Tell us what you thought of ‘Avatar’

Posted by · 11:36 am · December 18th, 2009

(from left0 Zoe Saldana and Sam Worthington in Avatar

It’s heeeeerrreee. Arguably the most anticipated film of the year hit theaters at midnight and by now, it’s probably worth tossing up one of these posts to gauge reaction. I’ve offered my thoughts, but I must say, I’m dying to know what everyone else thinks. Tell us your thoughts in the comments section below once you’ve had a chance to see the flick this weekend.

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81 responses so far

  • 1 12-18-2009 at 5:22 pm

    Chase K. said...

    “-Kris i agree with you that Lang absolutely deserves discussion in the Supporting Actor race.”

    I agree, he was great in “Public Enemies”.

    Look, visually, the movie surpassed my expectations – it’s stunning to look at and immerse yourself into, but it’s also an easy target for its lazy, cliched script and cheeseball moments. Come on, people! “I See You!”

    “Avatar” is a cinema contradiction. It preaches anti-industrialization and pro-ecology yet it’s the most technically bombastic movie ever made, plus it flaunts its cinematic glimpse into the future, yet narratively is stuck in the past.

    How can I be in awe when I feel like I’ve seen this before?

  • 2 12-18-2009 at 6:57 pm

    Rogers said...

    I saw it in IMAX 3D, no doubt it was a special movie… But I think I am slightly the victim of too-high expectations. The predictability was a bit much for me and the action didn’t blow my mind like I thought it would in IMAX. I have a feeling it will be a lot better on a second viewing.

    But something that I think must be said is that this is an origin story, and that only a tiny part of the world and narrative have been revealed. I believe that the eventual sequels will be better than the original. Plus, as good as the CGI is (freakishly good) I still think there is room to improve on the next installment, for sure.

  • 3 12-18-2009 at 8:23 pm

    Michael said...

    loved every moment. game-changing is right. this movie is not for everyone, but for the lucky ones who see it with an open mind and expectations in check then this will be a transcendent movie going experience. Avatar for Best Picture!

  • 4 12-18-2009 at 9:47 pm

    Eunice said...

    I’ll come back with a more detailed comment, but for now, let me say that it blew my mind away. And this only seeing the movie in 2D.

  • 5 12-18-2009 at 10:38 pm

    Rare Addict said...

    Despite being a huge admirer of James Cameron’s work (particularly Aliens and Terminator 2), I was skeptical about Avatar from the beginning. I just had this feeling that Cameron’s statements about how “this movie will change the way we look at films” would lead to a significant backlash, not to mention the basic story sounded very much like that of – and forgive me for using the “popular complaint” – Dances with Wolves. That being said, I just walked out of one of the best moviegoing experiences I’ve ever had in my life.

    If there’s one area in which Cameron has assuredly pushed the envelope, it would be the visuals; an argument could seriously be made that this is – visually – the most beautiful film ever crafted. The sound and effects presented here – especially when experiencing it in IMAX – really draw you into this world of Pandora, and the motion-capture character animation is far beyond that seen in Robert Zemeckis’ recent films. This is, honestly, one of those instances in which the awe-inspiring visuals are essential to the experience.

    Even so, there still has to be a solid story in order for Avatar to be a great movie, and thankfully, Cameron delivers. While the plot of this film does indeed feel like it’s taken a couple dozen pages out of Kevin Costner’s award-winning western, it all fits in perfectly with this ecology – this world – that Cameron’s created. The characters and the performances of them, too, are terrific. Sam Worthington and Zoe Saldana carry this film beautifully as Jake Sully and Neytiri, and the relationship between them, surprisingly, ended up being very touching. There are a couple of scenes in particular, actually, that had me tearing up a bit. As for the other performances, Stephen Lang – while not exactly given the best lines at points – is chilling as Colonel Miles Quaritch, and Sigourney Weaver is endearing as Dr. Grace Augustine.

    Avatar is one hell of a moviegoing experience, with – at the risk of sounding cliché – breathtaking visuals that compliment the engaging (if familiar) story rather than overshadow it, some extremely likable and believable characters, and an intense, forty-minute-long climax that would be a crime to go into detail about here. Avatar is a prime example of why we all go to films in the first place.

  • 6 12-18-2009 at 11:11 pm

    Joel said...

    And that is Rare Addict’s full review of the film. :P

    Seeing it at 6:00 p.m.

  • 7 12-19-2009 at 1:10 am

    Kevin said...

