Blu-ray review: ‘Avatar’

Blu-ray review: ‘Avatar’

Cast members from Avatar by James Cameron

Watching James Cameron’s 3-D colossus “Avatar” at home causes three major questions to rush to mind.

  • Does the film still captivate in one less dimension?
  • Are those clunky lectures still obnoxious on a second viewing?
  • Did James Cameron get robbed of a Best Director Oscar?

Yes (especially on Blu-ray). Yes. And … most definitely.

“Avatar” doesn’t need silly glasses to keep us engaged. It’s a breeze to enjoy the film on a purely cinematic level – the tightly conceived storyline and whiz-bang action accented by colors we’ve never seen on screen before.

For the full review please visit HollywoodInToto.com.

(Photo: Sam Worthington, far left, plays a paralyzed Marine who infiltrates a native culture via technology in “Avatar.”/Fox Home Entertainment)

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{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

JasonNo Gravatar April 26, 2010 at 1:48 pm

As much as I love sci-fi movies and great advancement in special effects, I just can’t bring myself to see this, let alone pay money to rent or buy it. Not that it will make a dent in Cameron’s earnings on this movie to date, but at least I have the satisfaction of not spending penny one on this insult of a movie. And the more he speaks, the more stupid he appears and the better I feel about staying away from this and any other future project.

PaulaNo Gravatar April 26, 2010 at 3:48 pm

It sounds like “Avatar” is best enjoyed with the sound off you can watch the visuals and be spared the dopey lectures from James Cameron. I’m afraid I still can’t find the motivation to watch it, however.

JimmyCNo Gravatar April 26, 2010 at 3:56 pm

What Jason said.

cftotoNo Gravatar April 26, 2010 at 4:20 pm

I understand that … although given what I do I can’t take that position! I also can’t strike down a movie that doesn’t mirror my sentiments. I will point it out, though, and if it’s done crudely let people know about it.

Good films don’t hit you over the head with their noble intentions, typically. But there’s plenty of fascinating material here, too, and I can’t deny its impact.

I do wonder if the film changed any hearts and minds, or if people just enjoyed its popcorn brilliance.

JasonNo Gravatar April 26, 2010 at 4:43 pm

“I also can’t strike down a movie that doesn’t mirror my sentiments. I will point it out, though, and if it’s done crudely let people know about it.”

And this is the reason why your site is a regular visit for me. Because you do this and you do it very well. Better than most critics out there. And you do so in a very even keeled manner and without giving away key plot points (as you’ve pointed out that some do in your prior postings).

“Good films don’t hit you over the head with their noble intentions, typically.”

This is so true. This is why we go see movies, to escape and enjoy some good entertainment. I only ask that the director please engulf me in a great story with great dialog. Don’t take me out it and remind me that I’m in a movie theater.

“I do wonder if the film changed any hearts and minds, or if people just enjoyed its popcorn brilliance.”

From what I’ve read and from the discussions with friends who’ve seen the movie, it’s the latter.

cftotoNo Gravatar April 26, 2010 at 4:52 pm

Thanks, Jason,

Right leaning critics are rare … and I think I would do my fellow critics a disservice by dismissing films like “Avatar” without giving them credit for what they do well. It’s bad enough we’re outnumbered!

JohnFNWayneNo Gravatar April 26, 2010 at 7:34 pm

I landed on the complete opposite side of the fence. To me, this was a lefty “Transformers 2,” with better visuals.

OpusNo Gravatar April 27, 2010 at 12:50 am

I agree that as a fair movie critic you have to be able to give films their pros as well as their cons regardless of your personal views of the subject matter.
But exactly where is the line to be drawn when the message and subject of the film could be so repellent that how well it’s presented is irrelevent?
Is Avatar that film? For me it is.

cftotoNo Gravatar April 27, 2010 at 1:41 am

Great point, Opus. The movie lover in me fought a battle with the film’s insulting rhetoric – humans bad, Marines worse. The former won, but it took a whole lot of swallowing. I don’t blink at films that don’t reflect my beliefs – I dug “The Crazies” even though it took a crude look at the U.S. military’s efforts to contain a virus. But “Avatar” takes it a few notches further.

OpusNo Gravatar April 27, 2010 at 3:12 am

I like many of Cameron’s previous films, but he’s crossed the line into flat out propagandist. While I hate to use the word whacko I simply can’t think of another term to describe him at the moment.
A good filmmaker with the same views as Cameron, who was more in control of himself, would make a film more palatable to everyone and still get his point across.
Cameron has become the crazy guy in the park screaming his lunacy and giving a big F#$k You to everyone who dares disagree with him.

