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article imageOp-Ed: Avatar more than just 3-D eye candy, preaches for peace Special

By David Silverberg     Dec 14, 2009 in Entertainment
It's too easy to only applaud the incredible special effects in Avatar. The new James Cameron film riffs off themes concerning the war on terror, environmentalism, and even 9/11. Avatar is worth the wait.
After 12 years and a reported $500 million budget, Avatar will soon be storming your city on Dec. 18. This sci-fi epic from director/writer James Cameron earns its pre-release hype, thanks to stunning 3-D visuals and characters you can't help but love. Picture Titanic mixed with Aliens and a dash of Dances With Wolves.
Avatar takes place in the year 2154, and centres on Jake Sully (Sam Worthington), an ex-Marine who was wounded and paralysed from the waist down. He's been assigned to the planet Pandora, an Earth-like planet boasting robust rainforests and floating mountains, not to mention a variety of strange and frightening new life forms. Sully must infiltrate the inner circle of the Na'vi, ten-foot-tall blue-skinned aliens whose "home tree" sits on a wealthy deposit of a rare mineral called unobtainium. It sells for millions a kilo back on Earth. The army commander instructs Sully to befriend the Na'vi so the humans can figure out how to displace the natives from their homeland.
Sound familiar? Cameron riffs off the Iraq War in more than one scene, portraying Earthlings as trigger-happy bomb-first-ask-questions later war-mongers who will do anything for that sweet unobtainium. Thing is, Sully goes through a transformative process to befriend the Na'vi: using next-gen science, he inhabits the body (read: avatar) of a Na'vi while his real-life physical self is encased in a pod. Sully becomes the species he is trying to learn from, and then gets attached to one of the sexier aliens to grace the screen since Leeloo from The Fifth Element.
We won't give away any more of the plot, which does tend to meander for the two-and-a-half-hour running time. It's not the most concise film, but that really doesn't matter once you slip on those 3-D glasses and soak in Pandora's fantasy world. Filmed for 3-D, Avatar is truly a perfect fit for this technology. The 3-D effect just doesn't pop things off the screen for no reason; instead, you're immersed in flora, freaky animals and breathtaking vistas that will make you rethink seeing any future CGI film in 2-D.
In a scene reminiscent of 9/11 (we kid you not), the 3-D effect practically makes a lump rise in your throat, as devastation and sorrow arrest you with a scene you won't soon forget. The big explosions are not the only gorgeous visuals: a flying jellyfish, a tree with tendrils for branches, light slipping between a forest canopy... everything is manicured tastefully so you don't feel like it's 3-D; around 30 minutes into the film, you forget you're wearing special glasses and simply accept the incredible special effects for what they are.
Rest assured that anyone who opts for the 2-D version of Avatar will still get their money's worth. Avatar is fun to watch, but it's thought-provoking too: environmentalists will rally for the natives and their connection to Nature; peaceniks can enjoy several scenes of anti-war insurgency; and fans of Sigourney Weaver can contemplate the casting move in giving her a role that's essentially Ripley 2.0. Let's be honest, Cameron wants to blend the action of Aliens with the emotional resonance of Titanic. And he succeeds with the first part, because when he plucks the heartstrings this time, it feels a little forced.
Avatar will usher in a new era of filmmaking, and it's an appropriate trailblazer. Helmed by the precise hand of Cameron, the film breathes life into 3-D technology, something that was a punchline a decade ago. If future films can blend real acting with pitch-perfect 3-D CGI, then viewers should anticipate a decade of stunning blockbusters.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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