Register  |   Log In  |  
Sign up to our weekly newsletter    
Search   
Empire Magazine and iPad
Follow Me on Pinterest YouTube Tumblr
Empire
Trending On Empire
The Future Of Film
The 100 Greatest Video Games
The Making Of The West Wing
Subscribe To Empire Today
Save money and get 12 issues for only £25
Go Think Big
Helping young people achieve their career dreams
Reviews
STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
Unmissable 5 Stars
Excellent 4 Stars
Good 3 Stars
Poor 2 Stars
Tragic 1 Star

POSTER ART
Click poster to enlarge
More posters to select

FILM DETAILS
Certificate
12A
Cast
Sam Worthington
Zoe Saldana
Sigourney Weaver
Lola Herrera
Stephen Lang
Michelle Rodriguez
Matt Gerald
Giovanni Ribisi.
Directors
James Cameron.
Screenwriters
James Cameron.
Running Time
161 minutes

LATEST FILM REVIEWS
Fury
3 Star Empire Rating
Way He Looks, The
4 Star Empire Rating
Serena
2 Star Empire Rating
Book Of Life, The
3 Star Empire Rating
Björk: Biophilia Live
4 Star Empire Rating



5 STAR REVIEWS
Le Jour Se Lève
5 Star Empire Rating
Tony Benn: Will And Testament
5 Star Empire Rating
Nightcrawler
5 Star Empire Rating
Babadook, The
5 Star Empire Rating
Cabinet Of Dr. Caligari, The
5 Star Empire Rating

Avatar
James Cameron's back with another big blue epic...


submit to reddit


Plot
When his twin brother is killed, disabled ex-Marine Jake Sully is recruited to aid a mining expedition on the distant jungle moon of Pandora as only his DNA will bond with the alien hybrid body, known as an Avatar, that allows humans to breathe the toxic air. With orders to infiltrate the Na’vi, Jake finds himself falling in love with native girl, Neytiri, and complications soon ensue…


Review
Avatar
Browse more images »
Avatar is unequivocally, completely, 100% the film that has been percolating in James Cameron’s head for the last fourteen years. It is not, in all probability, the film that you had in yours when you first heard that the man who directed Aliens and The Terminator was returning to sci-fi with a movie so ambitious that he had to build the technology to make it happen. If you can let go of your version and embrace Cameron’s – if you’re not, in other words, one of those splenetic internet fanboy types who’ve apparently made their minds up about Avatar before seeing it – then Avatar is a hugely rewarding experience: rich, soulful and exciting in the way that only comes from seeing a master artist at work.

Let’s address the Big Question first: to use the key phrase so often used in connection with the movie, is it a game-changer? Yes, and no would be the cop-out answer, but it’s also the truth. Avatar employs technology necessary to render its largely computer-generated, 3D world that will give directors, including but not limited to Cameron, one heck of a sandbox to play in over the next few years. That’s how the game has changed off screen.

On it, it may not be a game-changer, but no director to date has built a world of this scale, ambition and complexity before, and Avatar – much as the arrival of Raymond van Barneveld forced Phil ‘The Power’ Taylor to up his game – will have rival directors scrambling to keep up with Cameron. Avatar is an astonishing feast for the eyes and ears, with shots and sequences that boggle the mind, from the epic – a floating mountain range in the sky, waterfalls cascading into nothingness – to the tiny details, such as a paraplegic sinking his new, blue and fully operational toes into the sand. The level of immersive detail here is simply amazing.

And Cameron plunges you straight in, not even giving you time to don water wings. In a dizzyingly fast, almost impressionistic opening ten minutes, we’re introduced, in no short order, to everything you need to know for the next 150: about Pandora’s climate and largely deadly population, about Jake Sully’s situation, about the Avatar programme and the ruthless plans of the human invaders (led by Stephen Lang’s Col. Quaritch and Giovanni Ribisi’s Selfridge, a clear nod to Aliens’ Carter Burke, one of several touches reminiscent of Cameron’s earlier masterpiece). And then we’re off and running, literally, into an action sequence where Jake-Avatar barely survives encounters with unfriendly local wildlife that would make Ray Mears cream his shorts.

