Wednesday, February 1, 2012

100 Movies - No. 9: Avatar

9. Avatar (2009)
Science Fiction, Action, 178 minutes (extended version)
Directed by James Cameron
Starring Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana and Sigourney Weaver

Here's a title that may leave you questioning my taste. I can see a lot of flaws in the movie, but the overall experience is one that I enjoy. One common objection is that the story steals too much from other movies. While that's true, it doesn't mean that the end result isn't worthy of your time.

James Cameron knows how to make movies with mass appeal. The story is predictable for the most part. A group of humans establish a base on an alien moon and set up a mining operation. The natives are considered primitive and nothing more than a minor inconvenience. In order to blend in better, some of the scientists have created simulated versions of the giant aliens which can be controlled by humans. Jake Sully (Worthington) occupies one such avatar. Sully's direct approach is more successful than that of the trained scientists and he undergoes training by the native population.

Avatar works for me because of the sheer beauty of the world. The training sequences are the most interesting part of the movie and account for the first half of the running time. After that, the story becomes extremely predictable and ends up as a typical Hollywood battle sequence. This would normally bore me, but the first half does a great job of making me care about the characters and I'm actually concerned about the outcome.

For the first time in movie history, I feel like I am visiting another world. It's such a convincing design. Every friend I have shown the movie too has liked it, and some rank it among their all time favorites.

I would strongly recommend the extended version if you are a fan of the movie. It ties up a couple of loose ends, including the fate of an important character. The Blu-ray presentation is arguably the best of any film released on the format.

If you like Avatar:

There are probably hundreds of movies with similarities to Avatar. One that also does a good job of showing us an unfamiliar world is The Abyss. It's another James Cameron movie with a heavy science fiction element and the acting is a lot better than that seen in Avatar. The Matrix is another movie featuring people inhabiting other bodies and it also contains a strong science fiction and action element. For fans of Avatar, two other movies are planned over the next three years.

Click here for my full review.

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