Andrea’s film review – Avatar

Avatar ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Review by Andrea Carnevali

A paraplegic Marine dispatched to the moon Pandora on a unique mission becomes torn between following his orders and protecting the world he feels is his home. Avatar is still out in cinemas out there. Go and catch it there before it hits streaming on Disney+ from November 12.

Taking advantage of the recent re-release, in preparation for the sequel (out in December 2022) and with the excuse of showing it to my son for the first time, I decided to revisit Avatar after my first time 13 years ago.

Me being me (i.e. a film-nerd!), and this one of the few film which really deserves to be watched on the largest screen you can find, I opted for a 3D screening at the Imax in Leicester Square (for which you almost need to take out a mortgage!) in 4k High Dynamic Range (which basically means, it looked AMAZING!)

Despite having seen it before I had forgotten most of the plot, so it was almost like watching it for the first time again. Within the first ten minutes I was completely with it and the 2 hours and 48 minutes flew by, not just for me, but also for my usually very restless son, who was glued to the screen.

The impeccable 3D effects had a lot to do with it. I’ve never been a massive fan of the silly glasses. And yet, this is possible the only film I can think of where the 3D doesn’t just enhance the film, but it’s an integral part of the experience.

Cameron is an absolute master of film making and, whether you like his films or not, there’s no denying he not only knows how to fill the frames of his films and choreograph the scenes in them, but he also understands 3D better than any other director dead or alive.

Throughout the film he composes his shots with 3D always in his mind, not just placing thing across the screen left and right, but also in the foreground and background, whether shooting through tree branches, foliage, windows, across transparent computer screens and so on.

The overall effect is never intrusive or gimmicky (there are actually very few moments where things are intentionally thrown at the screen, like in most crass 3D films), but the extra dimension is always at the service of the film and the story, to immerse the audience in the world Cameron has created.

A whole universe with made-up plants, animals, insects. A world packed with so many details that you may need multiple viewings to take them all in.

The film is long, yes, but rarely you have the time to realise that, or to look at your watch. Cameron is often co-editor (uncredited) of his own films too and he has an innate verve for pacing. Even if his films are all very long, he knows how to ramp up the pace, particularly towards the last act (think of Titanic) and how to keep his audience always interested.

Here he’s able to convey that sheer sense of wonder for the planet of Pandora with all the tools that a film maker has at his or her disposal. Visual effects and 3D, yes, but also epic cinematography, rousing music, sharp editing, simple and clear storytelling. Few directors can do that.

Whether Avatar deserves to be on top of the chart in cinema history, I’m not so sure, but for a film to have earned $2,919,309,748 box office at the time of writing this (that’s almost $3 billion), surely something must have been done right.

Yes, the plot steals ideas and tropes and  from all sorts of other stories (including James Cameron’s previous films), and yes, most of the characters are carbon cut-out, including the main hero who is as bland as they come (can anyone even remember his name?), but putting any cynicism one might have aside, this is pure and simple popcorn entertainment at its best and possibly one of the most immersive cinematic experience you’ll ever have in a movie theatre.

This slightly cleaned up re-released out and about these days, in the end credits contains a preview of the soon-to-be-released sequel Avatar: the way of water, with a spoiler-free, jaw dropping sequence underwater. It is beautifully filmed and promises more wonders and cinematic fantasies on a massive scale…

And you know what? I get the feeling that Cameron is going to break the box office once again. And to be honest I hope he does, we so need escapism and we need to go back to dream big on the big screen once again.

So yes, 4 stars as a movie, but certainly 5 as an experience.

Avatar is still out in cinemas out there. Go and catch it there before it hits streaming on Disney+ from November 12.

Andrea Carnevali is a Bafta winning film maker who lives in Chiswick, and a co-creator of the Chiswick In Film festival.

See all Andrea’s film reviews here: Film reviews by Andrea Carnevali

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