By Barnaby Walter
James Cameron’s expensive, explosive and long-awaited sci-fi epic has finally hit the cinemas. And it isn’t very good. Of course, there’s a lot of swooping shots of the glorious world of Pandora, the planet that humans need to plunder for their valuable deposits of the ludicrously named, but highly valuable, “unobtanium”. But we’ve seen so many adverts, trailers and images of this picturesque planet, seeing it on the big screen in 3-D is merely mildly impressive.
The film as a whole is a rather tiresome experience, using big explosions and bad dialogue to tell audiences a story they’ve heard too many times before. The hero of this lengthy affair is Jake Sully (Sam Worthington), a paraplegic ex-marine who is drafted in when his brother dies suddenly while working for the mining corporation in charge of plundering Pandora. He is given an “avatar” – another body he controls with his brain so he looks like one of the natives. These are blue creatures called Na’vi and spend a lot of their time murmuring about the how sacred nature and life’s energy is. Jake Sully’s task is to join the locals and become one of them so he can convince them to move their community, as their home-tree just happens to be situated above one of the richest deposit of Unobtanium on the planet. It is while doing this Jake becomes romantically involved with a beautiful Na’vi, played by Zoe Saldana.
What follows is a predictable mixture of Pocahontas and Dances with Wolves, with a slight sprinkle of The Matrix. The unforgivably long running time (161 minutes) makes this a painfully slow affair. And what’s even more frustrating is that for the majority of that time the film builds up an anti-war message. It preaches peace, and criticises the trigger-happy Americans for wanting to shoot first and worry about the innocent later. But in the final half-hour, we’re treated with a fanfare of war and destruction that seems so shoehorned it feels insulting.
There are a few good points, but alas, these are a precious few. Sigourney Weaver’s supporting role as scientist Grace, who developed the Avatar bodies and studies the biology of Pandora, is typically excellent. On the technical side of things, I can honestly say that the special effects are superb. As I have already said, the world of Pandora is a wondrous creation, and there are a handful of scenes that are gasp-inducing. Sadly, these are not enough to save this dead-weight of a film – a banal cinematic cash register that seems more impressed with its large budget than anything else. It’s a shame Cameron didn’t use the $200+million to hire a script writer who would have made this bland movie a little bit more bearable.
2009 | USA/ UK | James Cameron
Written by James Cameron
Production Companies: Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation, Dune Entertainment, Giant Studios, Ingenious Film Partners, Lightstorm Entertainment
Distributor: Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation
BBFC Certificate: 12A (Contains moderate violence).