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Avatar (2009) – Movie Review

This past week after enduring gift return lines and the inherent shenanigans at a well known toy store chain, I had the opportunity to screen James Cameron’s Avatar. Your viewing choices are abundant in the sense that you can see it in standard format, 3D, and 3D Imax. Due to scheduling conflicts, I watched it in 3D instead of 3D Imax. In retrospect, I am guessing I would have enjoyed the more immersive 3D Imax experience. Nonetheless, that’s just a personal preference. But I digress. What’s the verdict on this latest cutting edge Science Fiction spectacle? On to the review.

The Plot

A paraplegic marine gets dispatched to an alien world. He’s part of a unique program making use of human/alien hybrid Avatars to persuade the indigenous population to relocate. He eventually finds himself torn between following orders or protecting the inhabitants of this world.

So How Does it Look?

James Cameron has done it again. His latest film, Avatar, a digital special effects tour de force, pushes the art form to a higher threshold. Visually breathtaking scenery, digitally generated characters embodied with cutting edge realism, and seamless integration between real scenery and computer generated images all combine to tantalize your senses. Presented in standard format, 3D, and 3D Imax, I would suggest cinema goers take advantage of the vastly improved 3D or 3D Imax experience.

But What about the Story?

Nothing groundbreaking in this regard. Herein lies the disappointing aspect of the movie. Thematically, the film has an anti-imperialist, anti-corporate point of view. It echoes previous films such as Kevin Costner’s “Dancing with Wolves” in which a foreigner adapts and accepts the ways of a seemingly primitive indigenous culture and eventually becomes part of that culture including a battle to protect its imminently threatened existence. Even some of the characters are echoed from Cameron’s previous films such as the inhumane corporate representative, Carter Burke (devilishly played by Paul Reiser), from the film “Aliens.” Avatar’s embodiment of corporate greed is a villain named Parker Selfridge (convincingly played by Giovanni Ribisi) whose driven by the need to please his company’s shareholders at all costs.

Overall, the script lacks depth and ingenuity. There are a few clever ideas such as the organically networked entities of Pandora. But as a whole, the script and characters are cookie cutter types. Even Sigourney Weaver, another veteran of Cameron’s films (she played the iconic role of Ripley in Aliens), is unable to elevate her poorly written role as Dr. Grace Augustine, a softer cerebral version of Ripley.

Bathroom Breaks?

There are several opportunities in the 2 hour film to sneak away without missing too much of the story. Your best bet is to head out when Jake Sully is going through his initial warrior training with Neyteri.

Fun for the whole Family?

That depends. If your children are older (at least 9 and up) and have been exposed to mild video game like violence, this film should be fine. I would not recommend this for kids younger than 9 since there are many potentially nightmare inducing images and beasts introduced throughout the film. In addition, the violence, although relatively gore free, is pervasive throughout the movie. Many characters meet their demise within the film.


Visually stunning. Fantastic in 3D. Lot of high tech gadgetry and enthralling gee whiz factor galore.


Mediocre storyline and poorly developed characters. Movie can drag at times.


See it in 3D with your older kids. Worth a visit to the Multiplex.

Watch the Trailer: