THEATRICAL VERSION ~ 2009
DIRECTOR’S CUT ~ 2009/2010
EXTENDED VERSION ~ 2009/2010
DIRECTOR: James Cameron
May Contain Spoilers!
Presented on Blu-ray/DVD in the IMAX Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 rather than the cropped theatrical ratio 2.39:1
Almost three ago now, December 2009: The 3D revolution began to soar to new heights as James Cameron’s only directorial project since Titanic (1997) was finally projected out of our cinema screens. There’s no doubt that in terms of 3D, this is where it’s at. This was the pinnacle of the technology and had not only took the three-dimensional image to a new level, but had also moved Jar Jar Binks, Gollum and King Kong forward, finally realising the almost fully synthetic actor/characters that the big screen had ever seen.
The inhabitants of Pandora look amazing, real and lived in, and blended with the humans as well as can be expected, if not a ton better. But it’s the world which works for me, selling it as a fully fleshed out and rounded place, yet fantastical at times. Attention to detail is pronounced, with the planet interacting with their every move, footstep and motivation, a reflection to the Na’Vi. It is the combination of both cutting edge motion capture and the 3D which has made this such a memorable and important addition to the annals of movie history.
Because it certainly isn’t the plot! It has been referred to as Smurf-a-hantus and Dances With Smurfs is many quarters, which all bar the Smurf joke, was my thought as I was watching this for the first time. Derivative isn’t the word, as Cameron has taken the simplest of so-called civilisation meets the primitives only to learn from them plotting, but there’s also a bloated sense of self-importance here.
It turns out that Cameron was actually focusing his derivative storyline on more real events, with deforestation in the Amazon being the heart of his story, but I don’t buy that. This was just about the visuals. This was about contriving a story to fit the images in his head. He saw an alien forest, the concept of the Avatars, a good idea, there’s no doubting that, and the obvious romantic, broadly socialist and exiting elements were contrived into the plot to make a film work.
But to me, this is where it falls down. Even Titanic, which again isn’t going to win best screenplay, had some magic about it. Relatable if not fairytale elements for us to hook us onto, but here, we have an arrogant ex-solidier simply going out of his way to find some adventure and purpose. Well it’s lucky that he found it and fell in love in the process. Do I sound cynical about his motives?
Then there’s the Unobtainium. Yes, the concept of Unobtainium is real and isn’t as daft as it sounds. It is a simple maguffin and motivation for the humans to attack and drive the natives out, as westerners do now in South America, as they steal water and other resources from the natives there. Steven Lang, as the psychotic yet enigmatic Colonel is the saving grace here and is by far the film’s best character and one which I was routing for by the end. Is that not right?
In the end, Avatar is all about the audio-visual experience, a film for films sake; an old school epic of sorts but one that seems to parade its wears as if it’s something more than it is. Well, it isn’t. It was not the best film of 2009, in fact far from it but its contribution to 3D is undeniable and valuable in equal measure.
As for the differences between the Extended Edition and the Theatrical Version, it adds more heft to our hero’s (Sam Worthington) motivations, shows us some images of Pandora with a hunting scenes and adds a coda in the form of a death scene towards the end which makes no sense to me and ultimately shows the pacing down on the whole.
I would recommend the Theatrical Version, as it’s long enough, paced well and contains more than enough to explain how and why things are happening and removed the slightly more ambiguous nature of Worthington’s motives. He comes across in the Extended Cut as having a hero complex and this makes me doubt the extent of his love for his Na’Vi wife, (Zoe Saldana), but that’s just me.
So, this from the man who brought us The Terminators (1984 & 1991), Aliens (1986), the underrated The Abyss (1989) and True Lies (1994), and he has lowered his game but this is still a visual and technological triumph, but cobbled together with a contrived and pointless script, but then again, it’s still leagues above his début feature, Piranha II: The Spawning…
For my original review, posted in 2010 CLICK HERE