JT Film Review

68 – Avatar (2009)


3/5 stars

Director – James Cameron

Cast – Sam Worthington, Zoe Seldana, Sigourney Weaver, Stephen Lang, Giovanni Ribisi


Avatar has finally burst upon us. It is arguably the most hyped movie ever, with James Cameron declaring that it will revolutionize the way we make movies. Possibly. The CGI is wonderful, and some of the things we see are absolutely unprecedented.

The story is about a man who, while inhabiting an alien body via some sort of pseudo-scientific telekinesis, falls in love with an alien (a “Na’vi”) who is native to the planet he has come to destroy by essentially strip mining it. He changes his mind after seeing the beautiful planet and the native’s peaceful ways, and gradually finds himself becoming more and more like the Na’vi. His superiors naturally want him to keep his mind straight, and tell him not to “forget whose team you’re on.” Conflict (both internal and kaboom-style) obviously comes up.

It is such a pity that Cameron the director is so good, while Cameron the writer relies on cliché after cliché to tell a story. One gets the feeling that he thought of the feel of the movie, the environment, the cool sequences he could do etc., and then at the last moment thought “Oh crap, I need a story for this don’t I. Let’s see, Dances with Wolves was good, right? Let’s mix in that with a bit of Romeo and Juliet and we’re good to go.” The story in general had potential, but instead of focusing on the big themes (racial issues of forcing a population off their land because you want it; the whole idea of first contact with an alien race etc.) he focuses on the love story. Now this wouldn’t be so bad if the romance was treated with any degree of maturity and with a recognition of the problems involved. However the romance is played like all the run-down romances of the past. To put it simply, we’ve seen it SO MANY TIMES before. Line for line, plot point by plot point, this movie has hardly an original bone in its gloriously rendered CG body.

This is such a shame, as the world Cameron has created is for the most part wonderful. (I could have done with less “over-the-top beauty” though. For example when Cameron wants to show us the beauty of the place he doesn’t show us a natural looking world but fills it with incandescent purple-ness, as if bludgeoning us over the head “See, it’s PRETTY!” But that’s a fairly minor point.) The battle scenes toward the end of the movie are terrific, probably the best of its type. Some of the shots of all the military vehicles etc. will literally make your jaw drop.

Cameron has always been good at making stuff look good. He’s a very technical director, and unfortunately we see his story suffer from that. He looks at stories very technically. He looks at his blank piece of paper, and says “Forbidden romance, check. Evil corporation, check.” and ticks off all the ingredients he needs. He isn’t interested in telling a story. He needs a story as an excuse to put all his technical wizardry to work. Technical wizardry which is, granted, ground breaking.

One last thing; a major plot point involves a ceremony which the Na’vi believes is religious. The humans find that there is actually a scientific reason for what occurs during the ceremony. However, it is still played as religious to us, the viewer. The choral music sweeps up (James Horner composed the music by the way, up to his usual trick of ripping off everybody including himself as much as possible), the aliens start swaying, and the camera just worships it, while we keep rolling our eyes and wishing Cameron would just get on with it. If it had played as rational and scientific it might (MIGHT) have been less groan-worthy.


A ridiculously contrived and over-used romantic plot line combined with a total lack of subtlety almost ruin Avatar. The CG may be groundbreaking and the battle scenes worthy of fanboy-ish screams, but if we find ourselves groaning and rolling our eyes every other scene it can’t hold up. I recommend you see it if you want to see helicopters and trees blowing up. There’s a lot of that, and it is indeed awesome. But while the movie has a great “roof”, it has no “foundation”, and is as subtle as a brick to the head. To quote a friend “It’s an awesome movie, except for the story.” That pretty much says it all.



“Avatar” on other websites:

IMDB —– Rotten Tomatoes —– Wikipedia



December 23, 2009 - Posted by | 3 Stars, Film Review, Genre - Sci-fi, Year - 2000-2009 | , , , ,


  1. I knew you’d shit all over this lol and that’s why I hate you hahahaha jk

    Yeah there was a lot of cliches and corny dialogue but I really enjoyed the film. Apart from the CGI, I liked the story (I didn’t care for Dances with Wolves honestly) But you should know that a love story ain’t so much of a bad thing. I mean it couldn’t be a first contact film because it’s set at a time where humans had contact with the Na’vi for a couple of years. It’s basically like Cameron said: This is the world I’ve made, now walk through it.

    You gave it 3, I give it 3.5 out of 4

    Comment by Joel D. | December 23, 2009 | Reply

  2. I don’t care if there’s a love story. It’s just when it’s done so badly that I hate it. The love story in this was awful, and as that was what Cameron was using as the base of the story, the movie couldn’t really take off. For me anyways, anyone else is definitely entitled to like it. There was tons of kickass lol.

    For me it remains a 3 out of 5.

    Comment by jamesturpin | December 23, 2009 | Reply

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