Reviews & Previews - Avatar

Posted on Sunday, January 03, 2010 at 06:00 PM


By: S. Tran

Starring: Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Sigourney Weaver
Directed By: James Cameron
Running Time: 162 minutes
Rated: PG 13

Dances With Aliens

Depending on what sources you believe Avatar cost anywhere from $200 million to $500 million to make. Whatever the actual number every dollar director James Cameron spent shows in the final product, especially in the 3D version. This is without a doubt the best looking film ever made. Unfortunately there didn't seem to be any money left over a new script so Cameron just stole the "Dances With Wolves" story from a few years back.

Worthington stars as Jake Sully, a paraplegic ex-marine who is sent to an alien world called Pandora to replace his twin brother who was supposed to be part of a scientific experiment. It turns out Jake will be participating in an experiment where the humans have figured out how to grow half human copies of the nine foot tall aliens on Pandora and control them remotely as their personal avatars. The program is led by Dr. Augustine (Weaver), who has more love for the aliens she studies than for the humans working the mining operation that is sponsoring her research.

While this premise is interesting, there is no real explanation of how it works beyond some vague techno-babble about genetic matching. There is also a surprising lack of concern around the ethics of growing half breed clones with no autonomous brain functions of their own. The avatars exist solely to be controlled by the humans. When the humans are not linked up the avatars are simply vegetables who collapse. While Jake and Dr. Augustine shed a lot of tears over the fate of the alien Navi they seem to be perfectly ok with controlling brain dead copies of the Navi for their own purposes. Had Cameron explored this aspect of the story it would have made the entire movie much more interesting.

The lack of explanation around the avatar process and the ethics surrounding it is symptomatic of the weak story. The film progresses down a path that will be familiar to anyone who has watched movies over the last twenty years and there are absolutely no surprises, unless you are surprised by shallow characters and cliche plot lines, in which you are in for a real treat. Evil corporations, noble savages, nature good, machines bad, outsider saves the day, this movie has them all and more.

Despite all these short comings you need to see this movie, preferably in 3D. It looks that good. Nothing like this has ever been seen before on the screen and I am not sure we'll see anything like it again anytime soon. This isn't a gimmicky 3D movie where bullets fly at you. Here the 3D process is an integral part of the film and works to bring out the colours and definition of the scenes. I found myself amazed at every image on the screen not just amused at the one or two times a 3D spear appeared to poke me.

Credit also has to be given to the awesome CGI used in the movie. From the scenery to the explosions, the computer animation is seemless. Of particular note is the movement of the aliens which lacks the slightly jerky motion we're used to seeing in past efforts. Everything, down to individual hairs moves and reacts like we expect it too. After the movie we were left wondering whether all the scenes with the Navi were computer generated or perhaps the closeups were actual people in makeup. When you find yourself doing this you have to applaud the technical brilliance behind the film.

Avatar is a treat to watch as a cinematic experience. It is not a great movie in the traditional sense, but it brings something new to the movie landscape and that alone makes up for the glaring weaknesses in the story.


4 stars out of 5


NOTE: The showtimes listed on come directly from the theatres' announced schedules, which are distributed to us on a weekly basis. All showtimes are subject to change without notice or recourse to