in a way that makes sense then the Na’vi could never have survived that final assault, but the plot demanded otherwise so instead we have robots holding guns. The same with the use of glass weaker than we have today to basically present a weakness to be exploited in order to end the film in the way the plot demanded. Whether you realise it or not these are all symptoms of a weak story, knitted together by effects.

  8. @Jon

    First – we can travel through space, have hypersleep, cloning technology, consciousness transferral and weapons of mass destruction but we can’t dig a mine? We can’t buit support struts? We can’t shore up a cave? We can cut a tunnel between Britain and France underground witha huge body of water over the top in the current age but we can’t do the same in the future?

    Second – who builds war machines incapable of withstanding weapons fire? You bring down a target by using something stronger, more explosive or more rapid than the target can take. None of the machines were able to withstand sped up wood and stone. I’m sorry but this is weak, we have the means to resist this now. The Na’vi should have stood no chance whatsoever against the military except for the convenient writing.

    Thirdly, I didn’t quibble with the fact that they could do it, just that they were capable of doing that but not just digging under the tree. Surely that would have been cheaper too? The issue I had was the fourth point that the Na’vi would have considered that moving a human’s consciousness into the Avatar was even possible except for the inevitable ending. To use your analogy it’s like having a thousand USB devices and trying to connect them together with something that has no connectors of any kind. But if the catfolk sing in just the right way…

    Fifth – the guns could have been shoulder mounted, any kind of mounted with the exception of the use of BOTH arms just to hold a single gun was silly. Even the pilot had to hold both arms out to simulate holding the gun which limits their ability and versatility. If this had been the case the robots would have not had any obvious weaknesses such as behind, or indeed the many presented by KNOCKING THE GUN OUT OF ITS HANDS. To have a robot resort to knife fighting by the end was embarrasing.

  9. @ Jp

    You’re right, we have the ability to build support systems and such. And I’m sure it would have been thought out that way. But getting close enough to dig a whole so it would be cost-effective is a different story. And where would you start it out, at the human base? I’m pretty sure that was way too far away for it to work. It wouldn’t have been smart or cost-effective to go underground and building tunnels, especially on a planet that has a different atmospheric structure than Earth.

    And you’re right, things are built to withstand attacks. However, this is on a different planet with different atmospheric pressure and a lower gravity. Not to mention, the Na’vi are ten feet tall. Now imagine a ten foot tall human being that works out and hunts and stuff. They would be pretty strong. Now imagine a ten foot tall alien that lives on a planet with a different atmosphere and bone and muscle structure. Those bows and arrows were the size of the humans, maybe a bit bigger. It would take a massive amount of strength for any person to pull that. So, given the display of strength, it is fathomable. Also, I believe the Na’vi were described as being four times stronger at least than the average man, and the average man could probably propel an arrow around 50 MPH, give or take. It makes sense as long as you are looking at it from a different planet and habitat standpoint.

    And, like I said about tunneling, it would be cheaper (although still expensive) to fund an Avatar program than to build an intricate tunnel system under an alien terrain. And again, you point about the conscious moving thing is very good and I have no arguments about it because I thought that was the weakest part. Who knows, maybe it was Grace that was in the body at the end of the movie and not Jake.

    And still, having something mounted on the shoulder is completely hard to be agile with. I’m sure those things were built to be strong and agile. Having a gun on your shoulder would have made the pilot be mindful of how tall there were and where they could fit and such. In an already hostile environment, that would have been an added unnecessary risk. And had the guns been shoulder mounted, they might have been easier to break off because of the stand they would have been on. How would they move, would they be able to go 180 degrees or in a full circle? If they go in a full circle it could cause it to be more vulnerable because the base structure would need to be more mobile.

    Also, I think you have been saying that the Na’vi should never have been able to fight off the humans. Well, (this is somewhat a spoiler for people so if you haven’t seen it don’t read this part) it wasn’t the Na’vi that won the battle, it was Eywa and the other creatures on the planet. And yes, it’s kind of laughable to have a god save the day in the end, but Eywa isn’t really a god. She’s more of a biological entity that connects everything to each other, much like the Force in Star Wars. But the Na’vi got killed when they fought the humans. They were no match. The only reason the planet won is because they vastly out-numbered the human force. But that’s that.

