Avatar ★★★★½

Rotten Tomatoes: 82%
Metacritic Metascore: 83
IMDb: 7.8


Release Date: 18 December 2009
Distributor: 20th Century Fox
Budget: $237M
Worldwide Gross: $2.79B
OSCAR Nominations: 9
OSCAR Wins: 3
Total Film Awards: 86

Jake Sully: "The Sky People have sent us a message... that they can take whatever they want. That no one can stop them. Well, we will send them a message. You ride out as fast as the wind can carry you. You tell the other clans to come. Tell them Toruk Macto calls to them! You fly now, with me! My brothers! Sisters! And we will show the Sky People... that they cannot take whatever they want! And that this... this is our land!"

SYNOPSIS: A paraplegic Marine dispatched to the moon Pandora on a unique mission becomes torn between following his orders and protecting the world he feels is his home.

Before I begin my review, I would like to note that I was not a huge fan of this film before it came out. I had seen the previews just like everyone and knew that I would see it in time, believing initially that it was extremely overhyped and featuring a concept that I knew had been told before that I never thought I could find myself fully interested in. . .

TRIVIA: To help the actors prepare for their roles, director James Cameron took the cast and crew to Hawaii, where they spent their days trekking through the forests and jungles and living like tribes (building campfires, eating fish, etc), in order to get a better sense of what it would be like to live and move around in the jungle on Pandora, since there would not be any actual jungle sets to aid and guide the actors and crew. Zoe Saldana even dressed up as a warrior during these journeys, complete with an alien tail symbolic of the one her character has in the movie. These hikes were only done during the daytime, however, as the cast and crew spent their nights at a Four Seasons hotel.

Well, 6 IMAX viewings later...

TRIVIA: Some CGI scenes took an average of 47 hours to render.

I don’t think I had ever misjudged a film like I did this one. I was always a fan of James Cameron, but wow, this was a visual masterpiece that forever altered the action/sci-fi genre as we know it. Those who saw it in theaters / IMAX can simply say they were there because this film will be remembered forever.

TRIVIA: Composer James Horner stated that this was his most difficult film and the biggest challenge of his career. He said in an interview that he worked on the music from 4:00 am to 10:00 pm for a year and a half.

It had been 12 years since Cameron unleashed the phenomenon that was Titanic, but his more eccentric action-oriented fans would have to look as far back as 1991′s Terminator 2 for their last proper dose of his incredibly epic action (True Lies, while fun, really doesn’t count). So the anticipation for Avatar had long since reached fever pitch and beyond.

TRIVIA: James Cameron was convinced that CGI effects had progressed enough to make this film when he saw Gollum in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002).

Thankfully, Avatar turned out to be one of the biggest and best movies of the 2009 film season. The story is pure Cameron simplicity – a paraplegic ex-marine is given a chance to walk again through the use of a unique alien body, called an Avatar. It is his job to gain the trust of the natives so that a greedy corporation can steal the precious metal from their lush moon. Jake’s (Sam Worthington) crippled main character is the perfect point of contact for the audience – not only is he new to the visual delights of Pandora but his disability means that every moment in his Avatar body is a glorious reprieve from the confinement of his chair. When the Corporation's intentions become more sinister, Jake must choose between his newfound place with the natives and his own race and fight for what he believes in.

TRIVIA: According to Sam Worthington, he was invited to the casting via a phone call. The person who called told him nothing about the script, nor did they even tell him the director's name and Worthington was disappointed at first, thinking it was "another waste of time."

TRIVIA: At the time of auditioning, Sam Worthington was living in his car.

Avatar combines parts of Pocahontas, Ferngully, Dances with Wolves and Braveheart with a liberal dose of Space Marines into an epic whole that takes nearly three full hours to unfold. We could criticize that length, the weak story, and the hammy dialogue. We could attack its thinly-veiled ecological message or the frankly bizarre spirituality in its second half but honestly, nothing can spoil the experience while you are enveloped in it. And a large part of that is down to the brilliant use of 3D – which is both subtle and incredibly effective. Until now, filmmakers had been making movies with 3D elements, but Avatar was the first true 3D film and might well prove to be one of the most significant things to happen to blockbuster filmmaking since the debut of Jaws and creation of the Star Wars and LOTR franchises.

