Avatar movie review

Thursday, December 17, 2009

I just got back from watching Avatar in Korea, so time to go over the film. I agree with Roger Ebert on most movies though and this one is no exception, so you could read his review as well to get a better perspective into how I found it. The first part of the review will be in regular text, and the rest will be in light grey in order to not spoil any of the story for those that don't want to know. You'll have to highlight it in order to see the rest.

First of all, I give the movie a near perfect rating. Perfect in the sense that it is perfect escapist entertainment, contains a relevant message, has characters that we care about and make sense, and has no annoying scenes or irritating comic relief or goofy characters. So if that happens to be your pet peeve then don't worry, you won't walk out annoyed. If you are looking for a movie with the most atypical surprise ending in the world (Memento, Usual Suspects, etc.) though you won't find it here.

The location itself is a moon around a gas giant around Alpha Centauri A, the closest star system to our own and a star similar to our own sun. There is good reason to believe that moons around gas giants may be the most plentiful places in the universe to find life (there are about two dozen fair-sized moons around the gas giants in our solar system for example), so this makes sense. Some models show that gas giant planets shouldn't exist around Alpha Centauri A, but the only one we're entirely sure about so far is Proxima Centauri, which we know doesn't have a Neptune-sized or larger planet within 1 AU. In perhaps a decade or so we'll have a better idea of whether most solar systems have more terrestrial planets or more gas giant moons on average, but that's impossible to know right now. The moon has a lower gravity than ours but still seems to be fairly massive, and given the way the characters interact there it's certainly more than half ours. Perhaps 75% of Earth's gravity. The surface area could be lager than the Earth, since the density of the moon is clearly lower than our planet.

Language: the Na'vi speak a language that was specifically made for the movie, and you can read about it here. I love how prominent a place the language was given in the film, because a lot of the time language in films is simply ignored, with everyone speaking the same language and no communication problems whatsoever. Here we have some Na'vi speaking English (those that interact most with humans), most don't, and sometimes an interpreter is used to fully communicate. Oh, and if you're watching the movie in Korea or another country be sure to remember that the Na'vi language is subtitled in the language of the country, not English. A few of my friends here in Korea that aren't good enough at Korean to follow the subtitles are a bit disappointed that they won't be able to watch it right away.

More on Alpha Centauri: Avatar is also nicely timed here. Apparently it was originally supposed to come out in 1999 but it's actually nice to see it now, since not only are special effects that much more impressive but also we're on the verge of discovering other Earth-like planets, and at the moment three missions are keeping an eye on Alpha Centauri to see what planets the trinary system possesses.

Now to the part with spoilers.

Unobtanium: the bit about one kilogram worth $20 million is actually pretty low for an interstellar mission, but then again the movie is about 150 years in the future so who knows what one dollar will be worth then. Turkey for example shaved six zeroes off of its currency a few years back. And money is only mentioned once in the entire film so suffice to say the material is worth enough for a company to bother sending troops all the way there.

Main character: I like the main character. He's basically a good person that figures out life as he goes along, and pretty much every act of his in the movie reflects this - going there in the first place, agreeing to report back to the general, getting to know and like the Na'vi, getting "married", fighting for them, and finally staying there for the rest of his life.

Other characters: also very believable. The person I watched the movie with thought that the people working for the company came off too much as bad guys, but I didn't really find that to be the case. They weren't bad in the sense that they had any weird desire to torture living creatures or cackle loudly when alone or make people cry just to watch them do it; no, they were just carrying out a mission in order to make money for the company and never diverged from it. And during the first half or so of the movie they came across as fairly decent people, since up to then the main character had never crossed them. Just like real life.


Unknown said...

While I find it unlikely that there are any gas giants around Alpha Centauri, I am going to see this movie tomorrow and can't wait. I somehow resisted the urge to highlight the spoilers, and should probably leave now so that I don't do it.

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