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One of the most robust forms of artistic expression is the cinema. Most art forms grow over time reinventing themselves as one generation flows into the next. In the case of movies not only do they reflect the culture they came from frequently they helped to shape that society. All film genres make significant changes in the techniques used in film making but for many years the genre most influential in changing the fundamental tool set of movie making has been the science fiction movie. This makes sense to most people since Sci-Fi flicks commonly push the limits of what had been done before resulting in the invention of new methodologies and paradigms for film making. Naturally, one of the primary reasons for this is of all the possible genres Sci-Fi innately pushes the limits of imagination beyond what can be conventionally depicted with the current array of techniques at the disposal of a film maker. The response to these limitations has traditionally been the same; if the technology to do what is required doesnít exist then invent it. One film maker that has excelled in this cutting edge film making has been James Cameron. In ĎThe Abyssí he was instrumental in developing under water cameras, with ĎTitanicí he furthered this traveling over two and a half miles beneath the oceanís surface to include shots of the actual wreckage. His film ĎTerminatorí redefined the genre ushering in a new level of integrated special effects for the generation that would follow. In 2009 Cameron did it again breaking new cinematic ground with ĎAvatarí. This film cost a staggering cost of almost $240 million dollars making it back more than twofold with just the domestic box office. I wish my retirement fund was tied to Mr. Cameronís films instead of the financial institution itís in.

No one would deny the fact that James Cameron is a creative genius. He is the force of nature that made this film possible far beyond just writing the screenplay, directing and producing the movie. He literally crated an entire universe complete with an alien yet consistent organic rule set. As a story ĎAvatarí stands out as an example of how a finely constructed science fiction story can interact with its audience working through the current fears and uncertainties that affect society. In the fifties communism was the greatest sociopolitical motivator with manís initial foray into atomic power the catalyst moving us into the future. Now the hot button issue is the environment; whether man as a species is destroying our planet by opposing nature making our environment toxic. Instead of the atom the aspect of scientific research that holds the greatest potential to make our future hopeful or horrendous is our endeavor to control the very biological language that is used to write what we are; genetics. Of course no matter how incredible you make the special effects they cannot make up for a lack of story. In this film there is a strong message for the green movement citing how vital it is for us to live in harmony with the environment instead of treating it like a disposable tissue. This message is given within the context of a deeply spiritualistic setting yet it never tips the scale over to being overly preachy. Sure, it gets close at times of being too pushy but the tale has a lot of humanity to it and more than enough heart to carry it over the parts that forward the obvious ideological view point.

The story takes place in the not too distant future, 2154. And the planet earth has been all but depleted of its natural resources. I slim ray of hope comes from a recently discovered moon, Pandora, which orbits the planet Polyphemus in the Alpha Centuri star system. It has been determined as a source of the valuable mineral unobtanium that could help alleviate the dire energy crisis on earth. Parker Selfridge (Giovanni Ribisi) is the executive working for the RDA Corporation; the company with the mining rights for the new planet. There are a few obstacles in the way of the plan to extract the metal the most difficult of which is the sentient native species, the 12 foot tall, blue skinned Na'vi. The planet is also less than hospitable to humans who need environmental gear to exit their transports. A plan is conceived to use new genetic techniques to create a host Na'vi body, an Avatar that can be remotely controlled by a human operator. Jake Sully (Sam Worthington), a paraplegic former Marine, is chosen to be part of the Avatar program with the promise of regaining the use of his legs. Although many humans seem to consider the Naívi a backward race they are actually a highly developed society albeit one that is far different from ours. The Naívi is extremely close to nature to the point where they have a long braid like appendage from their head that can connect them directly to the flora and fauna of their world. They are also proficient warriors able to employ the six legged lower life forms as battle transports. Dr. Grace Augustine (Sigourney Weaver), originally slated Samís twin for the program but when he is killed in a robbery Samís identical genetics allows him to become as replacement. One of his first assignments is to use his avatar to collect samples but he is separated from the others and brought to a local community by a native, Neytiri (Zoe Saldana), who is charged with teaching Sam their ways, naturally Sam ĎGoes nativeí with a rapidly growing sympathy for the Naívi.

One of my best friends point out a space enable race could just wipe the Naívi out by dropping rocks on them. The bottom of a planetís gravity well makes this really easy. If there are any concerns about genocide just look at indigenous cultures here on earth when they got in the way of government or private profit margins. That note aside the Blu-ray presentation is incredible. This will become the title that will sell Blu-ray players and become the defacto reference disc used to show off your system to the jealous neighbors. While the theatrical utilized a new 3D technology only the 2D cut is included here, this does open the possibility of a future 3D release now that 3D televisions are beginning to gain a foothold. Even this version gives a strong illusion of depth thanks to incredibly creative use of lighting and cinematography. The audio is by far one of the best mixed and most robust sound fields I have encountered in a long while. It enfolds you in a truly solid audio stage where the slightest nuances are audible. This is bare bones as releases go with the only extra being a DVD copy of the film. In all this will be on the shelves of every collector very soon.

Posted 04/28/2010

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