I wouldn’t be much of an amateur film reviewer if I didn’t set my cinematic sights on James Cameron’s Avatar. On a personal note, I’ve been ignoring this blog of late, which is inexcusable. I do apologise. Now, onto the blue cat people!

Avatar (2009)

I’m sure I wasn’t the only one thinking that James Cameron had gone a bit crazy with his work on Avatar. After all, when a respected director like Cameron works on a project for 14 years and then the first images released of said project depict some weird Smurf/feline hybrid, it’s perfectly natural to assume that maybe not all of his dogs are barking. Regardless, I decided to check it out in super-dynamic, wallet-raping 3D no less.

“You are not in Kansas anymore. You are on Pandora, ladies and gentlemen.”

When his twin brother is killed, disabled ex-Marine Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) is recruited to aid a mining expedition on the distant jungle moon of Pandora as only his DNA will bond with the alien hybrid body, known as an Avatar, that allows humans to breathe the toxic air. However, Jake falls in love with one of the native aliens Na’vi hunter Neytiri (Zoe Saldana) and things start to go awry. The plot itself is nothing new- it’s pretty much Pocahontas meets Fern Gully. Whilst that description is scarily close to my own personal vision of Hell, it’s passable. Sam Worthington is much better here than in Terminator: Fermentation and Zoe Saldana is brilliant as Neytiri. It was great to see Sigourney Weaver back in the limelight too. Story-wise, Avatar is as average as you can get. Supposed plot twists are signposted so clearly earlier in the film that there is no element of surprise whatsoever when they do finally roll around. The dialogue is a bit of a problem too, with some exchanges so clunky and awkward it caused me to flashback to Attack of the Clones like a scarred Vietnam War vet.

However, Avatar‘s charm does not lie in story. Cameron has created a fantastic world in the form of the lush vistas of Pandora. Floating mountains, breathtakingly beautiful flora and fauna and some of the most imaginative creatures you’ll ever see all inhabit this stunning landscape. I genuinely had my mouth agape in parts of the film, a very rare occurrence for me. The Na’vi are brilliantly done too, with a language and customs all of their own. It’s very difficult to not get swept up in it all. The 3D is pretty impressive too, although I think that 3D is a silly gimmick, I’ve never seen a more justified reason for the technology. It would take someone far more cynical than I to not be impressed by the opening scenes of the film, let alone the first moments we get to see Pandora.

“Everything is backwards now, like out there is the true world and in here is the dream.”

I’m extremely conflicted about what to give Avatar. It’s technically astounding, but the script is too damn average to back up the amazing visuals. It reminded me of something like Captain EO or Honey, I Shrunk The Audience! at DisneyWorld. Much like them, Avatar is a tremendously fun experience but not really a great film. You’ll leave the cinema buzzing, but unlike something like District 9 (Best film of 2009 at the Benjys™) I can’t really see it having much life beyond the cinema or holding up to repeat viewings on DVD. So, I’ve decided to hedge my bets. I figure that if the film is a five star experience, but a three star story then it would make sense to give it four, with some free advice thrown in- go and see it at the cinema, it just won’t be as good at home.

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