    Point is, if you’re going to point out these things as problems with a script for one movie, you have to do it with any others. Like Transformers. They are superior alien creatures with advanced weaponry, yet when they get shot with their weapons they don’t die. However, we have a weapon that can kill them by blasting a huge hole into them. That doesn’t make much sense. Or the fact that all that damage could be inflicted into a populated area and they can cover it up. I personally think those lapses in logic are worse than any in Avatar, especially since Avatar tries to explain some of them away.

  10. Well, all these problems with the film’s execution; I wonder how many of the people who talk about all these flaws liked Lord of the Rings? If so, there’s a HUGE problem in that entire trilogy. Frodo and Sam are picked up from that mountain after Frodo drops the ring; why on middle earth didn’t Gandalf just have the giant eagles fly him there in the first place?

    These plot points are put there so that you can have a story. I found the story in Avatar very entertaining, even though the story has been told before. The advanced military could have easily over-powered them but then you have no story; they could have easily tunneled under hometree (if the tree wasn’t reliant on the mineral) but then you have no story; Darth Maul could have easily used the dark force to make Obi Wan fall while he was dangling but then you have no story. I liked Avatar but it is not my favorite film of all time (not even my favorite Cameron film).

  11. @John “Kahless” Taylor

    THANK YOU! You summed up very well the whole point in response to all these people whinning about AVATAR. You can’t make a SciFi themed film that has a deep story and still have mass apeal, it just doesn’t work and you can bet that the studios signed off on this big budget film only on the promise that the storyline would be as simple and close to “mass appealing” as possible.

    I got news for all the people who need a movie to a have layered character development and deep plots with twists and turns in order to enjoy it or at least not criticise it. You are NOT in the majority and big budget films are made for the masses and AVATAR delivers on what the masses want. Now you can just accept it and move on with life or you can keep moaning and belly-aching about it and be miserable over something thats not worth being miserable over.

    You may not “Understand” or “Get” why so many like AVATAR but thats OK because most of us don’t get or understand why you can’t understand not everyone is like you and therefore will not necesarily see everything the way you do. I hated FRIED GREEN TOMATOES, DRIVING MISS DAISY and several other flicks that I consider an absolute waste of time but I don;t fault others for liking them and I sure as heck don’t moan and groan about on the interet.

    Move on, please.

  12. @John Taylor

    Have you seen this?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1yqVD0swvWU

    You’re right, it wouldn’t have made a great movie.

  13. @Jon

    This is where one of the big holes crops up in the story. The whole point of the Avatars is to be able to interact, to teach them English etc, to be able to communicate, to express intent. Yet they don’t. Even Sully doesn’t mention anything until the ships are coming. He keeps saying “I’ll negotiate” but never does. There was no attempt to negotiate etc. If they had made it so that Unobtainium had some use other than for money the battle would have at least represented a more grey conflict than the black and white one on display. There was no real journey for the character as his people were so obviously wrong. Or shown that the Na’vi wouldn’t budge when negotiating, perhaps Sully getting frantic trying to get them to agree to a dig even though it would be harder but they underestimate the humans and then get knocked down? This sort of thing strengthens the spine of the movie and at least helps it move along logically.

    As for the gravity issue. The lighter gravity would actually make the Na’vi weaker and projectiles utilising gravity for speed LESS effective. So spears still really wouldn’t be much cop, and if humans can build ships to withstand the rigours of space travel the fact that airships lack toughened glass is still an inexcusable oversight.

    The final point is about shoulder mounted weapons. Weapons of war are not meant to be agile, they are meant to resist the enemy fire and be robust. That’s why we have armoured vehicles, tanks and ships. Rotating turrets are quite practicable and we have and use gun emplacements now with 360 motion. Otherwise what’s the point of the armoured suit? To be able to run through the forest?

