Visually stunning but story wise boring
Boring boring "Avatar", there you go I said it strike me down for saying that "Avatar" is boring, but before anyone comes after me with a noose let me explain. There is no denying that visually "Avatar" is magnificent, technically it's amazing and almost everything about "Avatar" is tight and well made but then there is the not so small matter of the storyline, one which failed to get me to the edge of my seat in eager anticipation of what will happen next. Which can be put down to the fact that I've seen "Dances with Wolves", I've watched "Pocahontas" and many other movies which run with a similar theme and although it's well constructed it didn't feel special enough to match up to what "Avatar" delivers visually.
After his brother's life is cut short, paraplegic Marine Jake Sully (Sam Worthington - Terminator Salvation) takes his place on a mission to the far off world of Pandora. As part of an experiment Jake is able to mingle with the Navi population of Pandora as one of their own and in return for gathering intelligence for the corporation behind this experiment Jake will get the expensive operation to give him his legs back. But whilst mingling with the Navi he starts to understand and like them, making his decisions even harder as he knows the corporation are after one thing, an expensive mineral under the land where the Navi live.
So let me get out of the way my main criticism and that is the storyline. Whilst there is no doubt that it's a well constructed storyline, tightly written so that there aren't many major contrivances I've seen it before or at least movies which work the same idea. As such it didn't take me long to guess where the storyline was leading, what sort of scenes to expect and although James Cameron gave us a different spin on the theme taking us to Pandora there was little which really wowed me, which got me to the edge of my seat in eager anticipation of a twist or development. That's not to say it isn't a good storyline and I am sure those who haven't seen other movies which employ a similar idea will be wowed by it, but for me there was something slightly unoriginal about the main premise and as such didn't match up to the visual magnificence.
So okay that's the main criticism out of the way with and it would be hard to deny that "Avatar" is a visual treat for the eyes. From the breath taking landscapes of Pandora through to the smallest detail of the Navi and of course the use of 3D there is so much going on to please you on a visual level. As such "Avatar" is also technically brilliant and features some of the best, if not the best, CGI rendering to have hit the big screen so far. It certainly makes for a very different sort of viewing experience as you get caught up marvelling at the way the landscape on Pandora seamlessly unfolds before your eyes.
Aside from being a visual treat "Avatar" also has a fair bit of action and this is where I sometimes struggled. Now some of these moments of action do get the pulse racing, they do fill you with excitement even in the simplest of scenes such as when Jake is being chased through a forest on Pandora by some strange creature. But then in the bigger moments of action, such as when Colonel Miles Quaritch leads an attack on the Navi's home there was something missing stopping it from feeling a truly epic moment of action, which I wonder was to do with maybe the technological/CGI side of things not able to deliver that epic action or whether it was just written that way.
As for the acting well despite being old fashioned and liking to watch the actors act in their own skins its hard not to deny that the rendering of various actors into CGI creations is pretty good. In particular Sam Worthington, Sigourney Weaver and Zoe Saldana all create characters with emotion as various Navi's rather than just coming across as just CGI animations. But still there was something missing for me, that connection I should have had with the characters and again I am left wondering whether this was due to the use of technology or just the way the characters themselves were again written.
Aside from those main stars there are some good performances elsewhere with Michelle Rodriguez doing a nice turn as a helicopter pilot and Giovanni Ribisi really impressing as the boss of operations on Pandora Parker Selfridge, a character which strangely reminded me of Carter Burke from "Aliens" which James Cameron also directed.
What this all boils down to is that "Avatar" is on a visual level a truly impressive movie, surpassing my expectations and everything else which had hit the big screen before. But then the storyline didn't match up to the visual impressiveness and in a way let things down. It was too familiar and although well constructed didn't grip me as much as I had hoped and for me for "Avatar" to be great it would need a great storyline to match the great visuals. Of course "Avatar" is a movie worth watching, it's a monumental moment in the history of cinema and a stunning visual experience, but from a storyline point of view I have watched better.