Review in a paragraph: Avatar is a superhuman mind blowing free-bird creative expression by James Cameron. Do watch it on a big screen, with 3D if possible. It may not be the best movie ever made, but it is the best movie experience I've ever had. Two and half hours of non-stop awe inspiring graphics with every t crossed and every i dotted.
Contents: Storyline(possible spoilers)-Acting-Depth of graphics-Political statement-Reception of the movie-Trivia/Observations
The storyline is a mix of Matrix, Captain Planet and the Last Samurai. People controlling their bodies in another conscience, a sacred tree removed to benefit from the land and a last charge by lesser equipped beings against a superior force - it fits in perfectly. It is not chockablock with cliches to keep the ordinary guy chuckling, like single words dropped in tense situations to induce laughter('Hi... you don't need to stand up' or 'You guys aren't the only ones iwth guns here').
This soldier is sent to replace his brother who was a nerd unlike him, a soldier. He infiltrates the indigenous people because the living soul of the planet accepted him... So in 3 months he does what? Inducted fully, some intelligence regarding the structure of the tree(with all that firepower does it really matter if that tree is hollow or thick or spiral inside?) is got and he still hasn't gotten them to evacuate the area.
The tribe try their best to save the sacred tree from bulldozers(an episode straight out of Captain Planet), are unable and retreat deep into the forest. Our hero tries to convice them to get out, they don't, he is imprisoned, they escape because of one rogue officer and set up a mobile base to help the tribe again.
Everyone is rallied, they attack and take unexpected welcome help from all the animals around. When the scientist said the entire planet was a network of thoughts, I expected the trees and plants to rise up and march like in Two Towers, but instead it was the animals who responded to the call of the mother tree.
Cameron said the faces of the actors were recorded on camera and mapped to the characters in virtual reality - well, we could make out anger, happiness, sadness and a menacing face. Beyond this trying to recreate and observe requires keen attention to the face which needs a second viewing. The human characters were, well, cliched. A man in charge who acts like a dumbo, the military guy stern, yes, in that sense they have performed well. Zoe Saldana is beautiful, but it's sad she isn't in the movie in-person.
Depth of graphics:
The first clips to emerge was the Thanator chase clip. That itself was pure awesome, with bubbles in the water sealing the deal. The different plants in the forest, their colours and response to stimuli are amazing. You can see the face muscles twitching and the muscles rippling when the avatars move their limbs.
The robots react nicely to the recoil of the gun - the more the power, the greater the load time and kickback.
The colours used are so rich they remind one of a rainforest - the birds, flowers, flying creatures, arrow feathers. Ash, embers, jellyfish-insects, leaves and the tentacles of the mother tree appear to be floating when seen in 3D.
Cameron said in an interview he waited for 10 days waiting for the right sunset for the famous arms-stretched-together scene in Titanic, so for him to manipulate everything in graphics is a testament to the advancement in technology and perseverance.
When the characters mention the offense as a 'shock and awe' campaign, call out the hero Jake for 'betraying his race' and are unconcerned for deities and show their ultimate goal is material gain inspite of loss to life, it is both obvious and inevitable that James Cameron is making a statement, maybe even politically. The military chief is bothered with a tactical success, elimination of occupying persons and securing the required area. The guy-in-charge is bothered about the 'cost to lives' and hopes not many are lost because if maybe a bad corporate image. That is a lot of not-so-subtle poke at materialism.
In fact, if those tribes were not on another moon but in a pocket of undisturbed land on earth, it is a story often repeated over and over again, where indigenous people want their lands to remain untouched. Did Cameron knowingly take a risky jab at all these events?
Reception of the movie:
It's been beyond expectations. Persons hellbent on it failing were impressed. Sandy predicted Avatar would out-gross Vettaikaran in Tamil Nadu itself. Keeping anyone still for 150 minutes isn't easy.
-As I said, the movie reminds me of Matrix, Captain Planet, Last Samurai and Two Towers.
-When Michelle Rodriguez doesn't press the button and withdraws saying 'I didn't sign up for this sh_t', obviously there would have been an inventory check of who's empty and who's not, revealing she hadn't fired. That didn't happen.
-Noone seems to bother chasing her when she hijacks the copter.
-I wonder what happened to the scientists who chose to stay back on Pandora - were they absorbed into the tribe too?
-The tribe have rituals akin to almost any Earthly indigenous tribe: treating the Earth and other beings to be sacred, observing a deity, spirituality, afterlife, living off the land.. Cameron's just taken an Earthern tribe and made their home Pandora.
-The concept of 'Bird of Prey doesn't look up' is well thought of and used.
-Wonder why the mobile base was not attacked by animals or the people.
-Floating islands, I remember seeing them years ago when people were setting up snazzy desktop backgrounds. I've searched, this is all I could find, but the description is photoshops of a beach in Thailand with the rocky coves made into floating islands.
-The insect which twirls and spirals when touched immediately reminded me of da Vinci's drawings for a helicopter.
-'Unobtainium' negative 50 points for the writers for such a stupid name.
-Minus 50 again for the most ineffective trailers. The movie is so good, the trailer couldn't keep up.
-Another negative 50 points for using Papyrus font for the movie title.
-Watching blurred background objects in 3D is painful, because you try to sharpen them when they aren't.
-I do not understand, and what is not explained in the movie, is how the human controls the avatar. It is just a mental link, but no explanation beyond that.
-Being brutally honest, the characters are practically naked. Couldn't resist mentioning it.
Pics used via Wikipedia, Official Avatar Flickr page.