    I’m singling this movie out because it’s new, there are other movies in the last year that have staggering gaps in logic and ridiculous leaps in order to push the story where the writer wants it to. The point I’m making is that if you want the movie to end a certain way you have to earn it through the moments leading up to it, you don’t ignore points that interfere with it, you overcome them. If maybe we’d seen Sully connect everything together for the first time all at the same moment then the deus ex machina would have been less ridiculous. A moment of planetary understanding, something that he and they experience in one incredible moment. Maybe they all connect at the same time and feel it. I don’t know, anything other than “I said a prayer” then just as the battle is going bad all the animals come in.

    And what is learned at the end? That next time you just drop bombs from orbit. Mass drivers should do it, with exo suits it doesn’t matter if the atmosphere is unbreathable after. In The Abyss we win because the aliens discover something about the human spirit that redeemed us, there’s something that brings balance. What is it we’re supposed to learn from this movie? What is it’s message?

  14. @ John “Kahless” Taylor

    With regards to LotR, I guess the key difference in that hole is that the sky would have been patrolled by the Nasgul. We saw a lot of eagles being wiped out, and also it’s the obvious route. What the enemy did not expect was that a burden that heavy could be carried by something so small and survive. It says something about the Character of Frodo that he bears it, it says something of the character of Sam that he goes along and even takes the ring himself when he believes Frodo is dead. Any “holes” in that example are plugged by the revelation of character through circumstance. We see that the skies are full of spies in the first movie, its one of the reasons they go underground. If Ganadalf had the ability to teleport then there’s be a hole, but summoning a single Eagle does not indicate that they could have got there unopposed. It’s not a flawless set of films but the example sited isn’t really much of a hole.

  15. JP, it just seems like you really don’t want an answer for anything. They are all there, you just have to accept them. And you don’t want to, so what’s the point in arguing?

    Also, the ships that had the glass break weren’t ships that could do space travel. The shuttle and the dragon ship were the only ones, and their glass didn’t break. And you really aren’t suppose to learn anything from a movie like this because it’s a blockbuster film. What do we learn from Alvin and the Chipmunks, not to trust a talking rodent? No, you learn nothing. These are entertainment films.

    But James Cameron does try telling something. And it’s that we need to appreciate what we have. We take things for granted and all we are ever interested in is destroying and abusing. And he’s saying that he doesn’t like that, which is why the natives win. And his message, while not being completely subtle, is there and it’s more than you’ll get from most any other blockbuster films.

  16. @JP

    The moral of the story is that the capitalistic system that allowed a $500MM movie to be made that doubled its money in 17 days – is evil.

    8)

    (Kinda sorta kidding)

    Vic

  17. thank´s

  18. @jp

    They didn’t say what the material was used for. It’s WORTH a lot of money, doesn’t mean it’s just there for money alone. There’s something called supply and demand, if a material is useful for SOMETHING, regardless of what that is, there will be a company that will try to provide it, even if their motive is simply to make the profit from it and not to actually reap the benefits of the product itself.

    Also, not all of the aircraft are capable of space travel. OBVIOUSLY the ones driven by propellars are not… Hello, vacuum of space…

    The big shuttle is the only one I actually seen travel through space, and I don’t remember seeing the glass break on that one. Unless I just don’t remember that detail…

    And about gravity making projectiles less effective… When was the last time you took a physics course man? A forward moving projectile will fall at the same speed as an object dropped from the same level. The only exception is if the projectile is arched, but I didn’t see any time where they relied on that factor for their weapons to be more effective. They always shot their arrows and threw their spears directly at their targets. And even when arched, (of course eliminating the air resistance factor) an object thrown up when it falls back down, by the laws of physics when it falls back down to the same level as it was thrown, it should be at the same velocity as when it was thrown. Obviously air resistance would slow that down somewhat, but that rule is the same for all levels of gravity. Less gravity just means it will take longer for the object to reach the crest of its arch.

    And what shoulder mounted weapons are you speaking of? I assume since you mention the mech suits at the end of that paragraph that you’re talking about the rifles those mech suits used. They are not really “mounted” on anything, they are actually free weapons being held in the arms like a real person holding a regular rifle, just in much larger scale.

