Directed by James Cameron
20th Century Fox, 2009
By Sean Kelly
It’s been twelve years since James Cameron last directed a feature film. I suppose that after Titanic made over a billion dollars and won a ton of Oscars, Cameron was free to do what he wanted and he chose to make a series of underwater documentaries (two of which were made for IMAX 3D). Cameron has finally returned to features with Avatar and the first question one has to ask is, “Was it worth the wait?”
When it comes down to it, I would say the answer is yes — though I wouldn’t rush off and say that it’s the best film Cameron has done. I thought that the film was good enough that I would list it as one of my ten favourite films of the year; however, it would probably be somewhere in the bottom half of the list.
I suppose everyone is familiar with the plot by now. An ex-marine named Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) travels to the planet Pandora to replace his dead brother in the Avatar Program — a scientific study lead by Grace Augustine (Sigourney Weaver), where you take control of a cloned Na’vi (the indigenous race on the planet) in order to gain their trust. Head of security Colonel Miles Quaritch (Stephen Lang) wants Jake to use the Avatar program to gain intel, since the company they work for wants to mine a precious mineral on Na’vi land. Throughout the course of the film, Jake begins to sympathize with the Na’vi way of life and question where his allegiance stands. The impressive thing about Avatar is that the vast majority of the action is computer generated, yet you cannot really tell nor do you really care. The film features some of the most photorealistic CGI characters ever seen on film. This is especially true of the Na’vi — a good thing, since they grab the majority of the screen time.
The film is visually breathtaking and I would advise that you see it in IMAX 3D like I did in order to get the full immersive experience. Avatar is a perfect example of a 3D film that is not at all gimmicky (well, maybe one shot early on in the film, but that’s excusable). The 3D effects come off as an added bonus rather than the way the film must be seen. In other words, they were used to give a sense of depth to the film and helped make the breathtaking visuals even more breathtaking.
In the end, I wouldn’t rush to call Avatar either the best film of the year or the best film of James Cameron’s career. However, it was still a very enjoyable moviegoing experience and it’s definitely a film that’s meant to be seen on a six-storey-tall screen, rather than waiting and watching it on your 50-inch screen.