In the interest of making the best use of your time (the reader’s), I have developed a new streamlined review writing process and format for 2010. My hope is being able to create an appealing and more interactive way to connect to a wider audience while not losing my trademark style. Hopefully you enjoy, and, as always, let me know if you have any questions or comments! 

For the last 12 years, uber-director James Cameron has been working (more or less) on his new movie, Avatar. For the last 8 of those 12 years I have been eagerly awaiting to see it. It is true that I too got caught up in the hype, the excitement, the extravaganza…that’s when reality set in around me. Despite never doubting Cameron, one of my favorite directors of all time, for a minute, I knew that Hollywood never lived up to expectations. I saw the posters with the fantasy-like lettering, the press released images of extravagantly bizarre creatures with 6 legs, the digital look of the preview. Uh oh…I thought.

Then I went to see the movie on opening night and I was blown away. This movie, while not being perfect, easily met my expectations.  Cameron, always known for pushing the boundaries of what film can accomplish, has done it again. This was the first movie in a long time that I remember being totally immersed in. It is quite the experience, indeed the birth of a new era as far as movie watching experiences are concerned. Using specially created cameras he developed himself with his own money, Cameron has created something so realistic words will do no justice. Just how big of an accomplishment is Avatar? It is one of the most expensive movies ever produced (Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End both cost more, and look worse…) yet it is on pace to be the highest grossing film of all time, surpassing Cameron’s own Titanic.

Synopsis: Jake Scully is a disabled ex-Marine who travels to the moon Pandora, which, in addition to being rich with a rare mineral, is home to the Nai’vi, a native race of aliens. Jake’s mission is to help continue the research started by his late brother, research aimed at reducing conflict between the Nai’vi and the military-for-hire used to help obtain the rare mineral. The harsh environment on the moon necessitates the use of avatars, essentially human clones in the form of the Nai’vi that can be controlled by a human’s conscious mind. Here, disabled Jake is able to explore Pandora without limitations, but what he discovers is a world both more beautiful and dangerous than he could have imagined…

Acting: Okay (19/25)

  • Sam Worthington as Jake Scully: Okayhe struggled with his accent throughout, and had some difficulties showing emotions, but it is more difficult to act in front of a green screen than a set.
  • Zoe Saldana as Neytiri: Great – Most emotional and convincing character in the movie, her acting draws the audience in, very difficult role to do well in…but she pulled it off!
  • Siguorney Weaver as Dr. Grace Augustine: Good – Strong performance, some of the humor of her role was lost on most people though.
  • Stephen Lang as Colonal Quaritch: Good – Convincing in his menace and bad-assitude, but perhaps a bit over-the-top
  • Supporting Cast: Good – Played roles convincingly if anything, but needed more screen time to feel like real people

Script/Plot: Okay (18/25)

  • Dialogue: Okay – emotionally moving, but not ground-breaking or very thought-provoking.
  • Script: Okay – some characters seemed forced into their actions to fit a certain image (rather than developing naturally), others were not well defined
  • Plot: Okay – predictable and drawing on ideas from movies you’ve already seen; but really that is not the point of this movie. Better to go with something agreeable and proven than roll the dice when your movie costs this much.
  • Themes/Messages: Great – This movie has important ecological and human-relations messages for everyone and an endless supply of revenge, right vs wrong, braun vs. brain, survival, and existential themes.

Direction: Great (25/25)

  • Professionalism: Great – Cameron is a perfectionist, and it shows!
  • Flow: Good – The movie never bogs down, and manages to make the most of its 2 hour and 40 minute running time (the maximum length for an IMAX movie), but it does feel choppy in parts
  • Editing: Superb – No thoughtless scene juxtaposition, the movie is perfect brilliant giving the audience longer scenes towards the beginning of the movie to draw them into the new experience that is Pandora, then shorter scenes once the action starts and become familiar with the surroundings.

Special Effects: Superb (28/25) (yes, really that good)

  • Special Effects: Superb – Your eyes will be fooled (definitely see it in 3D if you have a choice! Worth the extra $)
  • Music: Superb – Probably the best score to come out of Hollywood since Pirates of the Caribbean.
  • X-Factor: Superb – The next generation of visual effects are here. All the hard work really shows!

The Verdict: (90/100) = A-

  •  What’s Good? For once a movie that is a complete experience; emotionally engaging, exciting, and most of all your eyes and ears will be very happy.

  • What’s Bad? You can nag about the so-so acting or the cookie-cutter story line or the possibility of questionable underlying archetypes, but if you do you are missing the point of this movie.
  • Summary: The 21st century Wizard of Oz, except there is no curtain.

My Previous Review:  Rated: Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)