    Having seen James Cameron’s epic film twice now, I think I feel comfortable writing a full review. The first thing I want to get out of the way is that this review is going to have me writing more as a purely ecstatic fan of not only the movie itself, but of cinema as a whole, rather than a completely professional critic. Here goes.

    Once in a while a movie comes along that just blows everything out of the water and pushes the medium of film forward in directions we never thought were possible. Some examples would be Star Wars in 1977, Jurassic Park in 1993, and The Lord of the Rings trilogy form 2001-2003. Now, Avatar gets to join that club. Jame’s Cameron’s epic project, more than a decade in the making, has done what those other films did, changed the medium forever. On a visual and technical level, this film has no equal. It is the most technologically innovative and visually stunning film I have EVER seen. The film has a ton of CGI in it, but it’s so far beyond anything before it that it looks completely real. It’s on a level of photo-realism that surpasses anything that has come before it. And I have to say, the 3D version of the film is the best use of 3D I have ever seen. It’s not gimmicky with wow effects or pop-out moments. It’s there to immerse you in the film more. You really feel like you’re there, looking into the world these characters inhabit. Visual and sound effects achievements aside, this is also one of the most beautiful films I have ever seen. It ranks up there with The Lord of the Rings. And my god, the art direction is simply stunning. Everything is so vibrant and detailed. It feels like James Cameron just happened upon this alien world and got out his camera and started filming. It’s that incredible to look at . Like I said earlier, its the most incredible theatre-going experience I’ve ever had. Not that it’s the greatest movie ever made or the best one I’ve ever seen or even my favorite of all time. But its a movie that NEEDS to be seen on the big screen in 3D.

    Now, the film would be nothing if it didn’t have a great story to hold up these mighty visuals. And the story is great. It has familiar elements with an original twist. I’m not going to reveal anything because that would be a disservice to the beautiful story at work here. It has a few clunky moments of corny dialogue, but what movie doesn’t? But in all honesty, despite a few flaws in the dialogue, it really was magical. Maybe it’s just my disposition to this sort of thing, but I really dug the whole “being one with nature” themes and metaphors going on. In this humble writer’s opinion, I think it was really poignant and a really beautiful and important piece of screenwriting. And one thing that really struck me was just how much I got swept away by the whole thing. Yes, it’s familiar. In fact, the basic kind of story at work here is one that’s been told a bunch of times. “Dances With Wolves”, “The Last Samurai”, “Pocahontas”, etc. But you know what? I didn’t care. I got really swept up in the emotion and the story. It has a heart. That’s a quality rarely found in big epic films like this any more. You’ll never find it in a Michael Bay movie or any other shitty action film out there. Cameron knows how to really mix spectacle with story and heart. And this film has a lot of heart. Most of the times I found myself with my jaw dropping were instances where I was also smiling. It’s a really moving story that just worked on all the right levels to me. The thing that really struck me was the joy in the movie. It’s like one big joyous and magical celebration of cinema. I was transported.

    The acting is across the board great. The main standouts are Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, and Stephen Lang. Worthington and Saldana were really heartfelt and genuine performances as Jake and Neyteri. And Stephen Lang just hit it out of the park as Colonel Quaritch. He’s like the ultimate evil badass. It’s like the Terminator plus Tommy Lee Jones in The Fugitive. Other than the three standouts, everyone was great. No real flashy performances, just very natural and genuine ones. It’s like they had all been living these lives. Michelle Rodriguez pretty much was the definition of cool, which was kind of a natural character for her, as she plays that kind of archetype in a lot of films and shows, like Ana Lucia in LOST. Sigourney Weaver got some of the funniest and most sardonic lines in the movie. She was like Jake’s surrogate mother, which made her a really sardonic, yet warm and endearing character. For me though, Worthington really made the film. He is on his way to being the next big star. He’ll need to work on his accent a bit. His Aussie came through in this and in Terminator Salvation. It didn’t kill anything for me, but it’s something he’s gonna have to work out.

    Other standout elements include the score and the editing. The score by James Horner was really moving and epic, and elevated the story and the emotion and drama of the whole thing. I’ve been listening to the score album all week and it hasn’t gotten old. It’s one of the best scores I’ve heard all year and will likely be recognized as such come Oscar time. The editing is one of the big crowning achievements of the film. To have seamlessly blended together the live-action and CGI elements of the film is something that was crucial to the film’s success. And they pulled it off.

