Movie Review: Avatar (2009)

Spoilers herein.

I think what makes Avatar such an enjoyable movie is that it feels like an amalgamation of the big movies we already know and love. It’s like someone put Aliens, Titanic, Lord of the Rings, Jurassic Park, Star Wars, and countless other things in a blender and it came out all multi-coloured and shiny. Its influences seem to be vast. You could argue endlessly about the film’s allegory: war in Iraq? War in Viet Nam? The story of Pocahontas? A rip off of Dances With Wolves? Take your pick, either way, the argument’s valid. Surely any hippy liberal college students who went to see this movie totally blitzed out of their minds will find the message of the movie to be really deep and really important.

My only gripe would be that despite being called Avatar, there’s very little attention given to explaining the actual Avatar technology. I had a lot of questions. There’s no real major existential problems suffered by our main character. When Jake is doing his video log he comments, “It feels like everything’s backwards. Like in there is the real world and out here is the dream.” Is this because he’s questioning his boundaries of reality or because he’s more content to live as a Na’vi? If he’s 100% physically and mentally active while in the Avatar and while awake as a human, is he actually getting any sleep? Wouldn’t he start to suffer from exhaustion? How much of a dream is this dream world anyway? If you die in the Avatar form do you die in real life? You know, like The Matrix? After wondering this for a while my question was answered near the end when the tall nerdy Jewish guy whose name I can’t be bothered to learn even though he’s in a lot of movies gets killed while in the Avatar. He lives. Good for him. I suppose at the end of the day these are just silly nitpicks and besides the point of the movie. You could argue the logic of time travel in The Terminator but you would be wasting your time because that’s not the damn point of the movie.

But I’m wondering what Avatar‘s over all point is. Spoiler alert: Jake decides to stay on Pandora as a Na’vi at the end and all of the “evil humans” are banished and sent home to their “dying planet.” That’s all well and good for the Na’vis but kind of a bummer for the entire human race, isn’t it? So is the message: humans are evil, be a Na’vi instead? That’s discouraging. Clearly not all humans in the movie were bad guys. Some stayed on Pandora in the end but it seemed like their choice was to Na’vi-up or go home. All of this confuses and slightly irritates me so let’s just say that the movie is a call to change and we’ll leave it at that.

My favourite character from Avatar would have to be Colonel Miles Quaritch. The guy is such a badass that it takes him a good 30 seconds to acknowledge that his arm is on fire. The guy’s real handy with the giant exo-suit, too. He’s a great antagonist and I really wish there was more of his character in the final product. My next favourite character has to be Dr. Grace Augustine, played wonderfully by Sigourney Weaver. I think that Weaver has earned her place among actors who can do no wrong whatsoever, and is an absolute joy to watch on screen no matter what she’s in. Her death scene in Avatar was more tragic than the deaths of Dumbledore, Aslan, and Optimus Prime combined. Sam Worthington is good enough as our hero, Jake, but he seems to really shine in the Pandora scenes alongside Zoe Saldana as Neytiri. Needless to say, the motion-capture acting is beyond impressive and one of the highlights of Avatar.

Oh yeah, and it’s in 3D. The 3D is really cool and it was a relief to find that it wasn’t pandering to the technology at all: it never stops the flow of the movie to show off some stupid effect and have us all oohing and aawwing and trying to grab something in front of us. Basically, it’s still great and all without the 3D. But I would definitely recommend seeing it in 3D if you can. At some point you just got to stop thinking about allegories and messages, and just put the 3D glasses on and enjoy the ride. This will surely be the turning point in home theatre technology because a lot of people will want to experience it in Blu-ray and finally break down and make the switch. I can’t wait to see how it looks on Blu-ray.

It’s a great-looking movie, it’s a spectacular experience, all colourful, pretty and blue. But yes, it could have used a little work in the story department. And the half-assed allegory doesn’t seem to help, either. But maybe we’re all getting that allegory stuff completely wrong. Maybe all that war and environmental stuff is completely inconsequential and Avatar is truly a comment on our own escapism. Some people live out their lives behind an Avatar, whether it’s a wizard or something on World of Warcraft or simply a chat handle. It’s you, It’s your traits, your personality, but it’s not really real. And maybe some people like it better than their regular old boring lives where there world is a cruel and evil place, feeling more sheltered and accepted that way. I’ve heard stories of people walking out of Avatar depressed because they were no longer in the amazing world of Pandora for those 3 hours and they had to get back to real life, so maybe this theory has some leverage. Maybe I’m reading too much into this, or maybe we’d all like to keep those 3D glasses on a little longer than we’d like to admit.

One more pointless thought to end this stream of pointless thoughts:I’ve noticed that Avatar is rated PG-13, yet there are quite a few scenes which show Sigourney Weaver’s character smoking. I thought it was an MPAA rule that if there’s smoking in a movie, it’s rated R. No exceptions. What’s up with that? Always leave a review on a strong note, kids.

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