Thursday, December 31, 2009


Movie Review : Avatar
Released : 2009
Genre : SciFi Adventure
Director : James Cameron
Staring : Sigourney Weaver, Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana
My Rating : 10 out of 10

Many many years ago, while growing up in Mumbai, I watched "Star Wars". It was my first movie in a theater with stereophonic sound. That and the visual aspects simply blew me away. And as the sequels happened, I became a life long fan. I agree with a lot of deficiencies pointed out by critics of Star Wars. But to me, they simply do not matter. Star Wars is a fairy tale for adults and an experience to immerse yourself in.

Avatar generates exactly the same feeling in me. And I know there will be critics. I might agree with the objections they would raise. There is very little character development. The movie has a strong political message, about the history of interactions with Native Americans, as well as the desire to go on a war for "minerals". Cameron is repeating some of the "save the planet" message from his own "Abyss". I might shock a lot of people, but there is a certain lack of originality here. Yes, I mean it. The aliens are very human-like, the animals very much like dinosaurs, and the planet is very much earthlike. The plot elements have been seen in many movies, from Disney's "Pocahontas" to Kevin Costner's "Dances With Wolves". The planet that's alive (kind of) has been used in many SciFi stories. Even certain scenes like jumping in the waterfall have been done numerous times from "Fugitive" to "Anaconda". OK, enough.

So why 10 out of 10 ? Because all the objections listed above don't matter. Of course, more originality would have helped. There is enough imagination to overcome any such defects. But that's not the point either.

This is an experience. I watched it in IMAX 3D. Without 3D or IMAX, the opinion might be drastically different. I don't know. When you are watching the movie as it was intended to be watched, the awe and amazement of the entire package will overwhelm you. The action scenes, the attention to detail, the music and of course the extremely realistic 3D will put you "in there". You will not just be watching it, you will feel it.

The movie is not just action and visual effects. It is strong in the story-telling department. It's easy to root for the natives. We know them more than the human characters. We understand their lifestyles and their desire to protect it. The human characters are extremely single dimensional, but they are mostly villains, so it's OK I guess. It's kind of strange to be happy at the end when aliens win and humans lose.

Will this revolutionize movie making the same way Star Wars did ? I am not competent enough to discuss that. We will know in coming years. I am sure there will be sequels. Good sequels are more of an exception than norm. Unlike Star Wars, this is not a multi-generational saga, at least yet. And Lord Of The Rings is one cohesive story across many books. Here  story has ended, and Cameron will have to invent a continuation, may be another attack by humans. But he has proved that he can do great sequels, "Aliens" and "Terminator : Judgement Day". So I think I should look forward to them.

Please make sure you watch this in IMAX 3D. Movies as game changing as this, do not happen every day. Most kids would enjoy this, but younger ones may get scared once in a while.

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