Special effects in Avatar send message

Watching James Cameron’s blockbuster hit “Avatar” was nothing short of amazing for the special effects alone, and movie-going audiences must certainly agree.

The highest grossing film of 2009, Avatar raked in approximately $1.3 billion gross box-office worldwide as of Jan. 10, just three weeks after its Dec. 18 release, making it the second-highest grossing film of all times, behind number one, Cameron’s “Titanic.”

Like a magician, Cameron conjures up a rich visual universe that sucks the viewer into it.

If you see it in 3-D, fantastical creatures will drift down upon you or whirl past overhead. Perched above the clouds, where much of the action takes place, you’ll feel like it’s you racing with abandon through treetops or climbing floating mountains, holding on tightly as characters soar through the sky on the backs of mythical beasts.

You will twist in your seat to avoid arrows whizzing through the air or fiery explosions raining down from the sky, feeling like you should get up and run from rampaging behemoths or the thunder of the trees that come crashing down around you.

The year is 2154; the location is the mystical forest world of the planet Pandora, inhabited by the peaceful and environmentally friendly Na’vi.

The RDA (Resource Development Administration), whose combat arm is a group of gung-ho private military contractors — some of them former U.S. Marines — is on a mission to strip mine Pandora due to large deposits of the mineral unobtanium (similar to oil) that is desperately needed by humans, as it is assumed that Earth has been ruined.

Scientists at the RDA mixed the DNA of humans with DNA of the 10-foot-tall, blue-skinned Na’vi, creating Avatars that can roam safely amongst the Na’vi in Pandora’s toxic atmosphere with the purpose of befriending them to ask them to move.

If they won’t, the ruthless mercenaries (similar to the ruthless private contracting company still working in Iraq and Afghanistan) plan to demolish the beautiful terrain that the Na’vi call home.

Jake Sully, a paraplegic marine played by Sam Worthington, has been signed up to fill in for his dead twin brother, who an Avatar was created for.

Trapped in a body with legs that won’t move, Sully breaks free as his mind meshes with the bioengineered body.

Predictably, Jake falls in love with Na’vi princess, Neytiri (Zoe Saldana), and eventually joins the tribe to take up arms against the bad guys — the marines in the movie — and with the help of Grace Augustine (Sigourney Weaver, Ripley from “Alien”) save them and the planet.

If this sounds a lot like “Pochahontas” or “Dances with Wolves,” it’s because it is. And if you think Cameron is trying to tell you something, it’s because he is.

At three hours, the movie is too long and somewhat redundant.  You rarely get a breather, leaping from one action scene to the next.

The dialogue and plot are simplistic, and this is basically a showcase for the special effects. However, Cameron produced amazing special effects and you can’t help but feel grateful he did.

Trailers at avatarmovie.net.