And it’s here where Cameron begins the detour from the all-out actionfest that many might have expected, choosing instead to slow things down over a three-month time period in which Jake – hair and beard markedly growing in the live-action sequences – immerses himself in the Na’vi culture, and gradually finds himself losing his heart to their ways and practices, and, in particular, Zoe Saldana’s fierce warrioress, Neytiri.

The lack of a ticking clock plot device here may deprive Avatar of momentum or drive through its middle-section, but it’s also part of Cameron’s agenda. After all, he’s also the guy who directed Titanic, and Avatar isn’t just about spectacle and stupendous action (though we’ll get both in spades), but a love story. We need hardly be surprised by this – every Cameron film, even True Lies, has a love story at its core – but the surprise here is how effective Avatar’s central coupling is, the emotion between Jake and Neytiri earthed by Weta’s astonishing digital effects. You can safely stow away all that spurious crap about videogame-style effects, or blue Jar Jars: this is truly next-level stuff, which doesn't smother Worthington and Saldana under a pile of pixels, but rather teases out and enhances the emotion in their excellent performances.

The Na’vi, each of whom has clearly distinct features (no small feat for a clan of some several hundred creatures) may not always seem photo-real, but they do seem – and this is crucial – alive and extremely expressive, helped by the fact that the dead-eye problem, which has plagued mo-cap movies since their inception, has been well and truly solved.

Worthington, fully justifying all the hullabaloo about him with a controlled, charming and physical performance (both in and out of his Avatar), may have a magnificent Lee Marvin leading man monotone, but an even bigger asset is his soulful eyes, a quality that is retained and magnified in the larger peepers of the Na’vi. Jake and Neytiri’s burgeoning love is contained in the intricacies of detail in the eyes – a flicker of longing here, a widening of the pupils or a rolling tear there, that further aids the illusion that these conglomerations of ones and zeros actually exist. It’s a genuinely engaging relationship – just because they’re aliens doesn’t mean they have to be alienating.

Mind you, despite all the advances and groundwork laid, we might be not quite ready to see two CG characters effectively dry-hump each other. That’s just wrong

But, as much as technology aids and defines Avatar, it’s also a love letter to humanity and the glory of mother nature. The analogy with the Vietnam and Iraq wars is obvious, but Cameron, in siding with the insurgents (hardly an all-American move, but then again he is Canadian), is also asking fairly complex questions about what it means to be human. “How does it feel to betray your race?”, Sully is asked at one point, but by then, Cameron’s point has been made: the humans here, Sully and an assortment of ‘good’ scientists, led by Sigourney Weaver’s Dr. Grace Augustine, aside, are the monsters; avaricious, rapacious, planet-killers. There’s never any doubt that Cameron considers the Na’vi to be more human – freer of spirit and emotion, more connected to the world around them.

At times – and this is perhaps Avatar’s biggest flaw, even beyond that bloody awful Leona Lewis song which mars the end credits – this manifests itself in New Age-y, hippy-dippy language and images that suggest that Cameron is one mung bean away from dropping out, man, and going all Swampy on our asses.

In truth, the big idea here, that Pandora is a giant mass of connected energy and emotional synapses, isn’t really all that far away from Lucas’ The Force, and works just fine in the context of a sci-fi fantasy, which Avatar undoubtedly is, but there’s a fair amount of unintentional laughter to be had from watching hundreds of Na’vi, swaying like extras from the Zion rave scene in The Matrix Reloaded, surrounding something called The Tree Of Souls and banging on about becoming one with Mother Eywo. If there’s one element of Avatar that the made-their-mind-up brigade will use to mercilessly beat the film with, even more so than the somewhat prosaic plot, it’s this.

But it’s hard to imagine even the most jaded and cynical having any issues with the last forty minutes, in which Cameron uncorks the action and shows all the young pretenders – the Bays and the Emmerichs and the Von Triers – how it’s done. The human attack on Pandora and the subsequent fightback, led by Avatar-Jake, is a largely sustained setpiece of quite staggering scale, imagination and emotion that manages to compress both the truly epic – a human attack on a Na’vi landmark that recalls 9/11 in its devastating imagery – and the thrillingly intimate, as Jake finally faces off against the excellent Stephen Lang’s Quaritch, a scenery-chewing bad guy so badass that he can breathe the Pandoran air without a mask.