    Like I said earlier, its the most incredible theatre-going experience I’ve ever had. Not that it’s the greatest movie ever made or the best one I’ve ever seen or even my favorite of all time. But its a movie that NEEDS to be seen on the big screen in 3D. I still need to see The Lovely Bones, Up in the Air, Nine, and Invictus, but so far, this is the best film I’ve seen all year, inching out just ahead of The Road due to the epic scope of the film, and that it was just so joyous and magical. I give the film my HIGHEST recommendation. Anyone can enjoy this movie and they likely will. It’s really universal and in my opinion, the best film of 2009. I can’t wait to see it again.

  • 8 12-19-2009 at 1:38 am

    Ross said...

    It’s actually interesting that the film is getting these great reviews and enthusiastic response from viewers in the US and at the same time most of the reviews and the responses in Europe are soooo mixed. Let’s talk about the background….

  • 9 12-19-2009 at 4:23 am

    Danilo S said...

    Here in Montevideo, Uruguay, Avatar opened last night (friday night). The cinema was full (the 3d one, the other cannot say), the wating long, etc. But the movie….. Ahhhh, don´t know what the fuss it´s all about. It´s entirely standard.
    The Pocahontas-Smith story it´s kindda phony, the neon-LED style of the Na´vi´s land it´s the best, the politics are OK (way better than Terminator 2, below Aliens).

  • 10 12-19-2009 at 4:29 am

    Danilo S said...

    And to ALL THE COMMMENTS saying the “redefining filmaking” stuff, well…. Lisa Simpson put it best in an George Lucas moking episode: “Better tecnology doesn´t mean better filmaking”. Shame because you DO have great and innovative filmmakers (cannot name em all), and you seems your are missing ´em….
    But I guess it´s always the same with u americans. U think that way because u are in a tecnological stuffed country. So keep thinking this way…. It only gets better (he-he….. NO!)

  • 11 12-19-2009 at 5:38 am

    Chris said...

    I liked the film, the visuals were stunning, it was really entertaining, but I didn’t love it. Quite frankly I thought the story was a bit plain and I’d seen it before.

  • 12 12-19-2009 at 11:15 am

    Kevin said...

    @Danilo S

    Let’s avoid turning the thread into “You Americans are all the same, you’re so stupid” as that is like an open invitation for internet flame wars to people less civil than I am.

  • 13 12-19-2009 at 3:28 pm

    Speaking English said...

    Magnificently, take-your-breath-away beautiful… a movie so immersive and detailed you feel like the world it creates keeps on living long after you’ve left the theater, into the infinite reaches of space.

    And the story is sold terrifically by the actors and Cameron’s richly elemental direction. We feel the emotion, we cheer for the lives of Neytiri, Jake, and the rest of the Na’vi, and we experience their joys and their pains. It’s a simplistic narrative, but it’s one that’s transformed in fresh, bold colors.

  • 14 12-19-2009 at 4:05 pm

    Shayne Bilbrey said...

    I saw the film yesterday in 3D and I have to say I was blown out of my mind. Im just 18 years old and when I go to the movies Im expected to be wowed and moved at the same time, and Avatar did that for me. When we first saw Pandora I was absolutely amazed i was drawn into this world. For 2 hours and 40 mins i was on another planet full of wonder and beauty it was amazing. The story was wonderful to but I just did not like Sam Worthington as jake sully but I did love Zoe Saldana as Netyri and Stephen Lange was perfect as Quartarich which i think he and Saldana both deserve Oscar Nominations for their performaces. James Horner’s Score was beautiful and epic just like we had with Titanic. James Cameron has done it again with everything story and visuals alike I have seen the Hurt Locker and it was ok but its no Slumdog Millionaire or Dark Knight but Avatar will sweep the technical awards and it is a serious contender for Best Picture. I give Avatar 4.9 out of 5 (Due to Sam Worthington!)

  • 15 12-19-2009 at 6:06 pm

    Kevin said...

    My personal theory is that Avatar will build up a ton of momentum from popular vote and critical support, leading to a three-way split in the big three categories. I’m predicting Avatar to win Best Picture, Bigelow to win Director, and Reitman to win screenplay.

  • 16 12-19-2009 at 6:36 pm

    Frank Lee said...

    I detested the dishonesty of the political allegory. If colonized peoples were so at one with nature, why did they need Western medicine to combat malaria, river blindness, dengue fever, and on and on and on? Anyone who has read “Things Fall Apart” knows that one of the main reasons the colonized cultures were so vulnerable is that their animist and pagan religions looked foolish once the Westerners arrived with rational thought in tow. The colonizers were able to debunk the indiginous beliefs fairly easily (no, one does NOT die if one steps into the forbidden part of the forest), whereas on Pandora the hokey beliefs of the blue humanoids prove to be magically true, which is just silly and condescending to people in the developing world who are still trying to deal with the ill effects of their traditional beliefs. Chinua Achebe chose the title “Things Fall Apart” for a reason. He did not call his novel “Mean White People Destroy Things.”