JohnFNWayneNo Gravatar April 27, 2010 at 6:13 am

Cameron’s the guy who declared war on all futuristic cyborgs, space aliens, and made the last big-budget film with Arab terrorists as the bad guys. Amazing what that town can turn you into.

G.L. AlstonNo Gravatar April 27, 2010 at 3:16 pm

My first thought watching this spectacle was that Cameron ought to bring Dune to the big screen. Then I realized he can’t; he already used most of the story: prophesy of the Mahdi = Eywa, Paul Atreides goes native, Frank Herbert’s ecology lectures, bad guys that are drunk with power and profit corruption, and the climactic battle scene with the little guys using indigenous fauna as their ride.

As far as the film’s message is concerned, imagine that humans didn’t already have the experience of conquering a continent full of stone age people and instead this happens in the future. How would it play out? Note that this movie was intended to be seen by the entire world, most of whom know little and care even less about US political factions. The US is also very much not alone in conquering the locals for either profit or expansion. Cameron was pounding a very basic message, as much anti-colonial as anything. Cliche? Sure. But… so?

And yes this movie is fantastic in blu-ray.

psCargileNo Gravatar April 28, 2010 at 4:38 am

I don’t think no one will be able to do Dune right. and Herbert’s ecology lecture concerned turning desolation into a garden.

I just found a great sci-fi flick “Pandorum” starring Dennis Quaid and Ben Foster that appears to have no political ideology represented at all. I noticed none.

bobNo Gravatar April 28, 2010 at 7:22 pm

I can’t agree with the notion that Cameron should have won Best Director. Neill Blomkamp made a flawed film, but did much more with far less. And Kathryn Bigelow, while also making a less than stellar film, conjured suspense literally out of dust. Besides, the best film of the year was Up.

Avatar just frustrates me no end, and it’s all because Cameron opted to be so on-the-nose with his preaching and lecturing. The science of a living planet, with all its inhabitants in tune with that planet, is the sort of stuff science fiction is made for. And rather than actually present THAT shock and awe, he went for the low blow and “they killed their mother” scolding.

And I don’t even want to start on the science contradiction that a people who can build ships that can routinely travel between the stars is somehow living on a “dying planet.” Talk about a vast source of energy….

cftotoNo Gravatar April 28, 2010 at 8:21 pm

Bob – I share your frustration. But I think corralling all of the raw materials Cameron did in order to bring “Avatar” to life made him worthy of the Oscar. But I’m glad I didn’t have to hear his acceptance speech all the same!

JimInNashvilleNo Gravatar April 28, 2010 at 9:49 pm

It wasn’t just the blatant preachiness worthy, in its intellectual depth, of an A-student-junior-high-school-nerd in a debating class.

The scene in which Jake wanders off like a 6 year old simpleton simply made no sense at all to anyone who’s been in the military or faced those kinds of situations. Not even the dumbest soldier I ever knew was as dumb as Sully in that potentially dangerous situation. Has anyone noticed — the Incredibly Stupid Female has been replaced by the Incredibly Stupid Male as an action movie plot device. (Not that the feminists will ever stop whining.)

And, of course, all through the movie were plot holes big enough to drive a 747 through.

eber hartNo Gravatar April 29, 2010 at 2:17 am

More screensaver spirituality from the long rich, decades stale
James Cameron -a man who’s made BILLIONS upon BILLIONS (along with the rest of Hollywood) catering to the
franchise slum denial needs of history’s –MOST– awesomely
genocidal regime -bar none! —ACROSS the Pacific
(70 million exterminated in ‘peacetime’ decades AFTER WWII
-unoutted, unanswered for, unmentioned -FAC-).

