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Postby OscarGuy » Fri Dec 11, 2009 11:41 am

The one thing I'll say from reading the Poland review is, "Ha!" and I'll direct it at LucasFilms LTD and ILM. For years, ILM was considered the shit in animation, yet more and more of their recent films have fallen flat with me and almost literally. ILM's output of visual effects has not only been boring, but it's been anti-revolutionary. Yet with LOTR and now Avatar, WETA is proving themselves to be the master visual effects house. They actually seem interested in pushing the boundaries. Of course, that's how ILM was before Lucas got a big head...or did he always have that and it only later get in the way of his company's ability to produce truly impressive effects.
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Postby Zahveed » Fri Dec 11, 2009 11:13 am

Big Magilla wrote:In classic Cameron fashion, it is a pastiche of lots of great genre history, becoming something that is other than any one part of the past. Avatar is part Lord of The Rings, part West Side Story, part Matrix, part The New World, part Ferngully, part Transformers, part 300, part Aliens, part Star Wars, part Jurassic Park, and on and on. But the thing is, he took most of what he stole - in the best sense of the word - to the next level.

As with Titanic, there is an energy rollercoaster in this 2 hour, 43 minute movie. But Cameron is who he is because he is the ultimate master of the third act. Whatever you have experienced up until then, the third act of Avatar will grab you by the heart and balls, yank hard, and not let go until you are dismissed… AVATAR… Written and Directed by James Cameron.

I want this to be the trailer.
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Postby jack » Fri Dec 11, 2009 7:17 am

Not so good from the Gaurdian:


Avatar review: 'James Cameron just got slack'

The Titanic director's monstrously-hyped creation does look fantastic but, in trying to cover all the bases with militarist sci-fi, vacuous eco-waffle and an intra-species love story, it's too baggy

**/*****

by Andrew Pulver


Any lingering suspicions that James Cameron has become the Al Gore of Hollywood will be firmly extinguished by his new, monstrously-hyped creation. For a while, it looked like he was giving us a reasonably sweet-natured blockbuster, suggesting that the natural world has, like, the power to heal us all, or something. Then Cameron sends in the helicopter gunships and starts blowing shit up, big time. Way to undermine your own message.

Avatar, for anyone who's had their head in the sand for the last few months, is the first film in over a decade from the man behind Titanic, still the all-time box-office champ. The success of that film presumably allowed Cameron to write his own cheques for this one, and it's a project that's been stewing on the back burner for at least as long, waiting for the special-effects industry to catch up.

And whatever the truth behind the rumoured hundreds of millions spent on it, Cameron certainly gives Hollywood a lot of bang for its buck. Avatar, in all conscience, looks fantastic – a near-seamless melding of fantasy extraterrestrial landscapes and cutting edge computer-generated imagery, all inserted beautifully into the high-testosterone camerawork which Cameron has made his specialty.

But what is this highest-of-high-end image-making aimed at? Cameron has constructed a fable that combines militarist sci-fi, alarmingly vacuous eco-waffle and an intra-species love story that is presumably designed to cover all the bases. The central character is one Jake Sully (Sam Worthington), a paraplegic marine who is assigned to a mining colony on the alien world of Pandora, where he joins a band of nerdy scientists trying to establish friendly relations with the locals; this they hope to achieve by fusing their brains with specially developed beings (the "avatars" of the title) that are a blend of human and alien DNA.

The locals turn out to be spindly blue 10-foot humanoids with distractingly twitchy ears – suggestions that Avatar is somehow channelling Ferngully are not all that wide of the mark. Sully quickly falls for the non-specific mystical rabbitings of the tribe, involving memory-harbouring trees, intimate relationships with flying lizards, and other such prog-rock-influenced stylings. It really is like a Yes album cover come to life.

Sully's position is made considerably more tricky by the genocidal glee of his human military commander, who – in a plot move shamelessly similar to Cameron's earlier film, Aliens – is prepared to cause mass casualties in the service of the sleazy mining-corporation executive.

There are heavy-handed attempts to implant contemporary references (at one point, the marines are told to fight "terror with terror"), but there's no mistaking what Avatar is taking aim at: the founding myth of America, and the incursions of European colonists into indigenous civilisations. The Na'vi, the tribe with whom Sully fetches up, are a sort of grab-bag of generic tribal characteristics – a little bit African, a little bit Amerindian, the equivalent of one of those worldbeat restaurants that serve up teriyaki tortilla and the like.

