Director: James Cameron
Starring: Sam Worthington, Zoë Saldaña, Stephen Lang, Michelle Rodriguez, Giovanni Ribisi, Sigourney Weaver
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Genre(s): Science Fiction
Rated: PG-13 (For intense epic battle sequences and warfare, sensuality, language and some smoking)
Update: If any review deserves an update...this is not one of them. Really, it doesn't. While I may have been a little over-enthusiastic in the above print critique, I don't take my opinion back. I still believe it deserved five stars. I still consider it the best film of the year. Out of all the movies I've ever reviewed, I've never had to defend my recommendation of a movie so much. The main reason, I believe, this is the case, is because "Avatar" is certainly a theater experience movie. It was filmed in 3D and is intended to be viewed as such. Seeing it on a giant screen is a must as well. An audience certainly helps. In the proper setting with proper equipment, "Avatar" still has a magic that only the best of movies can conjure.
Alright, so I do take a few things about the movie being well written back (it really isn't), but when combined with the great visuals, acting, and pacing, the writing is good enough to do the job. The problem is "Avatar" wasn't going to be playing in IMAX 3D theaters forever. It had a shelf life. Eventually, it would stop being viewed and have to come home. This is where the problem is. While people who watch it in BluRay 3D will still largely understand why this worked, most people are now watching it alone, in 2D, on a much smaller screen. The first time I saw the movie in this format I was much more underwhelmed. Does that mean I should alter my grade and review? To account for people who might not see this in theaters? Absolutely not! To account for people who might not see the movie in the intended format is to be a disservice to the movie itself. Also, if the critic see's the movie in theaters, he must write about that experience, or else find his review is being inherently dishonest.
We MUST write about our experience with the movie first hand, and to try and think five steps ahead and ponder how people might be viewing it differently down the road is not only impractical, but in some cases impossible! This isn't the first time a movie has been hurt by its home viewing experience. For years people felt that "Lawrence of Arabia" was an over simplistic film that had very little visual flair. For some, it was also too long. But then, for many years after being released in theaters, the movie could only be shown in a heavily edited form on TV, where most of the movie was cut for time, cropped for the 4:3 aspect ratios the standard TV's had at the time, and broken up with commercials, which broke up the flow of the story. It wasn't until years later when the film was released practically uncut (a few scenes are still missing due to the sands of time), in widescreen, and without commercials. Now, the film is much better, and you can get a better understanding of why audiences and critics fell in love with it.
"Avatar," sadly, does require a bit more for you to get the full experience. It helps to have a giant TV. 3D is pretty much essentially. A group of people will certainly help. In short, many audiences might only understand this movie when seen in a decent size theater that projects 3D. It's sad, but that's how it is. And while most films do lose a little of their luster when they go from theater to home, "Avatar" seems to have been more hurt than others (other than "How the West Was Won" and "The Polar Express"). Still, it must be noted that the review reflects the theatrical experience over the home experience, and some of the disconnect between the review and what you saw may be related to that. If I was to go back and dock the movie on home video quality, it would probably get four stars as opposed to five. That's the only concession I'll make though, as I still defend this as being a masterpiece of visual storytelling and immersive 3D!
Parents will want to take note that this can be VERY scary and has many violent images. There is also a fair amount of language and sexual content and nudity. Recommended for ages 14 and up.