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'Avatar' is film of genius

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Published: Fri, December 18, 2009 @ 7:35 p.m.

James Cameron's "Avatar" is undoubtedly one of the best films to be released in years.

Usually, in my writing, I find a way to combine a number of pop culture references to sum up what I think of a particular work. In "Avatar," Cameron combines the best parts of so many projects that's an impossible task.

"Avatar" tells the story a planet, Pandora. The film starts with a wheelchair-bound Marine, Jake Sully (Sam Worthington), who takes the place of his scientist brother when he was robbed.

The film explains that an Avatar is a creation of human and "native" DNA that humans can control, setting the stage for the sci-fi story. On the planet of Pandora, there's an effort underway by unnamed corporations to mine an outrageously priced mineral.

Also on Pandora, there's the Na'vi people. (An interesting note here is that they have "naturally occurring carbon fiber" in their bones. That's awesome.) Jake takes a particular interest in Neytiri (Zoë Saldana) who doesn't have the same fascination, but is interested in the fact that the god of the Na'vi people has selected him for something, for some reason.

"Avatar" begins the film with beautiful space imagery, a lead-in for one of the most visually stunning films ever created, thanks to some groundbreaking animation efforts. There were many points in "Avatar" where I was drifting out of a I'm-watching-a-movie mindset and into something that felt like being an observer at an exhibit at the zoo.

Layers of digital effects create a beautifully captivating habitat for the Na'vi people and other Pandoran creatures. But above the technical points, the colors make the movie so aesthetically breathtaking that the film doesn't need much story.

And on to that: "Avatar" does have a fairly decent story line, an exceptional plot if you take in account it is a sci-fi flick. The first bits of dialogue set the tone for some typical sci-fi themes, including topics like veterans' benefits and health care. It's also filled with heavy doses of the study in balance and spirituality.

Other subtleties in the script (also by Cameron) really give the dialogue some depth and give the audience a way of relating to the characters. If you don't care what people say, then maybe you're interested in Michelle Rodriguez. She's in "Avatar," and again, plays a pretty mean chick with a breathy voice.

The music is also a marvelous piece of this film, created by James Horner. A number of non-traditional elements are brought in to "Avatar," including a beautiful use of children singing. There's also a fluid relationship between traditional orchestral instruments and digitally created sounds that works beautifully.

More than 400 words of positive review, and now I'll mention what I didn't like: "Avatar" runs almost three hours. (Even though some scenes from the trailer were cut entirely from the film.) Sometimes long movies don't seem so bad, but there's a certain segment of "Avatar" where my mind shut off entirely. Just past the half-way point and before the required battle scene, I'm not entirely sure I know what happened. But I know it took more than 45 minutes and didn't do anything to drive the movie forward.

Maybe the producers had to fire some editors to save money from the lack of product placement, so it was a way to save money. Although, the complete disregard for product placement was a welcome relief.


"Avatar" is the story of an ex-Marine who finds himself thrust into hostilities on an alien planet filled with exotic life forms. As an Avatar, a human mind in an alien body, he finds himself torn between two worlds, in a desperate fight for his own survival and that of the indigenous people.

Showtimes and more on Avatar

Still, even by the time my mind started wandering away, I was set on using the word "genius" to describe "Avatar." There's so many elements that are breathtaking, chilling and brilliant, there's not many other ways to describe a film of this caliber.

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