To his credit, Cameron is a skilful narrative organiser, and fairly soon he has you rooting for the aliens, not those pesky human invaders. (This may not be the most tasteful approach though, to use on an American audience that still doesn't appear to feel especially guilty about what happened to the indigenous people on their own continent.)

Be that as it may, Avatar tries to have it both ways, to be preachy and a thrill-ride at the same time. I can't in all honesty say it pulls it off – it's baggy, longwinded and, for all the light-speed imagery, just not quick on its feet. Cameron used to be the tautest film-maker around, but he just got slack.

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Postby Big Magilla » Fri Dec 11, 2009 5:38 am

Mini-Review (99% Spoiler-Free) - Avatar
by David Poland

Well, fuuuuuuck!

Sorry. But I am trying to communicate how I felt walking out of Avatar… and that is the thing that stuck in my head.

The next thing was that the film will be the second highest grossing film of all time, following only Titanic. I am estimating $450 million domestic and more than $750 million worldwide.

And now… the movie…

Simply, the hype is true. You have never seen anything like it before.

In classic Cameron fashion, it is a pastiche of lots of great genre history, becoming something that is other than any one part of the past. Avatar is part Lord of The Rings, part West Side Story, part Matrix, part The New World, part Ferngully, part Transformers, part 300, part Aliens, part Star Wars, part Jurassic Park, and on and on. But the thing is, he took most of what he stole - in the best sense of the word - to the next level.

As with Titanic, there is an energy rollercoaster in this 2 hour, 43 minute movie. But Cameron is who he is because he is the ultimate master of the third act. Whatever you have experienced up until then, the third act of Avatar will grab you by the heart and balls, yank hard, and not let go until you are dismissed… AVATAR… Written and Directed by James Cameron.

The great challenge of the film, as was apparent from the very first footage, was whether it could get past the CG characters to allow the audience to feel their experience as you would a real live actor. And really, for the first time in cinematic history, Cameron (and WETA, et al) delivers this absolutely. By the time you get out of the first act, you are conscious that you are watching an in-computer effect, but it moves to the back of your brain. There is Sam Worthington’s avatar and his human flesh. And Zoe Saldana’s natural blue is perfectly real, as though she was painted (and 10 feet tall).

It is one of Cameron’s rather brilliant strokes that he holds a lot of things that you might expect to see earlier on until late in the movie. For instance, the Na’vi interacting with humans. For instance, the invocation of religion. (As anti-Bush as this film is, it should be very, very popular with the Religious Right. Faith is an important part of Avatar.) For instance, digging into the battle between nature and machinery.

Of course, there are some bumps in the road. There are at least half a dozen lines that hit me in the head like a small frying pan. There are some logic leaps, though as is often the case in movies, some of the times that logic fails, it leads to a ton of fun in a movie-movie way.

There is a lot more to write about this movie and I think I will wait until I see it again to dig further in. (It would also be helpful to have readers who have seen the film.) But the immediate answer is, Avatar works. You care about the CG characters. (And notice the extraordinary Na’vi bodies… even if they are “cartoons.”) It tugs the heart. It makes you shout. And it is an overwhelming feast of visual artistry unlike anything you have ever seen before. It will be nominated for Best Picture and for a handful of others. The question will be whether Academy members be able to get past the digital nature of some of this work in order to credit the artists, from production design to costuming.

You can find things to complain about what it is. But nothing really compares to what it is. Epic Win.
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Postby matthew » Fri Dec 11, 2009 5:15 am

WARNING: SPOILERS

Empire Magazine
Chris Hewitt

Avatar


Avatar is unequivocally, completely, 100% the film that has been percolating in James Cameron’s head for the last fourteen years. It is not, in all probability, the film that you had in yours when you first heard that the man who directed Aliens and The Terminator was returning to sci-fi with a movie so ambitious that he had to build the technology to make it happen. If you can let go of your version and embrace Cameron’s – if you’re not, in other words, one of those splenetic internet fanboy types who’ve apparently made their minds up about Avatar before seeing it – then Avatar is a hugely rewarding experience: rich, soulful and exciting in the way that only comes from seeing a master artist at work.

Let’s address the Big Question first: to use the key phrase so often used in connection with the movie, is it a game-changer? Yes, and no would be the cop-out answer, but it’s also the truth. Avatar employs technology necessary to render its largely computer-generated, 3D world that will give directors, including but not limited to Cameron, one heck of a sandbox to play in over the next few years. That’s how the game has changed off screen.