    Unless I was sleeping during the movie, those mech suits were operated by just one operator right? He had to “drive” them right? So how is he supposed to be able to drive the suit AND be able to control a 360 degree rotating turret? I know in video games it’s all done by one person, but you realize that in a real tank there are a minimum of 3 people in them and in US tanks there are 4 since ours don’t use autoloaders right?? The driver all he does is drives, because it’ll take a whole hell of a lot of attention to drive AND control a turret, that’s why it takes a whole other position, called a gunner, to control just the turret. Then it takes a whole other person just to load that gun, called the, you guessed it, the loader. Then there’s the commander that, well, commands.

    Obviously the suit’s intuitive controls give the drivers of them the ability to use a weapon which is already an improvement over our current system where a driver’s attention is fully captured by the act of driving by itself. And for your last question, yes, they are so they can run through a forest. I assume the lack of wheeled vehicles going through the forest is because the terrain would be too hard for smaller wheeled vehicles to brave the terrain.

    And about not negotiating… I don’t know, I’m starting to think you weren’t paying much attention to the movie. That’s what the scientists and the corporation wanted them to do. Remember his conversation with Quaritch? He gave Sully the option to ignore those orders and for him to try to infiltrate them to gather intelligence about their defenses and about their “home tree.” And that’s what he was doing at first. Then he simply got lost in their world and was simply “living” with them. He said that being with the Na’vi was the real world and him waking up to his real body became the dream. So he obviously didn’t have any of the whole company negotiations or whatever in mind at all. He said it in one of his video journals that Quaritch played back that he simply felt that there’s nothing they would want that they would be able to negotiate with. So he simply didn’t bother.

    Anyway, while I agree that the movie is definitely not the best movie of the year or anything, but those points are not really what held this movie back. For me, I felt the details were tended to in traditional James Cameron fashion, what kept this movie from being as awesome as it could have been was the kind of cheesy Ferngully/Dances With Wolves story and the political messages that kept popping up. But I do agree with part of one of your points, the antagonists were too one-dimensional. But in their defense, they didn’t make Quaritch evil to the point that he wanted to simply eliminate the Na’vi. In the first offensive he tried to get them to leave before he brought down the tree. Even in the last fight, he wanted to destroy one of their sacred places as a way of scaring them off. The intention was never to simply kill them. Now I’m not saying that’s it’s “ok” to drive a people away from their home to destroy said home or whatever, just saying that Cameron could have easily made Quaritch want to fly in there and just start blowing them up forcing them to fight.

    While I’m kind of glad he didn’t go that route, I still think he didn’t do enough to make the mercenary force seem more human. I would have expected more dissenters than just Michelle Rodriguez’s character… Even if not fighting against them, maybe some who simply refuse to carry out their acts…

  19. @Ken J

    The fact that NO other reason other than its value is mentioned is the point I’m getting at. It’s all part of writing a very bad screenplay to basicially present everything as one dimensionally as possible.

    As for the aircraft you’ve missed my point. I didn’t say that the aircraft were designed for sapce they’re designed for war and a civilisation that is capable of building materials to survive inerstellar travel that are too stupid to have put toughened glass into a milatary aircraft is another example of plot convenience over logic.

    You’ve also misunderstood the point about the mech suits, and in fact you make some of my own point for me. The fact that the operators are inside HOLDING BOTH HANDS IN A POSITION TO HAVE TO MIRROR THE GUN THE ROBOT is holding is completely stupid. You make the point about being able to pilot it while using a shoulder mounted gun, surely this is worse? With a joystick you could have 360 degree cover in seconds, by holding a gun you basically have to turn round and only ever cover one angle at a time as oppposed to multiple. Again the desire here was to deliberately create a weakness the blatantly overpowered Na’vi could exploit.

    And they DIDN’T negotiate. It was stated that was there intent and then they never did it. I was paying attention but the characters weren’t. The general sent him in to find all the weak spots which is why they know where to hit on Home Tree because he told them about the internal strucure of it. He never explained their intent, or had a dialogue of any sort in an attempt to get the Unobtanium through less drastic means. Which is again plot convenience at the expense of logic.

