Movie UnReview: Avatar

NOTE: There are NO spoilers in this review.

It is currently 3:15 AM here in Tucson, Arizona, but I can’t go to sleep yet. I’m too excited. You see, I went to see a midnight screening of this little movie called Avatar, which was directed by this guy James Cameron — you might have heard of him, I don’t know — he did this other little movie back in 1997 called Titanic about a boat or something. Whatever. I was twelve back then, and my mother wouldn’t let me see it. She heard about the sex, you see, and the frozen dead people, and obviously there was the sinking. I had to wait until it came out on VHS and watch it clandestinely at a friend’s house in the middle of the night (pretending to cover my eyes during the sex, because I promised, but totally peeking anyway). I had to wait. I wasn’t going to let that happen again.

I didn’t read many reviews or interviews in preparation for this movie. I didn’t watch TV specials or anything. I wanted to go in cold, no expectations. And, as so many critics have already said, it was like nothing I’ve ever seen before.

The visuals were spectacular. Never once did I question the reality of the Na’Vi; they simply were. The amount of lush detail — detail with purpose, might I add — on every inch of the frame was astounding. It’s no wonder this film took fifteen years to make. The acting was top notch in all areas, superb in some, and the film balances the divide between sweetness and terror, between human and alien, with a very deft hand. This is a film that has been thought about, slaved over, loved and hated at in turns, ripped to shreds and put back together again. You can see it in every shot. Zoë Saldana and Sam Worthington are simply magnetic on screen as ten foot tall blue aliens. They’re on screen? BAM. Your eyes are there. The film also works on deeper levels, of course. This film is about nature and healing and redemption, and about love and community. It’s a warning and it’s a love story. There’s even some stuff in there that goes pretty into the existential nature of our existence; what is a body, after all? By nature, it’s a very political film and it’s going to make some people uncomfortable if not downright angry. This film will be dismissed by a LOT of people simply because the story it tells is one so many will not want to hear.

The one beef I have with the film is the score. A film can be great, awesome, but a good score lives forever. Look at Star Wars. Lord of the Rings. Titanic. The music of those films tells a story even without the visuals. Not so with this film. James Horner’s score was anti-climactic, dull, predictable. The only truly musically effective scenes in the film came near the end, and they were far too short. But to break the film down into bits is to miss the point, I think, because most of what this film is can’t be quantified. It’s a roller coaster ride. It’s surreal and weird and jarring. The phrase “batshit insane” immediately comes to mind.

My advice to you as moviegoers — to ALL of you — is to go see this movie, not because I think you are all going to love it as much as I did, but because I think it’s important to understand key moments in popular culture. This is one of those moments. As the credits rolled in the theater tonight, I think we all felt just a little bit of what those sitting in theaters in 1977 must have felt upon the conclusion of Star Wars. Of course I’m not saying that Avatar will become as much of a cultural touchstone as Star Wars has — I think we’re too jaded as a culture to ever feel that much wonder again — but that feeling that something new has been created and that I was a part of it was there tonight, and if you are at all the sort of person who cares about that sort of thing, you should want to be a part of it, too.

7 Responses to “Movie UnReview: Avatar”
  1. filmindustrynetwork says:

    I can’t wait to see this movie. James Cameron is my favourite director, and he literally lives his movies and is dedicated to every single detail!



  2. myoctober says:


    When do you want to see it again?

  3. jmmnewaov2 says:

    Very nice intro to the review Ashley. Cool and funny. Bravo. Thanks for offering your view of the film and working until the wee hours.

    I saw the film at a 10:15 in the morning screening, and only $5 too.


    My own comments about the fiolm are here:

  4. joediliberto says:

    You make an interesting point — the release of this movie may indeed mark a watershed moment in movies much like Star Wars. (Incidentally, I was there for that big moment, as well!) Will people look back in 30 years and say, “Avatar was when it all changed…” It’s looking that way!

    My own (non-spoiler-y) review is here:

  5. amorporchoco says:

    Going to go see it manana! Super excited- will probably end up seeing it again in DC just to catch it in IMAX. :)

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  1. […] Really all I can say is awesome, with an emphasis on the awe part of that word. For a review, head everywhere, including Ashley’s post @ Big Damn Heroes. […]

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