On it, it may not be a game-changer, but no director to date has built a world of this scale, ambition and complexity before, and Avatar – much as the arrival of Raymond van Barneveld forced Phil ‘The Power’ Taylor to up his game – will have rival directors scrambling to keep up with Cameron. Avatar is an astonishing feast for the eyes and ears, with shots and sequences that boggle the mind, from the epic – a floating mountain range in the sky, waterfalls cascading into nothingness – to the tiny details, such as a paraplegic sinking his new, blue and fully operational toes into the sand. The level of immersive detail here is simply amazing.

And Cameron plunges you straight in, not even giving you time to don water wings. In a dizzyingly fast, almost impressionistic opening ten minutes, we’re introduced, in no short order, to everything you need to know for the next 150: about Pandora’s climate and largely deadly population, about Jake Sully’s situation, about the Avatar programme and the ruthless plans of the human invaders (led by Stephen Lang’s Col. Quaritch and Giovanni Ribisi’s Selfridge, a clear nod to Aliens’ Carter Burke, one of several touches reminiscent of Cameron’s earlier masterpiece). And then we’re off and running, literally, into an action sequence where Jake-Avatar barely survives encounters with unfriendly local wildlife that would make Ray Mears cream his shorts.

And it’s here where Cameron begins the detour from the all-out actionfest that many might have expected, choosing instead to slow things down over a three-month time period in which Jake – hair and beard markedly growing in the live-action sequences – immerses himself in the Na’vi culture, and gradually finds himself losing his heart to their ways and practices, and, in particular, Zoe Saldana’s fierce warrioress, Neytiri.

The lack of a ticking clock plot device here may deprive Avatar of momentum or drive through its middle-section, but it’s also part of Cameron’s agenda. After all, he’s also the guy who directed Titanic, and Avatar isn’t just about spectacle and stupendous action (though we’ll get both in spades), but a love story. We need hardly be surprised by this – every Cameron film, even True Lies, has a love story at its core – but the surprise here is how effective Avatar’s central coupling is, the emotion between Jake and Neytiri earthed by Weta’s astonishing digital effects. You can safely stow away all that spurious crap about videogame-style effects, or blue Jar Jars: this is truly next-level stuff, which doesn't smother Worthington and Saldana under a pile of pixels, but rather teases out and enhances the emotion in their excellent performances.

The Na’vi, each of whom has clearly distinct features (no small feat for a clan of some several hundred creatures) may not always seem photo-real, but they do seem – and this is crucial – alive and extremely expressive, helped by the fact that the dead-eye problem, which has plagued mo-cap movies since their inception, has been well and truly solved.

Worthington, fully justifying all the hullabaloo about him with a controlled, charming and physical performance (both in and out of his Avatar), may have a magnificent Lee Marvin leading man monotone, but an even bigger asset is his soulful eyes, a quality that is retained and magnified in the larger peepers of the Na’vi. Jake and Neytiri’s burgeoning love is contained in the intricacies of detail in the eyes – a flicker of longing here, a widening of the pupils or a rolling tear there, that further aids the illusion that these conglomerations of ones and zeros actually exist. It’s a genuinely engaging relationship – just because they’re aliens doesn’t mean they have to be alienating.

Mind you, despite all the advances and groundwork laid, we might be not quite ready to see two CG characters effectively dry-hump each other. That’s just wrong…

But, as much as technology aids and defines Avatar, it’s also a love letter to humanity and the glory of mother nature. The analogy with the Vietnam and Iraq wars is obvious, but Cameron, in siding with the insurgents (hardly an all-American move, but then again he is Canadian), is also asking fairly complex questions about what it means to be human. “How does it feel to betray your race?”, Sully is asked at one point, but by then, Cameron’s point has been made: the humans here, Sully and an assortment of ‘good’ scientists, led by Sigourney Weaver’s Dr. Grace Augustine, aside, are the monsters; avaricious, rapacious, planet-killers. There’s never any doubt that Cameron considers the Na’vi to be more human – freer of spirit and emotion, more connected to the world around them.

At times – and this is perhaps Avatar’s biggest flaw, even beyond that bloody awful Leona Lewis song which mars the end credits – this manifests itself in New Age-y, hippy-dippy language and images that suggest that Cameron is one mung bean away from dropping out, man, and going all Swampy on our asses.

In truth, the big idea here, that Pandora is a giant mass of connected energy and emotional synapses, isn’t really all that far away from Lucas’ The Force, and works just fine in the context of a sci-fi fantasy, which Avatar undoubtedly is, but there’s a fair amount of unintentional laughter to be had from watching hundreds of Na’vi, swaying like extras from the Zion rave scene in The Matrix Reloaded, surrounding something called The Tree Of Souls and banging on about becoming one with Mother Eywo. If there’s one element of Avatar that the made-their-mind-up brigade will use to mercilessly beat the film with, even more so than the somewhat prosaic plot, it’s this.

