In the year 2154, Jake Sully is a former US marine paralyzed from the waist down. He’s been selected to participate in the Avatar program, an experiment in which human consciousness is transferred to bodies of the Na’vi, a race of tall, blue-skinned, feline humanoids from the planet Pandora. The planet is rich in unobtainium, an extremely valuable mineral that humans are mining, but the largest deposits of unobtainium happen to sit under the most sacred places inhabited by the Na’vi. Sully’s official job is to attempt to find a resolution – diplomatic or otherwise – and, in the process, his allegiances are tested to the limit.
By now, you’ve probably heard the feedback and read the reviews. Despite initial reports suggesting otherwise, Avatar is not the most expensive stinker in cinematic history. Its CGI isn’t sterile and bland – quite the opposite, in fact – and nor do its 3D effects make viewers want to blow chunks. Avatar is quite simply the most visually euphoric film of the decade, portraying a meticulously detailed world that is brimming with life forms at once familiar and alien, but always very, very real.
This is, of course, the film that the 14-year-old James Cameron wanted to make, and it shows. The plot is diabolically juvenile: there’s a battle of good-vs-evil, a love story and a lot of hippy ‘mother earth’ noodling. And it doesn’t get much deeper than that, despite Cameron’s cringey efforts to crowbar his political agenda in there via George Bush lookalike colonel Miles Quaritch. At one point somebody actually describes the colonel as creating “Some kind of shock and awe campaign”. It’s that subtle.
It is as well to point out here that for this reason Avatar should not be pursued anywhere other than in the cinema – and if you really want to do it properly, you’d better head down to Cardiff’s IMAX 3D cinema, where you will duck in your seat as bullets fly and the camera swoops over precipices and weaves through the jungle. This is the kind of film that, shorn of its special effects wizardry, would require such a tremendous suspension of disbelief that it would be unwatchable. As it is, with full immersion it’s impossible not to be awestruck and captivated by the world of Pandora. I suggest you sit in the middle, maybe three rows from the front, so that the picture occupies your entire field of vision. And then listen to your heart thump as you sink into the screen.