If you don't know about James Cameron's Avatar, then you've probably been living under a rock for the last year. The film received incredible hype before its release, and promised to revolutionize cinema once again by pioneering the jump to 3D movies. The hype seems to have paid off, to say the least. The movie quickly became the highest grossing film of all time and received critical acclaim like no other film in recent memory. The film has produced an almost cult-like fanbase that will attack you like a pack of rabid dogs if you dare to insult what they regard as the greatest work of art ever brought to the silver screen. However, just because a movie is popular doesn't mean it is good. How good is it really? Well let's find out.
Avatar is the story of Jack Sulley, a paraplegic marine who has volunteered to embark on a journey to the mystical world of Pandora. Pandora is a moon of Jupiter (by the way this is a sci-fi flick) that is home to a primitive humanoid race of creatures known as the Na'vi. The humans have come there to mine a valuable substance simply known as Unobtanium (doesn't that name just ooze creativity?). Unfortunately, the Na'vi have placed their settlement right on top of this deposit, and are not willing to move.
Sulley, acting through his "Avatar" is sent in to gain their trust and convince them to move elsewhere. However, in the process, he falls in love with one of the women and slowly becomes enamored of the simplistic way of life. The humans begin to lose patience and eventually decide to attack the Na'vi and force them out of their home. An epic battle ensues, and as you might expect, the bad guys are defeated, the two races learn to coexist, and everyone has a happy ending.
It's a pretty cliche story, which could have worked except for one glaring flaw. It may not be obvious through reading a synopsis, but when watching, it is painfully obvious that the material in this story is ripped straight from Pocohontas. Some may argue that the premise has been reworked many times already with nobody screaming about copyright infringement (Dances with Wolves, Fern Gully, etc.). But it doesn't change the fact that the story has zero originality. Some people even jokingly call the movie "Dances With Smurfs". Sadly, that title is altogether too accurate.
I have to admit, the visuals in this movie are incredible. I unfortunately missed out on seeing this in 3D, which is reportedly even more breathtaking. I wouldn't go so far to say that the visuals are realistic, however. It's very hard to watch three hours of 10 foot tall blue cat people that ride around on neon rainbow colored birds by fusing their hair strands together and come away marveling at the realism. Maybe if you're high, this would look pretty normal, but otherwise, not so much. However, as an animated film, it is astounding. The animation is fluid, the colors are vibrant, and nothing really looks unfinished.
The only thing original about this movie is the contemporary messages that reflect issues that America is facing today. This mostly consists of slandering the military and large corporations. There are many subliminal messages that are meant to make you dislike the businessmen and marines and make you think the scientists are gentle, caring people. The obvious exaggeration of making the sympathetic scientists incredibly intelligent while showing the marines as the stereotypical dumb hunk of muscle does not veil their point of view well. Not to mention that the General of the Marines is the bad guy. The movie also portrays the Na'vi, a clear parallel of the Native Americans, as helpless and innocent against the cruel, heartless killing machines that the humans are. There is also a theme of environmentalism that is very strong in the movie, and the corporation executives are portrayed as stupid, greedy capitalists who are only interested in money. All of these parallels are so thinly veiled that it is actually painful to watch.
The movie runtime is somewhere in the ballpark of three hours. Very few people have an attention span anywhere near that long. Especially when watching a boring, cliche story with blue aliens. Admittedly, some of the action scenes are exciting, but they are few and far between. The majority of this movie is people talking. Talking about strategy, talking about how to survive in the wild, talking about nonsensical technobabble that would be better off left in a Star Trek movie. TOO MUCH TALKING! Overall, the movie ends up feeling very, VERY long. It was so long that I couldn't even watch it in one sitting. Be warned: if you want to watch this movie, prepare to invest an entire evening to it.
Overall, this movie is a boring, cliche, sci-fi bore fest that decided to cram a load of liberal, tree-hugging, anti-business, anti-military propaganda down our throats while flashing colorful visuals at us to make us think we're being entertained. It's the equivalent of waving keys in front of a baby's face. It's visually stimulating and takes zero intelligence to enjoy. Avoid this movie if you have any sense of taste in movies at all.
Final Score: 4/10