    I also found the shift in the middle of the movie badly handled. “I didn’t sign on for this,” Michelle Rodriguez says when the mercenaries start demolishing the tree, but of course she DID sign on for that–or at least the possibility of that–as did everyone else. Why exactly does the corporation move in for the kill right then? How did the corporation decide that their other efforts to secure the land had clearly failed at that point so they had to go ahead with the demolition with the blue humanoids still in place? It wouldn’t have taken much to make that plot point clearer and more convincing.

    All that said, I have to admit I thought the directing and even the dialogue were quite good. (People have complained above about the poor dialogue, but most commenters haven’t cited any examples of poor dialogue. ) And the acting is excellent. Zoe Saldana does wonderful things, especially considering the handicaps she is working against. Her sighs and yelps and moans and other utterances were effective — and touching at times. Sam Worthington’s accent does slip, but he is endearing, and, let’s face it, he’s great to look at. Sigourney Weaver was also fun to watch. The actors playing the corporation toadies and gung-ho mercenaries fair less well, but that’s understandable considering that their parts are badly conceived.

  • 17 12-19-2009 at 7:36 pm

    al b. said...

    I feel that the film would be less than half as good in 2D, the 3D is essential to see this film! Absolutely beautiful film, even with the awful dialogue!

  • 18 12-19-2009 at 11:33 pm

    Brady said...

    Here’s what we knew (or should have known) before going into see the movie: the screenplay was going to suck, the visuals were going to be out of this world.

    This was all entirely too true. But I absolutely loved it. I saw it 3D and I want to see it 2D to make fair comments about the visuals, but I was really arrested by the planet Pandora. James Cameron had me hook, line, and sinker.

    The friends that I saw it with all liked it a lot, but had too many problems with the screenplay, which is understandable. Either too long, too cheesy or both. I agree, but I don’t care. I loved this movie.

    About it’s Best Picture chances… definitely a nomination. However, almost as telling as the director race, is the screenplay one. Only once since The Sound Of Music (1968) has a movie won Best Picture and not been nominated for Screenplay (granted there are twice the nominees as director). However, that sole exception was Titanic. I think Avatar has a fighting chance.

    Without having seen The Hurt Locker or Up In The Air… I’m currently behind Avatar.

    SEE IT!

  • 19 12-20-2009 at 12:08 am

    Ziyad Abul Hawa said...

    Best movie of the year

  • 20 12-20-2009 at 12:54 am

    Robert Hamer said...

    I guess I’m unfortunately going to have to join the “haters” and complain about the derivative story and underdeveloped characters were, even though I did enjoy the movie overall due to its visual splendor.

    What really grated on me were how utterly flat every single character was, from Neytiri (who inexplicably goes from hating the “moron” outsider to completely falling for him in the span of less than three months) to Parker Selfridge (whose painfully expository dialogue seemed to only serve as James Cameron’s way of telling the audience, “So, in case you didn’t figure it out, this guy is EVIL.”). Even the incredibly charismatic Stephen Lang can’t do much with his cliché “psycho military commander” stock role.

    I also had a real problem with Norm and Grace and their attitude towards Jake Sully. He may not have the “training” (which apparently isn’t THAT important, considering how quickly the untrained Jake becomes proficient in his avatar), but what kind of insensitive putz would treat a disabled war veteran like that?

    And did anyone else find the preachiness of the film’s environmental message annoying? Once again technology and industry are bad, while nature and “being one with the great spirit of life” are good. Oh, the horrors of civilization, if only we could live like the Native Ameri-sorry, “Na’Vi” and live in trees and say prayers for the animals we kill. All presented using the most cutting-edge technology ever invented, of course.

    However, I definitely loved the visual effects, and found much of the film’s imagery quite stunning to look at, as well as some individual shots that were almost flawlessly rendered (the first shot of Neytiri’s face on the tree branch, for example). I also was quite taken by the final battle, which is one of the best I think I’ve ever seen, especially in this day and age where most action sequences are atrociously edited and choreographed.

    So it’s a mixed bag for me. I admire the scope and visual splendor, as well as the incredible technological dedication James Cameron brought to this project. I was astounded by many of the epic scenes and gorgeous scenery of the film. And, while I would say that it still has a long way to go, this movie is the first that convinced me that 3D may have a future. Avatar is inarguably a landmark in visual effects not unlike The Lord of the Rings trilogy or The Matrix were. I just wish Cameron had used it to tell a better story.

