James Cameron set out to create an epic that rivaled Star Wars. He succeeded. Avatar already has the largest opening for an original film (not a sequel or adaptation), and will keep climbing through the holiday season. I got to see it in IMax 3D, which was phenomenal being that the picture was crystal clear and sound was explosive.
The story was a mix of Dances with Wolves and Aliens. There is a colonial force trying to subjugate a population of natives for a resource. A few people start to see the evil and destructive nature of colonialism and imperialism and side with the underdog. Enter Aliens where it becomes about the failures of human technologies against a so called "primitive" weaponry. Despite the technology difference the Na'vi (alien race) have something to fight for. By today's standards the story nothing exciting, but that's not what the film is about. Its about taking a universal story, (sadly the horrors colonial rule are universal now) and bringing it to life with spirit and heart.
The heart and spirit:
I have been beat into a stupor over big budget action films. None of them have heart. Michael Bay's take over of mega-budget films (to my demise) has been a scar on cinema for the past decade. Even Lucas and Spielberg have been making heartless garbage. Look at the latest Indiana Jones or the last three Star Wars films. The only success in moving the human psyche besides something violent or sexual was Lord of the Rings. Avatar has a heart and soul unlike Bay's films. When one watches Avatar they can feel Cameron's love for the story and characters. The love story was beautifully done between Jake Sulley and Neytiri. Even though they are animated you still feel the emotion and nuances in their performances to pull off the exposition of love between the two. I was surprised about the many spiritual themes in the film. They used the Zen story of a person being like a filled cup so nothing else can be taught to them. The cup thing was a little too much for me since I have been exposed to Zen quite a bit, but others who don't have that experience won't think it is as corny as I did. The real spirit comes through in another Buddhist theme (also Hindu) which is the interconnectedness of all things. Cameron uses a beautiful way to communicate this truth through metaphor in the film. I won't give away how things are bound and what role it plays, but it takes a seemingly "eastern" idea of ecology and makes it easy for audiences in the west to understand. Overall it's not a hollow in your face spamfest of special effects.
Wow. If this film takes an Oscar it will be in effects! There is just nothing to compare it to. The bio luminescent plant life on Pandora is fantastic. The environment was computer generated, but was photo realistic. I was blow away. The lighting was perfect, the trees and leaves swayed naturally, and movement never looked unnatural. The na'vi facial expressions were better than any motion capture work I have seen. As I mentioned before you can FEEL their performances behind the animation it is hard to explain since there is not much to compare it to. The end battle is one of the most epic and dynamic fights in film history. There are giant lizards dog fighting with huge gunships. 6 foot long arrows smash through the glass of cock pits, while machine gunners tear down Na'vi from the top of a flying aircraft carrier. On the ground mech suits rip the jungle apart with machine guns and flamethrowers, while na'vi and native animals are trying to destroy the human invaders. Its magnificent.
Worthington did a great job as usually. I was impressed with Weaver and Joel David Moore. The best performance came from Stephan Lang, playing Quaritch. He will go done as one of the biggest hard-asses in cinema. He drinks coffee while he slaughters na'vi. He doesn't realize hes on fire for at least 40 seconds then with little effort bats it out. He goes into Pandora's atmosphere to kick ass without an o2 mask... and holds his breath. He means business and wants to kill everything that moves. By no means it he a hero, but you have to hand it to the guy he know how to play a bad ass.
Meh.... Horner recycles his work on Titanic, Aliens, and Wolfen, which wasn't anything special. Don't expect to see trailers cut together using Avatar music in the future. I wish he wasn't so lazy. Cameron really should have got a different composer. The song at the end of the credits is full of cheese and felt out of place. Maybe just thrown in to put Avatar up for another "best song" nomination... I guess. They should have ended it with rock music or something cooler than a Celine Dion sound alike.
GO SEE AVATAR!!!! YOU WONT BE SORRY!