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Avatar – A-

Submitted by on January 1, 2010 – 7:49 PMNo Comment
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Avatar is a game-changer.  People were skeptical, particularly when that first trailer hit and it looked like James Cameron had spent a quarter of a billion dollars to make Final Fantasy.  But by the time footage screened at the San Diego Comic-Con last summer, the buzz was rising and it was not just positive, it was giddy.  Then the second trailer arrived and served notice that Cameron’s multi-multi-million dollar movie was going to be … amazing.

The world he has created on Pandora, the lush forest-moon home of an indigenous life-form of tall, blue-skinned humanoids with tails, is immersive and dimensional.  This world is real and yet it doesn’t exist.

The story is simple, almost simplistic.  You may have heard it described as Dances With Wolves in space, and that’s not inaccurate.  The Na’vi are clearly based on Native Americans and the corporate culture of the invading Earthlings is mired in a 19th century sense of Manifest Destiny.  Stephen Lang’s Colonel Miles Quaritch and Giovanni Ribisi as Parker Selfridge are the human faces of the corporation with Lang the warrior and Ribisi the suit.

Lang is ferociously terrific as the man in charge of security.  “You’re not in Kansas any more,” he tells a group of new arrivals, and the beautiful place is filled with deadly animals and hostile humanoids who are “very hard to kill.”  And he would know.  The scars of an animal attack bear witness to his experiences and validate his bad-ass status.  When he locks into the mech warrior he controls much like Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) controls his Avatar, he’s a force to be reckoned with.

When Sully transfers his consciousness into the human/Na’vi hybrid body intended for use by his dead twin brother, the movie really kicks into gear.  An ex-Marine confined to a wheelchair in his “real life,” as a warrior in training among the Na’vi, he finds his destiny.  Cameron’s eco-message is not subtle but it is passionate and when the final battle occurs, the audience is invested in his characters and in the outcome.  It’s not just action for the sake of action—though the action is outstanding.

The characters are a little clumsy, but give Cameron credit—he writes archetypes that resonate—the reluctant hero, the wounded warrior.  His women are strong too—from Michelle Rodriguez’ gonzo helicopter pilot to Sigourney Weaver’s scientist to Zoe Saldana as Neytiri, a warrior princess who falls in love with Jake.

This movie works in 2-D but see it in 3-D if you can because there has never been a movie that took advantage of 3-D technology the way this one does.  Avatar will change the way you view movies.

Beer: What else would the inhabitants of Pandora drink but Blue Moon (5.4% ABV), a Belgian-style spiced wheat beer with orange, coriander and honey notes?  Yes there’s a corporate connection (Molson Coors) lurking in the background, but Blue Moon is a craft beer at heart, with its spicy complexity and creamy mouth feel.