Know this fact, director James Cameron has made better films than Avatar. This is not to say that Avatar is either a failure or not the cinematic/technological accomplishment that many herald it as, but that it is simply overhyped by the fact that this it marks Cameron's return to filmaking after proclaiming himself King of the World over a decade ago.
Avatar has an emptiness about it that cannot compensate for the lack of sufficient live motion scenes. While the planet of Pandora is vividly realised, it evokes cheerless memories of the world created by the Wachowski's in latter films of the Matrix trilogy, one level above animation and every bit heavy laden with as much wall to wall CGI as your largest IMAX screen can contain. The storyline is a mishmash of predictable plot mechanics - a little Dances with Wolves sprinkled with the meeting of the Colonial British with native Indians from Pocahontas/The New world. Where Cameron and crew really succeed is in creating a fully realised alien world, complete with flora and fauna that is as fascinating as it is original. Not since Jurassic Park has the incredible seemed so believable.
What isn't so believable is the trite romance that takes centre stage in the film between Sam Worthington's military grunt Jake Sully and Neytiri, a young and vibrant female of the Na'vi race indigenous to the planet. Scripting has never been Cameron's forte, but making bold, engrossing, escapist entertainers has been, and while Avatar is certainly all of those things, it is also ridiculously sensationalized, especially in its third act that serves up a large scale war between the aliens and their human oppressors. Standard, recurring Cameron motifs including the mistrust of
the military-industrial complex and gutsy females ready to go into action exist here as well, but these are overshadowed by a messy message about mother natures fight for survival and some strange supernatural soul swapping at the end. Billed as a sci fi action adventure, this is really the stuff of fantasy intertwined with the persona of a confused war film. Are we supposed to cheer when Jake, in the guise of a Na'vi (his avatar) attacks and kills fellow human beings because he feels disenchanted with his own race?
Much has been made of the technical wizardry used to make Avatar possible as a film that feels real and fresh, and it certainly does. The visuals are crisp and clear, though watching it through 3D glasses makes it seem darker that it originally is. Even the 3D scenes aren't nearly as inventively used in aid of story or film as they have been in the films of fellow technophile director, Robert Zemeckis and despite everyone proclaiming Avatar to be the film that will change the face of cinema, it is really nothing more than just another Hollywood effects spectacle. - Faizan Rashid