Avatar: A fun film, sort of Pocahontas meets Ferngully meets The Matrix, with a dash of BattleTech thrown in for spice. The story is simplistic and familiar: Jake Sully is a Marine who is paralyzed from the waist down who gets the opportunity to join the Avatar program when his identical twin brother is killed. This program allows a human to mentally occupy a genetically-matched alien body so they can mingle with the native race of the planet Pandora. Pandora contains large deposits of a valuable ore called unobtainium (a name so lame it distracted me), and getting to this means displacing a bunch of natives.  So you have the pacifist scientists and the trigger-happy military dudes and the cold-hearted bureaucrats and the innocent natives who have a special connection with all living things. Jake, in his avatar form, befriends the alien chief’s daughter and suddenly finds his loyalties torn.  I think you see where this is going.

But you know, it was kind of nice to have such a standard storyline in the face of such intricate special effects. As so many have said, the CG is phenomenal. The aliens move realistically and have stunningly convincing facial expressions. The Pandoran landscape is nearly seamless, and it’s very easy to forget you’re watching a cartoon. Maybe I’m weird, but the effect I noticed most was Jake’s legs when he’s human. Since he’s supposed to be paralyzed, the muscles are completely atrophied. I’m sure this was done in post-production (as opposed to the actor letting his legs whither away in real life), but it was so believable that I still had to wonder.

I saw this film in 3D. It was good 3D – that is, it actually looked 3D rather than like a bunch of 2D planes moving in front of each other – but I’m not sure I needed it. They didn’t pull any of your standard tricks that make the audience flinch like something’s going to hit them in the face, and I think the film would have been just as entertaining without the audience looking like a sea of Max Headrooms (though that was amusing in itself). So in short: fun to watch, not too intellectually taxing, worth seeing in the theaters. I doubt I’d watch it again but my husband looks forward to the behind-the-scenes content on the DVD. Something tells me it won’t be too interesting, considering most of it will involve people sitting at computers, but I could be wrong.

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