CATEGORIES Reviews


Like so many epic blockbuster films, we hear rumours of how great or how crappy the movie is, weeks before it even hits theatres. I'd heard quite a bit about 'Avatar' - like how the 2-hour, 45-minute running time was way too long, or how the 3D format was dizzying, and even at times nauseating. I'd seen the trailer as well (who hasn't?), which wasn't too revealing, save for a few scenes with running blue creatures in a jungle wonderland.

What I wasn't prepared for was 'Avatar's 'genericness', which isn't to say it's bad, but rather that it isn't as earth-shaking and foundation-shattering as we're made to believe it's going to be, perhaps because of this ever-churning rumour mill.

Like so many epic blockbuster films, we hear rumours of how great or how crappy the movie is, weeks before it even hits theatres. I'd heard quite a bit about 'Avatar' - like how the 2-hour, 45-minute running time was way too long, or how the 3D format was dizzying, and even at times nauseating. I'd seen the trailer as well (who hasn't?), which wasn't too revealing, save for a few scenes with running blue creatures in a jungle wonderland.

What I wasn't prepared for was 'Avatar's 'genericness', which isn't to say it's bad, but rather that it isn't as earth-shaking and foundation-shattering as we're made to believe it's going to be, perhaps because of this ever-churning rumour mill.

Canadian director James Cameron ('Terminator', 'Aliens') addresses so many societal issues through metaphor, it's hard to keep them straight - from terrorism to xenophobia to racism to military authority - and thankfully the visual effects are so beautiful and so stunning, there's something for you to fall back on when your mind is muddled. (It's like lying on the beach while on vacation: the scenery is gorgeous all around you, but sometimes thoughts of your life back home creep into your consciousness. Then a wave breaks, and ah, you're back in holidayland.)

'Avatar' Trailer:



Cameron's plot is interesting, though it's fairly simple to predict exactly what's to come in the ensuing nearly-three hours. In a rather quick introductory preamble, we learn that the future Earth has been rendered almost-inhabitable, and that humankind has destroyed most of its natural resources (Al Gore was right!). As a result, humanity must go pillage nearby planets for minerals, one of which is called 'unobtainium' ( the first of many laughable, unoriginal names). The shady government/military organization - the bad guys - finds a cache of the mineral on utopian planet Pandora, which is inhabited by the peaceful Na'vi.

The military funds a group of scientists to develop a program whereby humans can download into Na'vi avatar bodies, so they can infiltrate the tribes and report back with any pertinent information. Sam Worthington, a virtual unknown who appeared in 'Terminator: Salvation', stars as Jake Sully, a Marine who's lost the use of his legs. Through the Avatar program, he's able to download into an engineered Na'vi body, which, of course, allows him to run like he used to.

It's not long before he falls in with a Na'vi tribe and one of its female members, Neytiri (played by 'Star Trek''s Zoe Saldana). Things get predictably complicated from there. Cameron definitely has a knack for portraying unorthodox love in all its forms. Despite the incredibly cheesy romantic dialogue that hampers the film at times, you find yourself rooting for the unlikely couple.

Exclusive Clip From 'Avatar':



Technically, the film is a monster. From the dreamscape of the Pandoran jungle to the huge, metallic military machines, Cameron has certainly outdone himself. There were times when I literally felt my jaw drop. But, that being said, he doesn't hit you over the head with it. Unlike other cacophonous wrecks in 2009 ('Transformers 2', 'Terminator: Salvation'), 'Avatar' doesn't overdo it for the sake of overdoing it. Even though it's in 3D, there's no nausea, there are no headaches - it's not over-the-top. Instead it feels like you're immersed in some fantasy land. It's obvious Cameron is having fun with his glowing flowers and animated mushrooms, and the viewer, if willing, goes along for the ride.

We get little rewards along the way, too - Sigourney Weaver, Giovanni Ribisi and Michelle Rodriguez round out the supporting cast - and there isn't much downtime to ponder any mistakes Cameron has made, other than laughing at the unfortunately-named 'Tree of Souls' and the 'flux vortex'. Is this the incredible movie that will change the face of film? Probably not. Is it a fun 3D movie that gives us a nice introduction of what's to come in the genre? Yes.

And there aren't many movies where someone rides a dragon while firing an automatic weapon. Ohhhh yeah.

Three stars out of four.