Avatar has broken many records: the most expensive film ever to be produced, coming in at an estimated $300 million (with $200 million more estimated to have been spent on marketing and advertising), and the fastest film ever to reach $1 billion in box office takings. Directed by James Cameron, the man behind Titanic (1997), the film has been in development for fifteen years and managed to become the second highest-grossing film ever.
Avatar has been advertised for months and it was finally released in December, and starred Sam Worthington (Terminator Salvation), Zoe Saldana (Star Trek), and Sigourney Weaver (Alien).
Avatar is a science-fiction epic set 150 years in the future on the moon planet of Pandora. Humans have wasted all of Earth’s resources and have ventured to this planet, inhabited by the native Na’vi people, to find an alternative energy source: a mineral called unobtainium. We follow the military chiefs in charge of the operation to exploit this mineral and a group of scientists who are using genetically created ‘avatars’ (human controlled Na’vi bodies) to make peace with the hostile tribes and to experiment on the supernatural planet.
The film focuses on one scientist in particular, ex-marine Jake Sulley (Worthington), as he makes unprecedented contact with the Na’vi people and becomes a trusted member of their society. It is up to him to persuade the Na’vi to move from their home before the human military come to extract their coveted mineral. However, the profit-hungry humans lose patience and begin to bulldoze the beautiful planet of Pandora and, as an epic battle between the Na’vi’s natural resources and the humans’ super technology ensues, Jake finds himself in a struggle as to which side he will fall on.
The plot is gripping, exciting, and emotional throughout. I enjoyed the positioning of nature vs technology, natives vs foreign invaders, community values vs business/military strategies. The culture and environment that Cameron has created for Pandora is also very impressive: all the different plants, creatures and the Na’vi themselves seem to naturally belong in the environment they’re in.
At one point in the film, Sulley tells that he is not sure which life is the dream, his life in his avatar or as a human: as a viewer, the same question lurks at the back of your mind. However, the most impressive part of this film, and what all the hype has been about, is the animation.
Avatar has been released in 2D, 3D, and IMAX 3D (I saw it in 3D) and it looks stunning on the big screen. The computer system which was used is said to have been in the top 5 most powerful in the world, mixing live-action and animation using techniques created specifically for the film, and the mix is seamless, creating an awesome, supernatural planet full of colour and life, and keeping it completely believable.
The delay in release from the 1990s is due to the wait for suitable technology, in which Cameron has been able to project 95% of the actors’ movements and expressions on to their digital counterparts. It is difficult to figure out whether you’re looking at digital or live-action images, which is exactly what Cameron wanted.
Composer James Horner returns in his partnership with Cameron and provides a powerful soundtrack (if reminiscent of his previous works), and adds to an exciting plot excellent battle sequences and amazing animation. Avatar has been nominated for many awards, including the Golden Globes, Academy Awards, and the Online Film Critics Society Awards and I, also, thoroughly enjoyed this film; I think it just about lived up to the hype.
With so much spent on the Avatar franchise (sequels are also expected), I look forward to seeing how well the video games, action figures and all other spin-offs will do.