STONE COLD TRUTH

MikeNo Gravatar April 30, 2010 at 4:22 pm

I speak as a dad, a husband and as a 0331 (infantry machine gunner) Marine… My buddies and I loved this movie and while at times it came across a bit heavy handed it was fair at just pointing out right and wrong. This movie prompted a lot of conversation but we all seemed to fall in the same boat. In this movie the humans M.O. was bad – Well doesn’t that happen sometimes?!?!Every culture that was ever pillaged was pillaged by “PEOPLE!!!”… I find it sad that some people’s beliefs can be so fragile – No wonder things have gotten as bad as they have.
It’s a Sci-Fi “movie” expressing some of our (as well as others cultures) historical FACTUAL parallels to evils done, as well as our own current submission, embrace and defense of corporate domination…. Try doing what the marketing firms don’t want you to do – Learn something and then discuss it openly. This movie could be used as a teaching (as well as learning) moment… Rejecting a learning moment because it may challenge your politics seems very un-American and very sad…

bobNo Gravatar May 1, 2010 at 2:54 am

@Mike: OMG, did you just suggest that criticizing Avatar is un-American?

“I speak as…a 0331 (infantry machine gunner) Marine….” [...] Avatar expresses “our own current submission, embrace and defense of corporate dominance… Try doing what the marketing firms don’t want you to do…”

I do that all the time (still won’t get an iPhone, no matter what the Jobsian RDF says), but if I read you correctly, you believe you are a mercenary in the service of corporate interests engaged in the active suppression of freedom. Either that or something you’ve written is incomplete, badly expressed, or less than factual.

In response to your point, rejection of Avatar’s anti-military, anti-corporate, anti-capitalism, anti-human point of view is because it is so cartoonish and heavy-handed, not to mention sanctimonious and self-righteous. District 9 had similar themes and yet was nowhere near as pompous and smug, while at the same time being far more moving. District 9 was also brave enough to make the oppressed aliens ugly, replete with repulsive behavior, rather than lovingly idealized.

Apparently, Avatar fits your worldview, where everything is either good or bad, where the righteous are unerringly beautiful, and never mind all the messy nuances of human — or Na’vi — existence. You are too lost in a green Pandoran Kool-Aid haze to be able to handle legitimate criticism of a movie that has all the characteristics of a ideologue’s polemic.

And that’s sad.

MikeNo Gravatar May 8, 2010 at 3:28 pm

Watched Avatar on a 40 something inch LED TV..Beautiful visual…almost 3D like…I like.
I felt pity that there are still somebody who hasn`t learned the movie`s message.. i guess probably you don`t watch History Channel or Inconvenient Truth…phew! i`m sure the weather`s hot in here with all the polar caps melting ..

bobNo Gravatar May 8, 2010 at 4:14 pm

Yeah, about those polar ice caps….

The US National Snow and Ice Data Center in Colorado on June 27, 2008: “Ice, for the first time in human history, could disappear from the North Pole this year, scientists say.” [For the record, it didn't happen.]

And on January 10, 2010: “According to the US National Snow and Ice Data Centre in Colorado, Arctic summer sea ice has increased by 409,000 square miles, or 26 per cent, since 2007 – and even the most committed global warming activists do not dispute this.”

Same scientists, same polar ice cap, different observations. Talk about an inconvenient truth…

I love the History Channel! Indeed, having a fuller grasp on history is one of the things that makes Avatar look simplistic to the point of ignorance. Or, more accurately, willful blindness.

JasonNo Gravatar May 9, 2010 at 11:57 pm

“I felt pity that there are still somebody…”

Wow. Subject verb agreement much?

I am really hoping that Mike is acting as the obligatory happy little troll, but I felt compelled…

There is no denying that most, if not all, readers of this blog site are aware of America’s history and are fans of the History Channel. Also, I’m sure by now that most intelligent folk (again, readers and contributors of this blog site) have performed their own research and read the actual data to find the insurmountable evidence that debunks the myths perpetuated by that slapstick comedy “An Inconvenient Truth” (I haven’t seen something that tragic on stage since seeing “Red, White and Blaine”).

The reasons for not seeing this movie/putting dollars in Cameron’s pocket is quite simple: I am not entertained by watching a director give me a California-sized slap across my face with his is insipid, tired and banal interpretation of his personal (and erroneous) world views and beliefs. There are plenty of movies out there…well…a few anyway…on which I wish to spend my money and know that I’ll be joyously entertained for a good hour and a half, two hours.

Another reason: I don’t need to see a movie where this country’s men and women of the armed forces are portrayed as the bad guys destroying everything in their path to procure something called Unobtainium (really, that’s the best name you can come up with…really?). In my view, they are the polar opposite. Heroes who are making an incredible sacrifice so that I can work, play and live the Life of Riley that I am blessed to have now. They should be revered, not portrayed as an object of scorn or ridicule.

Where are the movies that show the true stories of their continuing heroism? Who is John Galt? Where is John Wayne when you need him?