But it’s hard to imagine even the most jaded and cynical having any issues with the last forty minutes, in which Cameron uncorks the action and shows all the young pretenders – the Bays and the Emmerichs and the Von Triers – how it’s done. The human attack on Pandora and the subsequent fightback, led by Avatar-Jake, is a largely sustained setpiece of quite staggering scale, imagination and emotion that manages to compress both the truly epic – a human attack on a Na’vi landmark that recalls 9/11 in its devastating imagery – and the thrillingly intimate, as Jake finally faces off against the excellent Stephen Lang’s Quaritch, a scenery-chewing bad guy so badass that he can breathe the Pandoran air without a mask.

It’s a relentless sequence which, while not quite matching the emotional punch of Titanic’s three-hanky conclusion, will still leave you dazed, confused but exhilarated, a feeling that will be enhanced further if you can - and we really, really recommend that you should - catch it in 3D, where Cameron’s unparalleled and meticulously constructed use of the technique expertly envelopes you in the beguiling, exotic sights and sounds of Pandora, a planet (or, to be precise, a moon) that throbs and hums and teems with life and energy in three dimensions.

It’s a world, not to give too much away, that Cameron clearly fully intends to return to and further explore. When he does, our bags are already packed.

[url=null]http://www.empireonline.com/reviews/reviewcomplete.asp?FID=133552[/url]

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Postby Sonic Youth » Thu Dec 10, 2009 10:50 pm

Avatar
11 December, 2009 | By Mike Goodridge
Screendaily


Dir/scr: James Cameron. US. 2009. 161 mins



12 years after Titanic, James Cameron delivers his latest blockbuster and once again takes cinema to a new level of remarkable spectacle. An epic film born entirely of Cameron’s imagination, Avatar uses tailor-made technology to create the most astonishing visual effects yet seen on screen and blends them seamlessly into a mythical sci-fi story about an ancient alien civilisation fighting the encroaching human menace. It’s an unprecedented marriage of technology and storytelling which is on the whole remarkably successful.

Although Fox and Cameron showcased 20 minutes of footage earlier this year, audiences will still be astonished by the gigantic sci-fi tapestry that the film-maker has woven here in crisp and striking 3D images. Avatar should see large figures on opening December 18, but business will also be sustained over subsequent weeks as word of mouth spreads.

Could it hit Titanic numbers? Probably not, as Avatar is more of a boy’s own adventure, lacking the DiCaprio factor which so obsessed teenage girls back in 1998. It does have its own zeitgeist feel, however, with the visual wow factor augmented by its resonant contemporary themes (environmental destruction, war and corporate corruption) in the context of a sci-fi adventure story. And if that’s not enough, it features a love affair between two blue-skinned aliens which is surprisingly romantic and affecting.

Fox has a lot riding on the film which it says cost $237m to produce and $150m to release. It should recoup that, and unlike Titanic, where it brought in Paramount to co-finance, Fox has no distribution pot to share, although the studio has financial partners in Dune Capital Management and Ingenious Film Partners. International revenues should dwarf domestic, as happened on Titanic, and, in acknowledgment of the film’s global prospects, the world premiere took place in London on Dec 10.

Avatar will also benefit from higher priced tickets at 3D theatres and IMAX screens, not to mention the added boost it could get from awards recognition.

The story is an amalgam of numerous well-worn genres and inspirations – the western, the Pocahantas story, The Last Of The Mohicans, Cameron’s own The Abyss, Star Wars, Dances With Wolves and more. Cameron’s characterisations and dialogue are often crude and cliched, as Titanic demonstrated, although Avatar’s hackneyed dialogue feels more appropriate to the adventure genre he is tackling.

Taking place in 2154, the film follows a wheelchair-bound US marine called Jake Scully (Worthington) who wakes up from six years of cryogenic sleep on the distant planet of Pandora, where a large corporation is mining a powerful mineral that could help solve the earth’s energy crisis.

He has been recruited as a “driver”, a human whose consciousness is linked to an avatar. This remotely controlled biological body is a genetically engineered hybrid of human DNA and DNA from the Pandora natives, 10-foot-tall blue humanoid creatures called Na’vi.

Jake is charged with infiltrating the Na’vi and learning their ways in order to persuade them to cooperate with the mining operation. This happens sooner than he expected when his life is saved by a Na’vi female called Neytiri (Saldana), and he is taken in by her clan. But he soon learns to love the culture and values of the Na’vi, who have a magical connection to the forest they live in. As the human forces start to move in and seize the minerals, Jake finds himself torn between two bodies and two loyalties.

