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Movie Reviews

Blue, beautiful ‘Avatar’ will blow you away

Blue, beautiful ‘Avatar’ will blow you away

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Neil Pond
American Profile
January 19, 2010
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The new special-effects blockbuster from director James Cameron takes place on the moon of a distant planet some 150 years from now. Human expeditions into space have sniffed out something special underneath the lush, primal surface of Pandora---something that can solve all of Earth’s energy woes.

The only problem: The indigenous inhabitants of Pandora, the slender, 12-feet-tall, blue-hued Na’vi, live right on top of it.

As the movie opens, we’re introduced to an American base on Pandora, a coalition of mighty military force and iron-fisted industrial might that’s there for one reason: to mine the coveted, obscenely expensive element, appropriately dubbed “Unobtainium.” If this can be accomplished without unnecessarily agitating the natives, wonderful. If it can’t, no one intends to let a few thousand “primitive,” tree-hugging Na’vi stand in the way of an extra-terrestrial gravy train.

But before the gargantuan bulldozers roll, a small group of scientists on Pandora has been allowed to work on a diplomatic project involving avatars, genetically engineered Na’vi bodies “inhabited” by human personalities. When the humans go to sleep, their avatars wake up and interact with the natives.

The Na’vi are accustomed to the presence of the avatars, who’ve even helped them build schools for their little blue kids. But mostly they don’t trust them. They refer to them dismissively as “dreamwalkers.”

When one of the dreamwalkers, an ex-Marine named Jake (Sam Worthington), defects to the blue side, falls in love and aligns himself with the Na’vi to warn them about the real intent of the American interlopers, it sets in motion an all-out war.

It’s both wildly original and hauntingly familiar, like “Dances With Wolves” in a galaxy far, far away. The Na’vi will remind you of Native American Indians, in both culture and name, and the rapacious, capitalistic, militaristic humans are like...well, greedy, rapacious, capitalistic, militaristic humans. Jake notes that whenever we find something we want, we declare whoever’s sitting on it an enemy and fight them off.

The special effects are groundbreaking, intoxicating and totally immersive. They transport you to another world of wonder, beauty, danger and movie magic at its most colorful, convincing and compelling.

Don’t dismiss “Avatar” as just another sci-fi fantasy. The spectacular, frequently breathtaking visuals serve a much deeper story, an epic fable about love, loyalty, spirituality and stewardship of whatever place it is you call home. Cameron, the director of the “Terminator” movies as well as “Aliens,” “The Abyss” and “Titanic,” has created a big-screen marvel that sets a new benchmark for technical achievement but also goes deep into the heart.

Sure, you can wait for the DVD. But to truly experience this blue, beautiful wonder, you need to see “Avatar” on the biggest screen you can find. Then sit back, hold on and prepare to be blown away.

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