Sunday, December 20, 2009


I vaguely remember hearing whispers about James Cameron's latest epic years ago. Something that was supposed to be a huge phenomenon that would dwarf the Titanic. But I didn't buy into the hype.

Even as this year arrived and carried on and the ComicCon in San Diego got more Avatar buzz buzzing, I didn't buy into the hype.

After 15 years of work, Cameron's new movie finally opened over the weekend. It's received a lot of press and a lot of favorable reviews. Those things, combined with the fact that I've never seen a 3-D movie before, convinced me to go and see what all the hype was about.

Okay, so that's not entirely true. I have seen a 3-D movie. But I'm not sure if I should count seeing Captain EO at DisneyWorld when I was 12.

Whatever the case, I was kind of excited when the girl at the box office gave me my 3-D glasses with my ticket. I entered the theater and found that it wasn't any more magical that any other trip I've made to see any other movie. Of course, I still had the glasses in my hand. Maybe once I donned them, the world around me would change.

After a few previews, the audience was instructed to put on their glasses. Then we got a few more previews. These were for upcoming 3-D films. All of which I think I'll be okay seeing in plain ol' 2-D if I get the choice. With Avatar, there was no choice at my theater. It was the extra money for the 3-D or no movie at all. Yeah, 3-D goes for an extra $2.50. Really great in these troubling economic times.

Anyway, the 3-D effect was pretty neat. And don't worry, I resisted the temptation to reach out and grab at the words that floated just before my eyes.

As for the movie itself, I'll admit it was impressive. The entire thing was visually stunning. The special effects were so realistic, it makes George Lucas' characters in the Star Wars prequels look like Who Framed Roger Rabbit? I wonder if Hollywood has any limits anymore.

It's a distant future, where humanity has finally depleted the Earth of its own resources. This forces man to find a new world to exploit. The world they find is one known as Pandora, which is actually a moon orbiting a gas giant in a star system several light years from Earth. We're introduced to Jake Sully, a paraplegic ex-Marine who finds himself thrust into the Avatar program after his twin brother's death.

What's the Avatar program? Well, you see, Pandora is inhabited by a number of species, one of which is intelligent: the Na'vi. The Na'vi are a tribal group who stand ten feet tall and have blue skin and cat-like tails. They each have a long braided ponytail which seem to have nerve-like tentacles on the ends. Using these appendages, they're able to connect to the animal and plant life on their world, literally connecting them to their land.

As part of the Avatar program, Jake grows accustomed to having his consciousness placed into the Na'vi/Human hybrid that was grown to house him. He finds himself caught between worlds. He is forced to choose sides in a conflict that would mean the destruction or the survival of Pandora.

The story itself did not seem too terribly original. It seemed to have a lot of influences from Dances With Wolves to The Matrix. That's not to say it wasn't enjoyable. It was actually very good. And, as stated before, it was visually stunning. Definitely worth seeing.

Taking off those 3-D glasses at the end was the true challenge. How was I to go from spending nearly 3 hours looking at a magical world that hovered right before my eyes and go back to the boring way I used to see things. I'm guessing, however, that the 3-D effect takes a while to wear off. I look around me, still, and see depth all over the place. Amazing.

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