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Movie Review: Avatar

Alternate Title: Tree Huggers Vs, Tree Muggers

Story: I really wanted to like this movie. After all, it was a15 year effort by writer and director James Cameron. It had uber-hype about changing movies forever and over 800 people worked on the film creating the world of Pandora. Sadly, within an hour I had an acute attack of spectacle overload from which I could not recover. A script and some adult narrative could have been the medicine I needed to pull out of my celluloid infirmity, but that never happened.

Former Marine, wheelchair bound, Jake Sully takes his murdered twin brothers place on the five year voyage to Pandora. Why Pandora? It seems the indigenous peoples, the Na'vi, are sitting on a mineral called 'unobtainium' (my first laugh of the film) which will, when brought back to Earth, will solve our energy problem. (Yes, we still have an energy problem). The Avatar program, created by a cigarette smoking scientist, mixes Na'vi DNA with human DNA to create a half-human, half-Na'vi being that can breathe the Pandoran air and hopefully be accepted by the Na'vi people to then convince them to give up their home so Earthlings can extract the unobtainium. That's the plot line and oh yes, there is a love story.

Don't get me wrong - parts of the film are beautiful and wondrous on the eye. However, neither the characters nor the created land of Pandora ever felt real to me. The dialogue was insulting, the characters were either all good or all bad. There was never even a slight hint of gray. Director Cameron spent too much time on the razzle dazzle and none of the time on the story. He borrows heavily from other films, most notably, Dances With Wolves and even borrows from himself - his 1986 film, Aliens.

I could not help but recall Pavel Tchelitchew's Hide and Seek, a painting that is in the permanent collection of MoMA, when I first viewed the Na'vi's home tree.

So, should you go see it? Why not? Be prepared to sit through hours of flash, dash, color, violins, special effects and a 30 minute finale, that is reminiscent of so many other films.

Even the trailer is long: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dyDQoXEBkGw

Acting: Sam Worthington as Jake Sully cannot be blamed for having to work with such a skimpy script. That said he was much better as a Na'vi than a Marine. Zoë Saldana as Neytiri was more human than any of the other characters and she was a Na'vi. Sigourney Weaver as Dr. Grace Augustine must have been paid a lot of money to do this role. Stephen Lang as Col. Miles Quaritch, was completely one dimensional and cartoon-like. Michelle Rodriguez as Trudy Chacon, the tough helicopter pilot was also stereotypical. Giovanni Ribisi as corporate hack Carter Selfridge was awful.

Trivia: Sam Worthington was a finalist to play James Bond in Casino Royale (2006) before Daniel Craig was cast. He was born in Godalming Surrey, England. His parents moved to Perth, Western Australia when Sam was very young. Zoe Saldana was born Zoe Yadira Zaldaña Nazario in New Jersey, moved to the Dominican Republic for 7 years and studied ballet there at Ritmos Espacio de Danza academy and then went back to the United States to continue her career. In The Terminal (2004), Saldana's character Torres is revealed to be a Trekkie. Saldana went on to be cast as Uhura in Star Trek (2009).

Predilection: None

Critters: All manner of very cool looking creatures. They were my favorite part.

Food: Scrambled eggs and rations.

Sex Spectrum: Na'vi implied mating, coyly set under a large leaf in the Pandoran forest.

Soundtrack: Over the top. I really was expecting a Celine Dion tune somewhere along the way.

Opening Titles: All credits and title are at the end of the film.

Visual Art: Visually this was quite a feat - but it still looked like a cartoon to me.

Theater Audience: I went to the theater on a Monday at 11 AM expecting a few other people. I was horrified to see that the entire theater was filled up with Jr. High School kids and their teachers. That said - even though I did hear talking throughout, after awhile I realized that I would not miss any dialogue at all because the script was so lame. By the way - the 14 year olds loved the film and all of the girls applauded at the end.

Weather: It is lovely on Pandora.

Sappy Factor: 3

Quirky Meter: 0

Squirm Scale: 0

Drift Factor: I drifted to another galaxy after about an hour and must have looked at my watch 25 times.

Predictability Level: Over the top.

Tissue Usage: 0

Oscar Worthy: I am sure it will get lots of nominations.

Big Screen or Rental: If you plan to see this film - big screen is a must.

Length: Two hours and 45 minutes. Gasp.