How often do you get to see an “event” movie? Maybe once every 10 years or so, right? Star Wars, Titanic, Gone With The Wind, ET, the Rings trilogy. There have been many through the years and they are considered “event” movies because they set a new bar in a particular genre. And in the case of James Cameron’s “Avatar”, the bar has been set pretty high.

Let’s just get the standard stuff out of the way. The plot is good, not great. The movie DOES steal plotpoints, characters and elements from other movies. And it is a long movie. But for all of this, it never once feels stale or muddled. The actors are fantastic (except for Sigourney Weaver, there are no superstars in the mix) and the plot, which is a call for protecting our environment, doesn’t get too heavy-handed. There is also a love story (it’s a James Cameron flick…how could there NOT be?) and lots of action. And then…there’s the CGI.

What you have probably heard about more than anything about this film is the sheer amount of work that it took to create the planet of Pandora. Depending on what you read, Cameron has been working on this project for over 20 years. He had the idea for “Avatar” before he filmed “Titanic” and has been tweaking it ever since. Then he went into preproduction sometime in 2006 and over 3 years later…VOILA! Instant movie magic! And if only it were that easy.

Quite honestly, I have never seen anything like this movie. The sheer amount of detail that has gone into every scene is unbelievable. I saw “Avatar” on an IMAX screen in 3D (seriously…pay the extra few dollars. It’s worth every penny) and I was wanting the screen to be bigger! The world of Pandora is a magical place, alive with light & danger, and the aliens that inhabit it are 9 feet tall and cat-like.

A brief synopsis: Earth is dying and needs an element that has been found on Pandora. So, much like we do, the military and a science team are sent in to extract it. Initially they try to befriend the natives (known as the Na’vi) and play nice. Scientists have discovered a way to transfer allow a  human mind to control an alien body (known as an avatar). Their plan is to send the avatar’s in to try to get to know tha Na’vi and to peacefully extract the mineral. Eventually  it becomes clear the aliens will not leave and so the military plan a strike on the Na’vi home. The scientists (led by Sigourney Weaver) try to stop them at first, and then try to aid the Na’vi in the fight for their planet.

It’s all very “Dances With Wolves”-like, but it’s not the script you need to concern yourself with. It’s the effects…or the feeling that there are no effects and that Cameron actually moved to another planet to film this movie. It is THAT good. You can’t tell that ANY of this movie is CGI! It’s unbelievable! And you have to see it just to understand the scope of it’s production.

James Cameron has made an event movie for this decade and it has raised the bar for movie-making in general. With the computer generated planets and the muscle movements of the aliens that make them so lifelike, there is no way Hollywood can now produce a movie that is sub-par in it’s CGI. No more creatures from “I Am Legend”, no more distant planet city shots like the “Star Wars” series. It’s all gonna change now and this film is leading the charge.

Unbelievable job, Mr. Cameron. And I hope that this isn’t the last we’ve seen of you (there have been rumors of his retirement after “Avatar” was released). Maybe you can come up with just one more film that will inspire filmmakers to be the best they can be. Trust me…you’ve set the bar high this time…and Hollywood will be an empty place if you do decide you’ve had enough. “Avatar” is pure genius. An epic production for our time. And a showcase for what can happen when you have the time and the willpower to produce top-notch entertainment.

Overall Rating: A+

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