Avatar - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Avatar Reviews

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Super Reviewer
December 21, 2009
Visually stunning , amazing on the IMAX 3d screen. As many have said the story isnt anything new but it does not have to be. This was an incredible feast for the eyes. If your going to spend 400 million on a movie this is the way to do it.
Super Reviewer
½ May 13, 2016
i liked the mix of actors and CGI. The story is nothing original - evil human miners killing local peace-loving population to harvest some ore - and the lowly indigenous inhabitants fighting for their planet.
Super Reviewer
½ December 17, 2009
The technical aspects are really impressive, quite exceptional indeed, and the plot may not be too original or clever but is mostly engaging and thought-provoking, with many welcome details about the fascinating world of Pandora and its humanoid race Na'vi.
Super Reviewer
April 3, 2009
many of the things that i loved about this film are the exact things that caused my discontent. to begin with, much of the visuals were obviously astounding. the design of the planet, as well as the design of the plant and animal life and the vehicles used by the humans were incredibly impressive. cameron also used color very well. on the other hand, the computer generated characters were far too cartoonish, and the real life characters and computer generated ones didnt blend together quite as well as i had hoped for considering how advanced this film was supposed to be. i would have much rather preferred costumes and make up than the cartoonish look the film had. while the planet looked impressive, david lean made more visually stunning films using actual landscapes rather than artificial ones. the story also had its up and down points. on the one hand the story was engaging enough that even after 160 minutes i could have kept watching if the film were longer. on the other hand, the dialogue was very weak, most elements of the story were completely recycled and unoriginal, and the main antagonist of the film was as cheesy of a villain as we could have received. he was basically a caricature of the villains of the corn ball action flicks of the 80's. the film also relied too much on the demonization of humanity in order to serve its agenda. cameron left the entire human race completely underdeveloped, allowing no conviction to the masses of people on pandora who were far too willing to slaughter innocent natives, and he unfortunately left us completely in the dark as to what earth or contemporary humanity looked like. finally, the film uses a macguffin in the form of "unobtainian", which is a stupid name for the mineral, that is more of a plot hole than a point of interest. its more entertaining than it is interesting and is not without some pretty massive flaws.
Super Reviewer
½ May 13, 2013
James Cameron develops a visionary tale enthralled by its monumental special effects. Avatar is that first step into groundbreaking futuristic CGi and special effects that takes the world by storm. The film's plot and story is acceptable though could be questioning and subliminal, but once again it's the film's dynamic special effects that shrouds its faults. 4.5/5
Super Reviewer
March 22, 2013
Ambitious and well-produced, Avatar features state-of-the-arts effects, but also features less-than-appealing writing/acting.
Daniel Mumby
Super Reviewer
November 18, 2012
James Cameron was once regarded as the thinking man's action director. Along with Paul Verhoeven, he was the man you could turn to if you wanted to argue that action movies didn't have to be stupid, obnoxious or driven entirely by special effects. Whether it was the time paradoxes of the Terminator series or the gender politics of Aliens, you were pretty certain to both thrilled and in some small way challenged by a James Cameron action movie.

But then, having been so consistent and promising, Cameron went and made Titanic, recouping record box office and 11 Oscars at the cost of whatever discipline or narrative talent he once had. Whatever the film's visual or technical accomplishments, it was ultimately as big a folly as the ship itself, with its impressive surface disguising the fact that its inner workings were far from unsinkable. Now, 12 years on, we have Cameron's Lusitania or second folly, otherwise known as Avatar.

I should begin by stating that I saw Avatar in good old-fashioned 2D. This instantly raises the question of whether my opinion is relevant, since the film was designed, shot and intended to be seen in 3D. Cameron claims that he delayed starting production until 3D cameras and motion capture technology had reached a stage where he felt that they were workable for his vision. Seeing Avatar in anything other than 3D would seem as foolish as wearing 3D glasses to watch a 2D film.

