December 18, 2009

Avatar Movie Review

After a last desperate attempt yesterday morning, I managed to get my hands on a pair of tickets for the Imax 3D premiere of the movie Avatar. Although I had seen the 3D preview a couple weeks back and gotten pretty excited, I had desperately tried to have as few expectations as I could possibly manage.

I’ll break it to you right away, Avatar is all I hoped it would be. And then some.

It’s actually quite impossible to remember the first few minutes of the movie, which I spent in total awe over the realism of the special effects and the computer-generated imagery. It’s safe to say that Avatar has reached the technical threshold where actual and processed images are impossible to differentiate. And that, my friends, is downright awesome.

Because it creates a truly believable world, Avatar is an astoundingly immersive experience, right from the start. The planet, Pandora, and its inhabitants, both the Na’Vi (the magnificent blue people) and the plethora of exotic wildlife that dwells within, are consistent, credible and intriguing. James Cameron succeeded in creating a pure, compelling, fantastic world that stays soberly within the limits of what you would expect from an alien world on an Earth-like planet.

But where Avatar truly shines, in my opinion, is in the cultural creation of the Na’Vi People. They are gracious, mysterious, beautiful. They have their own structured language, traditions and a way of life you are given the proper time to discover without the ever-so-disappointing “montages” overly used in Hollywood fast-food productions. Part of the massive 3-hour experience is invested in depicting this culture with just enough details and insights to naturally create empathy with the Na’Vi, without resorting to melodramatic or overly poetic streaks.

Now don’t get me wrong, this IS Hollywood. But if you can humor it, and I’m sure you will, you’ll enjoy every last second of your experience.

Those of you with an interest in shamanic cultures will delight in the many details and references found in the Na’Vi way of life, with symbols and traditions borrowed to Native American Peoples, the great Maori, South-Eastern Asian cultures, Voodoo and many, many others.

The story is nothing too original, but apart from a few minute details, it delivers. The actors, specifically Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana and Sigourney Weaver offer a great performance, with some very brave scenes (no spoilers here) that add depth to the movie.

All in all, I find Avatar is an absolute success, a celebration of technical prowess wrapped in a fantastic universe that you’d never want to leave. I very enthusiastically recommend it, and pay the extra cash to see it in Imax 3D. You’ll thank me for it.

9/10

Strongest points :
- Technical masterpiece
- Credible, efficient acting
- The Na’Vi people
- The credibility of the overall world

Weaker points :
- Storyline is a bit thin
- Some characters (like the colonel) are a little rough around the edges

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