It’s a relentless sequence which, while not quite matching the emotional punch of Titanic’s three-hanky conclusion, will still leave you dazed, confused but exhilarated, a feeling that will be enhanced further if you can - and we really, really recommend that you should - catch it in 3D, where Cameron’s unparalleled and meticulously constructed use of the technique expertly envelopes you in the beguiling, exotic sights and sounds of Pandora, a planet (or, to be precise, a moon) that throbs and hums and teems with life and energy in three dimensions.

It’s a world, not to give too much away, that Cameron clearly fully intends to return to and further explore. When he does, our bags are already packed.


Verdict
It’s been twelve years since Titanic, but the King of the World has returned with a flawed but fantastic tour de force that, taken on its merits as a film, especially in two dimensions, warrants four stars. However, if you can wrap a pair of 3D glasses round your peepers, this becomes a transcendent, full-on five-star experience that's the closest we'll ever come to setting foot on a strange new world. Just don’t leave it so long next time, eh, Jim?


Reviewed by Chris Hewitt


Related Reviews
Sounds
Avatar
 

Write Your Review
To write your review please login or register.

Your Reviews

Average user rating for Avatar
Empire Star Rating

A technical masterpiece.But only a technical masterpiece.

Everyone loved this film when it came out. Why? Because of the 3D and special effects, which still look excellent to this day (admittedly, it was only released four years ago.) However, this is quite simply one of the most pretentious films I have ever seen. The story is essentially this; soldier man becomes blue man to blend with the native cosplayers of Pandora. Where sex is achieved through ponytail hair. He will do this with horses, dragon things and trees. And also some blue girl. Then he... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Conor MacLennan at 10:42, 08 January 2014 | Report This Post


Worth re-visiting

I'd have to say that my first initial vewing of Avatar yielded a blah response; I neither loved it nor hated it. As a rule, while I appreciate "pretty" movies, I only keep the ones that I consider challenging in some way, or that possess depth. At first glance, Avatar was NOT either of these. But having re-watched it several times, and having found each time different things to appreciate about it with every layer that has been peeled back, I've decided that I rather love and appreciat... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by tetro.retris.lvl4 at 18:50, 19 February 2013 | Report This Post


Worth re-visiting

I'd have to say that my first initial vewing of Avatar yielded a blah response; I neither loved it nor hated it. As a rule, while I appreciate "pretty" movies, I only keep the ones that I consider challenging in some way, or that possess depth. At first glance, Avatar was NOT either of these. But having re-watched it several times, and having found each time different things to appreciate about it with every layer that has been peeled back, I've decided that I rather love and appreciat... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by tetro.retris.lvl4 at 18:50, 19 February 2013 | Report This Post


Avatar

James Cameron has made quite a devastatingly brilliant impact to the film industry over the past 30-odd years, with films including the first 2 Terminators (the good ones) and Aliens. But Avatar is something quite different. First things first, the graphics are amazing. Truly breathtaking and, of course, very good in 3-D. However, this appears to be the main thing on Cameron's mind throughout the film, with a script that, let's face it, is very predictable. The main let down of this film is, lik... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by toby skelton at 11:25, 05 January 2013 | Report This Post


Great Technology, Average film

Avatar's technology is magnificently realized. The 3D has depth, the sound editing, mixing and the special effects (on some level) are impressive. There are a handful of Cameron's trademark thrilling action scenes but the rest I'm afraid is a routine (often silly) science fiction fantasy. The new age quasi spiritual themes don't help either. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by atom_band at 11:25, 07 November 2012 | Report This Post


Avatar

Even though the characters and plot get lost halfway through, you can't criticize James Cameron's epic tale of war, love, and adventure. Avatar brings a spectacular new world to our screens in a plethora of beautiful visuals and sound that is like nothing ever seen before. Thrilling and fun, Avatar is a film that takes you for an amazing ride. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by norgizfox at 22:39, 09 September 2012 | Report This Post