Let me make three points in my defence. Firstly, I didn't get to see Avatar in its original run, or when the Special Edition was released; since I don't have the money for a 3D TV, I had no choice but to view it in 2D. Secondly, if Cameron was so averse to people seeing his film in anything but 3D, he would have had the confidence to release it only on 3D screens; the box office takings would still have been immense, and the hype would have spread every bit as quickly. Thirdly, and most importantly, 3D is like any other visual innovation or device: it is not a guarantee of substance or narrative coherence. Simply putting on 3D glasses won't suddenly turn a complete mess into a masterpiece, just as fixing dodgy CGI in The Phantom Menace wouldn't make Jar Jar Binks any less annoying.

There have been comparisons between Avatar and Star Wars, and to a large extent they are understandable. Both are essentially presenting old stories as something new through impressive visuals - in Cameron's case, stories about westerners encountering the New World, the Pocahontas myth and environmental films. Both represent huge technical leaps compared to what had gone before, and said technical leaps outweigh or overshadow the films' narrative innovations, or lack thereof. And both are creatively memorable while not being well-directed. That said, you would struggle to argue that Cameron is a worse director than Lucas, let alone a worse writer.

The difference between the films is one of intent. Lucas never really knew what he had with Star Wars, with its commercial success being a complete surprise. Even when he came to make The Empire Strikes Back, Lucas was still uncertain over what to do with something that had become a monolith of pop culture. Whatever you think of Star Wars as a piece of narrative, Lucas deserves at least some credit for maintaining a level of innocence in the original films. With Cameron, it is not innocence but ego that we are dealing with. He is on a mission to convert people to 3D, seeing himself as the vanguard of a cinematic revolution that only he can bring about. While Star Wars allowed you to sit back and enjoy yourself, Avatar demands your enjoyment and acceptance of 3D as the way forward. Both films are passion projects, but only one is preaching at us.

A related problem with Avatar is that it is drinking from not one, but two poisoned chalices. In other words, it is attempting to tackle two kinds of stories which American filmmaking has been historically inept at telling: stories about American settlers encountering natives, and stories about Man destroying the environment. Disney's Pocahontas is contrived and misjudged, Dances with Wolves is stony-faced and often dull, and even Terrence Malick came a cropper when he attempted a revisionist Pocahontas tale with The New World. And that's before we get to the long parade of bad environmental films, including Once Upon A Forest, Ferngully and A Troll in Central Park.

In his prime, Cameron may have been able to take these two death traps and turn them into something interesting and inventive. He is, after all, the man who ended The Abyss by recreating E. T. underwater - and it worked. But while the characters in Star Wars started as archetypes and then gradually grew into something more, the characters in Avatar are as rote and derivative as they come. The film is so riddled with clichés that you could spend many hours trying to spot all the films that it is blatantly and pretentiously ripping off.

The set-up is essentially Ferngully in space, in which a group of peaceful protagonists living in harmony with nature are threatened by evil, one-dimensional Man who are only interested in exploiting the land. The military are portrayed as blinkered, trigger-happy and intolerant of intelligent or diplomatic solutions, just like Radcliffe in Pocahontas or the army in Dances with Wolves. The main protagonist changes sides and becomes accepted by the natives, with Sam Worthington having even less charisma and acting ability than Kevin Costner. There are misunderstandings, culture clashes and forbidden love, before a final showdown in which the humans either learn something or are destroyed.

If the film was merely so predictable, this could be tolerated. If the story and characters brought nothing new to the table, we could accept Avatar as a generic but technically accomplished genre piece and move on. But the cliché-ridden story is made worse by how long and baggy the film is, taking more than two-and-a-half hours to tell a story that would barely stretch to an hour. Cameron cut his teeth under exploitation maestro Roger Corman, but ever since Piranha II he has steadily spurned the master's training about efficient storytelling on a low budget. Mark Kermode said of Watchmen that "length is not a measure of depth", and Avatar is every bit as long and shallow as Zack Snyder's folly.

When Lucas made the Star Wars prequels, some believed that they were how the original films would have looked, had Lucas had access to today's technology in the 1970s. The more you think about Avatar, the more it feels like a sequel to or modern reimagining of Aliens. Not only do both films prominently feature Sigourney Weaver as the voice of reason, but the designs of the military vehicles are uncannily similar - as are the characters, right down to the feisty female pilot. The only real difference is that the aliens turn out to be relatively harmless, with the groan-inducing unobtainium standing in for the crew of the base.

