Critics Review James Cameron's "Avatar"

It modestly bills itself as an event that will "change movies forever." That remains to be seen, but is "Avatar" worth shelling out 13 bucks for when it opens Friday? James Cameron's first movie since "Titanic" in 1997 has been formulating in the director's brain for 15 years now. He had to wait to make it until technology caught up with his mind. Cameron spent the past three years creating his 3-D epic. But should you spend nearly three hours in a theater watching it? Here's a sample of reviews:

James Cameron's film has been the subject of relentlessly dubious advance buzz, just as his "Titanic" was. Once again, he has silenced the doubters by simply delivering an extraordinary film. There is still at least one man in Hollywood who knows how to spend $250 million, or was it $300 million, wisely... It takes a hell of a lot of nerve for a man to stand up at the Oscarcast and proclaim himself King of the World. James Cameron just got re-elected.
-- Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

Long before the third act, however, the ideologically sensitive will realize that 20th Century Fox has taken a half-billion-dollar risk (counting PR) that perhaps only Rupert Murdoch's studio could afford to take. The rampaging Sky People are heavy-handedly associated with the Bush administration. They chortle over the failure of diplomacy, wage what is referred to as "some sort of shock-and-awe campaign" against the Na'vis, and goad each other with Cheney one-liners like, "We will blast a crater in their racial memory so deep they won't come within a thousand clicks of here ever again!" Worse, the viewer is encouraged to cheer when uniformed American soldiers are blown out of the sky and instead root for a bunch of naked, tree-hugging aborigines led by a renegade white man on a humongous orange polka-dot bat.
-- J. Hoberman, The Village Voice

In terms of plot, then, this is “Dances With Wolves.’’ Seriously: It’s the same movie, re-imagined as a speculative-anthropological freak-out. Because Cameron is a visionary and a perfectionist, though, it’s possible to get lost in his created world, and this is where “Avatar’’ thoroughly lives up to its hype. I could go on about the depth of field in the rapturous 3-D landscapes, how cleanly each individual leaf and insect is realized, how fully visualized the critters, but words start to fail. “Avatar’’ is an entertainment to be not just seen but absorbed on a molecular level; it’s as close to a full-body experience as we’ll get until they invent the holo-suits. Cameron aims for sheer wonderment, and he delivers.
-- Ty Burr, The Boston Globe

So the future of the movies - aka "Avatar" - is here. But along with the eye-popping visuals in writer-director James Cameron's sci-fi epic, there's also a lot of eye-rollingly silly stuff... "Avatar" clears the hurdle in terms of being optical candy. Its story, though, is pure cheese... The CGI world of "Avatar" is indeed like nothing you've ever seen. Too bad its corniness is so familiar.
-- Joe Neumaier, New York Daily News

Think of "Avatar" as "The Jazz Singer" of 3-D filmmaking. Think of it as the most expensive and accomplished Saturday matinee movie ever made. Think of it as the ultimate James Cameron production. Whatever way you choose to look at it, "Avatar's" shock and awe demand to be seen. You've never experienced anything like it, and neither has anyone else.
-- Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times

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