Avatar (James Cameron, 2009)

Oh Mr. James Cameron, where art thou? Your disappearance from the movie-dom seems like an eternity since you sink the big ship years ago. To make a comeback following up your most successful movie seems like a mountain to climb. I am aware all these years you are waiting for the technology to be "matured" enough; waiting for the movie studio to grow some guts to allow you to flex your muscles.

And here we are, the long awaited, 12 years in the making sci-fi epic. A movie that fully utilize the most groundbreaking technology so far, an entire new world was created using photo realistic CGI, blending actors with motion capture animation technology. One of the most expensive movies ever made to date, and certainly the most ambitious one even by James Cameron's standard.

Avatar is best described as Dances With Wolves (Costner, 1990) meet Pocahontas (Gabriel & Goldberg, 1995) in another world. It is year 2154, a large non-government corporation (akin to Aliens' Weyland-Yutani Corp.) are colonizing a moon called Pandora light years away from Earth. They wish to drive away the native inhabitants Na'vi, a blue skin, 10 feet humanoid away so that they can mine the invaluable mineral found on that moon, before they use Plan A (read: full scale war), they create an avatar to assimilate into their tribe, to study them; to educate them. This avatar is a hybrid DNA of human and Na'vi, to enable human participant to remotely control their avatar to explore the harsh and unknown territory of Pandora. The way of how all these Avatars work, just think of how Neo and co. plug into the simulated reality of The Matrix except here in Pandora, everything is real..... Well, you get the idea.

Jake Sulley (by Sam Worthington), a former Marine paralysed below the waist, came in to the Avatar Project replacing his twin deceased brother. Jake (his avatar with his consciousness) met a female Na'vi, a tribe's princess, Neytiri (by Zoe Saldaña with the help of motion-capture technique). Both of them did à la John Smith-Pocahontas by the time the Corporation execute Plan A, prompting Jake to make a tough decision on which side he is taking.

Avatar suffered from a rare James Cameron's missing trademark: Lack of a strong character(s) that I normally root for. For a movie clocked in at 2 hours 40 minutes, it is a cardinal sins committed by J.C. not to offer us any real depth in all major characters, not even Sigourney Weaver (who played Dr. Augustine as a leader of the Avatar Project and a mentor to Jake) is at her usual best. Do not even mention the one dimensional, stereotype chief villain. Only Zoe Saldaña’s Neytiri deserved some praises. Maybe I am too busy enjoying all the gorgeous visual stuffs.

The experience of watching this movie is similar to dating a beautiful face-surgical constructed, breast enhanced woman except she is an empty vessel once you are close to her. It is far from Cameron's best (Terminator 2 takes the crown, follow by Aliens (1986)), yet it has firmly become the beacon of future movie making because it raises the benchmark of 3D CGI in a movie format.

Avatar is a special effect-driven movie, truly a case of style over substance. Although almost 20 years on since I first watch his T2: Judgement Day (1991), I am still in awe at that superb crafted movie even after the umpteenth times of viewing. J.C. is always so great at crafting a solid story that enhances the visual effect even more, but he missed it this time with his own superficial script and the afore-mentioned lack of strong characters. Just like most eye candy movie, it is full marks for the looks but underneath is an aura-less chassis.

1 star = Pathetic, SowYau feel ashamed of watching it
2 stars = Off the mark material, approach with caution
3 stars = Generally good, you should watch it if it's your favourite genre
4 stars = excellent, strongly recommended
5 stars = A classic status? only time will tell. But it is definitely in SowYau's Hall of Fame List


Anonymous said...

T2, absolutely love it!

but haven't watch avatar yet :S

SowYau said...

Avatar is nothing, compare to T2. You must be one of the very few people in the world who have not watch it yet, hehe.