Ed reviews: "Avatar" 

I'm writing this to my fellow Avatar hold-outs. There wasn't a press screening of the film and I postponed attending for as long as possible, but finally gave in and watched it on Sunday, primarily because I hadn't seen any of the films opening this week and needed something for the feature review spot. So why did I resist James Cameron's mega-expensive-10+-years-in-the-making-uber-epic-that-will-revolutionize-the-nature-of-film-and-possibly-end-war-and-cure-acne?

First, I find writer-director James Cameron abrasive and his clunky Academy Awards acceptance speech for Titanic, which he capped with an embarrassingly stiff and unconvincing shout of "I'm king of the world!," still makes me groan.

Second, the ads bugged me. The hype machine kept proclaiming that this was the most realistic mix of live-action, motion capture and computer-generated imagery ever, but the ads simply looked like live-action footage mixed with a cartoon.

Third, I was concerned about the cheese factor. The artwork in the ads looked like the side of a van in the '70s, with trippy pastoral vistas drenched in blues and greens. That, combined with the natives-in-touch-with-the-land vs. high-tech-military-corporate-greed-pig-invaders motif, left me worried that the film would play like an extremely long episode of Captain Planet.

Fourth, I wasn't crazy about the prospect of sitting and staring at a screen for 2 hours and 43 minutes.

Finally, there was the money. Seeing the movie in 3D IMAX, which everyone I know assured me was the only way to properly experience Avatar, costs $15 a ticket, for Pete's Sake! The prospect of spending $30 to take my son to the movies nearly gave me the vapors.

But we went. Had to. And guess what? The plot is simplistic, the characters are one-dimensional and I didn't care. I was swept away, captivated, and even as I noted the film's problems, I shook them off because the whole point was to be immersed in another world and Cameron pulled that off. Yeah, the planet Pandora looks like the side of a '70s van, but what a great van! The jungle is full of dinosaurs and life-forms that resemble some of the more beautiful, bizarre undersea critters on Earth. The indigenous people, the Na'vi, are tall and lithe and pleasant to look at. As for the blending of live-action, motion capture and CGI, I never even thought about it.

Sam Worthington, the key player, is agreeably bland as Jake Sully, a Marine who has lost the use of his legs. But when he plugs into his organically-grown Na'vi body and starts running around with the locals, he sports the exuberant, kinda wicked smile you would expect from someone who suddenly has become able-bodied (to put it mildly) again. Zoe Saldana matches his charisma as Neytiri, his Na'vi protector. And Moat, the tribal mystic, is beautifully played by the amazing CCH Pounder.

About the plot — eh, forget it. You'll figure out the dynamics within the first few minutes. You'll forget them shortly after leaving the theater. Doesn't matter. Immersed in the movie, the only thing I cared about was spending more time on this cool planet with its exotic people. And I wanted Jake to permanently get back the full use of his limbs.

To my brethren still holding out on Avatar, all I can say is that I understand your resistance, but suggest you go ahead and give it a shot. It's not a great movie, but it is a great experience. The time flies by. And do see it in 3D IMAX. The regular theater 3D screens cost $12.50, so why not spring for the $15 and see it in IMAX?

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