Thursday, January 7, 2010

Review of Avatar

Like a world-destroying Death Star, Avatar came into Singapore and started to push all other movies to the wayside. The return of the “King of the World” James Cameron, 10 years & $400 million to make, the next stage of movie-making, etc; the promotional guys went overtime on the movie.

After all the hype, how was the movie?

First off, the story of Avatar is really quite predictable. Sam Worthington stars as Jake Sully, an ex-marine who lost the use of his legs in military service, and then lost his twin brother in a robbery.

Sully's brother was a scientist who was supposed to be sent to Pandora, an alien moon populated by giant, blue-skinned, humanoids called the Na'vi. Pandora has an atmosphere that is poisonous to humans, so humans created the Avatars; biological alien bodies created by combining human and alien DNA. These Avatars can only be controlled by the humans who provide the human DNA of the Avatars and Sully’s brother was one of these humans. With his death, his Avatar is useless but as they were twins; Sully was offered his brother’s position.

Once on Pandora, Sully found that he enjoy being in his Avatar body and was given the mission of infiltrating the Na'vi, and find out what they want in exchange for moving out of their village. The Na’vi village sits on a massive deposit of Unobtainium, an alien metal that the humans want to mine.

From there, Sully found himself and enjoyed life with the Na’vi. By the end of the movie, Sully had switched sides and helped the Na’vi fight against the greedy humans.

Avatar is a movie with a simple story but that doesn’t really matters because what Avatar is really about is CGI magic. The avatars were created by using motion-capture sensors on the face and bodies of the actors and adding CGI from the information gathered. I’m sure there is a better explanation of the technique but I just know one thing. It worked!

The avatars are amazing. Even though they are 3m tall, totally blue, with a slimmer built and shape to humans; you can recognized the actors playing the avatars. When I first saw Grace’s avatar, I went like, “that’s Sigourney Weaver!” The avatars actually do resemble their human counterparts.

They are so good and so life-like that I can say Zoe Saldana turned in an excellent performance even though her character, Neytiri, was totally in CGI. The CGI also work as Pandora was a beautiful world. Its’ jungle, rain forests, coastlines, flying mountains, alien vegetation, were all wonderfully alien. James Cameron really did manage to bring viewers to an alien world.

Graphically, out of 10, I will give Avatar a 11. However, that is the best thing about the movie.

The story is passable, but unfortunately so was the acting. Outside the already mentioned Zoe Saldana (who was excellent), everyone else was only passable…at best. Sam Worthington was very good in Terminator Salvation so I was kind of disappointed in his performance as Jake Sully. Sully’s jump from a more-than-willing spy to a more-than-happy to kill fellow human sympathizer required a leap of faith from viewers. He had alien sex, logout of his avatar, log back in, sees a giant tractor coming towards him, destroyed said giant tractor, and then he’s on the Na’vi side of the war. Wow, alien sex must be great.

Yes, the movie script didn’t help but really Worthington should have done much better. His weak performance made the love affair between Sully and Neytiri the weakness part of the movie. Even Stephen Lang turned in a better performance and his Col. Miles Quaritch character was a cardboard villain!

The movie also skipped a few key points. It was never said why Unobtainium was so precious. Yes, it’s expensive but the movie never explain why it was so sought after. I also feel that they missed a great chance about the massively-interconnectivity organism that is Pandora.

Pandora is like a living moon whose tree-roots can link up with each living being on the moon and the Na’vi can spiritually use Pandora to connect with other creatures living on the moon. The Na'vi called this Elywa, which could be what they called Pandora. The humans of course laugh at this. A living moon? Ha!

That was science fiction at its best. In sci-fi, one of the most important things to get right is the new and different worlds. It must be alien but at the same time interesting and understandable to people. Pandora fulfilled all of these points but instead of concentrating on the sci-fi story of Pandora, James Cameron had to put in a love story between a human and Na’vi that made no sense.

In fact, I’m not exactly sure what kind of movie Avatar really is. It’s like James Cameron tried to touch all the bases here because in the end Avatar became a sci-fi/love story/war movie hybrid.

