Oscar® Winner for Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography, and Best Visual Effects / Nominee for Best Picture, Best Directing, Best Film Editing, Best Music—Original Score, Best Sound Editing, and Best Sound Mixing
Reviewed by: Daniel Thompson
Sci-Fi, Action, Adventure, Thriller, IMAX 3D
2 hr. 46 min.
Year of Release:
December 18, 2009 (wide—3,300+ theaters)
DVD: April 22, 2010
August 27, 2010 (limited re-release with 8 min. added)
EARTH’S ENVIRONMENT—Should Christians be concerned about the environment? Answer
What is man’s responsibility to the environment? Answer
How might rain forest destruction affect our weather? Answer
What does the Bible say about intelligent life on other planets? Answer
Are we alone in the universe? Answer
Does Scripture refer to life in space? Answer
Questions and Answers about The Origin of Life
War in the Bible
What is the Biblical perspective on war? Answer
“An all new world awaits”
Expectations for James Cameron’s “Avatar” have been through the roof for several reasons. Claimed to be more than ten years in the making, Director Cameron came out at this year’s Comic Con and made the statement that the film would be a ‘game-changer’ for movies from a technological standpoint. Also, rumors circulated that it’s the most expensive film ever made, with budget projections anywhere from 250 to 500 million dollars. Add to that Cameron, the director of the highest grossing film of all time, “Titanic.” The fact that he only directs a film every ten years or so adds to a hype machine that’s already at full power. Unfortunately, while “Avatar” dazzles on a technical level, it falls woefully short on a dramatic one.
On Pandora, a planet light years from Earth, there is a substance called unobtainium that is so valuable that humans have traveled to Pandora to retrieve it. The Pandora natives are called the Na’vi, and a group of them are living directly on top of the biggest unobtainium deposit on the planet. Parker Selfridge (Giovanni Ribisi giving the best performance of the film) is in charge of removing the Na’vi from the area and retrieving the unobtainium. Militarily, war crazy Colonel Miles Quaritch (Stephen Lang) thinks the best course of action is to remove the Na’vi by force. Conversely, scientist Dr. Grace Augustine (Sigourney Weaver) suggests a more diplomatic solution. She has developed a method that takes human DNA and creates Na’vi avatars that are basically humans in Na’vi bodies. Augustine feels that if these avatars can earn the trust of the natives, they can talk them into moving off of the wanted land. One of the avatars is former marine Jake Sully (Sam Worthington), who successfully infiltrates the Na’vi population and is able to learn their ways.
While this sounds quite dense, it’s actually quite the opposite. The plot for “Avatar” is a basic one that’s been injected with a few new elements, as well as some Sci-Fi jargon. It boils down to Jake originally learning from the Na’vi solely to make them move, only to find out that he has a connection with the people, realizing that it’s the humans who are really in the way. He is specifically drawn to their way of life, love of nature, and their belief in the deity Eywa, who is in charge of balancing nature.
From a technical aspect, “Avatar” soars. Created specifically for 3D viewing, the world of Pandora comes to life. Rich colors and creative creatures fill the screen and wow the eye. The Na’vi were created through extensive motion capture and green screen filming. For the most part they look real, aside from a few moments where they come into contact with humans or make sudden movements. It’s only then that they look animated. But overall the film, which is 60% computer generated, looks and feels like the real thing, and for this Cameron and crew should be applauded.
It’s a shame that the movie itself didn’t nearly live up to the visual effects. Several big problems keep “Avatar” from being the epic masterpiece that Cameron envisioned. While the performances are mostly good across the board, they suffer greatly from the script. It’s not a good sign when there is loud laughter in the theater during emotional moments in a movie. Some of the lines are downright absurd and create some of the worst dialog this side of a George Lucas film. Also, the length of the film was an issue to me and seemed to be with almost everyone in the sold out theater. Clocking in at almost three hours, the visuals only take the film so far before things start to get tedious. Several people left early. While there is definitely an epic feel to “Avatar,” the characters just don’t resonate enough emotionally to sustain the film over the entire running time. While a massive battle scene at the end is quite a sight to behold, it’s just too little too late.
The content in “Avatar” fits safely within the PG-13 rating and does not push any boundaries. The language is heavy, but fairly standard for a movie involving the military. God’s name is misused a number of times as well as some other profanities. The violence is heavy in some parts of the film, but mostly bloodless. The Na’vi wear very little clothing, and while their bodies do resemble that of humans, there’s nothing graphic, explicit, or even really sexual about their appearance. Also, the Na’vi religion is very naturalistic, as their god Eywa is basically mother nature, and this is lauded in the film.
Special Effects in movies have come quite a long way, and “Avatar” is another giant step forward from a visual perspective, but a disappointment otherwise. While other epic films like “The Lord of the Rings” or “Star Wars” films have indelible characters and great story to go along with the effects, “Avatar” does not. If you must go, you’re better off paying the extra money to see it in 3D, as the visuals alone are almost worth the price of admission. But if you’re looking for some substance with your style, don’t believe the hype and steer clear of “Avatar.”
Violence: Heavy / Profanity: Moderate / Sex/Nudity: Moderate
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.