Movie Review: “Avatar” (2009)

I finally saw Avatar. Actually, I saw Avatar about four weeks ago, but didn’t get around to writing about it until today. I actually wanted to see it in January, but I wanted to see it in IMAX 3D and the theaters were packed back then. As almost all of you probably know, Avatar is James Cameron’s latest mega-budget blockbuster that is now the highest grossing film of all time. This post is just a collection of my thoughts on the film, so it’s not really a movie review per se, but I’ll put it in my review category for organization’s sake.

Avatar Movie Poster

Film Synopsis:
Directed and written by James Cameron, Avatar takes place on the lush alien planet of Pandora where a human corporation is trying to mine a valuable metal from the planet. However, standing in the way of the corporation are the indigenous creatures of Pandora, including the 3-meter-tall, sentient, blue humanoids called the Na’vi who live in harmony with nature. In order to communicate with the Na’vi, a team of scientist has created Na’vi-human hybrid bodies called avatars to be piloted by genetically matching humans, and paraplegic former Marine Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) is brought in to replace his deceased brother as an avatar pilot. Through a series of missions, Jake comes into contact with the Na’vi princess Neytiri (Zoe Saldana) and starts learning about the Na’vi’s way of life. However, at the same time the corporation is plotting to force the Na’vi into submission, and Jake and Neytiri are caught up in the conflict.

Avatar is of course all about the special effects. Featuring never-before-seen 3D and motion capture technology, Avatar truly delivers in the eye-candy department. The colors, the motions, and the explosion kept my eye glued to screen for the entire film. It’s hard to look away with everything that’s going on. Apart from just the technological advances and special effects, the planet of Pandora is beautifully designed with all sort of spectacular environments and interesting fauna and flora for audiences to look at. The 3D vision does enhance the experience, but it is not very noticeable during the action scenes. Instead, the stereo vision effect is more noticeable during the slower scenes, particularly in the scenes where the seeds from the sacred tree are floating in the foreground.

Among the technical advancements that were touted in Avatar, there was the facial-capture technology that enabled realistic facial expressions on the Na’vi characters. The expressions on Neytiri, Jake and the other Na’vi characters are better than those of any computer generated character I’ve seen, but they are still not quite on the same level as good human actors. Maybe I’m just not used to the Na’vi faces, but the really subtle expressions are not quite there yet. The technology is not really good enough to garner any acting awards, but it is better than anything else that came before it and will likely improve in the future.

Compared to all the technical marvels, the story of Avatar isn’t nearly as impressive, but it wasn’t bad either. There is a central plot that isn’t too ridiculous and there are clear themes about living in harmony with nature and respecting indigenous cultures. The only part of the plot I found to be peculiar was the corporation’s insistence on blasting the Na’vi into submission. It’s a good excuse for setting up the conflict, but it’s not really the logical way to do things. We are mostly watching Avatar for the special effects anyways, so as long the plot isn’t outrageously bad then there isn’t really much to complain about.

Overall, Avatar was definitely a film worth watching just for the special effects if not for anything else. The story wasn’t as spectacular, but the film in its complete package is enough to have your eyes glued to the screen. Unless you’re against colorful environments, spectacular action and lots of explosions, there is really no reason why you shouldn’t see this movie.

Other Note(s):
I watched the film in IMAX 3D, and I found the screen to be just the right size so that the whole screen filled my entire field of vision without me having to turn my head to the sides. It helps that I was sitting in the middle of the back, which is probably the best place in the theater since IMAX theaters don’t have many rows.

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