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Judy Thorburn's Movie Reviews


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Avatar – The “King of the World” Delivers an Otherworldly Gem

Director James Cameron knows how to make movies; not just blockbusters, but brilliant and extraordinary works of art. He proves it once again that he is at the top of his game, with his most ambitious effort yet.

Avatar is Cameron’s first film since his Oscar winning Titanic, 12 years ago.  In returning to the sci fi genre (Alien, Terminator) Cameron delivers another masterpiece.  Word is Avatar took four years in the making and most definitely, it was worth every moment. In order to meet the demands of his imagination and translate it onto screen, the director had to come up with new and revolutionary technology. As a result of this groundbreaking accomplishment, he has raised the bar for other filmmakers by delivering a dazzling spectacle featuring some of the most incredible visual effects ever seen on screen blended  seamlessly into a magnificient sci fi epic adventure.

The story takes place in 2154.  Australian actor Sam Worthington stars as the central character, paraplegic Jake Scully, a former marine bound to a wheel chair who wakes up from six years of cryogenic sleep.  Taking the place of his deceased twin bother, Jake is recruited on a mission to a distant planet called Pandora populated by a race of very slender, ten foot tall, blue skinned, humanoid creatures with long cat-like tails, called Na’vi.

Pandora is rich with powerful mineral deposits called "unobtainium”, which could put an end to the earth’s energy crises.  A large corporation headed by Parker Selfridge (Giovanni Ribisi) has plans to retrieve it all with the help of a devious military leader, Colonel Miles Quaritch (Stephen Lang) who offers Jake an incentive that will have him walking again, if he follows orders to achieve his goal.

The plan involves employing an Avatar, a genetically engineered hybrid created from a mix of human DNA and DNA from the Pandora natives, whose consciousness is linked to that of a human “driver”.

Once he is mind-linked to his own able bodied Avatar, Jake’s assignment is to infiltrate the Na’vi’s and within three months pursuade them to cooperate with the mining operation and move away from the land.  No sooner does Jake land in the unfamilar, jungle terrain that he finds himself in a life threatening situation only to be saved by a bow and arrow slinging Na’vi female warrior named Neytiri (Zoe Saldana), who takes him to join her clan where he learns to be one of them.  Conflict ensues after Jake begins to fall for Neytiri and appreciate the culture and values of the Na’vi, who have a mystical connection to their surrounding forest environment. As the military forces starts an invasion to wipe out their village and seize the valuable minerals, Jake finds himself torn between two physical and cultural worlds.

Supporting characters that fit into this fantasty saga include Sigourney Weaver as Avatar program creator/empathetic scientist Dr. Grace Augustine, Michelle Rodriguez as Trudy Chacon, a tough as nails fighter pilot, CCH Pounder as Neytiri’s  mother and her clan’s spiritual leader Mo'at, and Wes Studi as Eytukan, Neytiri’s father and clan leader.

At a reported cost of around $400 million, Avatar is one of the most expensive films ever made.  From the looks of it (literally) the money did not go to waste in any aspect.  Cameron and his CGI wizards have taken movie making to a new level by immersing you in a 3D fantasy world like nothing you have ever experienced.  I was blown away by the sheer artistic beauty and the attention to detail of the images as delivered by the amazing digital artists who have created a lush, iridescent colored panoramic landscape filled with an array of forest creatures such as giant flying reptiles and birds and dinosaur-like beasts reminiscent of Jurassic Park. In addition, the use of motion capture technology with live actors has never been so fully realized to convey true to life, full bodied performances. It is nearly impossible to distinguish between the live action and the amazing animation.

While indeed the visuals are outstanding, Cameron, as writer, has also scripted a compelling and rewarding story rich in spirituality and with an ecological, timely message.

I was so swept into the story and its eye popping visuals that the two hours and forty minutes flew by and I found myself wanting more.  There is so much to grasp and take in, you will want to see this spectacular film a second or even third time.  

Feedback is welcome.

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