Everything I've said so far paints the film as an abject failure, which deserved every bad review and Smurf joke that it got. But there are a couple of saving graces which prevent Avatar from being beyond redemption. Its first and biggest asset is its visuals, which do have genuine wow factor and feature fantastic CGI. It may look like a video game crossed with a Yes album cover, but Cameron does succeed in creating a visual world which is enveloping and relatable, even if its components are not that original.

The second asset is the action set-pieces. Whatever skills he lost making Titanic, Cameron still knows how to do spectacle on a grand scale, and the final battle is every bit as mechanically impressive as the sinking of the ship. While your head demands that you resist caring about a series of empty clichés, the battle is shot and structured in such a way that your heart goes with it, and you emerge with at least a fleeting sense that something was accomplished. Even with all the 3D-friendly shots with characters coming directly towards the camera, these scenes still feel very well-executed.

Avatar is an immensely flawed folly of a film which deserves precious little of its hype. It's not an unmitigated disaster, with distinctive visuals and well-orchestrated battle scenes that are engaging in their own right. But once the visual novelty of Pandorum has worn off, nothing can stop the clichés coming in a wild stampede, until the whole film leaves you feeling chastened and cheated. Cameron may yet make another good film, and it is entirely possible that, like Star Wars, the sequels will be an improvement. But as things stand, the emperor is wearing about as much clothes as the Na'vi.
Super Reviewer
April 24, 2011
An amazing spectacle, but a dull story. Exotic animals and amazing sights can keep one entertained only so long, and this movie heavily leans on that for two hours and thirty minutes.
Super Reviewer
½ December 22, 2009
Yes I've seen the fabled 3D version of this much hyped epic CGI film and my end thoughts are...not bad actually, no where near as great as hyped as I expected but it's good.

Firstly, the plot, it's 'Dances with Wolves', straight n simple (they even had Wes Studi voicing the 'Na'vi' chief!!). Its a complete rip of the film and a few others like 'The Last Samurai', not much difference and quite blatant, it's just set in the future with aliens that's all. Its totally predictable right down to the last minute, its not original in the slightest and its really basic and formulaic, right down to the epic battle at the end which is in the same vein as 'Star Wars' and 'LOTR'.

Imagination and design, This is a mixture really, on one side you have tremendous thought into the 'Na'vi' world, the creatures that roam the planet, plant life, nature and its cycle. Some things look good and some are just a redesign of certain living things in our own time (rhino's) but still look good. The colours and vista's on show are stunning, a real treat for the optics as you enter a neon nature reserve in places with abundant plant life and micro organisms that float through the air, very impressive.

The alien home world of 'Pandora' is probably the most visual epic note in the film. It looks gorgeous and covers the full colour palette with jungles, beaches, coastlines and forests even though it does look just a little like the Wookie planet of 'Kashyyyk.'

'Na' vi': At first I didn't like the look of these guys and during the start of the film I still didn't. As the film progressed and you see more of the tribes and their battle gear, clothing, tribal wear etc..it did become clear that a whole load of thought and research had gone into making these aliens come across as a real culture and race.
Referring to Native American Indians as an influence to the story which is very clear but I also felt an African tribal feel to the 'Na' vi' too. The detail on war paint, jewelery, hair, weapons, tribal markings and the same with the planets creatures in body markings, colour patterns and even sound effects for their growls and roars was highly impressive. Its just a shame the film wasn't quite as grown up or mature like all this wonderful nature research and design.

The military aspect is good but all too familiar for me. There is a clear heavy presence of Cameron's 'Aliens' here with all the ships looking like the drop ship from the 'Sulaco', similar cliched marine characters and he basically put his power loaders back in there or nicked them from 'The Matrix'. I also think we all know that the marines and their tech do have a tendency to remind us of other franchises from both film and videogame backgrounds. Also I think there's a small 'Abyss' presence in the film too with the some parts of the alien natural world colour scheme (neon, translucent) and some creature designs.

3D: OK lets get this right, this film isn't all 3D, it's only 3D in certain scenes with many being regular 2D vision. The film actually looks better in 2D for the most part as the colours are brighter without the 3D specs. The 3D was a let down for me, big time, its not really 3D if you ask me anyway.

