Late Review: Avatar

In the first of a new series where we review movies post-hype a good month after they’ve been released (and because we’re a bit lazy), Ross McG gives his verdict on the now Golden Globe-winning Avatar. You know, that one with the blue things in the green forest. In the future, camouflage will not be in fashion.


Yes, I laughed at the lame jokes about Smurfs and Thundercats and Ferngully. Yes, I thought it looked completely lame. And yes, I didn’t really believe anyone who told me it was fantastic. Well, I had the smile wiped off my face – or rather, put on it – when I finally got round to seeing Avatar. It’s big, it’s blue and it’s a lot of fun.

Unbelievably, this is the first film I’ve ever watched in the cinema in 3D. Expecting that the extra four quid I forked out for this new technology would grant me a brand new pair of state-of-the-art X-ray specs, I was pretty disappointed to be told to hoke through a bin of used shades that wouldn’t have been deemed fashionable enough to affix to Tom Cruise’s face in Risky Business. Thanks a bunch, Vue Cinemas (their seats are actually very comfortable).

When the adverts and trailers came on, I started to worry. ‘Please put your 3D glasses on now,’ they kept telling me. I did. Within a second I could feel a headache coming on. People pay to watch this? The goggles do nothing! This time last year, I didn’t wear any glasses to the pictures – here I was wearing two (one for crap eyesight, the other for crap 3D). I decided to just put the specs down until the movie started.

The highest compliment I suppose you can pay the 3D technology in Avatar is that you soon forget about it. It’s not gimmicky, it just becomes part of the movie. But come on, special effects aren’t enough to make a film decent. Otherwise there might be someone out there who actually likes Pirates Of The Caribbean 3: This Film Never Ends. One of the main criticisms I’ve read of Avatar is that there is nothing engaging behind the magnificent visuals. Not true. James Cameron pulls the same trick he did with Titanic: presenting a ridiculously simple story but somehow sweeping the audience away. 

One thing I haven’t read is that at the heart of all these bizarre creatures running around and gunships blowing up is a pretty brilliant performance by Zoe Saldana. In Star Trek she was reduced to eye candy, but she holds Avatar’s thin story-line together with a heartfelt display, despite being covered in blue goo. The other characters are a mixed bunch. Sam Worthington is fine in the lead role, but as his hair grew throughout the film I couldn’t help thinking I had turned up to see the movie that would change Hollywood but was given a misfiring Manchester United striker instead.

Cameron keeps the pace moving so fast there isn’t time for character exploration, but that doesn’t excuse the underdeveloped bad guys, played by Stephen Lang and Giovanni Ribisi. Sigourney Weaver is great, of course, but then that’s because she’s Sigourney Weaver. A nod also to James Horner’s score, which presses all the right manipulative buttons in all the right places, so much so that there may even have been a bit of water on those 3D glasses when I handed them back.

So then, is Avatar the best film ever made? No. Is it really going to change your life? Unless you decide to join the marines, no. But is it great entertainment you can lose yourself in for a few hours? Definitely.

Trying to cover your face is a complete waste of time, footballer Michael Owen... we recognise you from that movie Avatar

Because Late Review lives up to its title, every time we do one we will post a few links to our favourite reviews of the movie in question which were a little more punctual than we were. Here’s two great reviews of Avatar…

Avatar review at The Dark Of The Matinee: I like this review because its writer, The Mad Hatter, shares my sense of amazement upon liking the movie.

Avatar review at Fandango Groovers: this one I chose for its negative bite – Fandango sort of liked it, but he makes some valid points about its obvious flaws.


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11 Responses to “Late Review: Avatar”

  1. Late. MIA presumed dead is more appropriate. Thanks for the link.

    That’s two movie stars Man U.

    I wear glasses too and the 3D glasses over the top are a pain. As I saw the movie when it first opened it was packed with kids complaining the glasses where too big for them. The number of kids movies that are 3D you would have thought they would have thought about that.

    Glad you liked the movie by the way.

  2. I still stand by my original reaction…perhaps moreso now in the face of all the backlash. I’ll readily admit that the story is nothing groundbreaking…but I don’t think it was ever intended to be a groundbreaking story.

    Really, the plot is “good enough”. It’s a relateable story that allows us to enjoy the spectacle without insulting us.

    Now with all of that said, I would never claim that it’s the best movie of the year…though I fear Oscar is about to dub it as such.

    (PS – Thanks for the linkage!)

  3. It’s one of those stupid situations where everything gets out of hand. I don’t think the film was as good as the original reviews but it isn’t as bad as the backlash is suggesting. Everyone expects you to be in the love it or hate it camp. I am neither but my leanings are more towards the positive than the negative.

  4. Well said Number Six…very logically input!

  5. I live in a country where I didn’t hear much hype, so I didn’t have high expectations and … Avatar flippin’ blew me away. The major flaw I noticed was Worthington’s horrible accent, which joins Gerard Butler’s Irish in the so-distractingly-bad-he-should-just-use-his-normal-voice category.

  6. I think for once we’re in almost total agreement! We managed to write very similar reivews at almost teh same time….one of us must be psychic

  7. okay so my final word on avatar is that it’s nice looking but that does not save it from being uninteresting – however i’m not anti-avatar I just don’t see why people are going so gaga for it… and the more people go gaga the more i get annoyed by it… I’m a bit of a snob like that.

    I suspect that when people look back they will remember the hype and the notion of Avatar rather than then film itself.

    …oh bum, looks like I’m gonna go watch it again.

  8. mcarteratthemovies Says:

    One line in your review grabbed me: “that doesn’t excuse the underdeveloped bad guys, played by Stephen Lang and Giovanni Ribisi.” I’m thrilled to pieces that someone else picked up on that! Sure, yeah, the cinematography and CGI is mind-blowing, but what’s up with the one-note bad guys? Is a little depth too much to ask? Also, Sam Worthington really, really needs to work on that American accent. Somebody put him in touch with Hugh Laurie; that’d fix him right up.

  9. Honestly one of the best viewings I have had at the movies in a long time. Must be watched in 3-D!

  10. Glad to hear another positive review and also someone else pointing out how incredible Zoe Saldana was in it. I really think her casting and her performance made me “care” where the dialogue wasn’t selling me the Na’vi so much. She not only made “Jake” understand her people, but she was speaking to the audience as well. It felt so intimate and personal.

    The Colonel being one note made sense, but a complex actor like Ribisi had a lot more to offer that role then the rock guy.

  11. I don’t think it’s a ‘backlash’ (ironically, I think there was a backlash backlash, check out the comments on any of the negative reviews at Rotten Tomatoes), but then I would say that.

    It is incredible and it sets the bar as far as film making, as a strictly technical profession, can be set. Without being all fanboyish, the only way you can be sure Pandora isn’t real is because you know it’s not.

    Still, I can’t get past the plot, which induced a bigger headache than all those rumours suggested the 3D would (and actually, it didn’t).

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