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I'm beyond confused by those who have said that, despite being a visual masterpiece, James Cameron's AVATAR is lacking in the story/plot department. Making that statement about this film is like having a a massive truck sitting right in front of you and claiming that all you see is open air. Here's what the truth is: AVATAR is a monumental masterpiece in every sense of the word. It is a supreme triumph of cinematic technology, an enormously fun piece of mainstream entertainment, and an expertly-realized work of social commentary. Not since Peter Jackson submerged us in Middle Earth have I felt so entranced by a cinematic location, and not since Gollum have 100% CGI characters been so convincing, emotionally affecting and impressively well-crafted.
I'm rarely impressed by achievements in the special effects department, because I just happen to be the type of person who is more biased to appreciate solid dialogue and acting. But even the least visually perceptive person won't be able to avoid being enthralled by Pandora and its inhabitants. This place is way too spectacular. I should also state here that I didn't watch the film in 3D (but you can bet I will when I go see it again in a few days), yet I was still thoroughly amazed by the visual experience of AVATAR.
There must be something wrong with those who failed to see that AVATAR does, indeed, have a more-than-solid, complex plot. Then again, the subliminal undertones in AVATAR's plot are precisely geared towards examining the things that are wrong with a lot of people who live in today's world, so perhaps it makes sense. Most mainstream films will envy the depth reached by AVATAR in its thematic examinations. This movie deals with (1) lack of awareness for environmental concerns, (2) close-mindedness towards other cultures, (3) the sneering evil that can come from greed and from engagement in military combat, and (4) faith and spirituality. If you've seen the trailer and you think it's unlikely that a movie with "blue aliens" can possibly cover all that ground, go experience it. Notice how I said "go experience it," and not just "go see it." AVATAR is a 2-hour-and-40-minute experience that is teeming with intelligent social commentary. One may feel discouraged by the film's conclusion in terms of where it "places" humans, but there's no ignoring the accuracy of the observations made by the film.
If everything I said in the last paragraph seems boring, have no fear, because the unrelenting brilliance of AVATAR isn't limited to expensive visual effects and deep subject matter, but rather, it uses those two elements to provide for what is without a doubt one of the best pieces of mainstream entertainment of the decade. AVATAR features a final battle sequence that wows to no end and puts to shame the poorly-edited, loud and annoying bullshit that the makers of TRANSFORMERS tried to pass off as entertaining action sequences. If you think a battle in which one side wields firearms and the other wields crossbows doesn't have a shot at lasting more than a few seconds or at being remotely interesting, wait till you see this.
Sam Worthington has sure made a name for himself this year, with his turn in TERMINATOR: SALVATION, and now here, though his starring role in AVATAR is certainly what I hope will carry him into projects that are every bit as great as this. He has an extremely tough job as the main character, with a lot of different considerations to balance at the same time, and he handles himself remarkably well. Huge props to Zoe Saldana for acting in two sci-fi films this year, both of which put together easily qualify as some of the most fun I've had in a movie theater this entire year. The magnificent Sigourney Weaver is a pure delight to watch; she has some lines that could've easily tempted her to go over the top, but she doesn't lose believability for a second. I cried for her character. When an actor or actress accomplishes something like that, he/she can't go without accolades. Giovanni Ribisi and Stephen Lang BOTH avoid the trap of becoming cookie-cutter villains, something that is incredibly difficult in this sort of film. In fact, I don't think I could've ever envisioned Ribisi in the role of a greedy capitalist and I'm surprised by how easy it was to believe the character. The biggest surprise, though, comes from Michelle Rodriguez, who starts out as your standard, badass military gal, yet eventually turns into the heroine everyone cheers for. I cried for her, too.
I have no problem waiting another 12 years if this is what we can expect from Cameron. TITANIC was one of the most ravishing, entertaining pieces of melodrama I've ever seen, and AVATAR is one of the most amazingly well-concocted entries to the science fiction genre to ever grace the multiplex screens. It's a genre that is mostly recognized in the technical categories at award ceremonies and rarely ever in the main categories. AVATAR is immensely worthy of recognition in both. The technical prowess, emotional depth and unabashed entertainment are all of the highest imaginable caliber. I reserve perfect scores for films that do more than just move me - I give them to movies that totally rattle me and pierce my soul. That's what this film did to me. I can't wait to experience it in 3D.
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