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January 22, 2010

When I first heard about Avatar, I can’t say I was too excited. The early posters and stills for the movie made it look cartoonish and lame. Plus, I’m not the type of person who buys into a lot of hype (Snakes on a Plane was the only exception). You’re telling me the guy who made Titanic invented his own cameras and spent nearly half a billion dollars on a movie? Big whoop. But, as the release date came closer and the reviews started to come in, the critics seemed to take very kindly to it. So I gave it a shot. And I’m glad I did.

“Avatar” follows Marine Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) to the distant planet Pandora where Earthlings are at odds with the native Na’vi people. There is a struggle between the scientists, lead by Dr. Grace Augustine (Sigourney Weaver) and the greedy corporation leader Parker Selfridge (Giovanni Ribisi). Selfridge is looking to make the Na’vi leave their home so he can gain access to the bounty of precious material on which they reside. Throw in the hot-head, old-school Colonel Miles Quaritch (Stephen Lang) and chaos ensues.

Technology has allowed for humans to go into a pod where they can control an avatar of themselves on Pandora. This is how Sully becomes completely immersed in the world of Pandora and meets Neytiri (Zoe Saldana). Sully then tries to become part of the Na’vi world, where he meets opposition from both the native people and Quaritch.

Anyone who tells you this movie isn’t visually stunning is flat-out lying. James Cameron’s new-fangled cameras delivered a world that moviegoers have never seen. A lot of movies that are shot in front of a green screen can look fake and far-fetched, but the effects in “Avatar” really immerse you into the world of Pandora. I can honestly say I never looked at any part of the movie as if it were CGI. It all looked real. Seeing this movie in IMAX 3D really brought out all the details that Cameron was trying to bring to life. The 3D wasn’t the cheesy 3D we’re used to either. Avatar didn’t have the audience grabbing at objects that were floating around the theater. The extra dimension just added a lot of depth to the movie.

Sam Worthington and Stephen Lang both deliver amazing performances. Despite Worthington’s Aussie accent coming out occasionally, he did a great job of creating a rugged character that becomes more personable as the movie goes on. And Lang was the perfect guy to hate.

But Avatar was not without it’s flaws. Sigourney Weaver’s portrayal of the lead scientist is distractingly bad in the beginning of the movie. Either I got used to it as the movie went on, or she actually got better. It’s hard to tell. I also had a hard time getting used to Joel Moore playing a serious scientist. It was tough to shake his character J.P. from Grandma’s Boy. I was waiting for him to say “adios, turd nuggets” in a robot voice as he closed his pod to control his avatar. But the bad acting cake goes to Michelle Rodriguez for her portrayal of a helicopter pilot. She delivers one-liner after one-liner and tons of awkward dialogue.

I can’t say the plot was spectacularly original either. With glaringly obvious anti-war and environmental overtones, Cameron didn’t do too much to surprise the audience. While the story was good and very entertaining, it seemed like it had been done before. I’m sure most of you have seen this by now. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions.

In my eyes, the score to Avatar was a bit too over the top and at times distracting. The action sequences in the movie were exciting enough. We don’t need the “DUN DUN DUN!”

Despite it’s problems, the movie was a great theater experience. I would recommend seeing it in IMAX 3D if you can. Make sure to buy your tickets in advance, because the IMAX shows are still selling out over a month after the movie’s initial release. I don’t see this movie translating to DVD, so seeing it in the theaters would be your best bet. On the small screen, this will be just a slightly above-average action movie.

Is Avatar a good movie? Yes. Is it groundbreaking? Yes. Should it have won best drama at the Golden Globes? Definitely not.

Go see it while you still can. I’m sure it will be in theaters for a long time seeing how much money it is still bringing in. James Cameron obviously needs the money…

Release Date: December 18, 2009

Cast: Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Stephen Lang, Sigourney Weaver, Michelle Rodriguez

Director: James Cameron

Writer: James Cameron

Studio: Twentieth Century Fox

IMDBRotten Tomatoes

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