Fly Me to Pandora!

avatar04 20thcenturyfox Fly Me to Pandora!AVATAR
Running time 162 minutes
Written and directed by James Cameron
Starring Sam Worthington, Sigourney Weaver, Zoe Saldana, Stephen Lang, Michelle Rodriguez, Giovanni Ribisi

For the record: I was formerly a member of the “Avatar Looks Ridiculous” club. I was unimpressed by the trailer (it looked to me like a live-action Led Zeppelin cover) and a little worn down by at least a year’s worth of breathless fanboy hype about how this was the movie that was going to blow the world’s collective mind. And then you know what? It totally did blow my mind! Or, at least, melted it. Staggering outside after two hours and 40 minutes of this thing, I felt like I had to lie down and take a nap.

My brain first went “uh-oh” about 30 minutes in. Because, really, how can words explain the staggering visuals James Cameron has managed to achieve in this movie? The plants alone could be waxed upon for pages. Mr. Cameron takes care of all that pesky plot stuff-you know, the future, the why-they’re-there, the planet Pandora-in about two minutes flat. It’s really rather impressive! Sam Worthington is Jake Scully, a former Marine who’s confined to a wheelchair. Because he’s a DNA match to his dead twin brother, he is able to participate in the Avatar program, where human “drivers” have their feelings and consciousness linked to remotely controlled big, strong blue things, genetically engineered hybrids of human DNA and natives of the planet, the Na’vi, that can breathe Pandora’s air. It may more make sense when you watch it. And really, it’s the watching and not the telling that’s important.

The always amazing Sigourney Weaver is fabulous, and Mr. Cameron continues his tradition of making his female characters just a little bit more badass than the men (nice work, Michelle Rodriguez). Giovanni Ribisi appears to be doing some sort of odd Sam Rockwell impression; the bad guy is really, really bad; and Sam Worthington is oddly alluring as a hot human being and an avatar. Could the movie have stood to have nine minutes shaved off? Sure. Was the dialogue occasionally laughably clunky? Sometimes. Did everything make sense? Nope. And you know what? Who cares! Avatar is thrilling, exciting and, best of all, something new that your eyeballs didn’t even know they very much wanted to see.

svilkomerson@observer.com