Avatar Review

It might be more impressive on a technical level than as a piece of storytelling, but Avatar reaffirms James Cameron's singular gift for imaginative, absorbing filmmaking. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by the film man at 22:32, 03 March 2012 | Report This Post


Dances with Smurfs

watched Avatar for the first time last night.... 3 hours of my life I will never get back.... sorry, but just plain boring....even the action left me cold.... just one long special effect....and no amount of special effects can cover up how boring this is. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Moosedog at 07:20, 03 March 2012 | Report This Post


RE:

I'm very amused reading back comments on various forums about Avatar 2 years on. "Game changing" and "this is the future of cinema" seem to be popular comments. I wonder if everyone who wrote these misguided comments are truly happy with the endless spew of mindless drivel which has jumped on the 3D bandwagon since Avatar. Yes, 2 years on, and 3D has become the new cliche.   As for the film itself, I had the (dubious) pleasure of watching it on a flight home at the weekend. Watched on ... More

Posted by narmour at 13:50, 09 February 2012 | Report This Post


RE:

I ... More

Posted by narmour at 13:49, 09 February 2012 | Report This Post


This movie had a pro and a con. The pro would be the fact that the animation was fantastic. This movie was well indeed easy on the eyes. Avatar deserves credit for it's visual creativity. The con would be that the plot has been portrayed so many times, for instance this plot was extremely similar to Dances with wolves and many others. I believe this movie was only worth watching due to it's impressive work on animation. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Milky16 at 00:16, 22 January 2012 | Report This Post


Dreadful, truly dreadful.

Firstly Titanic was a masterpiece, so this is not pure hate James Cameron. However, Avatar, is truly one of the worst film I have ever seen. Yes the 3D is spectacular (if seen in IMAX 3D) however the story is non existent, the acting is average and it far too long. Seriously, if you've not seen this film, save your money and time, and go and watch Titanic again. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by pablo94 at 14:06, 08 January 2012 | Report This Post


It's a whole new world

Cameron had created a 3D future that sank the Titanic ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Ciaran McDaid at 00:26, 16 October 2011 | Report This Post


Not 3D? Move on there is nothing to see

I made the mistake when I saw this the first time by watching it in 2D and it was a tiresome and predictable science fiction film which barely scrapped 3 stars. However watching it in 3D it was visually brilliant and detailed which made it far more watchable. In fairness though, this is a pretty mask to hide the fact that without the 3D element this is as standard as they get - 3 stars ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by trainedasninja at 12:02, 11 July 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Avatar

I loved this movie! Didn't have the pleasure to enjoy it in 3D but it was amazing still :P Great special effects and a pretty cool story eh, bit of a reminder of what we can and need to still for our planet to keep it alive. :P ... More

Posted by megatron_bee at 09:25, 05 July 2011 | Report This Post


Spectacular

Thank god James Cameron is back after so long, this film is just spectacular, brilliant special effects, amazing art direction, fantastic cinematography and in 3D you wont believe how fantastic it looks. And I have no idea what this retard has wrote underneath me. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by the film man at 14:58, 04 June 2011 | Report This Post


...

Make no mistake, I´m a fan of James Cameron movies. Specially The Terminator and Aliens. When he was accused of inserting a love story in a extra-terrestrial film, The Abyss, I forgave him. I liked the underwater action/drama. He did the same with the Titanic and I didn´t forgave him. With Avatar, he did it again ! Now he can take credit for the technology, but the film is as fake as the created digital world. It relies only on that. I didn´t watched on the theatre. I rented it. I... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by carpen7er at 16:02, 28 April 2011 | Report This Post


...

Make no mistake, I´m a fan of James Cameron movies. Specially The Terminator and Aliens. When he was accused of inserting a love story in a extra-terrestrial film, The Abyss, I forgave him. I liked the underwater action/drama. He did the same with the Titanic and I didn´t forgave him. With Avatar, he did it again ! Now he can take credit for the technology, but the film is as fake as the created digital world. It relies only on that. I didn´t watched on the theatre. I rented it. I... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by carpen7er at 16:02, 28 April 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Avatar

District 9 was a much need improvement on Cameron's film ... More

Posted by TheGreenPlanet at 15:21, 19 April 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Avatar

