Movie Review #782: While no one can argue with the breathtaking, immersive beauty of ‘Avatar’, it falters at the narrative level compared to Cameron’s previous films.

By Red Stewart

Action, Adventure, Fantasy
Rated PG-13 (contains sci-fi violence, profanity, mild sexual content)
162 minutes

Whenever filmmaking takes a massive leap forward in technological capability, there is always one particular film that stands out as the defining moment of said progress. “The Birth of a Nation” marked that in 1915, “Gone with the Wind” in 1939, Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey” in 1964, “Star Wars” in 1977, and “Jurassic Park” in 1993. In the 21st century, James Cameron’s “Avatar” takes its historical place alongside those other cinematic landmarks with its immersive visuals.

Cameron, who has already made strong strides in the world of special effects via his other films, spent over a decade waiting until technology developed to the point where he could construct the tools needed to bring his dream to life. They say patience is a virtue, and Cameron certainly proves that the wait was more than worth it. We’ve visited plenty of cities and alien worlds in many other CGI-based movies, but none have come close to the realism and mesmerizing planet of Pandora. The forests, flora, fauna, and ecosystems all stand out. Combine that with the 3D, and you have what many films try to achieve but ultimately fail at doing; creating an experience. Watching “Avatar” was truly an experience, and for that it deserves multiple viewings alone. Yet Cameron goes deeper into the planet’s history, exploring the culture and traditions of the native Na’vi and touching upon the biosphere as a whole.

Unfortunately for all its glamour, Avatar is surprisingly dull on the narrative front, especially given Cameron’s reputation for creating exciting, deep tales with his two “Terminator” movies, “The Abyss”, and the melodramatic “Titanic”. Moviegoers familiar with the plot of “Dances with Wolves”, “Pocahontas”, and “The Last Samurai” in which a foreigner becomes familiar with the customs of his enemy and ends up fighting for them, will be disappointed by seeing yet another reiteration of it in “Avatar”. It’s not that it’s dreadfully bad to the point of boredom, but Cameron doesn’t add enough flare to keep it fresh. I assume he was too busy working on creating the majestic wonders of Pandora to apply much effort to the script, but it is an obvious problem nonetheless.

“Avatar” is one of those films everyone has to see at least once in their life. The visual effects, 3D, and power all stayed with me long after I left the theater. Cameron is a bit preachy with his themes, but in the grand scheme of things, it’s not worth complaining about. ✴


10 thoughts on “Avatar

  1. I’m glad other people think this. Avatar was so lauded when it first came out but I thought it was overlong and obvious storywise. It was a great visual spectacle but even that wore off after the first hour.

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