TRIVIA: Sam Worthington, an Australian, said in an interview that it was easier for him to master the Na'vi language than the American accent.

Cameron was also pushing the envelope with truly photo-real CG – something which has been promised for years but had finally been delivered with Avatar. The interactions of the characters with the environment are incredible and the detail on the faces of the motion-captured leads (Worthington and Star Trek’s Zoe Saldana) brings them to life. Truly. You will believe totally in their performances, representing another quantum leap in tools that have rarely been used for anything other than spectacle.

TRIVIA: Director James Cameron, known for being tough on set, allegedly kept a nail gun on set that he would use to nail cell phones that had the misfortune of ringing to a wall above the exit sign.

The performances here, in the sense of reacting, becoming, and understanding what Cameron has written are astounding. These actors along with the director inhabit these visual transformations within the motion capture technology so well it felt like they had lived in those beings all their lives. Sam Worthington, as Jake Sully, has become a star in his own right and deservingly so. Though he has problems with his Aussie accent often enough in the film, he gets the job done. Zoe Saldana, who portrayed Neytiri, a Na’ vi huntress, was thrilling and electrifying. Stephen Lang, as the rock hard Colonel Miles, takes on a villainous turn to a new level in science fiction. He offered actual emotion and emoted evil to the audience and gained our hatred easily. Sigourney Weaver as the beautiful Dr. Grace was sufficient enough to have on-screen again teamed with Cameron. She eased inside her role with effortless ease but suffered from some of the typical cheesy lines often associated with a Cameron screenplay.

TRIVIA: Matt Damon and Jake Gyllenhaal were the studio's first choices to play Jake Sully, but James Cameron decided to cast the less-known Sam Worthington in the lead role.

Other than those visuals, the film popped in every other technical aspect. The art direction and film editing were absolutely sublime and offered the perfect blend of the two worlds, enticing the viewer repeatedly while constantly shifting us around. I was absolutely enveloped by the stunning imagery, so much so that I felt like I could feel the branches hanging down from the trees. The film experience as a whole was utterly hypnotizing. James Horner’s score was also some of the best work done in his career.

TRIVIA: James Cameron originally planned to have the film completed for release in 1999. At the time, the special effects he wanted increased the budget to $400 million. No studio would fund the film, and it was shelved for eight years.

TRIVIA: This movie took four years to make, from pre-production to release.

While Avatar was obviously an important film from the aforementioned technical aspect, it was also great entertainment. The world of Pandora was a stunning spectacle and only continued to immerse me more and more as the film went on. The final act then exploded into tragedy and desperate action, with the final half-hour a blistering life or death struggle that had to be seen to be disbelieved.

TRIVIA: The Na'vi language was created entirely from scratch by linguist Dr. Paul R. Frommer. James Cameron hired him to construct a language that would be easy for actors to pronounce but would not resemble any human language. Frommer created about 1,000 words.

It will soon become a trilogy, and perhaps more. It IS the Star Wars of this generation in terms of the effects breakthrough and the and worldwide buzz it generated. Make no mistake, this is a timeless visual masterpiece that will never be forgotten in the realm of film, and its effects will have a profound effect on the Hollywood industry going forward. People will talk about this film forever.

DIRECTOR: James Cameron
WRITER: James Cameron
FILMING LOCATIONS: Wellington, New Zealand
FILMING LOCATIONS: Kaua'i - Oahu - Hamakua Coast, Hawaii

Best IMAX film experience of all time. Period.

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Fact-Checking / TRIVIA Source: IMDb

Stay safe my friends.

Directing - 5/5
Screenplay - 2.5/5
Editing - 5/5
Prod Design - 4.5/5
Cinematography - 5/5
Acting - 3.5/5
Sound - 4.5/5
Pacing - 4.5/5
Enjoyment rating - 10/10

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