For a film that’s 2 hours and 42 minutes long you’d think they’d have time to actually develop characters beyond the someone who has the dimensionality of a cardboard cutout.

You’d be wrong.

For all it’s faults, Avatar holds up on a few specific points, but watching this film 10 years after it’s massive debut is a complete letdown and arguably a poor use of an evening. Let’s look at the specifics.

The film begins with a bunch of scientific exposition explaining why the main character, I’ve already forgotten his name, is going to the planet, I’ve already forgotten it’s name, to pilot his dead brother’s avatar.

Upon reaching the planet we’re introduced to Baddie McBadguy. He’s an over-the-top caricature of meanness, incapable of smiling, and so dead-set on killing “savages” I can’t even take him seriously.

In fact, I have a difficult time believing the main plot of the film. Given an entire planet, the biggest source of “unobtainium” is under a tree the natives live in. And rather than find a way to extract it without damaging the surroundings, or you know, finding the second biggest source on the planet, or maybe, you know, looking further than 200 clicks (that’s 124 miles) for a different source, the only solution you can come up with is forcing the natives to move by blowing up their home?

I mean, obviously, if you’re willing to travel to a different planet, presumably a different galaxy to mine a rock, it would be a severe waste of time to search more than a few hundred square miles of the planet’s surface.

To be fair, Avatar’s graphics do hold up pretty well for being 10-years-old. The first few shots of the base on Pandora look almost real, until it very quickly looks like green screen. The scenes that take place in the deep forest with the natives, I’ve already forgotten their names, are clearly animated, but done in a way that isn’t distracting. It’s believable. Or at least I’m able to suspend my disbelief.

What I can’t suspend is the belief that the main character is able to fly to the eastern sea and surrounding plains on a dragon and pull in thousands of natives to fight for his cause in only a day’s time, and still for some reason the humans haven’t bothered to explore further than a few hundred miles around their base, despite having an entire fleet of flying ships.

And why do their all their ships have missiles?

For being a nearly 3-hour-long film, the pacing done well. There’s enough action that the time flies past and despite being entirely predictable and extremely formulaic, it is en entertaining ride. It doesn’t feel like a 3-hour film, more like a 2-hour, 10-minute film.

So I guess it’s got that going for it.

In all honesty, I really love the idea of Pandora. (That’s the name of the planet.) I love how all the plants are bioluminescent. I love those dumb little lizard creatures who must spend half of their lives being scared dizzy when they flutter into the air with their neck-disc-wings. There’s a magic about this universe which I’d love to explore with characters who are actually dynamic and likable.

Avatar is mainly spectacle, and it’s a good spectacle, but what could be great, is relegated to “mostly okay” because the characters are mostly meh.

The next 4, (yes 4), Avatar movies are already slated to come out in 2021, 2023, 2025, and 2027, so there is hope for the future. If the series can offer us a better view of the planet, some better character development, and a reasonable plot line, I’m all in for spending more time with them. But only time will tell.

Review by Phil Wels

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