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James Cameron’s name has become synonymous with big productions.  From the Terminator series to Titanic, his moniker is enough to establish brand recognition.  Those wondering where he’s been since Titanic sailed to box office glory in 1997 will find their answer in Avatar.  Utilising 3-D technology and around $300 million worth of CGI, Avatar’s gigantic spectacle should further aid Cameron’s mystique.

In 2154, Earth is suffering from an energy crisis.  Looking for a source to help its populace, the US army finds this on the planet Pandora.  Filled with a native tribe called the Na’vi, the army has created an Avatar program where the user can impersonate one of them.  Enlisting the services of marine Jake (Sam Worthington), they believe they have found their perfect candidate.  Little do they realise the consequences of using this headstrong individual who, aided by scientist Dr Augustine (Sigourney Weaver), becomes a conduit in the ultimate battle between nature and machine.

Whatever can be said of Cameron’s story-telling skills, he doesn’t skimp on visual gloss.  Almost every scene bursts with colour with the CGI and live action sequences blending perfectly.  It’s not difficult to see why he took so long to make this as the detail in creating a fictional world is very impressive.  In a way he’s much like many directors determined to control their own environment with their imaginations the only barrier in crafting their tales.  His ideas certainly run wild here with the machismo of the military war machine gamely battling the indigenous warriors.

Despite its splendid look, Avatar falters with its story.  Puffed full of self importance and desperate to educate about the evils of man’s mis-treatment of nature, its plot is nothing new.  Whenever it concentrates on delivering its messages, the film grinds to a halt with the overlong running time seeming never-ending.  You don’t go and see a James Cameron film to be taught a lesson, you go to be entertained and, save for the fantastic last half hour, much of the film is a bit of a chore.  The actors do their best, with Weaver pleasingly showing she still has the gumption which made her so famous in the Alien series.

After such a long wait, Avatar is a bit of a disappointment.  Although wonderful to look at, the plot’s structure is too weak to sustain its overlong ode to the wonders of CGI.  More like The Abyss than Titanic, Avatar only provides a muted return for a director eager to continually push the technological limits.

Rating out of 10:  5

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