    And I found this http://chud.com/articles/articles/21969/1/PROJECT-880-THE-AVATAR-THAT-ALMOST-WAS/Page1.html which is about the original outline for Avatar and as far as beleivability, plot logic and characterisation plugs a lot of the gaps I have said are absent. The stupid tech side of things is only the symptoms of the wider problem which it would appear James Cameron at least at one point realised himself. A shame he didn’t go for this version of things, I know I would have enjoyed it more and would have had more positive feedback on its writing and not just the effects. It even does an alternative version of the deus ex machina moment that is set up from the start and seems less of a convenient plot moment later on.

  20. @Ken and Jon – Just give it up boys.
    Look, JP doesn’t WANT to like this film. That’s the reality here.
    JP, the thing I’ve noticed about every one of your posts is that you believe YOU know exactly what Cameron, and/or whomever else was involved, had in mind for each and everything you’ve mentioned. You speak as if you KNOW that what you’re seeing on the screen was just something pulled out of their collective backsides, and no thought at all was placed into anything they did.
    The continuous references you make to various pieces of technology that lend “no logic to the story” would be those reasons why others here try foolishly to debate you on those points you’ve brought up – only for you to in turn tell them that discussing the tech just proves your point about how much the story sucks. Nice tactic.
    The simple fact here is that you don’t like the movie. Fine.
    Be that as it may, regardless of your opinions on it – most others did enjoy the movie, did not find there to be “logical” issues with the tech OR the story – though I’m sure that you’ll assume that’s only because they aren’t nearly as intelligent as you are, and obviously just aren’t “getting” it like you do.
    I have a friend that views movies just the same way as you.
    He HATES all movies by Quentin Tarantino – because my friend firmly believes that Tarantino is a ‘hack’ and has no idea how to construct proper scenes, or make dialog work. Basically a crappy writer.
    After several conversations of me questioning how he might possibly know what artistic considerations QT might have gone through in the development of each scene/movie/character, it’s clear that no matter how much myself or anyone else might point out that just because he believes something should have been done the way HE thinks it should have been done, that doesn’t mean he KNOWS what the Director/writers had in mind, or why they chose to do things the way they did, and gather an appreciation for those choices.
    Thus, when speaking of all these things as if you were ‘right there in the room’ during the entire design/creation process, you actually choose to support your side of this discussion from a position of ignorance. You ASSUME you know everything about a story that the creators have chosen not to share completely with us yet – to do so might have increased the length of the movie beyond reason.
    Feel free to continue by all means – just be aware that your apparent ‘logic’ is no such thing. It’s nothing but you presenting how YOU would have done it, and what might make sense in YOUR world. So… instead of continuing to complain about a lousy story (which it wasn’t by the way) – I’d suggest perhaps you go make your own movie and show everyone, including Cameron, and millions of folks around the world, just how much better YOU could do it. Hmm… maybe start with a book first. Or even a script.
    When you’re done, please post back here letting us know, and I think I’d enjoy checking out your creation, and providing feedback. Seriously. If you’ve got some good ideas, get them down on paper, and make use of your imagination, instead of just choosing to crap on the creation of someone else.
    Good luck man.

  21. I gave up a long time ago. I could continue it but I won’t. I will simply say that I agree with you in the story not being lousy. Not an original premise, sure, but a brilliant execution and creativity makes it good. And focusing on those things like JP is nit-picking to say the least. I do wonder if the same things are said to such literature things as David and Goliath and Moses leading the Jewish people from slavery, or even Achilles who was the mightiest warrior alive, but had a really bad heel. And you’re absolutely right, JP is just bent on not liking this film no matter what and might have went into it with that kind of attitude.

