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Avatar

Went out to see AVATAR on Tuesday night, and was more than pleasantly surprised.  I was wowed.  I went into this with some skepticism.  When someone tells me they’re going to “redefine science fiction on television”, or “create something that no one has ever seen before”, I roll my eyes and walk away.  So I felt this film couldn’t match the hype.
We all sprung the extra money to see the film in 3D and I’m really glad I did.  The technology has improved so much since Captain Eo was presented at Disneyland.  It didn’t give me a headache and it was totally immersive.

Let me start with the story because I’m a writer and that’s where I focus.  Was it original — no.  If you’re a science fiction reader you’ve read this story a hundred times before.  You’ve seen it in films — Dances with Wolves.  But this is Cameron, and what he does is take a tried and true story and do it better than anyone else.  ALIENS is the best S.F. military movie ever made.  TERMINATOR — the best B action movie ever made.  I wont touch TITANIC  because I hated that film except for the great effects in the final thirty minutes.

So we are starting from a familiar story, but the script played fair.  They give me a reason why he’s sent to this new world without the required background.  I bought that the Navi would be interested in him because he was a warrior and they were a warrior/hunter culture.  I bought the sentient biosphere finding him interesting, as a potential bridge between the two cultures, which led to an event that had the natives deciding to take a hard look at this guy.  The film makes it clear the humans have been on Pandora for years, and that the scientists had started a school so there were locals who spoke English.  Jake had a reason to abandon human society — he was crippled.  He takes calculated risks to accomplish his goals.  The one bad military decision that rang false for me was the cavalry charge against automatic weapons.  He would have known better than that.

And here’s the real magic.  Cameron took me to a alien planet.  For the first time in film I felt like I was on a distant world orbiting a distant star.  The last time I had this sense of gasping wonder was when the ships pass overhead in the opening of STAR WARS.  This movie is beautiful.

The casting choices were smart too.  Sam Worthington was the only watchable thing in Terminator Salvation, and he turns in a nuanced performance in this film — not an easy thing to do in an blockbuster movie.  Sigourney Weaver is one of my favorite actresses, and Michelle Rodriquez does a great job as the pilot who has finally had enough.  

I loved the design of this movie — from the biology I’ve never see before, to the life-like aliens whose eyes look like real eyes.  The technology also looked great.  I believed those ships and the battle armor.  I liked the limits on the avatar technology.  Occasionally the driver had to stop to eat, shit, shower and sleep.  The one sour note — the stupid name for the mineral.  Unobtainium?  Really?  You couldn’t think of anything more creative?
There is a point in the film where Jake talks about his “dying world”.  I wouldn’t have minded just a visual pop so I had a sense of what has happened to the Earth.  That would have helped give me more context.

Overall it was an enthralling two and a half hours, and I would see this movie again.  That’s a rare thing for me.  I almost never see a film twice.

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