There are very few moments where you feel your being 'poked in the face', whether they aimed for that I'm not sure. Its merely people in the foreground looking sharper than the background (very good/sharp Bluray basically). The background actually being slightly blurred which was poor. Another thing was when the action did unfold in 3D it was quite hard to follow as again it blurred a bit and just came across too strongly. I couldn't quite focus on the frenzied action as it was errrr...a frenzy!, fast hectic action and blurred in the background, a very odd sensation.

CGI: Finally we come to this, I gotta admit it was good, in places it was damn good. The facial expressions on some main 'Na'vi' characters was excellent and the scenery of the planet was fantastic but I wouldn't say it's as good as it has been trumpeted. The dialog scenes and close ups are very good but the battle sequences do lose it somewhat, they are more obvious if you ask me. The whole film did still seem more like a videogame than a proper film, albeit a very good in game sequence.

There were also some odd points, when 'Jake' left his avatar on regular occasions what happened to it? was his avatar always sleeping when he left? and when he did come back to his avatar it always seemed fine, even when they were all bombed to pieces in the big tree sequence. You would of thought his lifeless avatar would of been burnt up.

How come the 'Na' vi' still believe in him and follow him into battle when they know he's human and a fake?.
Did all the big tree's have that metal beneath them or just the 'Na 'vi'? if so the humans could of gone and dug elsewhere.

Overall I did like the film, mainly the detail on the 'Na 'vi' and their way of life but was disappointed with the stolen/basic story line and the way it panned out. It was all played out or set up like one of the new 'Star Wars' films, plodding along up until the final big showdown battle sequence. Acting in general was fine but nothing special, no stand out performances if you ask me.

A cult in years to come I'm sure, over hyped? probably yes. The 3D aspect sold more tickets I'll bet but really was there any need for the 3D?.
You could almost say this was 'The Matrix' of the 00's, the next gen sci-fi film to rock the foundations of the film and sci-fi world, just like 'Star Wars' did back in 77.

Well it could of been but for me it isn't, its a darn good sci-fi film and worthy or much praise but yes its over hyped badly. Great effects in places but nasty obvious CGI in others whilst the plot is the true let down. Very close to being a monster epic but for me it doesn't quite reach that pinnacle.
Samuel Riley
Super Reviewer
August 11, 2012
James Cameron, director of 'The Terminator' and 'Aliens' returns into Science-Fiction with 'Avatar'. The visuals are so outstanding, they are like a banquet for the eyes. Featuring so much imagination, it feels so original. However, with the story, it ruins this idea. The script is like a Sci-Fi remake of the Vietnam War. With Sam Worthington as a mediocre leading actor, the acting really comes from Sigourney Weaver and Stephen Lang. Aside from these issues, the visuals alone can make you easily forget them.
Super Reviewer
July 14, 2008
great movie
Super Reviewer
November 22, 2009
A wheelchair bound ex-marine is called in to manipulate a genetically engineered version of a member of the indigenous population of a forest planet in an attempt to remove them from their homeland so it can be strip-mined for a rare mineral. James Cameron's return behind the camera is well known for its ground breaking 3D effects, but it was more his track record of producing the interesting stories that gave the original concepts of Alien and The Terminator a different twist which attracted me to this movie. In this case however, all he has presented us with is another Hollywood guilt trip about the murder of the previous occupants of the US in the middle of a huge CGI circle jerk. Much of this film is visually impressive but still unconvincing as a real world, feeling more like an elaborate Xbox 360 cut scene. About blue hippies. The script is as schizophrenic as the visuals, seemingly unable to decide whether it is a live action story or a cartoon and the result is like Dances With Wolves set in a Jurassic Park full of Wejustmadetheseupasauruses. The meandering "learning to love the noble savages" of the first hour and a half is a classic example of a Disney/Pixar script, with every character a caricature and the plot grindingly predictable. I would also have to say the ham fisted eco-message seemed to whiff faintly of bovine excrement when you consider that every blade of grass of this glorious "mother nature" was in fact the regurgitation of a machine. If Cameron had explored the analogy with American foreign policy within the Gulf states it could've been a very interesting film, but one throwaway line to that effect isn't enough. The final half hour once again proves Cameron's pedigree as an exceptional director of spectacular action set pieces but the two solid hours of Ferngully: The Next Generation that precedes it is a rather high price to pay.
Super Reviewer
December 21, 2009
Ugh. So let me get this straight? A bunch of macho white dudes want to take over the land occupied by indigenous people and the indigenous people fight and defeat the macho white dudes but only when one of the macho white dudes takes a stand against his people because he has seen the righteous path after falling in love with one of the indigenous girls. Sounds familiar and lame. The 3d is pretty cool but the story is infuriating.
Super Reviewer
½ July 29, 2007
What a great time to be alive! A time when James Cameron is back on top of his game, and when the magic of special effects and CGI have become as breath-takingly flawless as it is. And breath-taking is truly the word here. Because not only is Avatar a fantastic sci-fi film, but it's taken movies in general to a whole new dimension, far beyond everything we've previously seen. The CGI looks so real that you can almost touch it (especially in 3D), and it's hard to believe that Pandora and its inhabitants were all made in a bunch of computers. That's just how amazing this movie looks.

