Cinemaster Score: 6.7/10
Avatar is one of the most baffling successes in film history. It wasn’t some underdog film that pulled through with surprise successes. But it still made over two billion dollars at the box office – making it the second highest grossing film of all-time (without compensating for inflation). It had been at the top for a decade before reasonably being overtaken by Avengers: Endgame – a masterpiece of a film that was eleven years in the making. In contrast, Avatar isn’t nearly as great. The movie is overrated by most viewers. The acting is barely worth mentioning because it’s so mediocre. Avatar’s story is the kind that is used up and old. Many themes had been recycled from other films – not being given aide from a lackluster script either. Characters – including the main characters – in Avatar feel replaceable due to following common, bland arcs. It is all so mind-blowing that this film not only wasted a great concept, but pulled off such great achievements in doing so. Avatar really isn’t quite good – being closer to purely average. Hey – at least the visuals are amazing, right?
Acting; There isn’t anything particularly good about the performances in Avatar. Sam Worthington is exactly the same as he is in everything else he does and shows little ability to carry a film as the main character. Accompanying him is Sigourney Weaver who – while definitely not putting in her best performance – is still probably the best acted of the film. Zoe Saldana plays Neytiri (the main female character) and puts on a fictional accent that, while not amazing, is still effective in immersing us into this fictional world of Pandora. However, when each of these actors are on screen together they feel disconnected from each other, with their deliveries feeling awkward and disjointed. Because of this, Avatar’s acting feels a little too average for a blockbuster film of this caliber.
Script; When Avatar was released, it was only planned to be one film. That being said, there was plenty of work that needed to be done to build its world and still have time to set up the conflict. Those necessities required solid writing in order to work best. The script is good enough to achieve what’s necessary – but falls short of standing out. A lot of dialogue is used for exposition, explaining science behind the avatars. The conflict built is a tired one and there isn’t much done to boost it into seeming new, or even better. The way things are described by characters shows that their motives are tried yet tired ones. It’s one thing for a movie to reuse basic ideas used before – but it’s completely different when the script doesn’t do anything to help. All-in-all, the writing does just as good as needed and little more.
Characters; Every action film has its own characters that attempt to make it unique. Despite those attempts, many characters feel like they simply fill a role rather than bring their movie to life. Avatar has these kinds of characters. The idea of the titular creatures is a interesting concept. The humans that take na’vi forms as these avatars are just as intriguing – although, they force some noticeable plot holes in the scripted science. Nonetheless, most characters in Avatar mean very little – save for three. The protagonist, Jake Sully, is a conflicted man – choosing between loyalties to his own people or the na’vi. He falls in love with one of the na’vi – making things more complicated for Jake. The antagonist, Colonel Miles Quaritch, is the classic hardened military man following orders for resources. Unfortunately, these characters are mostly static and replaceable.
Direction; James Cameron is responsible for some of the most successful films of all time. From Terminator to Titanic, he has shown the ability to craft a unique world centered around memorable characters, as well as set pieces. But perhaps his crowning achievement, (at least in terms of box office numbers) is Avatar. However, in our opinion this is one of his lesser films – especially in terms of substance. Avatar certainly has the visual style to challenge any film on a technical level. But – in terms of proper filmmaking – it displays a lack of the fundamental elements that make a film feel cohesive. So much time is spent on the visuals that we’re left with cliché one-dimensional characters with unfulfilled arcs. For a film as long as this, it is strange to see such a lack of strong plot development or meaningful narrative choices. James Cameron may be a top-tier director, but Avatar is one of his more average contributions.
Story; Avatar is the type of movie that seems deeper than it actually is. The film’s plot is centered around Jake Sully and his loyalties. Sully finds himself needing to take his deceased brother’s place as an avatar before trying to gain information on the na’vi. The movie takes place in the future with resources depleting. Despite this, Sully and one of the na’vi get caught up in being star-crossed lovers. Sully tries to defend the na’vi while Colonel Quaritch continues his duty to get the resources by force. It’s a good story, but one we’ve seen a thousand times before. This particular display almost seems to be a metaphor for the way Native Americans were once treated. Although – based on the rest of the film’s aspects – that is more likely to be merely coincidental and we are left with this over-told story.
Enjoyment; If you’re the kind of viewer who enjoys visual innovation over a meaningful story, then perhaps Avatar is just the film for you. It provides not only a sense of wonder with its visual ingenuity, but also a wholly original and distinct fictional culture to be absorbed into. The majority of the characters are likable at best, so in a sense they provide some entertainment at least. As for the action scenes, there are some that truly do stand out for their use of modern action filmmaking techniques. However, the majority of them do leave much to be desired. From a technical standpoint, Avatar is a marvel to watch, even if it’s rather shallow in its message.
David: “Personally, I could do without this movie in my life. I’ve seen Avatar in its entirety more times than I’ve needed too. With the combination of the lengthy runtime and the dragging, generic story, I can’t figure out why so many people love it. It’s a perfectly average flick and little more than that. If you find yourself with the opportunity to watch Avatar, remember just because you can doesn’t mean you really should.”
JP: “In my honest opinion, if you strip away all the great visuals from Avatar, you’re left with a shallow film that mashes together too many concepts into one story. It’s entertaining at least and is sure to have a large group of fans, but to me it feels pretty generic and cliche. However I recognize its impact on the movie industry and that alone is perhaps a good enough reason to watch it.”