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The biggest movie of all time is a technical marvel in high-def 3D, but this is by no means a complete edition...
Fox / 162 Minutes / 2009 / Rated PG-13 / Street Date: October 16, 2012
I still have no idea how James Cameron pulled it off. He waited for more than a decade after his sea-changing Titanic to make a film - many in Hollywood had predicted he'd gone all Howard Hughes, so drunk on power and Hollywood prestige that his ability to actually make a decent picture had sunk to the bottom of the Atlantic along with the Heart of the Ocean - and when Avatar started being promoted last fall, it looked...well, weird. The posters were obtuse, trailers made it look like a Smurfs-LSD-trip video game - it truly seemed as though the King of the World had crawled inside his own head too far this time.
But while a percentage of viewers can't wrap their heads around Avatar's Ferngully-cum-Dances With Wolves storyline, the film impacted popular culture with a resounding, inclusive thump. Not just a well-reviewed sci-fi actioner (a moniker that is doled out rarely to begin with) nor a big, stinking Hollywood hit, Avatar was everywhere as 2009 turned into 2010 - you couldn't avoid it. For the first time in what feels like decades, movie theatres were packed again. In an age of piracy, wonderful home theater setups (welcome again to DVDFile!) and skyrocketing ticket prices, Avatar put butts in seats in ways few movies have since the cable TV revolution of the 1980s.
Let's get the plot synopsis out of the way: In the futuristic world of Avatar, Corporal Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) straps himself into a newfangled machine that allows him to look and act just like the indigenous people of the planet Pandora, and as he runs around with these Na'vi folks, he's supposed to garner info for Earth military forces about where they might find some hard-to-find underground fuel deposits. It doesn't take long for ol' Sully to lose interest in spying for the government and decide to give himself fully to the Na'vi people - he falls in love, he finds a cause he believes in: The question in Avatar is that while watching Sully become his own man, we're left to wonder exactly what happens when one not only follows the beat of his own drum but turns his back on his own species (!) in the process.
Bigger than life in every sense of the term, Avatar doesn't do much to advance storytelling structure - no matter how you slice it, Cameron's script is the film's least reliable element - but the world concocted in the film is so immersive and rich that one can't help but succumb to its sensory brilliance. I can definitely point out plot holes and silly narrative devices utilized by Cameron here, but this is the fourth time I've seen the thing, and while I don't know that I'd be able to defend it note-for-note in a court of law, it still kicks ass. Avatar is glacial, craftsmanlike, finessed entertainment of an epic scale - and now home theater geeks can enjoy the flick from their couches in the 3D fashion Cameron intended. But is it worth the triple-dip?