Overall I have mixed feelings about Avatar. It was a technically beautiful movie set in a very interesting world, however what could have been a great movie was letdown by a poor script and so-so direction. If Avatar had stayed a science fiction movie, it would have been great but it didn’t and that ultimately turned Avatar into an average movie with good eye-candy.

In short, Avatar is a good movie that would and should have been great.


jrnymn said...

James Cammeron spent a fortune on it, roughly around $ 350 mn including marketing.
>when did money alone equal quality? If someone could spend millions of dollars on marketing alone I wouldn't be surprised if some of that money went in to “buying” some or all the critics to put out ”great” reviews. Think about it. If you really want to read a “true” review try googling around blogs and forums or simple just google “Avatar sucks” and see the results.

A breakthrough in film technology especially 3D technology
>nobody gives a shit about technology, period. What do 6-12 years kids know about 3D technology. It's only the hype that is being generated by the “media” that is putting out sentences like: “a ground-breaking technology”, “it's going to pave way for a whole new genre of movies just like Titanic”, “James Cameron has raised the bar”, “A must watch” etc

Not only is the pacing of the movie slow but insanely boring and what with the predictable plot.

How lucky the scientist for whom the avatar was built had a twin brother.
Jake Sully lands at that site with no training whatsoever and is suddenly running around in his avatar.
There is no explanation of how Pandora was discovered.
There is no explanation of how the avatar technology works. We know that the DNA has to match to get into the avatar, but how is transportation of nervous system and mechanical functions transferred from the human to the Navi. A switch is pushed so many times to “wake up” the human, but what does the switch power.
Why are the avatar machines kept on a mobile van?
There is no explanation why only a handful of Navi speak English.
When Jake goes in the forest for the first time is it any wonder that he'll be lost and he'll be left behind by the team.
The first time Neytiri meets Jake she repents killing the creatures that attack Jake. But later Jake kills an animal showing off his shooting skills, shes is like “That's a clean kill”. What happened to all the compassion towards animal kingdom previously shown?
Why do the Omaticaya accept an outsider for no specific reason and why must he learn the ways of the Omaticaya? James you lost me here completely.
What the hell is unabotinum or whatever the shit that precious stone was called. What a coincide it happens to located right under the Omaticaya home.
Only Jake sully the might “warrior” who is a “cripple” and has no avatar training previously is able to tame the big creature, whatever the fuck it was called.
There is no mention of other clans until the final moments when all of them suddenly united thanks to Jake Sully and that big creature he tames, whatever the fuck it was called.
The mating scene between Jake and Neytiri is gross. Navis are aliens but they just fuck like humans, wow so creative, they know how to“french kiss” so viewers can feel comfortable and at home, also shed a tear or two and realize that they are in “love”. Fucking nonsense
What's with the cheesy dialogs like “This is not Kansas but Pandora. Every living creature out there is going to get you blah blah,”, “Shock and Awe”, the company, mercenaries etc. Plain bullshit.
The final battle scene is just mindless and total BS.
The creature that attacks Jake in the beginning suddenly come to their rescue just when the shit hits the fan. James care for an explanation?
Finally thanks to Jake! The natives using just arrows defeat the American military force armed with precision bombs and superior AI shit and human robots!!!!

My fingers are hurting typing the loop holes in the movie. Maybe someone will write a book. Trust me that will be more entertaining.

The final verdict is that there are plenty of fools out there who will shell out their money for this piece of garbage. U can sell anything if you have enough money.

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Ghost said...

I do agree with some parts of what you say,
- money do NOT equal quality
- over-promotion of the movie
- too much hype about the 3D technology
- the mating scenes suck big time
- the love scenes are a total waste of time

but some part of what you said I do not agree with
- there is an explanation why only a handful of Na'vi speak English. They were the young children at Grace's english school. That's why only young Na'vi adults in the movie speak english
- Jake wasn't left behind, he got separted due to the attack from that panther-like creature
- that panther-like creature join in the fight at the end because Pandora ordered it too, along with the plants, rhino-like creature, bird-like creatures etc