After months, if not years, of hype, James Cameron’s Avatar is finally unveiled as a visually stunning yet deeply flawed sci-fi epic.
Hailed by industry insiders as a ‘game-changer’ that will revolutionise the way we see cinema, it’s a film that’s high on technical flair but short on storytelling ambition. For a filmmaker of Cameron’s proven ability, that’s all the more disappointing.
Set in 2154, the film focuses on a paraplegic marine named Jake Sully (Sam Worthington), who arrives on the distant moon of Pandora with a mission to help displace its indigenous population, the Na’vi, so that humans can mine a precious material needed to ensure the Earth’s survival.
In order to do so, Jake must assume 12ft blue Na’vi form using advanced avatar technology. But, after winning their trust and being embraced as one of their own, Jake finds his allegiances gradually shifting, to the point at which he is compelled to lead the Na’vi against the military might of his former bosses in order to defend their world and ideals.
For Cameron, Avatar marks the realisation of a long-held labour of love that has been decades in gestation. It’s a film that marries his passion for pushing technology with the global concerns – both environmental and political – that have come to resonate with him. Sadly, it feels too derivative of other better movies (Dances With Wolves, Apocalypto) and is also lacking on an emotional level, with many of the lead actors restrained by the effects surrounding their appearance or the clumsy dialogue that reduces them to one dimensional ‘good’ or ‘bad’ characters.
That said, Cameron does succeed in creating a universe you can believe and immerse yourself in that is both beautiful and dangerous. The look of Pandora frequently dazzles and the 3D version does enhance the overall effect.
Ultimately, though, Avatar pales in comparison to the pioneering work that Cameron achieved in the first two Terminator films, Aliens and 11-time Oscar winner Titanic, which all felt like more complete visions.
Avatar is on general release from Thurs 17 December.