Cyberpunk Review » Avatar (Cyber Wars)

February 22, 2007

Avatar (Cyber Wars)

Movie Review By: hughie522

Year: 2004

Directed by: Jian Hong Kuo

Written by: Christopher Hatton

IMDB Reference

Degree of Cyberpunk Visuals: High

Correlation to Cyberpunk Themes: High

Key Cast Members:

  • Dash MacKenzie: Genevieve O’Reilly
  • Victor Huang: Luoyong Wang

Rating: 6 out of 10


Avatar Cyber Wars Screen Capture


SFAM NOTE: We welcome new reviewer hughie522, who uploaded this review into the Review Forum. If others are interested in joining the review team, please post a message in the review forum.


Avatar Cyber Wars Screen Capture


Overview: Few would consider Singapore to be the home of cutting-edge science fiction and even less would be swayed by the island nation’s first science fiction film, ‘Avatar’. The first forty minutes are cringe-worthy; poorly constructed characters, dodgy VFX and some of the worst dialogue outside a Ishiro Honda film are likely to put many viewers off straight away. However, ‘Avatar’ offers a little more than your cookie-cutter tale of good vs. evil wrapped in a sleek (if not cardboard-like) sci-fi setting. Transhumanism, corporate greed, social engineering, cheating death – all feature in an interesting little science fiction romp that unfortunately suffers from a very limited budget. Our story begins…


Avatar Cyber Wars Screen Capture

Synopsis: In the early 21st century, the entire free world is connected through the CyberLink (think ‘internet meets cyberspace’), the backbone of all communication and financial trading (ie. the stock exchange). The influence of the CyberLink is most felt in the city-state of Sintawan, a sprawling metropolis where corporate greed and personal gain rise above all else. Men (and women) such as Joseph Lau (David Warner, ladies and gentlemen!) are practically Gods over their own domain, the CyberLink ensuring their continued dominance over Sintawan through the megacorporations. Five megacorporations in particular – one of which is owned by Lau - appear locked in an epic game of wits with the people of Sintawan as the chess pieces.


Avatar Cyber Wars Screen Capture


Not that the people actually realize this, oh no. They are too busy with their own private agendas to even notice! Although a vast majority of CyberLink users are legitimate, illegal users do exist and often use ‘SIMPLANTS’ to hide their true identities (sort of like using a disguise and a false ID). ‘SIMPLANT’-users are often tracked down by freelance bounty hunters such as Dash MacKenzie (O’Reilly) or, more commonly, by Ident cops such as Detective Vic Huang. Dash is contacted by Joseph Lau – as are the Ident Police – to track down an illegal ‘SIMPLANT’-user, Edward Chang. It seems straightforward enough, until Dash and Detective Huang discover a massive conspiracy involving the CyberLink, Joseph Lau and the other megacorporations. This game just got deadly…

Avatar Cyber Wars Screen Capture


Analysis: To be frank, ‘Avatar’ is hardly ‘award-winning entertainment’ (though apparently it has already picked up two at a Spanish film festival) and will not blow anyone’s socks off. It is not destined to become a sci-fi classic or even a cult film, and is likely already forgotten by those that noticed it to begin with. Though it is not without its merits; the technology is fantastic: holograms are often used to hide the truth (such as disguising the fact that a prominent, five-star hotel is in desperate need of an exterminator and a few coats of paint), handheld communicators for video calls, micro-scale robots disguised as insects (such as beetles and dragonflies) that are used to project holograms and undertake surveillance, the concept of people that live inside the CyberLink and those that have augmented their bodies with technology (such as my friend below)…it is absolutely incredible that so much was achieved on such a limited budget.


Avatar Cyber Wars Screen Capture

Cyberpunk Musings: There are a number of interesting aspects of Avatar which benefit from further exploration.

  • Ravers: Ravers are part of Sintawan’s subculture. Augmented human beings with a gang mentality, they are fiercely anti-corporate and anti-government. Ravers are all connected through a telepathic link-up that is separate from the CyberLink and frequently use ‘crash-bangs’ (handheld electromagnetic pulse devices) to damage the city-state’s infrastructure (ie. at one point in the film an organised group of ravers attempt to take down Sintawan’s mass transit system and partly succeed). All appear to have the same ‘left-brain implants’ that have an almost ‘retro’ feel to them. Possibly the coolest part of the film.
  • City-states: There already exists cities with populations and gross domestic products (GDPs) greater than that of most third- and second-world countries. Sintawan appears to be governed by an organisation similar to the United Nations, though the corporations have been challenging this seat of power for some time. It is not too far fetched to stipulate that a large enough city (such as New York) could break off from the mainland and declare itself an independent state in the near future.
  • Avatars/Holograms: Though never referred to as ‘holograms’ as such, these feature predominantly in the film. For example, one of the corporate heads is suffering from terminal cancer and has had his body put in a state of hibernation. His mind, however, remains fully function and an ‘avatar’ (a holographic representation of him) continues to act as the functioning head of the corporation, albeit only within the confines of his office. As mentioned before, holograms are also used to ‘cloak’ certain objects and sometimes create very believable deceptions (such as the six-star hotel).
  • Surveillance and ‘Bugging’: Mini-robots disguised as very believable imitations of dragonflies (and to a lesser extent, beetles) are used throughout the film for audio and visual surveillance and the projecting of holograms. If you think that you have been ‘bugged’, then you are probably right!
  • The Spirit and the Flesh: Several characters (and one in particular) practically live inside the CyberLink. One such character’s body is a complete mess (he is severely overweight and is always ‘jacked in’) while his ‘spirit’ seems almost free within the virtual confines of the CyberLink. The CyberLink also offers a sort of perpetual ‘afterlife’ for those who have died in the real world (much like Armin Mueller-Stahl’s character in ‘The Thirteenth Floor’).
  • Social Engineering: Suppose that chaos theory is true; that every action and every decision radiates outwards and has an effect on other things and other actions and other decisions, exponentially increasing as it pushes out. Now suppose that chaos theory is somehow controlled. That someone higher up is pushing all the buttons, willing us into certain actions and certain decisions that is slowly shaping our culture. Now imagine that person ‘higher up’ is one of five corporate heads, who are all out to win a game of wits with human beings as the game pieces. Scary, no? This is the BIG issue in ‘Avatar’, and the one that ninety percent of the film is structured around. So what if the game has brought great prosperity to the people of Sintawan; it’s still motivated by greed, is it not? Is destroying the game worth the cost destroying modern society? You decide.


