Visual Masterpiece in not only special effects, but in cinematic history
For those that read my review on "Brothers" saying that was the best film of the year, I think I might have spoken prematurely. As "Avatar" not only met the hype and expectations I had, but it exceeded it ten fold. Ten years in the making, "Avatar" was allegedly responsible for inventing and implementing the use of a new type of CGI technology to allow a great deal of realism to the computer animated characters. Such technology was used to not only to make the CGI more realistic, but to allow strong emotions to be conveyed through computer imagery like never before. Normally, James Cameron has never been known for "Shakespearian type" plots, as all his films tend to appeal to the lowest common denominator. While making up for it with solid character development and tone. However, with "Avatar" that is clearly not the case. As he not only uses strong character development, tone, and CGI; he also produces a strong story arc that will capture the heart of anyone who watches it. Plus, the acting performances were pretty solid as well, to say the least. "Avatar" is truly one of the best sci-fi films I have ever had the pleasure of seeing.
The story takes place within the distant future where humanity has learned to travel beyond the stars to visit other worlds. On an uncharted planet, Pandora, a paraplegic marine, Jake Sully (Sam Worthington), is assigned to a special mission to pose as one of the natives, the Na' vi, using a specially designed avatar that makes him look exactly like one of them. His sole mission is to infiltrate and gain their trust, so he can negotiate them into leaving their home. The purpose of this whole ordeal is attain a rare gem that Na' vi posses that becomes quite valuable, back on Earth. The only problem is that the Na' vi are completely attuned with the planet, as they possess a unique ability to telepathically link with all the creatures and wonders of their world. Needless to say, this doesn't bode well with the Earth's military as they're prepared to have access to those gems, by any means necessary. Torn between his duty towards the Earth forces and to his new Na' vi lover, Neytiri (Zoe Saldana), Jake must choose between them as the fate of the entire planet depend on it.
In all of Cameron's films, they tend to usually appeal to lowest common denominator. However, this film is one his deepest movies that he ever conceived. Featuring a strong use of symbolism in this film, to illustrate mankind's cruelty at times throughout our history. Like the Native Americans, where the British settlers conquered and took what they wanted out of sheer force when things couldn't be achieved through mild negotiations. Same thing with the Spaniards taking the gold from the Mayan temples. Indeed, why should things be any different on another planet? As it's like Jake said so eloquently in the film, humanity has always shown signs of force to attain things that they want. With total disregard for how the less technologically advanced culture feels. Cameron does a great job orchestrating this use of symbolism to carry the story line so well, as it was reminiscent of how Akira Kirasawa uses imagery and symbolism to move a story along emotionally. Not that I'm comparing the two directors, as each have or in the case of Kirasawa, had their techniques and styles in movies. However, it does seem to be a refreshing take on what Cameron normally does in his films.
As this film not only carries the viewer with a strong story line, the tone and character development is top notch as well. Building up each scene so gradually as the audience can't help but engage the movie. Even the love story between Neytiri and Jake felt authentic and pure as it allowed for the audience to slowly get captivated by the plot. Even the actors were great in their perspective roles.
Sam Worthington is constantly proving to be one of the best young actors in Hollywood today. First he stole the show in the "Terminator Salvation" film, but that doesn't really show you how great of an actor he has the potential to be. As I felt, "Avatar" really allowed him to flex his acting muscles freely to show how great of an actor he is. Not only did he lead his film with a strong sense of conviction, but he did it despite some mediocre dialogue, at times by the writers.
As for the special effects, what can I not say about it? Never before since "Jurassic Park" have I ever been awestruck by any film's special effects. Sure, there were films that seemed to raise the bar a bit since then, but nothing too spectacular to make you wonder how they did that. However, this movie did. In fact, there were times when I could barely even tell where the CGI ended and the live action counterparts began. Even the CGI characters were able to display and convey a strong sense of emotion, that has never before been peaked yet on screen until now. As the viewer could plainly see every detail of their faces and beads of sweat coming off their brow. Or how about the pupils in their eyes as that makes the CGI almost too realistic to even fathom.
Sadly, that is not to say that this film doesn't have it's flaws. The film does tend to have a mediocre dialogue at times, that come off rather cliched. Luckily, Sam Worthington and the rest of the cast acting ability was able to cover that up nicely. Plus, the film is rather predictable, as all of Cameron's movies are. However, it doesn't ruin the movie to where it'll by any means suck. No, no, no, as "Avatar" is still one of the best films of year.
Pushing the boundaries of not only special effects, but in terms of storytelling as well. James Cameron's directing career ended with a bang, in "Titanic", so it's only fitting that his return should be no less in this epic adventure. "Avatar" is truly a film like no other. Featuring visuals that will dazzle the imagination and stick with the viewer, after they've been immersed into this world. Sam Worthington was simply brilliant in his starring role, as he's proven he can carry a movie. "Avatar" is definitely one of the best films of 2009.