  • 21 12-20-2009 at 11:30 am

    Joel said...

    “Avatar is inarguably a landmark in visual effects not unlike The Lord of the Rings trilogy or The Matrix were. I just wish Cameron had used it to tell a better story.”

    That’s what they said about “Star Wars,” Robert. And look how that turned out.

  • 22 12-20-2009 at 4:23 pm

    JJ said...

    Robert Hamer, I’m not AS down on the movie as a whole as you, but agree with a good many of your points.

    I was impressed by this film a lot more than I actually liked it. Bummer.

  • 23 12-20-2009 at 4:34 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    People act like Cameron doesn’t have a history of thin characters in service of larger ideas……

  • 24 12-20-2009 at 4:49 pm

    JJ said...

    Kris, I know you loved ‘Avatar’, so I will try to be demure with my thought here.

    Cameron, as you said, has a history of thin characters in service of a larger idea.

    Well, that’s why I didn’t love this film. I need more. I think the technical achievements of this film are outstanding. But without the depth and emotional pull, I couldn’t really care about a lot of it AS it was happening.

    ‘Titanic’ had some baaadd dialogue, but I was invested in the characters moreso, and the acting was uniformally stronger.

    I just feel that: as gorgeous as ‘Avatar’ is, it didn’t sell me on most other ‘story’ aspects.

    But I’m glad that you, Anne, and 80% of the critics/public seem to either really like or love it.

  • 25 12-20-2009 at 5:03 pm

    Speaking English said...

    For me, and it’s not meant to be a disservice to the film or the story, the main idea of “Avatar” is to take you to another planet and immerse you in its surroundings. That’s the film’s story, as far as I’m concerned. And I think that’s enough.

    Then again, we differ (JJ) because I actually became VERY invested in the characters. Jake and Neytiri made me tear up a couple of times, and I felt my heart break when a certain character passed. But I guess it doesn’t work for everyone.

  • 26 12-20-2009 at 5:06 pm

    Anna said...

    The thing with Titanic was a) the movie invested a lot of time developing that romance and b) Leo and Kate had off-the-charts chemistry. That to me overcame the bad dialogue.

    Avatar– I feel like romance wasn’t nearly the focus that is was in Titanic. It felt kind of like side plot to be honest. I just didn’t get a real sense of these two characters (cause the movie just montaged the whole falling in love process).

  • 27 12-20-2009 at 5:48 pm

    JJ said...

    Anna, that’s right.

    Speaking English came to be immersed, and was. Speaking English also fell for the characters – which is GREAT.

    I, too, LOVED being immersed in the planet, but all the other subplots (and their lack of sophistication i.e., romance) took away from my overall feel.

  • 28 12-20-2009 at 6:11 pm

    Kevin said...

    Kris is right. It’s about the bigger picture.

  • 29 12-20-2009 at 9:30 pm

    Ripley said...

    I saw Avatar Friday night in 3D (not Imax) and loved it, met all my expectations and exceeded many. I am ready to watch it at least 2 or 3 more times on the big screen again, at least once in Imax. I found the story and emotional content not as well done as the visuals but then NOTHING IMO could match those. It made me laugh, gasp and cry. I’ve been watching Cameron’s films in the theaters since Terminator and this one exceeded every other film he has made including Titantic, for me anyways. Some of you who said it is a grand failure or average, I wonder what film you saw. We all have our personal tastes in movies, mine tend towards epic storytelling and this one delivered.

    One ascpect that stood out to me was I felt I was being transported back in time to the America’s watching the native peoples battling the superior technology of the Europeans, seeing their sacred places and way of life destroyed. Having a little native ancestry it was the closest emotional response I’ve ever had to such a portrayal. I may see it again today with a friend. AND I loved Sigourney!

  • 30 12-24-2009 at 3:37 pm

    KB said...

    Just saw this today. I wasn’t a believer before. I am now. “Avatar” for Best Picture indeed.

  • 31 6-14-2010 at 3:34 pm

    MovieMan said...

    Amazing how overrated this film is. Yeah, the film looks fantastic, but it’s no bigger an achievement than “Jurassic Park” or “Terminator 2: Judgment Day,” both of which are infinitely more marvelous than this film. The story is utterly pointless and not worth the 160-minute running time.

    I know it’s somewhat old news now, but I had to get my thoughts out there.