Avatar is the Star Wars of the 21st century.
I went into the theater already knowing that I would be witnessing history in the making. Having worked with one of the digital imaging technicians for the film, knowing his attention to detail and his eye for perfection, I couldn’t wait to view the completed product. I knew I was about to embark on an amazing journey—but nothing could prepare me for the breathtaking masterpiece I saw today.
Avatar is by far the most visually stunning film I have ever had the pleasure to watch. The digital effects were flawless, the story was beautiful, and overall the work was brilliant. The characters were believable, even the digitally generated Na’vi, and the scenery was amazing. I have read criticism that has called Avatar “Dances with Smurfs,” and I can only shake my head. All filmmakers know that there are seven basic plots; storylines and characters can change, but they will always fit into one of those basic plots. James Cameron meshed the plot most associated with Dances with Wolves and The Last Samurai, placed it on an alien planet, and added an impeccable hero’s journey. There are no Smurfs, here--Avatar is thoughtful, meaningful, and artfully executed.
I only have a couple of minor criticisms of the film. If you have not yet watched Avatar and do not wish to read any spoilers, please do not continue.
My main criticism is with the plot dumps at the beginning of the film. While I realize that Mr. Cameron was working under time constraints and had no choice but to use them, the dialog felt a little choppy: characters were telling other characters pieces of information that they should have already known, in ways that seemed slightly out of place. A revision in those couple of pieces of dialog would have made a huge difference in the beginning of the film.
My second criticism is the “unobtainium.” The name alone takes away from the serious realism the rest of the movie achieves, the play on words being just too obvious. More importantly, we never see any characters actually mine the precious metal—and it is never made clear just why it is so precious. Online searches reveal that the mineral is supposed to be a superconductor and powerful energy source, but we are never given this information in the film. We are told that Earth is a dying planet; wouldn’t something life sustaining be more worth fighting over? Why are the humans mining “unobtainium?” Why is it worth so much? Can it save lives? Can it save our dying Earth? Eliminating the unobtainium and making the planet itself the commodity would have eliminated the out-of-place plot dumps about the mineral.
Thirdly, but just as importantly, Mr. Cameron could have reallocated several precious screen minutes to better use by making the main character’s initial loss of his twin brother available through plot dump, as opposed to actual footage. The film is nearly three hours long (which does fly, given its amazing content); the beginning would not have suffered had the cremation scene been cut and the information about the brother been offered through a few well executed lines.
Beyond those small criticisms, I have nothing but positive words to offer about Avatar. I laughed, I cried, I gasped with awe, and I left the theater feeling as though I had just watched a top-notch live action movie. I did more than that, though; I witnessed the beginning of a new era in digital film and I experienced a story that will stay with me for years to come.
And I didn’t even watch the 3D version.