movie film review | chris tookey


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  Avatar Review
Tookey's Rating
6 /10
Average Rating
7.54 /10
Sam Worthington, Sigourney Weaver, Stephen Lang
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Directed by: James Cameron
Written by: James Cameron

Released: 2009
Origin: US
Length: 161

Big, bold and banal.
Reviewed by Chris Tookey

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Twelve years after James Cameronís last movie, a little thing called Titanic, the most notorious cinematic megalomaniac since Cecil B. DeMille brings us the greatest show off earth. Avatar is big, brash, ecologically correct action sci-fi.

The human hero is Jake Sully (Aussie actor Sam Worthington), a paraplegic ex-marine co-opted by a mining corporation to help them conquer the planet of Pandora, where blue-skinned tree-huggers called the Naívi are sitting on top of the universeís most valuable material, called not oil but Ė I kid you not Ė Unobtanium.

Yes, this is a metaphor for Bushís war in Iraq, with Muslim extremists transformed into peaceful environmentalists, and the invading Americans caricatured as bullying technocrats. Itís a reminder that, however much James Cameron may resemble an American, heís actually Canadian.

Anyone whoís seen a frontier western wonít be surprised when our hunky hero falls in love with the most gorgeous of the Naívi blueskins Ė played by Zoe Saldana - and goes native, or rather naítive.
Basically, itís Dances With Smurfs.

The subtext is hilariously hypocritical. This attack on corporate greed and aggression has been manufactured by the well-known leftists and incorrigible sentimentalists at Rupert Murdochís 20th Century Fox.

Amusingly, it was shown only to hand-picked journalists, unreliable ones such as myself being barred from early screenings. Even the favoured few were bullied into signing gagging contracts, which only critics employed by the Murdoch empire were allowed to ignore. Not entirely astonishingly, the reactions of Mr Murdochís none-too-critical employees were unanimously euphoric.

A further, entertaining paradox is that this example of cinema at its most corporate pretends to have such a hippie-dippy view of the environment that it even wants us to be teary about an ecology that doesnít exist.

The love story takes recycling to extremes, since itís virtually identical to Disneyís Pocahontas.

Cameron affects a fashionably anti-war, anti-military stance but Ė as befits the man who made Aliens Ė he knows American audiences well enough to provide a 20-minute pro-war finale that takes just as much delight in mass destruction as any Michael Bay or Jerry Bruckheimer movie. Itís Battlefield Smurf.

Is Avatar worth seeing? Yes, on a big screen in 3D, because it really is spectacular.

The Naívi are more expressive than any previous examples of motion-capture technology, except Gollum in The Lord of The Rings.

The planet Pandora is worth a visit in the cinema, with its day-glo colours and gigantic monsters. You can tell that Cameron has a passion for deep-sea diving; the world he creates has the appeal of an underwater kingdom.

He packs the frame with so many colourful creatures and eye-popping colours that thereís always something interesting, if lurid, to gaze upon. I just wish that more of it didnít look like the Blue Man Group capering about.

The big screen provides enough eye candy and a sufficiently thrilling action climax for most viewers to overlook the banality of the script and its predictable, formulaic structure.

Avatarís attempts at soulfulness and profundity are about as convincing as its attack on corporate capitalism. But would you really expect deep thinking in a James Cameron movie?

As a world-creator, heís not in the same class as a Tolkien, or even a C.S.Lewis. Avatar has the sensibility of an ex-trucker, rather than an academic steeped in myth, legend and ancient languages.Thatís not necessarily a bad thing, especially commercially, but thereís a feeling of a limited imagination laying down the law rather than of a Peter Jackson allowing the talents of his collaborators to run riot.

So Lord of the Rings, it ainít; but itís still a lot of fun.

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