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Avatar Review

Avatar is an original sci-fi adventure created and directed by James Cameron. Released in 2009, starring Sam Worthington and Zoe Saldaña.

80/100

Info: 

  • Run Time: 2 hours 42 minutes
  • Studio: 20th Century Fox
  • Director: James Cameron
  • Where to Watch: Disney+

Review: 

Humanity’s first clumsy steps into interstellar colonization have begun after a miracle resource was discovered on a far away moon called Pandora. Marines and scientists have been dispatched into the void of space to harvest the material and guide humanity towards the future. But Jake Sully is not among them. At least not at first. He is a paralyzed ex-marine with no future on Earth. After getting kicked out of a bar for starting a fight, Jake is approached by some government men asking him to come with them. They take him to a funeral home where his twin brother is lying in a coffin. The government men offer him the chance to replace his brother on their journey to Pandora. Jake takes the plunge and goes on the adventure of a lifetime, only to learn that Pandora holds many secrets and opportunities.

I’ve got to come clean. I never saw Avatar in theaters way back in 2009. I didn’t really care about movies back then. I was in my “movies are dumb” phase, as I’ve mentioned many times in past reviews. My parents also got headaches from 3D movies so I never would have been able to go see that version of it anyway. I only ever saw this once as a kid after release and it was the cut for tv version on FX so I barely even count it as a watch. So it’s with that context that I present my Avatar review. The full version of this movie really starts to drag at the two hour mark. I think there’s a little bit of extra material in every third or fourth scene, like shots that linger too long or too many sweeping CGI landscapes.

James Cameron is certainly a great director and has some really great and inspired movies in his filmography. Avatar is definitely one of those inspired movies. I’m not going to compare it to Pocahontas because it’s already been done a few hundred times, but the similarities are glaring. Cameron does a great job of translating his vision to the screen and it makes for a very dazzling fresh coat of paint over a rehashed story. The blunt criticism aimed towards the capitalistic, colonialist nature of America is paramount and can’t be missed as an adult. It’s very clear where Cameron’s head is at and I applaud the effort to send a message using the highest grossing movie of all time as a platform.

There are entire sequences of incredibly crisp and clean CGI that would make many modern movies ashamed. But not all of it has aged well and that’s ok. Modern TVs have caught up and the age of the movie is starting to show in certain scenes. But for the vast majority of this extended runtime, the cat people are still blue and are camped out on the edges of the uncanny valley. It’s going to be really interesting to see the sequel’s “upgrades” when it releases this weekend.

Sam Worthington and Zoe Saldaña headline the CGI fueled epic with very enjoyable performances. They’re both A-listers through and through and deliver performances that cement that fact. Starting on opposite sides only to end up being on the same side of the conflict, they have several emotional scenes that guide the audience through the story in a pleasant and entertaining manner. Accompanying the two leads are a laundry list of stars like Sigourney Weaver, Stephen Lang, and Michelle Rodriguez. The supporting crew fills the archetypal roles nicely, but a little too safely. There’s no risks in the casting department and it leads to some boring performances.

After admitting I’d never seen Avatar in its entirety until this year, I’m pleased to say that I enjoyed it. I’m not super excited for the sequel because I don’t have 10 years of hype surrounding it but as a standalone movie, it’s pretty good. The bloated run time did leave me waiting for it to end, but the impressive use of technology raised the bar for CGI sequences to come for years afterwards. It hasn’t aged perfectly, and the story is far from original at its core but the execution of the story is what makes it such a landmark movie.

Dylan M.
Dylan M.

Dylan created Movies Not Films as a fun project to stay occupied during the start of the global COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. He started with a simple movie diary on a spreadsheet and eventually transformed it into MoviesNotFilms.com with a robust catalog of reviews, suggestions, and ranking lists. Currently living with his now-fiancé and two dogs, Dylan has a full-time career but still makes time to watch all the latest movies and most of the new TV shows.

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