‘Welcome to Pandora’: Cameron’s ‘Avatar’ redefines 3-D

Dominic Baez – Editor-in-chief

Combine 15 years of creative thought, four years of filming and a $300 million production budget, and you get one of the most visually dazzling pieces of cinematography ever to grace the IMAX screen.

James Cameron, director of “Avatar” (along with “Titanic,” “Terminator 2” and “Aliens”), has done it again: He has created a film that could go down in history as one of the best. As of Jan. 12, 2009, “Avatar” has already earned $1.37 billion worldwide – second only to his previous film, “Titanic.”

“Avatar,” set in 2154, takes place in the eye-popping world that is Pandora, a far off planet being mined by humans for a valuable mineral. However, the natives, 10-feet tall, blue-skinned humanoids named the Na’vi, aren’t pleased with the destruction of their sacred lands. Because all is not going according to plan, the humans want to settle matters “peacefully”: They want the Na’vi to move from their land by choice; it wouldn’t be PC to force them off. (No worries, the force comes later.)

Here is where the title comes into play: Human scientists have created genetics hybrids, named avatars, based on human and Na’vi DNA. Enter Jake Sully (Sam Worthington), a paralyzed ex-Marine who is just naïve enough to play along. Minutes later, appears the lush world of Pandora: horses with six legs; flying, dinosaur-like reptiles; and ethereal floating objects that resemble jellyfish. All of this, of course, is illustrated in breathtaking, fluid animation.

While Jake’s mission may have been infiltration at first, he soon becomes enraptured with his new body, which allows him to run, jump and sift dirt through his toes, freeing him from his damaged human body. Although physically emancipated, he remains bound to the base camp, where he works for the mining corporation’s top scientist, Dr. Grace Augustine (Sigourney Weaver), while taking orders from its head of security, Col. Miles Quaritch (Stephen Lang).

 The plot, though generically written at best, is simplistic in its message: Protect your planet. And Jake and the Na’vi do that in fantastic, Cameron-esque fashion.

The best part? The entire movie is shot in 3-D – and not your grandfather’s 3-D, either. This is a new dynamic, one where the technology isn’t used to surprise you, but instead to immerse you into the Na’vi’s world - Cameron brings the movie to you. This movie is worth paying the $15 ticket to see it in IMAX 3-D. You’ll never see movies in the same light again.

In today’s world, movies rarely try to go above and beyond; they merely are. Something always seems to be missing – that “wow” factor. “Avatar” has that “wow” factor in spades. For better or for worse, it’s a must-see. 

Rated: PG-13 (gun and explosive violence, death and despair)
Running time: 2 hours 46 minutes
Photo credit: 20th Century Fox

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