  22. Wait, did jp just try to convince me that having a JOYSTICK is a better way to aim a weapon than having tactile control of the weapon???? Hello, are you a console fanboy or something? Personally if I knew there were mech guys that aimed with joysticks on the battlefield, I will refuse to be on the same battelfield with them because that’s the least accurate way to aim ever invented and I’d be afraid of friendly fire because they maybe tilted the joystick a little too much and over shot the enemy and right into my head…

    Joystick control is one thing for piloting an aircraft, but when aiming a weapon in the middle of a battlefield full of other people it is a pretty dumb and reckless idea. Unless you’re a tank gunner and can aim at large targets before you fire, but even then, you don’t fire into an area with a lot of friendlies that are too close, the point of being able to control the mech suit with your own movements is to be extremely precise with your movements.

    Why do you think on the Apache gunships, the gun is controlled by the movement of the gunner’s head and not a joystick? So it can’t cover full 360 but within line of sight he can fire off shots with pinpoint accuracy within a split second of spotting a target because he simply has to look at it instead of tilting a joystick and hoping the “sensitivity level” is high enough to sweep to the target in time but low enough to aim precisely… Not to mention having to compensate for the movement of the vehicle itself, but that’s something we can do quickly and precisely with our hands, head, or whatever other part of our body that we have full motor control over.

    Here, how about we “dual” and I get to aim a gun with my hands, you have to use a joystick, let’s see who will be faster and more precise, lol.

    And I already acknowledged that they didn’t negotiate and why they didn’t really try, so that’s pretty pointless to repeat. But I’m not even trying to “convince” you about anything with the movie anymore, you don’t like it, that’s fine, I just wanted to make fun of the whole joystick idea… Why not just give them a Xbox controller? lol

    Freakin joysticks…

  23. Again, I point you towards the original outline
    http://chud.com/articles/articles/21969/1/PROJECT-880-THE-AVATAR-THAT-ALMOST-WAS/Page1.html
    which shows Cameron’s original intended thinking. For your protestations of ignorance I do seem to know more about the development process…

    Limitations breed creativity (e.g. less money on effects in the hands on someone skilled leads to a greater focus on story and character) and it seems to me that the film could have benefited from more of this on the screen. Most of the plot holes and fuzzy logic are addressed within the treatment; characterisation is better and is less dependant on plot convenience. It gets to the end result in a way that is logical and relates to the original theme. Even the deus ex machina ending is built up to. Possibly of most importance, the resolution as to why the Na’vi could ACTUALLY win a war against a technologically superior foe is logically arrived at in a true nature beating technology way.

    The creator(s) had though these things through which meant that these points were important, and the fact that I was conscious of there being logic absences before having read this treatment does tend to suggest I do have some idea of what I’m talking about. For most folks this doesn’t bother them and that’s fine, but all I’m saying is that these things do matter. There are always niggles and bumps in logic or character, but they’re usually minimal.

    Seriously READ the treatment, see where the character conflict is, how much better the stakes for both sides are defined, how early on the the shared consciousness is defined (and thereby EARNING the ending), the true pressure bearing down on Earth if they fail here. It’s all there. Even the oversights in technological weaknes are less important due to the way in which the Na’vi win in this draft. Like I said I don’t KNOW why Cameron took this out but I would suggest that it was because it costs nothing to show character and millions to show a mo-capped cat that a lot of the former lost out to the latter. Once you’ve spent the money the scenes that get deleted will be the ones that cost less. Maybe there will be an extended edition with this material put back in, and we’ll be able to compare.

    You are right that I have gone on about the technology but it was mainly a way of trying to express the symptoms of the problems here, something that would be easier to relate to that a discussion of structure, character and plot. In hindsight I may have done that differently. For your curiosity I will say that I am a writer though I don’t work in the field of film… I’ve enjoyed a lot of films which have been all style and no substance or “event” films, I’m not against it because its popular or made a lot of money, to a great degree that is the business of movies. But there is a strong “Emperor’s New Clothes” feeling that comes with movies that get overhyped that to question the majority view is scandalous. I’m not saying that is the case with any of the opinions here, but all sides of an argument should be aired. To suggest that someone who has written or directed a film is incapable of being criticised by someone who hasn’t is also not healthy. If you look the reviews from a lot of the media, the film is rarely praised for (and often attacked because of) its writing, so really my criticisms aren’t unique, even if they aren’t the majority view. A lot of reviews also disagree with the perceived originality of the effects and that there is little new here but there is MORE of everything. More doesn’t mean better.

