Avatar (2009)

Nobody, nobody, NOBODY swings for the fences like James Cameron. In 1986 I read a piece about his upcoming sequel to Ridley Scott’s Alien. It was reported that Cameron had gotten into an argument with his producer (also his wife) over whether the production could afford the laser scanner he wanted for an opening scene. She said no; he bought it anyway, with his own money. This guy puts it all on the line, to the point where everyone is watching and half of those are rooting for this egotist to fall on his face. Film artists often go to the edge in pursuit of their vision, but Cameron (the egotist) is unique in that he brings entire studios to the brink with him. If Titanic had failed in 1997 (it was way over budget and a year overdue) 20th Century Fox might have sunk with it.

Sure, his plots are formulaic and his dialog is unsubtle (Cameron the writer once said that he wrote his scripts in a week, holed up in a room with piles of junk food for sustenance.) As an action director he is among the best, though, and as a purveyor of cinematic spectacle he is without peer. Avatar succeeds so completely as an immersive experience that the film’s shortcomings are practically beside the point. Seen in 3D (the best ever – the picture was bright and focused and after five minutes I forgot I had glasses on) on a large screen with surround sound in a theater packed with people, I was transported to that magical place I first went when I saw Star Wars in 1977 and rarely thereafter. Avatar is a film of unrelenting sensation and wonder.

Don’t think too hard when you watch this movie. Just go, see it on a big screen in 3D with a lot of people. This is why we go to the movies.