The effects of Avatar are certainly something to see, especially on an Imax screen the size of an upended football field. But it's difficult to tell if the game has really been changed or not.
For all the grandeur and technical virtuosity of the mythical 3-D universe Cameron labored for years to perfect, his characters are one-dimensional, rarely saying anything unexpected. But for much of the movie, that hardly matters.
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.
Mr. Cameron's singular vision has upped the ante for filmed entertainment, and given us a travelogue unlike any other. I wouldn't want to live on Pandora, mainly because of the bad air, but I'm glad to have paid it a visit.
It is cool. But all this "change the way you look at films" hype is just that. While Avatar is impressively seamless, you're never fooled. This doesn't look like a documentary film; it looks like a video game.
The narrative would be ho-hum without the spectacle. But what spectacle! Avatar is dizzying, enveloping, vertiginous ... I ran out of adjectives an hour into its 161 minutes.
If your exhilaration with the (approximate) first half is undercut by an increasingly deflating pffffftttt sound, Cameron nonetheless has delivered the screen's most anticipated and persuasive blend of live-action and motion-capture animation to date.
Combining beyond-state-of-the-art moviemaking with a tried-and-true storyline and a gamer-geek sensibility -- not to mention a love angle, an otherworldly bestiary, and an arsenal of 22d-century weaponry -- the movie quite simply rocks.
The film vibrates with the excitement of discovery and awe. Not just for the sight of six-legged rhinos and butterfly-hued dragons, but for the thousands of hours of work that unite here in a creative epiphany.