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12/21/2009

12. Avatar: Review


Much hype has been built for James Cameron’s recent sci-fi epic, Avatar. With a blockbuster like Titanic, it’s inevitable to question whether his next film can ever top his last. However, after seeing his creations come to life on the IMAX screen, I can confidently say that he’s done it.

Needless to say, the visuals are stunning. James Cameron has crafted this whole new world, this revolutionary universe that captivates the audience like no other, and it all began with a dream he had more than a decade ago. He created Pandora, along with everything in it – the characters, the native Na’vi, the creatures, the environment, the very culture; it’s all part of the immersive experience that makes this film so unique. And with the aid of IMAX technology, Cameron was able to forge his vision with such convincing realism; at some point you’ll be convinced that Pandora actually exists – or at least wish it did. Weta Digital and ILM pushed the envelope with the animation and visual effects, and came out victorious.

Many say that the story’s familiar territory, and I agree with them, to a certain extent. Yes, we’ve all heard about the protagonist who learns about a foreign culture or species and switches sides in the middle of the movie, but Cameron here has put an interesting twist to an otherwise conventional plot – the use of these so-called Avatars, synthetic bodies created from human and Na’vi DNA, allowing humans to exercise control over them in a manner that is not unlike simulation. Ultimately, it’s not the plot that makes this movie pack a punch, but, as mentioned in the previous paragraph, the breathtaking world that Cameron draws us into. It is, more than anything, a fresh take on a classic tale.

This film wouldn’t exist without the actors that brought the characters to life. Sam Worthington (who plays the protagonist Jake Sully) proves his ability as an up-and-coming actor in Hollywood, while Zoe Saldana shines as the Na’vi Neytiri, commanding no less than our full attention every time she steps within the frame. Other applause-worthy performances came from Steven Lang (Colonel Quaritch), Michelle Rodriguez (the pilot Trudy Chacon) and Giovanni Ribisi (Parker Selfridge), whose performance in my opinion was a pleasant surprise, outshining Worthington despite the smaller role he plays in the film.

Truly, Avatar marks a new age for cinema, and marks a new way of engaging with the audience through the maximized used of modern technology. James Cameron himself said that he had to wait for technology to catch up with his vision, and now we can say it’s well been worth the wait.

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