Directed by: James Cameron
Written by:James Cameron
Starring: Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Sigourney Weaver, Stephen Lang, Michelle Rodriguez, Giovanni Ribisi
Released: December 17, 2009
Grade: A

In 1997, director James Cameron “wowed” me with Titanic.  It was one of the greatest films ever made and it’s still the highest grossing film in U.S. history.  I’ve been waiting twelve long years for Cameron to make another movie.  Why has he taken so long?  Whatever the reason, the wait has been worth it.  Avatar is the most visually spectacular film that I’ve ever seen on a big screen.  The bar has been raised.

Set in the year 2154, an army of humans have travelled to a distant planet known as Pandora.  They are extracting a valuable mineral from the ground which is worth an astronomical sum back home.  Unfortunately, there is an alien race on Pandora known as the Na’vi.  The only way the minerals can be dug up is by displacing the Na’vi from their homes.  They don’t plan on doing so without a fight.

Not everyone aboard the human spaceship is interested in these rocks.  A small team of peaceful scientists are looking to explore the planet to see what else can be learned from its people and its beautiful forests.  To help with their task, they have created avatars – a Na’vi body they can inhabit whilst on the surface.  It helps them communicate with the locals and in defending themselves against some vicious wildlife.

Caught in the middle is a paraplegic named Jake Sully (Worthington).  Jake is an ex war veteran who has been brought in to help the head scientist (Weaver) with her work.  Ah, but he’s also being used by the ship’s military leader (Lang) to gain valuable intelligence information on the Na’vi people and their weaknesses.  To whom do his allegiances really lie?

Not even Jake knows the answer to that question at first.  All he cares about is his amazing new life on Pandora.  Through his avatar, he now has the use of his legs for the first time in many years.  He has also developed affection for the planet and its people.  In particular, Jake has formed a bond with a young woman named Neytiri (Saldana) who is teaching him the ways of the Na’vi.

The dialogue is stiff at times but there’s an intricacy to the story which elevates it above your run-of-the-mill action flick.  This should come as no surprise given James Cameron’s history.  He loves visual effects but he recognises the importance of telling a good story.  Aliens, Terminator and Titanic are fitting examples.  In Avatar, he had me cheering for the strange-looking blue creatures instead of the humans.  Not necessarily an easy accomplishment.

Let’s be honest though – the reason this film is so amazing is because of its look.  The line separating live action and special effects has been blurred beyond recognition.  I didn’t know what was what.  Enhancing it even further is the fact it was filmed using the latest in 3D technology.  You will find yourself immersed in a fantasy world filled with a kaleidoscope of colours.  Or to put it more bluntly, in the words of Hollywood columnist Jeffrey Wells, “it's like your eyeballs are having sex.

Australian Sam Worthington must be pinching himself after the year he’s had.  Fresh off his role in Terminator: Salvation (where he was the best part of it), Worthington then got to star in a James Cameron movie.  Does it get any better?  You can see why Cameron chose him though.  Worthington gives a terrific performance.  With just a hint of his Aussie accent, he turns Jake into an ideal hero – someone a little rough around the edges but not lacking in passion.

It goes without saying that Avatar must be seen in 3D on the big screen.  It clocks in at just over two and a half hours and is sure to have cinemas packed once the word of mouth spreads.  Mr Cameron, please do not make me wait another twelve years for your next movie.