The motion capture technique which Cameron pioneered with Weta Digital is extraordinary, and the expressiveness of the Na’vi, as based on full body performances by Worthington, Saldana, Weaver and others, is immensely engaging. The technique moves film leaps and bounds beyond Gollum, King Kong or anything from the Robert Zemeckis canon with the result that Avatar’s digital characters are as compelling as any humans. Most of the Pandora sections are fully animated, yet it is frankly impossible to tell exactly what is and what isn’t while watching.

Cameron’s legendary attention to detail is of course in evidence, not just in the alien language designed for the film but in some of the frames so overstuffed with creatures, insects, colours and painterly compositions that they cannot be adequately appreciated on one viewing. Fox will be hoping, that, like Titanic, one visit to Avatar will not be enough for millions of cinemagoers around the world.
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Postby Mister Tee » Thu Dec 10, 2009 10:02 pm

Yeah, what a surprise no performers are singled out. Cameron's usually such a character-driven director.

He makes good spectacles -- certainly far superior to the Bay's of the world. But, good god, this sounds like another tech marvel with maybe 1% human content. If it's the likely huge success, it'll marginalize human drama even further in the Hollywood spectrum.




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Postby Sonic Youth » Thu Dec 10, 2009 9:45 pm

I could grow to hate Avatar if the reviewers don't stop bringing up "King of the World".
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Postby Sonic Youth » Thu Dec 10, 2009 9:24 pm

jack wrote:Thanks for that, Sonic.

It'll be interesting to follow this movie and how it's received. I couldn't help but notice that there isn't one mention of anyone's performance. It may be that Avatar is the James Cameron show. Either way if this thing turns out to be as good as [what's] so far been reported, then maybe Up In The Air or The Hurt Locker of whatever else may have some serious competition.

No way. If the rest of the reviews are like Hollywood Reporter's, "Avatar" will have zero competition.

Variety's is very good, but less rave-y.

Avatar
By TODD MCCARTHY
Variety



The King of the World sets his sights on creating another world entirely in "Avatar," and it's very much a place worth visiting. The most expensive and technically ambitious film ever made, James Cameron's long-gestating epic pitting Earthly despoilers against a forest-dwelling alien race delivers unique spectacle, breathtaking sights, narrative excitement and an overarching anti-imperialist, back-to-nature theme that will play very well around the world, and yet is rather ironic coming from such a technology-driven picture. Twelve years after "Titanic," which still stands as the all-time B.O. champ, Cameron delivers again with a film of universal appeal that just about everyone who ever goes to the movies will need to see.

Cameron reportedly wrote the story, if not the full script, for "Avatar" at least 15 years ago but decided he had to wait until visual effects capabilities advanced sufficiently to credibly render his imagined world and its inhabitants. On this fundamental level, the picture is a triumph; it's all of a piece, in no way looking like a vague mish-mash of live-action, CGI backdrops, animation, performance capture and post-production effects. On top of that, the 3D is agreeably unemphatic, drawing the viewer into the action without calling attention to itself. The third dimension functions as an enhancement, not a raison d'etre, so the film will look perfectly fine without it. (When it opens domestically on Dec. 15, approximately 2100 screens will feature 3D, with another 1200 in 2D.)

Then there's the appearance of the indigenous Na'vi clan. In the wake of the still photographs, trailers and 15-minute appetizer offered up by Fox in recent months, a certain wait-and-see reaction could be felt that raised mild doubts about how physically appealing the protagonists would be. But once they're introduced in the context of the picture, these blue-skinned, yellow-eyed creatures quickly become captivating, even sexy, with their rangy height, slim and elongated bodies and skimpy wardrobe, and the grace and dexterity with which they move.

A few more lines of exposition might have helped explain why, in the year 2154 (according to the press notes), Earthlings, represented exclusively, for some reason, by the United States armed forces, need to travel light years away to Pandora to mine a precious mineral that will help rescue the planet from ecological disaster. (Does the U.S. now rule the world? Or is this nation, exclusively, concerned about the environment? Is it the only country left? Or is it simply the best villain for global consumption?)

[color=white]After the death of his identical-twin scientist brother, wheelchair-bound former Marine Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) takes his place to become an Avatar, a hybrid being that combines human DNA with that of the Na'vi; achieving the Avatar status occurs under lab conditions, with the subject experiencing his or her alternate state as if in a dream. The official hope is that negotiations can help persuade the natives to move aside and allow further exploitation of their land, although hawkish mission commander Col. Miles Quaritch (Stephen Lang) enlists the gung ho Jake's help as his peersonal military spy.