Avatar Cyber Wars Screen Capture

The Bottom Line: If you watch this film as I did – whereby I was expecting your typical, low-budget sci-fi action romp – then you might be pleasantly surprised. Though not that greatly. ‘Avatar’ is a film possibly best suited to die-hard sci-fi fans with no sense of taste (like moi) and who are easily impressed by a few interesting ideas and flashy set pieces (also like moi). Otherwise, steer clear and stick to the bane of ‘thinking-man’s science fiction’ (yes, I am referring to ‘The Matrix’ sequels). ‘Avatar’ has plenty of ideas, though permitting it any more than six stars would be a crime and an insult. The bottom line: CONSUME AT YOUR OWN RISK.

This post has been filed under 6 Star Movies, VR Movies, Cyberpunk movies from 2000 - 2009 by SFAM.


February 22, 2007

SFAM said:

Great review Hughie,

The only confusing this was you didn’t quite explicate why the movie was so sub-par. The still shots looked great and the ideas sounded interesting! SFAM’s comment helped me get what some of the problems are.

February 24, 2007

Bergo said:

Hi All and I agree on the great review.

There are a high degree of Cyberpunk visuals and concepts .. I think it just feels B-grade. The acting was a little off in my opinion.

I do like some movies just for the concept even if they don’t follow it through. Some things reminded me of Gibsons “Dixie Flatline”, were the lead character is aided by her dead friends construct.

Some of the FX were great .. cyberpace visuals were impressive for ano name film. But some of the movie did not seem to flow too well.

The cop just didn’t fit the character, or the character seemed off from what he could have been in that role, but I can’t put my finger on what.

The ending I felt seemed a little weak also, I kind of got the idea that things were changing as a result of their interferecne .. but I think it needed to plunge into chaos to end correctly, in my opinion. They seemed more concerned they were being played, than possibly destroying the foundation of society.

All in all, I enjoyed it, but would not rave about it. I think the 6 stars is a fair rating.

Hugo said:

I admire a film that’s willing to bring down global communications as a finale. Hence, the review…:P

March 7, 2007

ethernode said:

Sorry to say that… But this movie SUCKS … Yes special effects can save some movies, but when actors play THAT bad, it’s not bearable…

January 21, 2008

Ryan said:

I had just watched Alien vs Predator: Requiem - apparently the highpoint of movie theater Sci-fi in 2007. Since sticking my finger down my throat wouldn’t help purge this recycled piece of trash from my memory, I put in Cyber Wars (which I recently bought after seeing the review on this site). Talk about relief. Yes, the acting is B-movie grade, but the themes and the technical concepts seemed straight from the mind of Gibson. The leads are completely forgettable, but David Warner, Joan Chen (who must be taking the youth treatments from the movie in real life) and William Sanderson take up the slack. It’s not Blade Runner, but it’s certainly worth watching. I only wish there was a way to foster this kind of storytelling at the expense of the garbage represented by AVP:R.

SFAM said:

I love it. “Watch Cyber Wars - it’s better than AVP-R!” This is hardly a major selling point, but it is a funny comment! :)

July 14, 2008

Android_Boy said:

Do you know where can I watch a trailer for this?

August 15, 2008

Khurrum said:

It has an interesting feel, even if it lacks awesomeness in the story. Worth watching for being a different experience.

March 22, 2009


was feeling bored and wanted releif-saw your review scanned the web and found a used copy for a dime-5 days later i’m a watching it and not dissapointed. the stilted acting lack of chemistry and action not with standing, i’d say i got my monies worth- uh huh

April 16, 2009

NightTrader said:

If you Loved Bladerunner you will like this movie.. I thing they tried to give it a “FEEL” like Bladerunner but in a different sense of the words.. The Music is fantastic, the all around environment and feel of the movie is of a darker future. Yes I know, J.F. Sabastian From Bladerunner plays in this movie as a down on his luck Bounty Hunter. Just watch the Movie, you will really like its concept…

September 13, 2009

chlordane said:

Found a DVD of this at a discount book store, watching it now.

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