  24. I think the reason that we are to believe that the na’vi could win a war against a ‘superior’ foe, is 2-fold..
    1. the “mole” turned na’vi knows and helps to exploit weaknesses in the enemy.
    2. pure heart, principle and desire to win. (viet-nam). Sometimes pure ‘heart’ will overcome perceived superiority.

  25. @JP
    Ahhh! Now see, there is a post that I can really appreciate!
    Well done sir. I really do appreciate your well thought out details here, and if I might – I think I’ll boil it down to this: you and I would both agree that reading a book about Pandora, and the Avatar program would probably be superior to the movie (as great as I really still do believe it is). Aren’t the books always better? If I were to go by what is listed on that webpage you’ve provided the link to several times, then I could only guess the reason they modified/removed a great deal of that detail was simply for time considerations. That being said, I see no links of reference to where that site gained access to the original scriptment. Granted, I didn’t have time to read through the entire article, but rather skimmed through to gain an appreciation of what differences were there from what they claim is the original story, and what was presented in the movie. To be fair – yes, those differences are large – clearly, that is nearly always the case between what might be in a book, and what is presented in the movie.
    That being said, I will still contend that those areas you speak of as weaknesses in the storyline of Avatar are indeed, not so much weaknesses nor plot-holes, but rather, areas that are simply left to the imagination of the viewer for their own determination of “Why” or “How”. Indeed, it’s those very things that have kept you interested in this movie enough to be questioning it, and searching out more information about what a more fleshed-out backstory might contain. Intentional?? Makes me wonder sometimes.
    Either way, I appreciate your last post, and think that if that website were to be believed, then it could be simply stated that those gaps in the logic of the story you’ve mentioned are really just a desire to have had more of the story presented to you, as it seems to have previously existed in written form somewhere.
    Perhaps a directors cut – with an hour additional story/footage waits in the wings, and might better satisfy your cravings.
    Hey… you know, they did that with The Abyss. The theatrical version of that left people scratching their heads with a serious “WTF!??” Then comes along the Directors cut, where it’s revealed that an entire subplot was removed – Cameron forced by the studio – in the interest of keeping down the films running time.
    If you haven’t seen the directors cut of that movie, do so. It changes the meaning at the ending of the movie.
    Perhaps, something like that will arrive for Avatar.
    Thx JP.

  26. Uh, JP, again, I’m beyond trying to “convince” you to think one way or another about the movie, because that’s purely subjective anyway. I was pointing out your error in trying to claim that joystick aiming is the way of the future… So yes, I was kind of hijacking the thread, but no need to try to convince me about the movie, I enjoyed it, you didn’t, the end, credits roll. ;-)

  27. pocahontas

  28. This is essentially a repeat of what I posted on the HISHE: Avatar page:

    I just saw 'Avatar' on the 6th of Feb. I immediately began to harp upon the weaknesses of the story, particularly the cliché elements of the romance plot and other parts of the plot. Between my friends and I, it was undoubtedly a very extensive, if unofficial, analysis and breakdown of the movie's weaknesses and strengths. That said, this is one of the best movies I've ever seen. I love it. No question about that. Are there weaknesses? Yes. Are they fairly obvious to a perceptive viewer? Definitely. But really, who gives a damn? To me, it was one of best motion pictures ever, or at least that I have seen. For numerous reasons, emotions, and feelings, it transcend plot holes and cliché storylines and simple dialogue. IT WORKED. I will admit that several parts of the narrative and story annoyed and frustrated me, but as I said, 'Avatar' rose beyond that.

    How the actors and actresses were able to effectively portray emotions through the facial motion capture was particularly impressive to me.

    Intelligent replies are welcome :)

  29. In response to Ron:
    Don't forget the naturally occurring nanofibers that reinforce the Na'vi anatomical structure. It makes them, oh what was it? “Very hard to kill.”
    Also, as an outgrowth of Sully joining the Na'vi once and for all, they had a superior strategy and superior numbers, alongside the help of Ehwya. And the script.