Tomatometer Watch: Will Avatar Live Up To The Hype?

James Cameron's sci-fi adventure gets strong start with critics

by | December 10, 2009 | Comments


Over ten years after writing and directing Titanic, which went on to become the highest grossing movie of all time, James Cameron reenters big budget feature film creation with no shortage of critical and commercial expectations next weekend with the release of sci-fi epic Avatar. Though plenty of reviews are still making their way in, Cameron certainly knows how to make an entrance, as Avatar has been one of the most talked about films of the year, especially since the release of the film’s first clip in November. Adding to the film’s expectations, Avatar‘s CGI effects are powered by the same team behind The Lord of the Rings trilogy and King Kong, both Certified Fresh films, who now take on the task of creating the world of Pandora in Cameron’s Avatar.

After a month-long stretch of supercharged anticipation, critics’ reviews are beginning to carve out the Tomatometer for a film that has already managed to generate its share of early awards talk. With a strong early start from critics and as the buzz around Avatar continues to grow over the course of the week, the question remains: Will Avatar‘s Tomatometer live up to its hype?

It’s no secret that Cameron’s last directorial effort, Titanic, was nothing short of an unprecedented success. Certified Fresh at 81% on the Tomatometer, Titanic went on to receive a record-breaking fourteen Oscar nominations, winning a record-tying eleven awards, including Best Picture and Best Director. This time around, Cameron’s efforts are put behind the story of the Na’vi people of Pandora, undoubtedly a change of pace from Titanic, but as most moviegoers know, Cameron also wrote and directed Terminator 2 (97%), and Aliens (100%), both of which received higher Tomatometer scores than Titanic. And while the perfect Tomatometer score for Avatar is far out of reach, the film has now been Certified Fresh.


The earliest reviews of Avatar put Cameron’s latest effort on track for an extremely strong path with critics, as review after review praise the film on multiple levels. Variety’s Todd McCarthy writes, “James Cameron’s long-gestating epic pitting Earthly despoilers against a forest-dwelling alien race delivers unique spectacle, breathtaking sights, narrative excitement and an overarching anti-imperialist, back-to-nature theme that will play very well around the world.” McCarthy continues, “Cameron delivers again with a film of universal appeal that just about everyone who ever goes to the movies will need to see.”

IGN Movies‘ Jim Vejvoda calls Avatar a “cinematic landmark” and has this message for moviegoers: “My advice to you is to forget all that you think you know or believe about Avatar. Just go and experience the world of Pandora and revel in the fact that one of the most entertaining filmmakers of our time is back in action.” Empire‘s Chris Hewitt gives the film the publication’s highest rating (5 stars), calling it, “Rich, soulful and exciting in the way that only comes from seeing a master artist at work,” but strongly recommended that viewers should see the film in its intended 3D format.


In the UK, The Sneak from The Sun raves, “It’s a 3D movie people will look back on in years to come to comment on how it transformed cinema.” – continuing on to make the bold prediction that “The only reason that Avatar won’t top Titanic at the box office is that there are not enough digital screens around the world to show it in all its 3D wonder.”

Kirk Honeycutt from The Hollywood Reporter says of Cameron, “With every visual tool he can muster, he takes viewers through the battle like a master tactician, demonstrating how every turn in the fight, every valiant death or cowardly act, changes its course.” He continues, “Not a minute is wasted; there is no down time. The only question is: How will Cameron ever top this?”

Despite Avatar’s very hot start, a number critics have been less taken with the film’s story. The Guardian‘s Andrew Pulver writes, “Avatar tries to have it both ways, to be preachy and a thrill-ride at the same time. I can’t in all honesty say it pulls it off — it’s baggy, longwinded and, for all the light-speed imagery, just not quick on its feet. Cameron used to be the tautest film-maker around, but he just got slack.” Jim Schembri from Australia’s The Age says, “Cameron invented a pioneering camera system and ground-breaking visual processing techniques for the film, but perhaps he should have spent a little less time obsessing over the technology and a tad more developing the story beyond the compendium of cliches it regrettably is.”

Can Avatar continue the positive early momentum it has received from critics? As noted, writer/director James Cameron is no stranger to Certified Fresh films, securing multiple perfect scores on the Tomatometer as both a writer and director, and his latest film is still off to a strong start. As reviews continue to come in for Avatar, be sure to check back here and on Avatar‘s movie page for all the latest reviews on one of this year’s most anticipated films.

Where will Avatar‘s Tomatometer ultimately end up? Take your best guess below and let us know if you’ll be checking it out next weekend in the comments!

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