James Cameron is, I suppose, somewhat of an idol among us sci-fi/fantasy kids -- his record is absolutely packed with geek favorites, namely The Terminator, Aliens, The Abyss, and Terminator 2: Judgment Day (best action movie ever?). Further still, all us Tolkien fans largely owe Peter Jackson's Gollum to technology originating with Cameron in Abyss and that most badass of all killer robots from the future, the T-1000. Needless to say, it's long been a tall order for this director to outdo himself, and for the most part, I'd say he hasn't -- but Avatar is still every bit the kind of action-packed, pleasantly-preachy Cameron sci-fi we love.
facehuggers to both Sigourney Weaver and her orphan-girl protectorate so he could profit from research on the resulting killer aliens. Wankers, indeed.
But Avatar distinguishes itself in its literalism, in its forcefulness and urgency. It is likely no accident on Cameron's part that, despite evolving light-years apart, the many forms of life on Earth and Pandora (the alien planet) are only superficially different from each other. Here Cameron's devotion to computer-generated film lends itself most spectacularly to the overall environmentalist message -- the innumerable shots of Pandora's vast and diverse wilderness truly inspire wonder, awe, and eventually regret and anger as Major Douche-Bag (Lang) blows up the natives' home under (and inside) a beautifully gargantuan tree.
At any rate, Avatar will likely move and entertain all but the most heartless of human beings, making it well worth your $18 ticket, or whatever exorbitant price they charge at a theater near you. One final thought: while James Cameron's previous sci-fi audiences have been fairly narrow (i.e., geeks only), Avatar avoids the heavy doses of graphic violence, convoluted plot lines and dark atmosphere that may have turned many people away from his earlier films, meaning that Avatar could appeal to a far wider demographic than he has ever reached with his more fanciful creations. I certainly hope that's true, as the whole "trees = good, genocide = bad" message seems one that still needs saying.
4 stars of 5.