Bad special effects can ruin a good movie, but in the case of this movie, apparently good special effects can save a bad movie. And by save, I mean make it the highest grossing movie of all time with over $2.7 billion at the box office and another 4(!) movies scheduled for release in a few years. What a crazy world we live in…
Speaking of crazy worlds, Pandora! Home of the Na’vi, a tribe of blue people who live peacefully on their alien homeworld. However, under the ground of their beautiful world is the aptly named unobtanium, one of the best metals ever apparently. That’s why a whole bunch of humans turn up to mine it all, whether the Na’vi live there or not. However, some scientists create their own Na’vi bodies to use as ‘avatars’ so they can interact with the tribes and learn their ways. It is a story as old as time. Civilised man is evil and ruins the nature of the indigenous. The story stretches a little too long for my liking and isn’t all that new or inventive. Plus the characters are a bit one dimensional and the dialogue is real clunky and heavy on exposition.
Those characters are Sam Worthington as Jake Sully, the disabled Marine who uses his avatar to insert himself into the Na’vi tribe. There’s Zoe Saldana as Neytiri, the daughter of the tribe leader and both teacher and love interest to Jake. Stephen Lang is the colonel bad guy alongside Giovanni Ribisi as the corporate guy running the show. Sigourney Weaver is a scientist working alongside Jake, Michelle Rodriguez is a good solider on the side of the Na’vi and there’s a whole bunch of other Na’vi that get a few lines here and there. The acting is mostly okay, but there’s a lot of people just blandly explaining things to other people that vacantly stare on. I think it is mostly the fault of the script that gives the actors terrible lines that don’t seem real, but the acting isn’t particularly great anyway. Zoe Saldana is very good though, acting mostly through facial capture. She gets some good character moments and really brings her character to life. Stephen Lang is good as bad man Quaritch, but he’s an over the top comic book villain rather than a real human being.
The main draw of this film, and probably the best and maybe only really good thing about it, is the visuals. And they are pretty great on the whole. Firstly, there’s the future tech. It’s not much but it all looks pretty cool and mechanical. But the planet of Pandora looks great. The trees, the wildlife, the flowers and plants. It all looks fantastic. There’s a giant tree, floating islands, pterodactyl-type things on a clifftop, rivers and more. There’s some really cool stuff during the nighttime scenes too. Plants and trees light up and glow in the dark, creating a real psychedelic effect that looks very awesome. And the Na’vi themselves look great too. They are brought to life with such good motion capture and they look really real. Only on a slight few occasions do the actually look a little rubbery and shiny, same with the animals and creatures of Pandora. The world building in this movie is really thorough and in-depth.
If only as much thought had been put into everything else. When you really look past the stunning visuals, ‘Avatar‘ is just another generic action sci-fi movie with a standard story, stock characters and nothing all that new or amazing about it. Full credit to James Cameron for building a fascinating new world and pioneering some great new technologies, but I just don’t know how he can make 4 new movies out of this franchise. But then, he is a pretty good director. I just hope he focuses more on story over the visuals.
JACK’S SCORE: 2/5