SilentDawn’s review published on Letterboxd:
James Cameron's Avatar, above all else, is a transporting and utterly breathtaking experience. Let's face it, whether you were for or against this movie from the beginning, you cannot deny the miraculous and wondrous scope of the entire project. In terms of the hype and build-up for the film's initial release, there has never been a film that was as-talked about and water-cooler friendly than Avatar. Hell, I remember going to see the film opening night on the biggest screen possible in 3D, and at least three people that I knew were there. It was an event, one that brought the collective moviegoing audience together for a ride that hasn't been bested in modern cinema.
Now, I'm just going to step right out here, probably all by my lonesome, and state that I love Avatar. I didn't always love it, with the massive and unprecedented backlash kinda ruining my enjoyment of the film for awhile, but after returning to it last year; I realized that all that matters is my opinion, and that the film is freaking incredible.
First off, let's thank James Cameron. I'm not a huge fan of the guy, with the majority of his films being devoid of heart and soul, particularly in the films Aliens and Terminator 2. Yet, his early work of The Terminator still resonates with me, mostly in the startling combination of romance and sci-fi. Basically, his films are hit and miss. Of course when Avatar released, I wasn't a massive cinephile then; so the only aspect that brought me in was the concept of flying creatures and pretty colors. On that front, I was blown away completely, with the visual/aural components being so fierce and vibrant that I was physically knocked on my ass at multiple occasions. Back then, all I knew was that the film was a massive hit critically, and a humongous hit in regards to audiences. I even remember rooting for the film at that year's Oscars.
All of a sudden though, every thing went quiet. It wasn't being as talked about as it was a year ago, and when I did overhear a conversation about it, it was comprised of these two phrases:
"The film is a complete ripoff of everything ever made."
Here we go.
First, let me address the first complaint. I hate that word "overrated." I JUST HATE IT. Pointless, stupid, and devoid of meaning; the word is only used when someone has a different opinion than the common consensus. Avatar (currently) has an 83% on RottenTomatoes. That doesn't mean that if you didn't like the film, you are able to say that it's "overrated." All it is, is your opinion. The critics, the audiences, the fans, the fanboys; they all have opinions, and the only one that matters is your own.
The second complaint is definitely the more interesting and fascinating one. Every-time I see it, some type of slowly-escalating rage bursts in my mind. Ladies and gentleman, It's all about the execution. No matter the overuse of a particular story or theme, the most important element is how the director, writer, cinematographer, editor, cast, crew, and technical teams come together to form a piece of art. A piece of art that entertains, enthralls, beckons, engrosses, and stimulates the audience; a group of people that go to that special place of the movies to have an experience. Let's face it, NOTHING IS COMPLETELY ORIGINAL ANYMORE. Literature, poetry, music, film, art; all of these forms that express emotions from our collective consciousness at a particular point in our society have similar themes and ideas. Betrayal, discovery, love, family, individuality; all of these themes are prominent in Avatar, and what's wrong with that? These are classic themes, used to enhance a classic story.
Getting to that story, that's exactly what it is; a classic story. Both Pocahontas and Dances with Wolves use a story that is both classical in character and themes, yet what matters is the execution of those respective tales. Avatar never promised a mind-blowing and incredible story-line, instead it promised a breathtaking and awe-inspiring new world.
And holy hell did we get that.
Avatar is unlike anything made before or since when it comes to the crafting of visuals. The world of Pandora is lush, gorgeous, fantastical, and simply sublime. Plants, creatures, lifeforms, civilizations, religions, languages, cultures; the breadth and expansiveness of Pandora is unprecedented in modern cinema.
The direction by James Cameron is absolutely beautiful, taking advantage of every single wide and epic shot, every intimate close-up and every moment of emotional grandeur. The story unfolds at a perfect pace, with the character development being subtle and immaculately timed. The editing is methodical and precise, the soundtrack by James Horner should be placed in the pantheon of the finest and wonderfully composed scores of recent memory, and the production design is powerfully evocative.
The classical story works wonders in the confines of this magical new world, primarily serving the characters as they interact with such a grand and massive environment. Yes, you could say the film is style over substance, but that doesn't mean the film has a core. Personally, the theme of rebirth and new-found discovery was done with so much more subtlety and intimacy than the highly-praised Gravity; a film which will be definitely be gaining some backlash as people recover from the admittedly searing visuals. Yet, where that film feels hallow despite the constant reminder of that particular theme, Avatar underlays that character arc within the tapestry of the story; one that takes the audience on a ride of a new world.
And while the themes of family, discover, individuality, and rebirth are ever-present and perfectly placed during Cameron's epic; the main goal is the showcase of something investing and grounded, all while feeling fantastical and superb in terms of new sights and sounds. The 3D, combined with Cameron's magnificent canvas on display is something of a minor miracle.
Overall, Avatar is my favorite film by James Cameron, and one of my all-time favorite films. Lively, Sparkling, rich, colorful, and operatic; this masterpiece was and always will be a resounding success.