TL;DR –. A tour de force in worldbuilding that still hits those emotional moments even after all this time.
Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene
Disclosure – I paid to watch this film.
Avatar Review –
When Avatar first came out, I, like nearly everyone else I knew, went and saw it, and it might have been the only film ever truly worth paying extra for those 3D glasses. But as the sequel approached, I realised I had not watched the movie since I watched the extended edition when it came out on DVD. I knew I had to catch up again, and there was no better time than when it was back on the big screen.
So to set the scene, it is 2154, and while the Earth is a hollow mess, humans have found a new world to wreck in the Alpha Centauri system on a moon called Pandora that orbits the gas-giant Polyphemus. Even though Pandor looks like a lush paradise, the high carbon dioxide content means you will be unconscious in 20 seconds without a mask. Jake Scully (Sam Worthington), the former marine that lost the use of his legs, has just made the 6-year trip to the planet in cryo-sleep, but he was not meant to be there. His twin brother, a scientist, was killed, but because they shared exact dnd, Jake could sub in for him on the planet as part of its avatar program with the local population, the Na’vi. All Jake has to do is convince them to move from their sacred home because underneath it is the biggest supply of Unobtanium on the planet, and the RDA needs to make their money.
This film has a lot to unpack, but I want to start this by championing worldbuilding. I know people have often complained that Avatar uses a very familiar narrative framework. However, even putting aside how reductive that line of enquiry is, a narrative framework can only point you in a direction. You still need to fill out the world, and in this, Avatar excels. Every detail in the film feels bespoke, the vegetation, the setting, the costumes, and the planet. Another of Weta’s masterworks of design after Lord of the Rings.
One area where you see this in full force is all the plants that permeate the jungle setting that drive the line of being both familiar and yet completely alien. From the massive Hometree to the tiny mosses and the ground floor. But it is not just that they have some lovely trees. In Avatar, worldbuilding and animation combine because every part of the forest reacts to the presence of people walking through. The slight bioluminescence with every step, the little withdrawing at the slightest touch. It creates a world that feels lived in, breaking down that suspension of belief. Almost like you are watching a documentary, not CGI.
Not only is all this important for the visuals, and to be clear, with the recent remaster, it looks just as good today as anything else being made today. But it works with the actor’s performances to make all the emotional moments land. I knew the death of the Hometree was coming, but even then, it still hit me in the heart. Zoë Saldaña holds nothing back, her emotions are raw and painful. CCH Pounder always delivers no matter the role, and Laz Alonso brings nuance to a role that rarely has it. Also, while I know he gets a lot of derision, Sam Worthington fits perfectly in this role.
In the end, do we recommend Avatar? Yes, yes, we do. I honestly feel that it still completely holds up. It might still use a familiar narrative structure, but it uses that narrative framework to build an entire world. If you liked Avatar, we would also recommend to you Dune.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of Avatar
Directed by – James Cameron
Written by – James Cameron
Music by – James Horner
Cinematography by – Mauro Fiore
Edited by – Stephen Rivkin, John Refoua & James Cameron
Production/Distribution Companies – Lightstorm Entertainment, Dune Entertainment, Ingenious Film Partners & 20th Century Fox
Starring – Sam Worthington, Zoë Saldaña, Sigourney Weaver, Michelle Rodriguez, Stephen Lang, Giovanni Ribisi, Joel David Moore, CCH Pounder, Wes Studi, Laz Alonso, Dileep Rao, Matt Gerald, Sean Anthony Moran & Scott Lawrence
Rating – Australia: M; Canada: PG; Germany: 12; New Zealand: M; United Kingdom: 12A; United States: PG-13