Danny Westhorpe, 23, Newcastle Upon Tyne.

• Film Reviews » Avatar

"Everything is backwards now, like out there is the the real world and this is the dream."

When a film is the highest grossing in cinema history, surpasses the previous record holder once held by the same director and becomes the first movie to ever gross $2billion at the box-office, you know it’s going to be something a little bit special. In that respect, Avatar ticks all the boxes. James Cameron has created a stunningly beautiful and deeply moving piece of art that’s unlike every other film you’ve ever loved and loathed. Rarely do films with such a huge amount of hype live up to the colossal expectations that come stapled to them. Avatar not only lives up to them, but surpasses them with each repeat viewing. And trust me, there’ll be at least a couple of repeat viewings so you can truly witness and appreciate the splendour that is the world of Pandora.

The previously mentioned Pandora is where the bulk of the film takes place. Set in the mid-22nd century, humans are trekking to the habitable moon in search of a precious mineral known as Unobtanium (cheesy, I know). However, their search for the mineral is disrupting the local community, a blue skinned tribe known as the Na’vi. To explore the moon, humans use “Avatars”, which allow them to temporarily take the form of said Na’vi. While it sounds pretty complicated the film does a great job of normalizing the scientific lingo to make it fairly understandable for the average viewer and it doesn’t take too long before you become familiar with the tricky process.

Sam Worthington is fantastic in his first real major film role, both with and without the CGI effects.
The facial expressions showcased by the Na'vi are nothing short of spectacular and a real credit to the creators.

Sam Worthington stars as Jake Sully, a paraplegic former marine who reluctantly takes the place of his twin brother in the Avatar program. Sigourney Weaver plays Dr. Grace Augustine, the brains behind the technology and Stephen Lang takes on the role of Colonel Miles Quaritch, head of the programmes security. The trio almost entirely make up the human faces, with the remaining cast taking on the roles of the Na’vi. Zoe Saldana stars as Neytiri, the humble daughter of clan leader Eytukan (Wes Studi) and his wife Mo’at (C.C.H. Pounder). What follows is an enticing tale that see’s Sully transformation from human to Na’vi, both literally and figuratively. In true Romeo and Juliet style, Sully and Neytiri fall in love, and Jake begins to question the human disruption of the Na’vi world, and where he really belongs.

Sam Worthington is impressive throughout the film in both his human and Na'vi form. Casting a relatively unknown actor for such a huge role was a shrewd move by Cameron and it really pays off. To start Worthington has the look of a normal guy, someone likeable and ordinary in a lot of ways. As the film draws on his transformation into the saviour of an entire race is completely justified and unlike a lot of “zero to hero” films, doesn't feel at all forced.

Zoe Saldana and the rest of the Na'vi all put in a good showing, but it's the humans that surprisingly deserve the main praise. As well as Worthington, Lang and Weaver are both fantastic. The polar opposites have extremely realistic tension with each other, with Weaver gaining respect, understanding and sympathy from the audience and Lang drawing hatred and spite, as well as a different kind of respect. All in all, while the focus is usually on the blue guys, the humans deserve mass amounts of praise as well.

While the plot is intriguing and the actors do justice to the script, it’s the special effects that most people believe put Avatar in a league of its own. Even the lone few who dislike the film have trouble finding anything negative to say about the way it looks. Visually stunning and hugely realistic, Cameron delayed the project by over a decade to give technology a chance to catch up with his vision. It was definitely worth the wait. One glance at a still from the movie is enough to demonstrate what you can expect and if anything they don't do it the justice it deserves. The film needs watching to be able to truly understand and explain it's magnitude. There are a handful of great scenes, but in truth the special effects have set the bar so high that every scene is as majestic to witness as the last, and it's therefore difficult to pick a true winning moment.

Like the characters and backgrounds, Avatar sounds as gorgeous as it looks. James Horner's score reflects the Na'vi world perfectly, with each piece of music not only sounding delicate, but feeling it as well. In the Na'vi world, everything moves and breathes, something the music really tries hard to do too. The level of detail in both is outstanding and the eyes and ears are kept stimulated at all times. Leona Lewis performs the films theme, a soft, evocative ballad titled “I See You”. The phrase is used often in the film as a greeting, and actually meaning, I see into you, I see the real you. The lyrics really strive to give off that message, with lines like “My senses touch a world I never pictured” and “now i live through you and you through me” accurately capturing the Na'vi's underlying love of nature and life.

Not only do the creatures look amazing, but the landscapes are stunningly beautiful as well.
"Outcast. Betrayer. Alien. I was in the place the eye does not see. I needed their help. And they needed mine."

One of the only complaints I have with Avatar is the one dimensional and underused Na'vi extras. Other than Zoe Saldana, C.C.H. Pounder, Wes Studi and Laz Alonso we learn next to nothing about any of the other characters. They stand in the background (admittedly looking beautiful) or take part in the fighting and that's it. Don't get me wrong, I don't want entire sub-plots based on their lives, but a little more interaction from them would have been nice. Does Saldana's character not have any friends we could have been introduced to? Considering the film practically revolves around these people, it would have been nice if they'd been put to a little more use rather than serving as background characters or fodder to be shot at.

Avatar is one of the most visually beautiful movies ever to grace the big screen. The revolutionary CGI and special effects are state of the art and help bring the world of Pandora and its inhabitants to life. The effects are immersive, the story is entertaining and the experience as a whole can't be missed. A movie as popular as this was always going to have a few critics, who dislike the film simply to be controversial. The majority though will rightfully ignore them, and instead be truly drawn into one of the most unique worlds ever created, loving the journey within. 162 minutes might seem like a long film by today's standards, but the sheer beauty on screen makes it fly by, and if anything leaves you wanting more. Roll on 2014 when we can head back to Pandora in Avatar 2.

Copyright © Danny Westhorpe, 2015. All rights reserved.
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