It’s not easy being green. I imagine it’s even harder being blue. It’s almost as hard being a film nerd, with all the news and speculation that’s been going backwards and forwards about Avatar, James Cameron’s triumphant return to filmmaking. There was a lot of hmm-ing and hah-ing, a lot of speculation about the film’s budget and about the director’s excess. Too late to do anything about that. The first reviews are sneaking in. And I think we can all rest a little bit easier.
The Guardian are breaking the review embargo, but don’t care:
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.
The Hollywood Reporter all but raves:
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.
Variety seems somewhat more balanced in its appraisal, but leans towards being awed by the visuals of the film:
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.
Empire embraces and accepts that it might not be exactly what a film fan expected from Cameron – but what would the joy in that be?
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.
The Independent gives it four stars (only four? pssshhht!) :
What Avatar does mark is a new breed. A new breed of action film, a new hero in Sam Worthington (who delivers a much more believable, and compelling performance than previous outings) and a new cinematic experience. For every cliche – every colonel telling his troops that they’re “not in Kansas anymore”, every fight beginning with trash talk like “Let’s dance”, there are myriad moments of beauty and of poignancy. And the final battle is worth the price of your 3D glasses alone.
Looking at these, I’m seeing a lot of awe around the technical aspects of the film – but an acceptance that the storytelling conventions themselves may not be the most compelling facet of the film – though critics are differing on that.
I guess we’ll have to wait and see. For now I’m just going to sigh in relief.