A disabled ex-marine, Jake Sully (Sam Worthington), is asked to take the place of his deceased twin brother in a mining expedition on the distant moon of Pandora in an effort to infiltrate and gain the trust of the indigenous race, the Na’vi. Jake spends more and more time in his hybrid alien body, called an avatar, and soon finds himself battling against humankind when he falls in love with the ways of the Na’vi and a native girl, Neytiri (Zoe Saldana).
We’ve had to wait a while for a new James Cameron film that didn’t involve the sea. Titanic was 12 years ago and was a massive pile of floating shit...at least until it hit that ice-berg anyway...then it sank! Pretty much 15 years in the making, Jim intended to make Avatar right after his aquatic disaster but post-production costs were so high that no studio would finance it. It wasn’t until Cameron saw Gollum in the Lord Of The Rings Trilogy that he felt the time, and the level of special effects, was right to once again attempt his “masterpiece”.
Avatar … set to be one of the biggest movies of all time
And fuck me, does Cameron deliver! The level of artistry on display is far in advance of anything anyone has ever seen, or done, before. The screen is filled with a depth and colour that sets a new benchmark in blockbuster film-making. The photo-realistic CGI, coupled with advances in motion-capture produce a hyper-reality that is unrivalled. James Cameron’s Pandora is as convincing and as fully realised as anything in the real world. Avatar is a masterpiece of technical film-making.
Getting touchy-feely with aliens … Avatar
Story-wise, Avatar is very much on familiar ground with a familiar political message. Its anti-war parallels with the Iraq and Vietnam wars are there for all to see, complete with well-known Bushisms, “fight terror with terror”, “pre-emptive strike” and “shock and awe”. The idea of betraying one’s own race is an interesting one but is never really explored. Jake Sully never really struggles with the choice that he makes and I just felt that that could’ve been explored a little further. Avatar’s ecological morality lessons are obvious, very similar to those in Princess Mononoke but definitely no less significant. There is a danger that some will dismiss this important message as hippy tree-hugging nonsense but there is no doubt that Cameron believes the Na’vi to be the more “human-like” race. The actual humans are the monsters here – calculating, violent and money hungry. The Na’vi are more in-touch with each other and nature and are, therefore, freer for it. Zoe Saldana’s stand-out performance as Neytiri is not just as the love-interest but helps to make the Na’vi feel truly alive. Also helps that she's fucking hot too....especially in blue!
Getting bluesy … Avatar
So, while Avatar is undoubtedly flawed, none of that fucking matters. Ultimately good, what makes Avatarbrilliant is undoubtedly seeing it in 3D. I hate giving films star ratings but it best illustrates my point – in 2D this is a 4-star film, at best, in 3D it’s a full-blown 5-star extravaganza, a feast for the eyes. With very little introduction you are expected to believe everything in front of your eyes and you do totally (the unrivalled special effects help in that regard). The action is tight, fast and extremely well directed. The performances are solid throughout: Sam Worthington’s monotone delivery suits the character, Sigourney Weaver provides what little comic relief there is, while badass Stephen Lang as Col. Miles Quaritch, the films main antagonist, is fucking brilliant.
A scene from James Cameron's new film, Avatar.
In many respects, this film is not too dissimilar to Return Of The Jedi: the Na’vi are the Ewoks but not annoying, the humans are the Empire but without the awesome white helmets and Avatar is the first installment in James Cameron’s Star Wars. And like Star Wars, I fucking loved it (despite its flaws) and am happy to have had my scepticism proved wrong. Sexy native girls, blue boobs and I'm going to see it again out of five.
Fancy this up close and personal? … A scene from Avatar
Blowing shit up … Avatar
There's also a bit where they take the CGI that you've seen, and show you the stuff that demonstrates not only how it can be used without the live-action human interaction - but allows you to imagine how incredible it will probably look in 3D.
"Wow!" You're supposed to think, "Those gigantic moss-covered floating pulled teeth are just going to look completely realistic on a 30ft screen!"
A question of perspective ... Avatar. Photograph: 20th Century Fox
Great 3D promise though. It's really going to be rounded. And pointy. And real life-ish. But if I liked looking at things manufactured to look like they had several dimensions, I could have just stayed home and stared at an armchair.
Like staring into a Da Vinci painting ... Fans preview the film Avatar at Comic-Con 2009 in California. Photograph: John Shearer/Getty