Let’s all land on the great moon Pandora as it orbits the gas-giant planet Polyophemus, in turn orbiting the sun Alpha Centauri ά (Alpha), one of two twin stars, the second being a sun known as “β” or Beta), about four and a third light years from Earth. The year is 2154, some 150 years from 2010. According to the plot, earth’s population has tripled since the beginning of the 21st Century and if you thought future projections of life on our planet were gilding a lily, the way things have turned out make poverty pocket look like an upscale Caribbean resort. Corporations have taken a cue from our own beloved Supreme Court and in the future control just about everything there is.
Pandora is inhabited by the Na'vi, a humanoid race having both a unique language and culture, much of it telepathic. Our hero is Jake Sully, a paraplegic Marine selected to enter the Avatar Program. This allows him to merge his own DNA with an Avatar body, in hopes he can be a spy and find out what makes the Na’vi tick and learn how earth can find a huge deposit of Unobtainium, a rare mineral that can solve the earth’s energy crisis! Note: Before you ask why cell regeneration cannot renew Jake’s legs, we learn that RDA (the Unobtainium Corporation) only allows such cellular activity after you’ve proven yourself to be a loyal member of the firm--being a marine just isn’t enough.
Then Jake meets Dr. Grace Augustine, lead scientist at the Avatar Project (she actually smokes cigarettes), who is charmingly tough and takes Jake under her wing. She appears to be one of the few scientists blessed with an open mind as most of the men and women at RDA are dedicated to corp-think, including the man in charge of ending any waste of time and simply blowing up the Na’vi, one Colonel Miles Quaritch, played with menace by Stephen Lang.
So in his Avatar body, Jake meets Neytiri, the Na'vi princess of the Omaticaya's Clan and the battle between good and evil begins, a love story develops and the only character missing is Shane.
I do have a problem: Going back 150 years from today would land us in 1860, shortly before the Civil War--remember what has happened since Appomattox and today, then try to imagine what it will be in 2154. In Avatar everybody has shirts with real little plastic buttons, the kind that must be replaced at the laundry after ten or twelve washings because the plastic breaks. They all wear cargo pants and still tie their shoes! And the music sounds exactly like that found on the MTV of today.
Now on to technical matters: This is one absolutely beautiful motion picture and Pandora is a marvel moon full of amazing plants and animals (the plants really steal the show), with sumptuous colors, incredible actions, night scenes that could almost make anybody a devotee of plants with luminous chlorophyll. And there’s subtitled dialogue (when needed) plus action sequences that would make Cecil B. Demille quit Paramount and go into the travel business.
The action is truly supported by the 3D process and without that process would be about what we would expect from Cameron working with an old-fashioned silver screen. But already Hollywood has taken the bait, and after sitting through five trailers of normal aspect, when the 3D rolls we get trailers of three new 3D movies on the way, so keep your glasses handy.
“Avatar” isn’t “House of Wax” or “Bwana Devil.” The glasses are well-made and use for the effect polarization instead of red and blue lenses. But once the novelty wears off, the 3D is limited to action sequences--“My Dinner with Andre” or an old Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn movie would be a bore in 3D. Remember, too, instead of watching a screen surrounded by you, other patrons, and the rest of the auditorium, you are now looking through a window and are psychically blocked off from everything else.
So I guess this just might be the end of movies as we know them BUT I think the glasses will eventually be a bore and we’ll all have to wait for a true 3D process before it’s all a bigger success down the line.