Avatar: DVD Review
Ten years of production, the development of a whole new stereoscopic technology and a marketing blitzkrieg so intense that even lost tribes in the jungles of Borneo are aware of it. The buzz around Avatar has been almost unprecedented – James Cameron’s long-awaited return to sci-fi has been panned, praised and everything in between even before it was released. Approaching Avatar with an open mind, we discovered one of the most jaw-droppingly beautiful and immersive films of recent years.
No – scratch that. One of the most jaw-droppingly beautiful and immersive films ever. The only problem is that the original is a little lost in translation to DVD, and with no special features, fans may feel a little cheated in their spending.
Set on the lush, deadly jungle moon of Pandora, Avatar is the story of Jake Sully (Sam Worthington), a paraplegic marine drafted to the planet in lieu of his late twin brother, a brilliant scientist who died while working on the Avatar program. Created by scientists researching the bizarre biology of Pandora, Avatars are a human-controlled mixture of our own DNA and that of the native populace, the Na’vi – ten foot tall half-cat, half-monkey jungle dwellers. Led by the morally resolute Grace Augustine (Sigourney Weaver), the scientists aren’t the only human presence on the moon. The main reason mankind has set its militaristic boot on Pandora is the presence of a rare mineral called – in all seriousness – unobtainium, which a profit-driven mining corporation (represented by a slimy and unethical Giovanni Ribisi) wants to strip mine.
Unfortunately for them, the Na’vi’s ancestral home – a whacking great big tree, no less – sits right on top of one of the richest seams of the mineral. Augustine, Sully and über-geek Norm Spellman (Joel David Moore) don their Avatars in an attempt to find a peaceful solution before trigger-happy nutjob Colonel Quaritch (Stephen Lang) shifts the Na’vi using shock-and-awe tactics. But as Sully learns more about the Navi and the bizarre world that surrounds them – as well as a burgeoning romance with Na’vi princess Neytiri (a sublime Zoë Saldaña) – he finds his loyalty to the human race tested.
Escape From Uncanny Valley
If anything, the plot is one of the weakest aspects of Avatar, with its down-the-line simplicity and black and white morality. But bizarrely, this simplicity complements and supports the film’s fairytale quality, and allows the narrative to progress at a measured, intelligent pace – despite other reviewers lambasting its length, Avatar doesn’t feel overlong or laboured.
And then, of course, there are the effects.
Or what should properly be referred to as the lack of effects. We’re happy to report thatAvatar really is the start of a new era in filmmaking – and that’s not idle hyperbole. The computer-generated characters are so real, so believable, that you quickly forget they’re computer generated at all.
Putting it simply, Avatar has everything – jaw-dropping effects, solid performances, slam-bang, eye-popping action and an entertaining, eco-aware story. The only thing to be aware of is that this DVD is not in the original stunning 3D glory, and although it’s still beautiful, it might be worth waiting for the 3D release to enjoy it in all its stunningness.
There are no special features on this version, which is another reason to wait for later releases.