Wednesday, December 16, 2009


A knee-jerk reaction review of the non-3d version

I firmly believe that one cannot judge a movie on first viewing. I like to review a movie after watching it a second time, after a week of my first viewing, preferably a month later. So may be I should not write this review an hour after seeing AVATAR. A second viewing shows me things that I might have missed the first time. I like to form my opinion after several days, but but BUT... the initial opinion never changes.

I can watch a movie any number of times, but the first impression is, my dear movie aficionados, ALWAYS the best impression. So here it is, the first impression. You know the feeling when watching a really great movie, that awesome realisation that you are watching a masterpiece, the near-teary feeling in your heart that you will be waching this movie again and again with your kids and grandkids?

Well, I did NOT get that feeling after watching AVATAR.

What I did get was that James Cameron has given the children of today and tomorrow a good damn movie. Seriously. Colourful woods and blue aliens and helicopter fights and oh my, even flying dragon-birds. Classic children’s movie, I tell you. Unfortunately, the theatre was filled with adults, adults who looked uncomfortable during the beginning of the movie, bored in the middle, and quite relieved when it ended.

(I did not watch it in 3D because there was no 3d screen at the hammersmith cineworld, but in any case, I don't think it has anything to do with the real essence of a movie.)

But let’s talk a bit about the story here. Humans discover a distant planet called Pandora which contains a valuable mineral. The planet is also inhabited by really tall and incredibly blue aliens (the N’avi) who resist the invasion. Grace (WEAVER), an environmental scientist, tries to stop the army into harming the aliens. Jake Sully (WORTHINGTON), a disabled veteran is given a body mask that makes him look exactly like the Na’vi. The humans introduce him and Grace into the world of Na’vi to know how they can be tricked into giving up their homeland. Will Jake and Grace succeed?

Technically, the movie is cool. If you are a diehard Cameron fan and if you like epic movie plots with gorgeous landscape, you will love it. I too am speechless at the world Cameron created in the movie (but good special effects doth not make a good make!). If you watch this one with children (not teens, though, they will just snort and leave to watch TWILIGHT in the next hall), you will even shed a tear or two at the hardships faced by the aliens. The special effects is marvellous and sure to get an Oscar nod, the actors have done their jobs properly, and it is really good entertainment. But was it worth all the hype? No. And did we expect more from Cameron. YES.

Given the 10-foot-tall aliens and the breathtaking world of Pandora, I can somewhat accept that Cameron was working on this movie for more than a decade (he must have spent most part of it at the 3g lab), but the screenplay left me puzzled. The plot was unoriginal and tired, especially to a scifi junkie like me. The epic good vs evil war theme and even the background music strongly resembled Narnia, and the chanting aliens and environmental theme kind of made it cheesy.

My biggest gripe is that the movie itself is not telling us anything new. It is just another mindless scifi flick like a PLANET OF APES or THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL or WAR OF THE WORLDS. There is nothing wrong with mindless scifi flicks, by the way. I positively love them. I am actually the-love-them-and-leave-them type when it comes to mindless entertainment. You see it, roll your eyes, whoop at the war scenes, and forget about it. Heck, I got more goosebumps when I was watching TRANSFORMERS!!!

That’s what is unacceptable. After 12 years, is this the best Cameron can give us? Where is the rollercoaster thrill of his ALIENS, the haunting beauty of his TITANIC, The suave sexiness of TRUE LIES, the sheer magic of T2? Why is this so generic and why didn’t this movie have any visible trademark that it was directed by a master expert? Why did I not leave the theatre hall feeling privileged to have seen a Cameron movie (should I have watched it in 3D)? Why, why, WHY, dammit?

Now, if only it was advertised as a children’s movie...!!!

(If you want to read an in-depth review which analyses the technical aspects of the movie, please click HERE)