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James Cameron epic AVATAR graces theatres in eye popping 3-D

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James Cameron tries his very best to appeal to the sci-fi geek in all of us in his new film Avatar. The film is a highly anticipated return for a director completely absent from cinema since his award winning Titanic became “king of the world” back in 1998. The real question is, does Avatar live up to all this hype?!

The answer would depend on expectations. For those willing to let go and tap into their inner nerd, Avatar is quite a mind-blowing spectacle in a variety of ways. However, it doesn’t exactly bear the incredible impact that Cameron’s best films, such as Titanic and Terminator, are remembered for. Avatar

The story is pretty much been there, done that, but honestly, Cameron’s skills at storytelling have never been terribly original. The movie is set on Pandora, a beautiful and deadly new planet that the military has situated on. Their interest is in a rich mineral deep in the forest that, when mined, will be incredibly profitable.

So what’s the problem? The mineral is deep under the ground in a wooded location inhabited by a tribe of avatars, natives (called navi) of Pandora that have reacted aggressively to the military infiltration. To perhaps achieve a more diplomatic solution, they have enabled scientist Grace Augustine (Sigourney Weaver) to step in. Grace runs a program that enables humans to link into actual Avatar bodies, enabling them to enter the navi world, interact with them, and perhaps negotiate a means to move them off the forest land so that the mineral can be harvested.

For the negotiations, paraplegic ex-marine Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) becomes the lucky subject asked to inhabit an avatar body and infiltrate the navi tribe, gaining their trust, and in turn asking them to move off the land that harbors the mineral. There, he meets Neytiri (voiced by Zoe Saldana), a tough talking tribal daughter who teaches him the ropes. As Jake continues to get deeper into the ways of the tribe, he starts to fall in love, both with the native people and Neytiri. As an impatient military threatens violence, he becomes detached from his actual human reality, and begins to fight with the clan for their survival.

The plot of Avatar is unoriginal and fairly cliché. The idea of a tribe being run off their native land has been done to death, and the movie never feels fresh in this aspect. The dialogue is also embarrassing at points. The movie stumbles even more with the love story between Neytiri and Jake. There’s hardly any chemistry at all between Worthington and Saldana, and nothing is helped by the fact that an audience is basically watching two special effects gaze into each other’s eyes lovingly. Cameron never finds the way to get into the audience’s hearts emotionally, convincing them that the cgi smurfs are in fact people worth investing in. This is perhaps the biggest problem in Avatar. The emotional connection registers low for the most part, and it is that sweeping notion that would have made the film the true epic it almost is. Avatar

However, those shortcomings aside, Avatar still comes off as stellar entertainment, even at a long two hours plus. The visual effects are astounding, awash in a maze of vibrant aqua and green. The whole thing is an absolute orgy for the eyes. The 3-D effect is like none before, and hardly ever uses the template as gimmick. The entire experience is remarkably immersive and detailed. The cgi effects range from good to breathtaking, hindered only by the occasional reminder that this is essentially a live action video game. Best of all, the action is top notch, with a fabulous climax that’s easily the strongest part of the film, guaranteed to take your breath away.

So after twelve years out, the real question is whether this is a comeback worth waiting for in regards to James Cameron. While Avatar doesn’t necessarily trump Titanic in terms of superiority, it is an experience that reminds us what a great filmmaker James Cameron is. He runs circles around Michael Bay and McG, proving an absolute master at special effects and action sequence choreography. Avatar is not the best movie of the decade, or maybe even the year, but it’s an absolutely thrilling experience that reminds us what it’s like to be entertained by a masterful moviemaker who loves to make movies, and is great at making them.