Avatar Release Date: 17th December 2009

Hurt Locker DVD Release Date: 28th December 2009

Overview: Avatar is beautiful and immensely epic but Hurt Locker wins with raw power and emotion.

Leading this year’s Oscar nominations are James Cameron’s Avatar and Katherine Bigelow’s Hurt Locker with nine nominations each, including Best Film and Best Director.  So I thought because of this, and because of all the hype about them being divorced, that I would do a comparison of the films. Not an easy thing when both films are so completely different from one another: Avatar is based on a fictional planet in 2154, whereas Hurt Locker is set in Iraq and could be happening as I write.

Avatar is about Jake Sully, a paralysed marine who takes his brother’s place as an Avatar driver on Pandora, a planet that is being mined by humans for a precious fuel source. An Avatar is a replica of the native people of the planet of Pandora, the Na’vi, which is controlled with the human’s mind and allows them to feel as if they have changed bodies.

Hurt Locker revolves around a company in the US army who are responsible for defusing bombs, and specifically the last 40 days of their rotations when adrenaline junkie Will James joins the team and things start to get even more dangerous.

With these set ups both films sound impressive but, of course, it is James Cameron’s Avatar that blows you away as soon as it starts. With the CGI taking its place at the centre of the film you begin to appreciate how much time must have gone into it. 60% of the film is CGI and on Avatar’s IMDB page it says that each frame, which is 1/24 of a second, took an average of 47 hours to complete. Of course, Hurt Locker can’t compete with this; not only does the story not require CGI but it would be impossible to make the Iraq war look beautiful. However, Bigelow does use some slow motion shots of explosions which are stunning, and cleverly remind you of the power of the devices these men are working with.

One of the problems with Avatar is its length. At the end of its 162 minutes, I began to feel as though I just couldn’t be impressed anymore. The fabulous visual imagery is amazing, but it is tiring, and becomes just too much to keep up with, whereas Hurt Locker is in a bleak setting (a war zone), and you’re never allowed to forget it. Avatar has watchability on its side; it is a film, like many other James Cameron movies that is easily accessible (which is probably why he has made so much money) even though it’s set in an unrecognisable land with 7 foot tall blue characters. Hurt Locker, on the other hand, is raw and powerful: it is often uncomfortable to watch and leaves you feeling somehow both enlightened and confused.  

Overall, I feel that Hurt Locker is the better film out of the two. When you’re watching it, it feels as though it has more to say, almost as if it is bursting with things that need to be shown about the Iraq war. However, I don’t feel as though I could watch it again any time soon. Here Avatar wins because it would be easy to watch several times. If I had the time, that is…