Genre: Science Fiction / Fantasy
Directed by: James Cameron
Writing credits: James Cameron
Plot: A paraplegic marine takes his twin brother's place in the "Avatar" project, in which humans pilot genetically engineered bodies to interact with the natives of the planet Pandora, a world rich in exotic minerals. Sent to gain the locals trust and convince them to move their home away from a wealthy mineral deposit, Jake Sully eventually has a change of heart and finds himself at odds against his own people.
Review: After twelve years of apparent sitting around with his thumb in his ass, James Cameron has finally made a new film. And it is pretty damned impressive, just like everyone is saying. It's probably the most visually stunning, beautiful use of CGI I have ever seen. The motion capture technique used to animate the faces of the alien Na'Vi was flawless--these are the most convincing computer generated characters I have ever seen (they make Gollum look like a sock puppet).
The plot is simply Dances With Wolves in space, and "about as deep as a pie plate" as a friend of mine put it. But just because the road is clearly marked with signs warning about every turn ahead, that doesn't mean the ride can't be tremendously enjoyable. For an action movie, it delivers as much as it needs to, and the battle scene at the end of the film is jaw-droppingly impressive to watch.
Sam Worthington does a fine job in the role of Jake Sully, a paraplegic marine who seems chosen by destiny to participate in the "Avatar project", in which humans temporarily transplant their consciousness into a genetically modified vat grown hybrid that they can then control as if it was their own body (it's what World of Warcraft players fantasize about when they masturbate). Sigourney Weaver is a welcome, familiar presence as Dr. Grace Augustine, a scientist who has been working with the Na'Vi for some time. Steven Lang played a pretty standard evil military colonel in his character Miles Quaritch, and though he basically portrayed an all too familiar villain archetype, he was still fun to watch. Better than all of them put together was the actress whose actual face you never see in the film: Zoe Saldana as Neytiri, a princess of the Na'Vi tribe we follow throughout the story. She was the most interesting and convincing character of all of them, and with the motion capture technique used to create the Na'Vi characters, her performance was much more than mere voice acting.
But the most impressive character in the movie is the planet Pandora itself. Never before have I seen such an alien world portrayed on film. The environments from the dense jungles teeming with all kinds of alien life to the majestic floating mountains in the sky are breathtaking in the scope of their design. All kinds of interesting alien and plant life is shown in the movie, and the amount of detail and effort they put into designing and creating this alien world is truly impressive. Remove all the characters from the film and you could still have a satisfying "documentary" experience depicting this remarkable alien world.
Now, as for the 3D, which James Cameron is making such a big deal about: yes, I saw the movie in 3D, and I was not exactly blown away. I'd heard reports about how this 3D is so much better than all previous attempts where one flat object appears slightly raised before another flat plane behind it. I could see curvature in the shapes that certainly gave them a real, rounded look, but ultimately I found the 3D to be a distracting gimmick that didn't necessarily detract from my experience, but it certainly didn't add anything to it. I could have seen this film in the normal 2D and I would have been just as impressed by the visual spectacle created by the film. I saw the film with two friends: one who is simply unable to see 3D images, and another who said the 3D was giving him a nasty headache by the end of the movie. So I guess you could say I enjoyed it more than they did, but none of us were exactly fans by the time it was over and done with.
Mr. Cameron believes that this digital 3D stuff is the future of film--I for one do not believe it will catch on (and I certainly hope it doesn't). It's just a gimmick, nothing more, and the majority of us when we watch the film on DVD or Blu-Ray will enjoy it just fine in a normal 2D presentation. So is it worth paying a few extra bucks to see it in 3D? I would say no. The most impressive things about the film (the visual design, the animation) would look just as good in 2D. This film is a beautiful chunk of eye candy well worth seeing, but will it revolutionize the film industry? I highly doubt it.
(Scored on a 0.5 - 5 pickles rating: 0.5 being the worst and 5 being the best)
Goblyn, I'm not disagreeing with you or anything but Avatar's 3D doesn't have a lot of the problems you listed. The glasses you get are new, and you just throw them out afterwords. They're also big enough to fit over your glasses (I have big, dorky glasses and the 3D ones fit comfortably over them).
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