read on air 2/11/10

James Cameron’s instant classic.  This is filmmaking on a grand scale.  It has already surpassed his previous record holding film, Titanic, in gross sales.  It is impossible to separate the story from the effects with this movie. 

I recommend you see it in 3D and IMAX.  It is an experience worth the extra money – $16 for IMAX – and will stick with you.  Without the technology, however, which did not exist when Cameron began this film a number of years ago, it would be less memorable.  The free-living, spiritual Noble Savage theme has been done before, at least as long ago as 1932 in Aldous Huxley’s masterpiece novel, Brave New World.  Riding on dangerous, indigenous animals probably goes back farther than Frank Herbert’s giant sandworms in Dune in 1965.  And, of course, plugging into another world electronically is well known from the Matrix series and also from the lesser known The Thirteenth Floor which predated those movies.  Finally, the search for Unobtanium, can be likened to various Star Trek episodes where humans sought exotic minerals like pergium in the den of the horta.  Captain Kirk is a compassionate presence, diametrically opposite to Avatar’s Colonel Miles Quaritch.

Difficult to watch at times when the good guys are taking a beating, and uplifting to watch when the bad guys get their comeuppances.  The film certainly keeps one engaged and you identify with the Pandorans even though they are an alien race.

You can read the message as Europeans vs. Native Americans in colonial days, or as humans vs. nature.  Or go all the way back to good vs. evil.  They all work.

The film is not for everyone.  It is upsetting and violent and there is killing of innocents and bad guys alike.

You won’t be disappointed in the action, but see it at your own peril if you are a gentle soul.  I have to give it *** ½  for the sheer magnitude of the achievement and its watchability, but there is a gulf between *** ½  and **** which is simply too great to put Avatar even close.