My only complaint concerns the story and some of the dialogue, as its highly predictable and quite thin. Most of the plot events feel very familiar, and is unfortunately rife with clichés and stereotypes. It's a pity, because it dragged down the overall experience a bit. Even so, it's still an amazing movie that made my jaw drop more than a few times. And to give you an idea of just how awesome it really is, I've here gathered some of the titles it deserves to be awarded with:

* Best movie of 2009

* Best CGI effects of all-time

* One of my top 30 favourite movies

* Most realistic animation ever created

* One of the top 10 films of the decade

* One of the greatest sci-fi movies ever made

The bottomline is: this is no ordinary cinematic experience. It's a mindblowing and emotional thrill ride, that'll take you to a place beyond your wildest dreams. A visual masterpiece, that truly leaves you lost for words.
Super Reviewer
February 28, 2012
I'm confused about why this movie did so well. Yeah, I'll admit I liked the music, cinematography and visuals, but that's it. The plot was ridden with cliches and it seemed to be a rehashing. It seemed to be "Dances With Wolves" in space. Dances With Wolves is one of my all time favorite movies and I was shocked at how this movie got away with completely ripping it off. I can't help but feel that people only like this movie for the special effects. (of course) I am 100% positive that if Avatar didn't have all these fancy visuals, it would be panned by critics for being a rip-off. But oh well, I just have to accept that James Cameron is losing his edge.
Super Reviewer
December 16, 2009
While I don't think this was the best film of 2009, I do think it is still one hell of a great movie. None of the enormous budget this movie had went to waste, and that's a great message to all film makers and industry people: look at what Cameron did, and follow his example. Like many, I had been waiting for this one for 12 years. It's good to have Cameron back. We need more visionaries like him. Is this movie perfect? No, but what movie ever truly is. The plot and story, are good, despite not being unique. I don't probably need to talk about the visuals-everyone else has already said enough, and did it better than me. They are impressive, and I agree with those who said it before me. What I really liked was the whole world of the movie. It reminded me of Star Wars. I wanna know more about the other tribes, all those cool creatures, and things like that. In conclusion: this is artful and masterful filmmaking at its finest. Cameron takes elements that are not original, but makes them fresh and fun and exciting, and the cherry on top is great loooking 3-D which, instead of being gimmicky, is used properly as a tool to immerse the viewer into the film. Well done everyone.
Directors Cat
Super Reviewer
November 1, 2011
Avatar is an extremely unique film that's on a larger level on a technical scale then possibly any film ever made. It's plot isn't as amazing but there's no way you cannot be absolutely gobsmacked at how much it challenges the mortal imagination.
Super Reviewer
October 16, 2011
Hi this is Bob Foster here with the department of cultural guilt reminding you of all the horrible things you did to the native americans.
Super Reviewer
October 27, 2011
A truly fascinating film, completely bewilders you as a instant revolutionary piece of work all through the use of 3D, you are immersed, slowly but surely, into both intense action scenes and luscious, beautiful scenery of Pandora and could only come from a magical, inventive mind like James Cameron, you uses his experience in the Sci-Fi field efficiently, and with the intention to impress, the CGI was used to perfection, it was a perfect casting choice, and all for the perfect Sci-Fi adventure film.
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