Friday, December 18, 2009

Review - Avatar

In the year 2154, light years away from Earth, a military veteran Jake Sully is hired to replace his twin brother on the planet of Pandora. With the hopes of solving Earth's economic and energy crisis, a corporate-military entity has begun mining for a valuable mineral on the exotic planet. The planet however, inhabits an advanced indigenous race called the Na'vi who reside on the largest deposit of the mineral named unobtainium. Sully undergoes an scientific experiment where his mind is linked to a genetically grown Na'vi body in order to interact with the alien race and gain their trust.

James Cameron built his latest effort to be a game changer and I am pleased to say that it is. "Avatar" is a visual masterpiece. We have seen CGI-Motion Capture performances before, but nothing like what James Cameron delivers in his 2009 scifi epic. "Avatar" unlike any film before it, completely submerses the viewer into the film and the world of Pandora.

The animation and 3D technology throughout "Avatar" is absolute. Simply flawless. I must note that prior to seeing the film, I dismissed the fantasy as silly. I thought the Na'vi and other creatures created for the world of Pandora were emotionless and weak. I equate a lot of my initial negativity to seeing any and all footage in a format the esteemed director would rather I hadn't. "Avatar" must be experienced in 3D and on a big screen to really do the film justice. While I have yet to see the full film in a more traditional format, its my guess that the film would not have been as enchanting. Needless to say that "Avatar" is overflowing with eye-popping animation and realism that will have your jaw dropping numerous times throughout the experience.

I want to focus on the experience of "Avatar," because it is very much an experience. "Avatar" is not just a movie, it really sweeps you away into a completely new world. This goes back to James Cameron claiming "Avatar" to be a game changer for cinema and in every way it is. It is an experience like none other I've witnessed or been apart of. Cameron easily shows Robert Zemeckis whose boss when it comes to CGI-motion capture and creating a entirely unique movie going experience.

In retrospect the usage of the iconic line of dialogue, "you're not in Kansas anymore" really rings true after watching the 162 minute film. Unlike the promos or any of the features that were released in abundance, "Avatar" right off the bat grabs ahold of the viewer and firmly plants them within the world Jim Cameron has created. This is where the experience of "Avatar" really comes to life. All the attention to detail. In the vehicles, the plant life, the Na'vi and all of the various species residing within Pandora, just absolutely breath taking. The simple yet magnificent touches Cameron and all his elite special effects animators created are a true triumph.

As for the story throughout "Avatar," it is predictable and by no means groundbreaking in any way. For me the themes throughout the film, specifically the first two acts, feel very much like a science fiction version of Dances with Wolves. By no means is that a knock. I love Dances with Wolves to death and even though I found numerous similarities between the two films, it did not take away from the experience at all. Rather, it comforted me. Cameron is changing the face of cinema with his movie making and format, not his prose of storytelling. He delivered a reoccurring and thematic story that people can draw various elements from the history of cinema. More simply, story lines and dilemmas that we can all relate to. Having viewers put at ease with a connectable story allowed for them to be really stupefied by the massive size of the film.

By any definition "Avatar" is epic. James Cameron created an entire world and in doing so, he did not miss a single thing. The devil is in the details and James Cameron is near flawless. The animation, the 3D technology and the action throughout "Avatar" are titanic. The human emotion that rang through the CGI Na'vi is far superior than I expected. It is furthermore, better than I've seen in any other CGI motion capture film to date. The rich detail and depth displayed in the 3D technology throughout is daunting. "Avatar" also has numerous action sequences that were compelling, entertaining and best of all, impressive. Then the last 45 minutes of the movie hits and you are treated to an absolute onslaught of gripping action sequences one after the other. Just incredible and massive!

The entire cast of "Avatar" is great. There was not as single gripe when it came to any of the performances. Whether they were Na'vi or human, I enjoyed everybody in the film. Cameron created a solid library of characters to date and here in "Avatar" he does not falter. It was especially nice to see Sigourney Weaver back in a larger role. I would say that a few actors were a bit under utilized, however with the length of the film and what Cameron needed to accomplish within the running time, it is clear why those characters seem cut a bit short. Sam Worthington once again proves that he can carry a film. Regardless of whether he was in his Avatar or human form, Worthington nailed it.

In the end, I can't recommend "Avatar" high enough. It is a film that must be experienced in cinemas. At all costs see the film in 3D at least. Some people may be unable to see the film in IMAX or 3D locally, but I assure you it is worth the drive. It is a encompassing experience one that I plan to experience a few more times in theaters.