L: R W The reason I think Avatar is not as good as District 9 is because Cameron's film lacks the darkness and edginess of his previous work, while District 9 uses the cliches of western sci-fi and blends them with the harsh realities of South Africa. I'm sure people will draw comparisons between these two films, but you'll know which of these is my favourite sci-fi pic of the year. Avatar is all flash and no substance, it's a visual treat worth seeing but the hype was not to last ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by TheGreenPlanet at 15:20, 19 April 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Christ

I initially fell for the spectacle of it on a 70ft IMAX screen but on subsequent viewings I now considering it to simply be an average sci/fi action film. It’s nowhere near as good as I initially thought it was (always been impressed with fireworks me t’s not a woeful as some claim. For me, it hovers somewhere about the 60% satisfaction level. I got the extended edition as I was genuinely interested in the making of docs, as I can never get enough of a decent making of. Popped the longest cut o... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by pete_traynor at 10:57, 01 December 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Christ

Jake Sully was a bastard though.  ... More

Posted by Deviation at 20:40, 30 November 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Christ

I want to know why Avatarfan hates the movie so much? It wasn't that bad.  ... More

Posted by Rgirvan44 at 20:34, 30 November 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Christ

Avatarfan   sent in loads of reviews saying how good avatar is and guess what? ...im doing it again. p; No, you're not. Keep it to a single post and please stop refreshing - you're on the brink of breaking site rules on spamming. ... More

Posted by elab49 at 18:54, 30 November 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Avatar - non 3D

L: ClintJ Avatar is one of those films where if you believe the hype, you might just be dissapointed. But go in with an open mind and you'll have a great time. Visually it can't be beat - groundbreaking and possibly the best ever produced. But does it hold up as the great film you may be expecting? Well, sort of... the actors arn't at their best (Hollywood have seemingly decided that Sam Worthington is the next big thing surely based on looks only) but this isn't about the actors. Th... More

Posted by BOHEMIANBOB at 01:33, 17 May 2010 | Report This Post


More user comments

SPECIAL FEATURE
The 301 Greatest Movies Of All Time EMPIRE READERS' POLL: THE 301 GREATEST MOVIES OF ALL TIME
You turned out in your hundreds and thousands, and here are the results... Browse the full list


CURRENT HIGHLIGHTS
The 12 Apps Every Film Fan Needs On Their Smartphone
The handheld essentials to enhance your movie life

Empire Meets Jason Bateman And Tina Fey
The stars of This Is Where I Leave You hang out

The Scariest Film Of The Year? Jennifer Kent On The Babadook
The director talks us through her terrifying new film

10 Horror Spin-Offs We Want To See
After Annabelle, what other supporting characters deserve their own film?

Documentaries: What Happened Next
We track down and interview the stars of great non-fiction films

Your Introductory Guide To That DC Movie Slate
Suicide Squad? Cyborg? Aquaman? We explain who’s who in the DC Universe

Captain America 3, Iron Man And Civil War: Where Next For The Marvel Cinematic Universe?
What to make of today's Marvel news

Subscribe to Empire magazine
Get 12 Issues Of Empire For Only £25!

Get exclusive subscriber-only covers each month!

Subscribe today

Subscribe to Empire iPad edition
Get The Empire iPad Edition Today

Subscribe and save money on annual digital subscription

Subscribe today
Buy single issues

Get 12 issues of Empire for just £25!
Get the world's greatest movie magazine delivered straight to your door! Subscribe today!
Empire's Film Studies 101 Series
Everything you ever wanted to know about filmmaking but were afraid to ask...
The Empire iPad Edition
With exclusive extras, interactive features, trailers and much more! Download now
Home  |  News  |  Blogs  |  Reviews  |  Future Films  |  Features  |  Interviews  |  Images  |  Competitions  |  Forum  |  iPad  |  Podcast  |  Magazine Contact Us  |  Empire FAQ  |  Subscribe To Empire  |  Register
© Bauer Consumer Media Ltd  |  Legal Info  |  Editorial Complaints  |  Privacy Policy  |  Bauer Entertainment Network
Bauer Consumer Media Ltd (company number 01176085 and registered address 1 Lincoln Court, Lincoln Road, Peterborough, England PE1 2RF)