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Cameron returns triumphantly with bold 'Avatar'

Article Published: Dec. 23, 2009 | Modified: Sep. 7, 2011
Cameron returns triumphantly with bold 'Avatar'

"This isn't the Blue Man Group I was expecting." Sam Worthington stars in 'Avatar.'

(Note: This review is based on viewing the film's IMAX 3D presentation.)

It's been 12 years since James Cameron proved he was more than just the master of action, as the writer/director famous for Aliens and the first two Terminator films won dozens of awards, and millions of hearts, with Titanic. Since then, he's only directed two IMAX 3D features filmed in the ocean, including Ghosts of the Abyss, which documented a voyage to the wreckage of Titanic.

Now, equipped with the 3D system he helped create, Cameron has crafted his first feature in three-dimensions, and it's a wonder to behold. Set on the distant moon Pandora, a lush world inhabited by numerous interesting creatures, Avatar follows Jake Sully (Sam Worthington, Terminator: Salvation), a Marine who was paralyzed from the waist down during combat on Earth.

Sully is sent to Pandora after the death of his identical twin, who was going to work in the avatar program that allows a human host to control a genetically engineered version of the Na'vi - the tall, peaceful and blue people that inhabit Pandora. The problem, you see, is that Pandora contains large amounts of a mineral that's worth a whole lot of money, and the Na'vi are living right on top of the biggest deposit. So, Sully, in his fancy Na'vi body, is sent in to get to understand the Na'vi and hopefully talk them into peacefully moving down the road and out of the way. If not, the Army has no objection with simply blasting them all into outer space.

Before I discuss the wonderful visual achievements that Avatar accomplishes, and my admiration for this incredible film, I must note that the plot is predictable. If you saw the long trailer, you can probably figure out what's going to happen (my wife did). Another good friend of mine was unable to enjoy the film due to the been-there story.

"It's just Dances with Wolves," he said. "It's like Cameron just sat down and watched Dances, took notes and rewrote it with big blue people."

I had no argument because it pretty much is a crazy sci-fi version of Wolves. But in a time of countless remakes and sequels, where I frequently see films with a pretty accurate idea of what's going to happen, I usually try to enjoy the journey instead of focusing on how pre-destined points A and B are. It's not like we were thinking the Titanic might dodge the iceberg and sail safely to New York or the T-1000 might successfully kill John Connor.

Avatar, in terms of the journey itself, is a roller coaster. Cameron knows how to create breathtaking visuals, but he also understands action better than almost any other director. He seems to always aim as high as possible, crafting wonderful images and action sequences that rival anything you've ever seen, and Avatar is no exception. Pandora is beautiful, from the floating mountains to fantastic creatures the film brings to life. The special effects used to create this world are spectacular and at no point did I ever stop to question whether something looked real or not. The Na'vi look incredibly realistic and Cameron and his team successfully figured out how to give motion-capture characters realistic eyes with emotion (compare that to the lifeless eyes from The Polar Express and Beowulf).

The journey of Avatar is filled with interesting characters and incredible battle sequences that put anything in the Lord of the Rings trilogy to shame. The effects merge seamlessly to bring this battle to life whether they're fighting on the ground or in the air. I've come to expect exciting action from Cameron, and Avatar delivers all I hoped for and then some.

While I'm sure that Avatar will still be a wonderful film experience in two dimensions, I highly recommend viewing the 3D version if at all possible, because Cameron has ushered a new era of 3D technology. It was always just a gimmick to make stuff pop out at you, with those headache-inducing red-and-blue glasses. It's gotten much better in recent years, but nothing like Avatar. It's incredibly close to "being there," so to say, as you can look around the buildings or jungles of Pandora that have dozens of different layers of dimensions. I could attempt to further describe the wonder of this film, but it really must be seen to be believed.

No matter how you watch it, Avatar is a wonderful film full of excitement and adventure. Cameron has proven again that he's a master of filmmaking, and I truly hope that it's not 12 more years before he makes his next feature.

Avatar is playing, in two dimensions, at the Regal Cinema 7 in Boone and the Parkway Theater in West Jefferson.

(Editor's Note: After viewing Avatar in 2D at Regal Cinema 7 in Boone, it's safe to say that James Cameron passes the 3D storytelling test. Though the film obviously benefits from such a presentation, it never panders to 3D gimmickry, instead offering a visually rich experience that's compelling either way. A 3D - not to mention IMAX - presentation can only enhance that experience. - FR)

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