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The Warsaw Voice » Culture » January 13, 2010
Film review
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January 13, 2010   
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It took just 17 days from its world premiere for James Cameron's Avatar to rake in a staggering $1 billion at the box office. Admittedly, tickets to 3D screenings are more expensive than regular ones and Avatar was shown over two long weekends during Christmas and New Year, but it is clear that Cameron is aiming to beat his own record set by his blockbuster Titanic from 1997, which raked in $1.2 billion around the world. While Titanic won 11 Academy Awards, none of those went to the actors. It is highly unlikely that any actor in Avatar will win an Oscar either, because all the human roles merely provide a backdrop for a futuristic extravaganza that may well sweep this year's Oscars for its sets, costumes, make-up, cinematography, editing, score and last but not least, the special effects.

Avatar quite simply opens a new chapter in cinema history. This becomes evident just 30 minutes into the movie, which is over two-and-a-half hours long. The 3D images of Pandora, the planet where the story is set, are breathtaking. There seem to be no limits to the imagination of those who designed all the creatures that populate Pandora in 2154 AD. Most of them are clever hybrids of real animals, now-extinct creatures and legendary beasts. Some are modeled on dinosaurs, others on mythological entities from various cultures. The same is true of plants and other natural phenomena on Pandora, except that the way they are brought to life here makes television documentaries about rainforests look like community gardening news.

Avatar is a visual spectacle with aspirations to deliver an epic narrative and, as is often the case with such movies, the script is the weakest component. It revolves around Jake Sully (Sam Worthington-Terminator Salvation), an ex-marine who has lost the use of his legs. He comes to the exotic but dangerous planet as a stand-in for his dead twin brother, a member of a scientific mission to Pandora. There is nothing much original in the story of Jake and his avatar, a mind-controlled being genetically engineered to resemble a member of the mysterious indigenous people of the planet, the Na'vi. The way Jake begins to identify with his avatar and with the locals is reminiscent of Kevin Costner's role in Dances with Wolves and Tom Cruise in The Last Samurai. Parker Selfridge (Giovanni Ribisi-Public Enemies, Cold Mountain), who plays a boss from a corporation that plans to turn Pandora into a huge mine in order to exploit its precious resources, is a dead ringer for Carter Burke from Aliens, also directed by Cameron. Meanwhile, Sigourney Weaver, who played Sgt. Ripley in Aliens, is cast here as Dr. Grace Augustine, the counterpoint to Ribisi's baddie. The final battle scene calls to mind The Return of the Jedi, the closing episode of the Star Wars saga. There are lots of lofty monologues about ecology, freedom and the peaceful coexistence of civilizations, set against the crass expletives of the gung-ho Col. Quidritch (Stephen Lang-Tombstone), the most brutal character in Avatar, and his henchmen.

Even though the plot is highly predictable to any 10-year-old into movies and video games, Avatar is a must-see for anyone who likes cinema.
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