RoseNo Gravatar November 20, 2010 at 9:18 pm

I finally watched this on HBO last night. And all I could wonder is why I wasted all that time. This is what deserves an Oscar? What a stupid storyline, full of cringe-inducing lines. I am not a science fiction fan, at all, but the visuals were the only thing in this movie that I thought were interesting, but not enough to make it Oscar worthy, imo. Big yawn.

Found myself rooting for the sky gods! They weren’t sanctimonious.

I know little about James Cameron, but I come away from this dribble thinking he’s very simple, intellectually speaking. What’s it like to betray your audience’s intelligence, Mr. Cameron?

Cameron FanNo Gravatar November 22, 2010 at 1:48 am

@Rose

Everyone has a right to their opinion, but after reading yours, I would say that the magic of cinema is simply, not for you. I pity your blindness of the art form, and your lack of appreciation for the fourth-wall and the world which it can take us to, if only for a couple of hours.

JasonNo Gravatar November 22, 2010 at 2:12 pm

Cameron Fan,

I understand your opinion on what Rose is saying here, but I must defend her for a couple of reason.

1) I will freely admit that I’m of the same opinion as hers, so I can easily see and defend her position.
2) It’s one thing to disagree with another person and have a logical and sensible debate. It’s another to insult that person based on the fact that you merely disagree. What do I mean? Let’s review. You start by saying “Everyone has a right to their opinion”. How magnanimous. Then comes that magical qualifying word “but”, which is followed by a statement so condescending and patronizing that I almost think that it was authored by James Cameron himself.

There are a lot of us here that enjoy going to a theater or watching movies at home to escape and get to that “world which it can take us to”. I feel that I speak for most people (particularly on this blog) that we hope for and gladly admire the craftsmanship in directing, acting, and special effects. In fact, this week is filled with free previews of various movie channels on our cable system and I’m blissfully filling up my DVR as I type to immerse myself into a litany of movies on which I need to catch up.

What takes us out of said movie is when there is a strikingly bad, overly recycled, and unimaginative script or when a director/actor brazenly shoves his/her misguided political position into our face when it is not warranted. In the case of “Avatar”, it’s both. This completely takes us out of the movie and brings us back to 24-hour cable news reality we’re trying to avoid, no matter how pretty the CGI effects are. Does that director/actor have a right to their position? Of course and we’re not asking them to stop forming his or her opinion. We just don’t want to pay good money and time to find that it takes the place of some much needed entertainment in the movie theater.

We do not suffer from a “blindness of the art form” or a “lack of appreciation for the fourth-wall” (and we certainly don’t deserve your pity). On the contrary, we achingly long for it every time we plop down another $10 at the box office or another mouse click on Netflix.

Please feel free to debate about the merits of each movie on Mr. Toto’s excellent blog site here. Just don’t so while insulting the dignity of others and their opinions.

Cameron FanNo Gravatar November 22, 2010 at 4:24 pm

“Does that director/actor have a right to their position? Of course and we’re not asking them to stop forming his or her opinion. We just don’t want to pay good money and time to find that it takes the place of some much needed entertainment in the movie theater.”

“We”? You mean the millions of movie-goers (and ironically a majority of film-critics) who make you and your views of the film a very small minority? If money is the problem, don’t pay it, no one is forcing your hand.

Whether you deny it or not, a world with Avatar in existence is a world where big-budget action movies can no longer say, Hey, we’re just big-budget action movies, what do you want from us, a message? A story? A communal experience that inspires thought, debate and maybe even hope?

From your writing, maybe you prefer a world safe for G.I. Joe sequels, Michael Bay explosions and other examples of mindless entertainment.

No Jason, whether you deserve it or not, I do pity you. I am sorry if that is insulting to you.

Luiz AmaralNo Gravatar February 16, 2011 at 2:54 pm

I am from Brazil and was one of the half-dozen people on Earth who hadn´t yet watched Avatar after 2 years. Finally I watched it on TV las night. Visuals are stunning, the creatures reminded me of dragons in first Walt Disney movies. “Fight terror with terror”, said by the fanatical military leader, is clearly a reference to the post-9/11 hysteria and Iraq invasion. No one expects that a Hollywood studio invests alleged $500 million without making great concessions, all the final 40-minute battle with plenty of technological weapons, shots and explosions that please the mass taste. Great science-fiction and entertainement, and meaningful ecological and pacifist messages.

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