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For anyone devoid of television, magazines, or the electric Internet, Avatar is James Cameron's latest cinematic undertaking, and like most of his movies, is a fantastic experience, a great spectacle, but falls into a realm of mediocrity in terms of quality. Despite the visceral action and stunning visuals, the movie is hindered by its lackluster writing, predictable plot lines, and the uncanny valley visuals.
The plot itself is very far from original. To summarize it as "Pocahontas with blue people in the future" is cheap and insulting to the writers, but its also a pretty accurate summary of the movie. The plot follows Jake Sully, played by Sam Worthington, a disabled Marine called to Pandora because of his twin brother's research. His brother unfortunately has died, but created a Na'vi, or blue alien, human hybrid that can only be controlled by someone of the same genome. After the initial testing, he finds himself drawn to the native blue people, torn between serving his race and military and saving the blue skinned, nature-loving, clothes scorning race. Support from stars Sigourney Weaver and Michelle Rodriguez make the movie a great spectacle, though it seems the more Michelle Rodriguez acts, she more she is typecast as a "tough-as-nails girl, out to prove herself" as she has played on Lost. The writing itself, despite being a futuristic version of an already inaccurate Disney movie, does a fair job of characterization. The hesitancy of Jake, the gung-ho American, or excuse me, human Marine force, and the noble but cowardly scientists are all subscribers to the cliches of typical movie characters, but they all work well together in Avatar.
The movies visuals are incredibly stunning, as one should hope given the huge budget Avatar was filmed on. The smooth, realistic looking CG of the film was only helped by the surprising quality of the 3D. Rather than take the route well traveled by so many 3D "epics" before it, where characters would lunge out at the screen, seemingly to remind you that "Yes, you did pay extra for a movie to give you the slight illusion of depth", Avatar's 3D is much more subtle. The background takes the stage with the 3D, showcasing the beauty of the world of Pandora, and the amazing new technology by allowing simple background touches like a holographic display of falling seeds to be the main course of the 3D. This decision alone is a huge step in its favor; rather than cheapen the movie with gimmicks and touches solely for the purpose of 3D, it adds to the artistic feel of the movie, making it feel much grander than it probably should, which is a shame because it doesn't address my problem with it: the Na'vi themselves. Now, by comparison to most other CG, the Na'vi are some of the most beautiful CG people I've ever seen crafted. Unfortunately, the Na'vi still reside in the Uncanny Valley. The Uncanny Valley is a concept used to describe CG people and postulates this: "As something becomes more human-like, it becomes less likable, because it seems too creepy, too human without being human enough at the same time, until a point where it becomes human enough by both standards to become likable again." The Na'vi themselves are very realistic, and reside on the very tip of the Uncanny Valley, but they're still trapped inside. The lighting of their skin, their expressions, their general mannerisms are just not human enough to look off-putting to me, which is a shame because I was otherwise really impressed with the movie's visuals.

The movie was very entertaining on its own. Does it deserve its top seat and contender-ship for "highest grossing movie of all time"? No, but neither does Titanic, but its still up there. Avatar was worth the entire 13 dollars spent to see it in theaters and in 3D, and I would highly recommend it to anyone. Bear in mind, however that no movie, no matter good, can live up to the legendary hype that tends to accumulate.




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This article has 5 comments. Post your own!

Allison said...
Oct. 13, 2010 at 2:21 pm:
I really liked this movie. I thought it was one of the best movies that I have seen in a while. I would think i'd be so cool to be able to have an avatar of myself, and be in a whole new world.
 
Nick_Xao This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Oct. 13, 2010 at 4:14 pm :
Thanks for your comment! It was a pretty good effort, and vivid story, hey?
 
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anna_nhi37 said...
Feb. 10, 2010 at 5:58 pm:
I really like the feel of this article; it had, overall, a nice flow of words and sentence structure.
However I feel that you opinion (strongly depicted through your vivid and slightly over-use of adjectives) is somewhat naive considering the comparisons you made towards the actors and actresses. Anyone can rave about a movie's star studded cast or criticize its bad accents, but hardly anyone can appropriately comment on the skill of a director and the sequencing of shots. I feel that... (more »)
 
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ally101 said...
Feb. 3, 2010 at 5:42 pm:
Simply one word: agreed
 
Nick_Xao This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Feb. 4, 2010 at 3:47 pm :
Thanks so much for your comment! Glad you agree.
 
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