Avatar Review: Vive La Revolution
James Cameron is one of cinema’s most beloved directors: Terminator, Aliens, Terminator 2, The Abyss and er… Titanic – it’s an intimidating CV.
Avatar has been in the works for 12 years, a project so ambitious that Cameron had to literally build the technology required for his vision.
It’s been widely touted as the next step forward in cinema, something that will change the way we view films forever. But is its ground-breaking appellation deserved? We think it is – just.
When his twin brother is killed, disabled ex-marine Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) is recruited by an armed mining operation on a distant moon, Pandora. Only his DNA can control the half-human half-alien hybrid (Avatar) created by scientists led by Grace (Sigourney Weaver) that his brother has left behind.
The military force led by Quartich (Stephen Lang) is at odds with the Na’Vi, a 10 feet tall, bright blue native species who live in harmony with the world’s exotic wildlife. The miners want to harvest Unobtainium, a valuable resource on which the Na’Vi home village resides and which they’d have to evacuate if the mining proceeds
Controlling his Avatar from the home base with a kind of telepathy, Jake meets Neytiri (Zoe Saldana), a native Na’Vi who acts as his reluctant guide.
Jake eventually falls in love with her and the Na’Vi culture, and realising the mining would require the extermination of an entire culture and the pillaging of its natural resources decides to join the natives against his own people.
Avatar’s visual style is frankly breathtaking. Cameron has created beautiful sweeping vistas, bright green foliage, multicoloured flora and fauna to explore – it’s literally like being shown another world. This, coupled with the most realistic 3D ever seen in a film is simply astounding.
Remarkably, none of the nuances of the actors is lost because of their digitisation: Worthington is an excellent leading man, his performance depends upon subtle facial cues – a twitch here, an eye movement there – and were it not for the detail that the technology allows, that performance would be lost. The result is something as believable as any live action film could be – an absorbing and heartfelt achievement.
However, Avatar is by no means a perfect film. It’s let down by flaws that are endemic to many action movies – some clunky plot-exposition-spouting dialogue, two-dimensional panto villains, clichéd plot turning points and political oversimplifications mar an otherwise beautiful production.
The peril of environmental pillaging is certainly an important parable but Cameron’s hippy sensibilities also threaten to strangle a valid plot and message – one scene involving thousands of hands linked in a ceremonial head-swaying chant in a bid to summon the “Earth Mother” is one step away from summoning Captain Planet.
Whilst Cameron’s flower-child musings may be distracting, there’s very little to complain about in the climax of the film, which ramps the action all the way up to 11. The action puts other explosion-loving directors to shame – Michael Bay ain’t got nothing on this.
Avatar is a stunning piece of cinema, wildly ambitious, beautiful to behold and exciting and moving in equal amounts. It’s not quite the revolution that was promised but it paves the way for bigger and better things to come. Welcome back Jim.