For nearly three hours tonight I sat in the movie theater and completely forgot about all of my troubles, all of my worries and nothing else even mattered to me in the world except the universe James Cameron masterfully created in Avatar. I even forgot I was part of the human race as I sat there in captive bewilderment. Not even the rude patron kicking on the back of my chair could distract me. I cannot even remember the last time I have been this enraptured with a film in a theater. Sure there were my two loves this summer, The Hangover and G.I. Joe (I know Adam is cringing reading this), but Cameron’s Avatar sucked me in right from the beginning, bonded me emotionally with the alien race and never let me go until the very end. It was a fervid roller coaster ride that can only be compared to the mixing of the emotional highs and lows you felt watching his masterpiece Titanic and witnessing for the first time the new groundbreaking technology he ushered into filmmaking with Terminator 2.
Avatar focuses on the struggle between humans and an alien race known as the Na’vi people on the fictional planet of Pandora. Of course, the humans are the antagonists within the conflict, forcing imperialism upon the Na’vi, as they try to capitalize/acquire the planet’s precious and valuable resource of unobtanium and the alien inhabitants are forced to fight for their own existence. It kind of sounds much like the Native American Indians’ plight against the pilgrims, doesn’t it? Anyway, there is a small problem for the humans. They are unable to breathe naturally in the Pandoran atmosphere. In order to interact with the planet’s alien race, learn their ways and gain their trust, human scientists genetically created human-Na’vi bodies called Avatars. The theory was that a human who shares genetic material with the Avatar can be mentally linked to it, allowing them to control its functions, manipulate its choices and live its experiences first hand while the human host sleeps in the real world. Sounds heavy doesn’t it? If that sounds mind blowing think about this for a minute. What if one of those Avatars falls in love with one of the indigenous race members they are trying to impersonate? Now you really have some complications going on. Put aside all the bloodshed, war and violence and what we really have here is a serious love story and dilemma going on! I have not been this emotionally moved since Titanic and Good Will Hunting.
History has it that James Cameron wrote a 114-page script in 1994 titled Avatar. In 1996, Cameron announced that he would be filming Avatar after Titanic and that it would make use of computer generated actors. I don’t think the world was ready for that yet and thankfully the technology was not either. Much like Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, James Cameron always pushed the limits of technology in Hollywood and its obvious that Avatar was no exception to the rule. In fact, Avatar was filmed with newly developed stereoscopic cameras that can actually simulate human sight. All right, I won’t bore you with all the technical mumbo jumbo other than to say that you would be hard pressed to find anything out there that can touch the computer generated world and effects seen within Avatar. Cameron really set the bar high in this one. George Lucas…your turn! C’mon, you can do three more “good” Star Wars prequels. Anyway, I have to admit that the computer generated aliens initially turned me off in the theatrical trailers for Avatar, but after one 3D viewing tonight, I was a believer. I am a huge critic when it comes to special effects and not once tonight was my suspension of disbelief disturbed. I sat there in wide-eyed amazement over the onscreen action, the beautifully rendered environments and the emotionally gripping story that tugged at my heartstrings.
The film also features some big name stars to boot. The up and coming action hero from this summer’s Terminator Salvation, Sam Worthington, stars as the wheel chair stricken Marine Jake Sully. Other noteworthy film stars such as Zoe Saldana (this summer’s Star Trek), Stephen Lang, Michelle Rodriguez (everyone knows who she is) and even the legendary Sigourney Weaver keep the action hot and the story lines flourishing. Going into the 3D experience tonight, I had no idea one of my favorite actors was in this movie and I was pleasantly surprised to see the very talented Giovanni Ribisi leading the human war campaign against the Na’vi people on Pandora. The film has a runtime of 161 minutes, but unless you’re Gregg Senko, you will probably never once check your watch. So go grab your favorite beverage, a big tub of popcorn from the concession stand, a stash of napkins to wipe away your butter splattered fingers and sit down for what should have been billed as this summer’s big blockbuster hit. Just think of it as an early Christmas present to yourself. The film is rated PG-13 and the while the action can be violent at times and there are minor curse words throughout I think the younger crowd will enjoy this one just as much as the adults will. If you are looking for a riveting good time, groundbreaking special effects, a patriotic story in the vein of Braveheart and a Titanic-like love story (I could not help hearing that Celine Dion song playing in my head throughout), then this is the film for you! Two BIG thumbs up and a bold A+ are awarded from my fingertips to your computer screen.