Early glimpses of the intergalactic spaceship, weightless crew members and Avatars floating in liquid-filled cylinders are mere teasers for the wonders awaiting on Pandora itself. Unlike most sci-fi and action films, which seem compelled by formula to kick off with a slam-bang opening and then punctuate things with more mayhem every 20 minutes or so, "Avatar" more gently escorts the viewer into its new world while utilizing a classical three-act structure.

Unavoidable Vietnam vibes emanate from the scenes of futuristic choppers descending upon the verdant jungles and mountainsides of Pandora, a land filled with exotic insects, giant airborne reptiles and birds, dinosaur-like beasts and fearsome, dog-like attack animals. Separated from his scientific companion and fellow Avatar Grace (Sigourney Weaver) and stranded at night, Jake is rescued from becoing a midnight snack by Na'vi warrior Neytiri (Zoe Saldana), who subsequently shows the interloper around and very gradually warms to him as he demonstrates an aptitude for native ways.

Cameron's extensive experience on deep-water ocean dives, which resulted in a couple of Imax 3D documentaries, no doubt influenced the glowing, luminous nature of some of the plant life and floating seeds that waft through the environment's atmosphere, while the grander landscapes offer staggering vistas of places that are perhaps most reminiscent of South America, just as the Na'vi most strongly call to mind the natives of the Americas in their customs and tribal manners. For their language, which is extensively spoken with subtitled translation, Cameron had a professor, Paul Frommer, invent a tongue of more than 1,000 words from scratch, although Neytiri, among others, has previously learned pretty good English from Grace.

Although the young Na'vi males resent him, Jake learns quickly and earns his stripes by successfully piloting a giant flying banshee. After three months, however, just as the colonel is ready to send his young charge back home, Jake crosses over and, inspired by his intimacy with Neytiri, goes native. It's "A Man Called Horse" all over again, with Jake, believing he can help the clan repel the invaders, taking up the role of a resistance leader against overwhelming odds.

Final stretch is devoted to the ferocious battle between the Earthly maurauders, with their huge airborne battleships and mighty arsenal, and the nearly naked home team, armed mostly with bows and arrows.
Despite the latter fighting on friendly terrain, the mismatch is just too great, and the way things pan out strikes the one somewhat discordant dramatic note in the picture, resulting in a bit of final-reel deflation; surely, a more complex but believable climax and aftermath could have been found.

Thematically, the film also plays too simplistically into stereotypical evil-white-empire/virtuous-native cliches, especially since the invaders are presumably on an environmental rescue mission on behalf of the entire world, not just the U.S. Script is rooted very much in a contemporary eco-green mindset, which makes its positions and the sympathies it encourages entirely predictable and unchallenging.

On an experiential level, however, "Avatar" is all-enveloping and transporting, with Cameron & Co.'s years of R&D paying off with a film that, as his work has done before, raises the technical bar and throws down a challenge for the many other filmmakers toiling in the sci-fi/fantasy realm. The lead team from Weta in New Zealand as well as the numerous other visual-effects and animation firms involved have done marvelous and exacting work, a compliment that extends to every other craft and technical contribution on view.

Playing a grunt in a crewcut before his transformation, Worthington is tough, gruff and assertive as the genetic pioneer turned insurrectionist, while Saldana proves her mettle as yet another kickass Cameron heroine. Lang, already seen to great advantage this year in "Public Enemies," is a relentless militarist par excellence, while Weaver, looking great wearing a Stanford T-shirt, no doubt a personal touch by the alum, is wonderfully authoritative as a scientist so unimpeachable that she can get away with smoking on board an intergalactic spaceship.[/color]
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Postby jack » Thu Dec 10, 2009 8:36 pm

Thanks for that, Sonic.

It'll be interesting to follow this movie and how it's received. I couldn't help but notice that there isn't one mention of anyone's performance. It may be that Avatar is the James Cameron show. Either way if this thing turns out to be as good as [what's] so far been reported, then maybe Up In The Air or The Hurt Locker of whatever else may have some serious competition.

I for one would take no issue with Cameron winning a few more Oscars.

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Postby Sonic Youth » Thu Dec 10, 2009 8:20 pm

Ah, fuck. The site crashed, wouldn't you know it? Sorry.

Here. Kurt Honeycutt is the reviewer:


A dozen years later, James Cameron has proven his point: He is king of the world.

