A Review of James Cameron’s “Avatar”

We finally got a chance to rent “Avatar”. It’s not the most timely review, but sometimes that’s the way the cookie crumbles. There was a lot of hype behind this movie, so it isn’t surprising that there was some backlash from some viewers and critics. Fortunately, I was able to avoid the hype to a certain extent. Between the passage of time, and the mixed reviews I’d read, the bar set for this movie was lower for me than it probably was for many other filmgoers. As such, I went into this expecting a decent, albeit preachy, movie.

The movie’s plot is one that has been seen several times over. Many have frequently compared it to “Dances With Wolves”, and the similarities are quite clear. Even so, the movie still manages to be decent, overall anyway.

To be honest, the film struggled to maintain even the status of “average” to me. The first hour was terrible. One of the cited weaknesses of the film is the script and it is most apparent when the movie is trying to set the stage for what’s to come.

Luckily, the story rights itself to a certain extent. Once Sully, the main character, starts to integrate himself into the Na’vi tribe, the movie pulls itself up from bad to fairly enjoyable.

Pandora itself got a lot of praise, but I was left rather underwhelmed. Under the right circumstances, trying to make a life on that planet would end up being a nightmare as opposed to an ideal world. Even the Na’vi themselves don’t seem all that pleasant to be around.

While I didn’t see the movie in 3-D, I can tell that Cameron didn’t go out of his way to manipulate it by randomly throwing things at the screen. Even so, if the script is any indicator, you can tell that he expected it to compensate for the poor writing.

The writing is really what drags the movie down. The characters themselves are either two dimensional or just plain unlikeable for a significant portion of the movie and the script is very heavy handed with its message. I know that some argue that great science fiction is supposed to have some sort of message or commentary about the human condition, but products like this are what results in readers and viewers coming to the conclusion that writers should just shut up and tell a good story.

The script itself is also quite long, and I don’t think it needed to be. It comes up just short of 3 hours and you start to feel it after a while. Had some stuff been cut, I think it would’ve resulted in a much smoother product.

The acting is decent for the most part. Zoe Saldana did a good job as Neytiri, but Sam Worthington didn’t really have a lot to work with. While the two villains were two dimensional as all get out, the actors who played them were rather fun to watch as they chewed the scenery a great deal.

The final battle was very well done. It felt epic and even though the characters were archetypes, you still felt like you had some investment in how things turned out for them. I can only imagine what it was like seeing the final act on the big screen. Seeing it in 3-D would’ve also been kind of cool, though I don’t see it making up for the film’s shortcomings. Still, credit where credit is due, that was a climactic action sequence that was done right.

I would suggest renting this movie. I don’t really have a desire to sit through it again so, for me anyway, purchasing it would be a waste. It’s worth checking out, and as long as you put aside the hype as we did, you’ll find that overall, the movie’s pretty decent. It has some very noticable faults, that much is obvious, but when all is said and done, you’ll find that you were entertained.

The only exception to my recommendation is to those of you who are in the military. This movie is not kind to troops and, again, is not vey subtle about it. It actually flat out insults you, and I suspect that you won’t take too kindly to their portrayal of marines and armyfolk in general.