Thursday, 17 December 2009

Avatar - Review

Ever stared into the abyss at 3am, after that third bottle of red wine and wondered; what would happen if you crossed Fern Gully with Apocalypse Now? Well dear readers, wonder no more! After a 12 year hiatus since his timeless love story, Titanic, (heard it made a few quid too...) James Cameron returns to set the standard for blockbuster film making once more with his latest offering - Avatar.

The film focuses on an epic conflict on Pandora, an inhabited Earth-sized planet orbiting the Alpha Centauri star. On the planet, human colonists and the indigenous inhabitants of Pandora, the Na'vi, engage in a war over the planet's resources and the latter's continued existence. The plot itself came across far better than I had originally anticipated. In a year where the giant, explosive blockbusters have been, for the most part, dire, Avatar succeeds with a simple story of right and wrong which has been used in plenty of films for some time.

When I originally seen the trailer the first thing that crossed my mind was the story of Pocahontas and frankly upon watching, the film, did little to change that opinion. Though Jake Sully (played by the latest action man of Hollywood, Sam Worthington) is hardly of the "John Smith" archetype. Coming across as a conflicted, selfish man upon the opening moments of the film he sets himself upon quite an uplifting, spiritual journey to his rightful place in the universe.

The cast on a whole were brilliant, and complimented each other to perfection. That said, the actors hardly had to stretch themselves with the characters they were given, you only have to look at Stephen Lang's CV to see he has probably practiced being a hard-ass military type on daily basis. Or Joel Moore playing that one truly geeky character present throughout the film that we all find endearing. The two stand outs of the cast besides Worthington and Zoe Salden was Sigourney Weaver as the very driven and very idealistic Grace Augustine and the under-rated Matt Gerald as the slimey coprate executive Lyle Wainfleet - deserved more screen time.

However lets be honest the film's main saving grace was not the writing or the characters despite how commendable they may all be. No, this film will be forever remembered for the jaw dropping, absolutely exquisite visual effects that are without a doubt a landmark in cinema for genuine imagination and photo realistic quality. I remember being seven years old and going to see Jurassic Park for the first time, and seeing the Brachiosaurus - the first dinosaur in the film, and being in complete awe, overwhelmed by that feeling of seeing something that looked so unbelievably real that you almost thought there was no way it could merely be computer generated. A similar feeling descended on me when I experienced the world of Pandora. Which is a surprise in itself considering I had images of the Star Wars prequels in my head initially...

The film however did suffer from a needlessly long running time and besides the epic third act did lack a hell of a lot of action - for a man who made Terminator 2 and Aliens, devote followers might feel a bit cheated. The 3D also felt a bit pointless in hindsight, as I don't honestly believe you lose much of the experience if you decided to see it in a standard cinema screen in 2D. Lastly the overall theme and, less than subtle, message Cameron was portraying to the audience of wrecking the world and depleting its natural resources is a theme in cinema that is starting to become slightly tiresome given the current world setting. That said it could of been worse...could have been a dig at the war in Iraq...hmm...wait a minute...

Final Thoughts
Film of the decade? Nope. Film of the Year? It ain't mine. What James Cameron has managed to achieve is, a beautiful mixture of two film styles, which has made him a giant in the world of film making. It has the action and explosions on par with some of his best cinematic moments, as well as the tender emotional - and overly cheesy side which served him so well in Titanic. This is a classic blockbuster in every single sense. Though whether I would rate it amongst my favourite blockbusters this past decade has given me is yet another thing to ponder after that third bottle of wine at 3am...


See this if you like...
Terminator, Pocahontus, Fern Gully, Titanic, Apocalypse Now, Star Wars prequels.

Avatar is in cinemas from today.

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