As commander-in-chief of an army of visual-effects technicians, creature designers, motion-capture mavens, stunt performers, dancers, actors and music and sound magicians, he brings science-fiction movies into the 21st century with the jaw-dropping wonder that is "Avatar." And he did it almost from scratch.

There is no underlining novel or myth to generate his story. He certainly draws deeply on Westerns, going back to "The Vanishing American" and, in particular, "Dances With Wolves." And the American tragedy in Vietnam informs much of his story. But then all great stories build on the past.

After writing this story many years ago, he discovered that the technology he needed to make it happen did not exist. So, he went out and created it in collaboration with the best effects minds in the business. This is motion capture brought to a new high where every detail of the actors' performances gets preserved in the final CG character as they appear on the screen. Yes, those eyes are no longer dead holes but big and expressive, almost dominating the wide and long alien faces.

The movie is 161 minutes and flies by in a rush. Repeat business? You bet. "Titanic"-level business? That level may never be reached again, but Fox will see more than enough grosses worldwide to cover its bet on Cameron.

But let's cut to the chase: A fully believable, flesh-and-blood (albeit not human flesh and blood) romance is the beating heart of "Avatar." Cameron has never made a movie just to show off visual pyrotechnics: Every bit of technology in "Avatar" serves the greater purpose of a deeply felt love story.

[SPOILERS][color=white]The story takes place in 2154, three decades after a multinational corporation has established a mining colony on Pandora, a planet light years from Earth. A toxic environment and hostile natives -- one corporate apparatchik calls the locals "blue monkeys" -- forces the conglom to engage with Pandora by proxy. Humans dwell in oxygen-drenched cocoons but move out into mines or to confront the planet's hostile creatures in hugely fortified armor and robotics or -- as avatars.

The protagonist, Jake Sully (Sam Worthington), is a crippled former Marine who takes his late twin brother's place in the avatar program, a sort of bone thrown to the scientific community by the corporation in hopes that the study of Pandora and its population might create a more peaceful planet.

Without any training, Jake suddenly must learn how to link his consciousness to an avatar, a remotely controlled biological body that mixes human DNA with that of the native population, the Na'vi. Since he is incautious and overly curious, he immediately rushes into the fresh air -- to a native -- to throw open Pandora's many boxes.


What a glory Cameron has created for Jake to romp in, all in a crisp 3D realism.It's every fairy tale about flying dragons, magic plants and weirdly hypnotic creepy-crawlies and feral dogs rolled up into a rain forest with a highly advanced spiritual design. It seems -- although the scientists led by Sigourney Weaver's top doc have barely scratched the surface -- a flow of energy ripples through the roots of trees and the spores of the plants, which the Na'vi know how to tap into.

The center of life is a holy tree where tribal memories and the wisdom of their ancestors is theirs for the asking. This is what the humans want to strip mine.

Jake manages to get taken in by one tribe where a powerful, Amazonian named Neytiri (Zoe Saldana) takes him under her wing to teach him how to live in the forest, speak the language and honor the traditions of nature. Yes, they fall in love but Cameron has never been a sentimentalist: He makes it tough on his love birds.

They must overcome obstacles and learn each other's heart. The Na'vi have a saying, "I see you," which goes beyond the visual. It means I see into you and know your heart.

In his months with the Na'vi, Jake experiences their life as the "true world" and that inside his crippled body locked in a coffin-like transponding device, where he can control his avatar, is as the "dream." The switch to the other side is gradual for his body remains with the human colony while his consciousness is sometimes elsewhere.

He provides solid intelligence about the Na'vi defensive capabilities to Col. Miles Quaritch (Stephen Lang), the ramrod head of security for the mining consortium and the movie's villain. But as Jake comes to see things through Neytiri's eyes, he hopes to establish enough trust between the humans and the natives to negotiate a peace. But the corporation wants the land the Na'vi occupy for its valuable raw material so the Colonel sees no purpose in this.

The battle for Pandora occupies much of the final third of the film. The planet's animal life -- the creatures of the ground and air -- give battle along with the Na'vi, but they come up against projectiles, bombs and armor that seemingly will be their ruin.



As with everything in "Avatar," Cameron has coolly thought things through. With every visual tool he can muster, he takes viewers through the battle like a master tactician, demonstrating how every turn in the fight, every valiant death or cowardly act, changes its course. The screen is alive with more action and the soundtrack pops with more robust music than any dozen sci-fi shoot-'em-ups you care to mention.

