Avatar ****

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Not a lot of films can take us to a whole new place entirely.  Watching “Avatar” I was reminded of the experiences I had during such films as “Star Wars”, and “Lord Of The Rings”.  I was simply absorbed in to a completely new world, full of interesting characters, beautiful yet alien landscapes, unimaginable danger as well as strange and beautiful creatures. 

James Cameron has been working on this project since the mid nineties.  At the time he put it on the shelf because technology hadn’t quite caught up to his own visions yet.  Instead he went on to make “Titanic”, which you have probably heard of.  Years later he came back to this project.  He surrounded everything about this film with mystery.  Some doubted him as its release was nearing, but now that the final product has been delivered, Cameron proves that he is still one of the best filmmakers working today.

“Avatar” tells the story that takes place on one of the moons of a distant planet.  This moon is called Pandora.  It is a beautiful world, filled with stunning landscapes including a section of the planet where giant, mountain sized rocks float up in the air.  The rest of the planet is pretty much a dense jungle.  It is amazing to look at, but despite it’s beauty, it contains a very hostile habitat of creatures and animals. 

The surface is occupied by an indigenous population called the Na’Vi.  They are humanoid in appearance with a few differences.  They have blue skin, are about twelve feet tall and have tails.  They reside in the internal workings of a massive tree on the planet’s surface.  They live in harmony with the environment.  Their beliefs are not that different then Native American’s.  Underneath their settlement is a massive deposit of a specific mineral that Earth desperately needs.  This leads to tensions between the military and the Na’Vi, that leaves them on the brink of war.

avatar The main character is Jake Sully, played by Sam Worthington.  He is a paraplegic army veteran, selected for a very dangerous mission on Pandora.  Actually his twin brother was selected for this mission but after his death, Jake is the only one who can take his place.  A team of scientists on Pandora are able to create flesh and blood replicas of the Na’Vi called Avatars.  They are controlled by specific users, who place their minds in to their Avatar’s in a way that is reminiscent of “The Matrix”.

The other members of this team are played by Sigourney Weaver and Joel Moore.  On the military side there is Parker, played by Giovani Ribisi, and Stephen Lang as Colonel Miles.  Their plan is to relocate the Na’Vi, by force if necessary, so that they can get at the mineral underneath their settlement. They want Sully to learn about the Na’Vi from the inside so that they can gain certain tactical advantages if war is necessary. 

Once on the inside, Sully begins to learn about more then the Na’Vi’s living arrangements.  They incorporate him in to all of their customs and beliefs.  Almost immediately he becomes absorbed in their ways, enough so that he is willing to fight with them to repel his own people.

The story itself is almost ancient. It is well told, but the plot elements are recycled from many stories that have come before.  What is truly special here is the world that Cameron creates from scratch.  Every inch of the screen is fully painted with beautiful and detailed images that cannot be described by words.  The experience of being immersed in it is a full range of emotions.  There are moments that are truly frightening, and others that are exhilarating, as well as ones we simply regard a quiet yet beautiful.

The visual effects are nothing short of astonishing.  This is one of those rare movies that you could watch without any dialogue whatsoever, so you could take in the visual feast.  Most of the characters were brought to life through the same motion capture technology used to breath life in to Gollum from “Lord Of The Rings”.  This is much more advanced though.  The fact that the film was shot in cutting edge 3D helps immerse you in the film even more. 

Movies like “Avatar” do not come along every weekend.  James Cameron has laboured over this for a very long time.  It is almost like he needs to create some sort of course in filmmaking for almost all of the other fantasy/action directors out there. 

 

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