In years of development and four years of production no detail in the pic is unimportant. Cameron's collaborators excel beginning with the actors. Whether in human shape or as natives, they all bring terrific vitality to their roles.

Mauro Fiore's cinematography is dazzling as it melts all the visual elements into a science-fiction whole. You believe in Pandora. Rick Carter and Robert Stromberg's design brings Cameron's screenplay to life with disarming ease.

James Horner's score never intrudes but subtlety eggs the action on while the editing attributed to Cameron, Stephen Rivkin and John Refoua maintains a breathless pace that exhilarates rather than fatigues. Not a minute is wasted; there is no down time.

The only question is: How will Cameron ever top this?[/color]



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Postby jack » Thu Dec 10, 2009 7:26 pm

Is anyone able to view the Hollywood Reporter review? If someone can, can they post it here...?

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Postby Sonic Youth » Thu Dec 10, 2009 7:06 pm

Here's a real review, from Hollywood Reporter.

http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/hr....8.story

Sorry, I'm stepping out. No time to post the whole thing.

But it's a rave to end all raves.




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Postby Zahveed » Thu Dec 10, 2009 6:57 pm

Very sneaky, Guardian.
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Postby jack » Thu Dec 10, 2009 5:49 pm

Okay, not quite a review, but still....

From the Gaurdian:

Avatar: hit or miss? We can't really tell you

James Cameron's 3D blockbuster Avatar premieres tonight. We had a sneak preview, but all we can say is it's not a car crash

by Mark Brown


It has been one of the most hyped movies of the decade: the return of James Cameron with a $230m-plus 3D interspecies action movie that will, some observers say, decide the future of the industry.

Today it arrived with 20th Century Fox choosing London to launch Avatar, Cameron's sole movie in 12 years – the last being Titanic with its 11 Oscars and record-breaking box office of $1.8bn (£1.1bn).

Cameron said he was just relieved the movie was finally out there. "We can hold our heads high. We got the picture done by the skin of our teeth. It's been a four-and-a-half-year process and it's a relief to let people see it, to quit talking about it, to forget the rumours."

And there have been a lot of rumours. Rumours that the budget was double the stated amount, more like $500m. Rumours that the 3D effects were making people nauseous. Rumours that the film, two hours and 40 minutes long, was a complete car crash.

The Guardian can reveal that the last two are untrue. The film does not make you feel sick and it is not a disaster. All journalists watching the movie in Fox's Soho headquarters had to sign a form agreeing not to publish a review or even express a professional opinion online or in print before Monday.

So by saying Avatar was really much, much better than expected, that it looked amazing and that the story was gripping – if cheesy in many places – the Guardian is in technical breach of the agreement. It is not a breach, however, to report that other journalists leaving the screening were also positive: the terrible film that some had been anticipating had not materialised. It was good.

There is, though, a certain amount of suspension of disbelief needed when watching Avatar. Cynics might sneer at the plot. The film, set in 2154, revolves around a paraplegic marine assigned to a planet where brutish humans are forcing the natives from their homes to mine a precious mineral, unobtanium, which is the only thing that will keep Earth going.

To get it they need to blast away an agreeable species called the Na'vi – 12ft or so blue humanoids with tails and pixie eyes. Sam Worthington as the paraplegic marine pretends to be a Na'vi through avatar technology. At first he's on the nasty human military side but he falls in love, gains a conscience and so on.

Perhaps most surprising was the politics. At one stage the deranged general leading the attack, with echoes of George W Bush, declares: "Our survival relies on pre-emptive action. We will fight terror, with terror." There is more shock and awe in this movie than almost any other.

Cameron agreed there was a connection to recent events but there were also references to Vietnam, and to the 16th- and 17th-century European colonisation of the Americas. "There is this long wonderful history of the human race written in blood going back as far as can be remembered. We have this tendency to just take what we want. And that's how we treat the natural world as well. There's this sense of we're here, we're big, we've got the guns, we've got the technology, therefore we're entitled to every damn thing on this planet. That's not how it works and we're going to find out the hard way if we don't kind of wise up and start seeking a life that's in balance with the natural life on Earth."

The film will open at cinemas next week and gets its world premiere in London tonight with Cameron joined by the actors Sigourney Weaver, Sam Worthington and Zoe Saldano in Leicester Square.

Audiences will be able to watch in normal 2D or in what Cameron called the "turbo-charged" version, 3D. Some industry observers are hoping that audiences will be so blown away by the effects that 3D starts becoming the norm.

If it does well – and there seems little doubt that it will not – then can we expect more? "We'll see," said Cameron. "But yes, I have a story worked out for a second film and a third film."


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