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Heroes of the Zeroes: Avatar

by on January 23, 2010
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The Heroes of the Zeroes is Nick Rogers’ daily, alphabetical look back at the 365 best films from 2000 to 2009.

Rated PG-13

To paraphrase the Pet Shop Boys, James Cameron’s “Avatar” has the brawn, it’s got the brains and it’s still making lots of money — now the second-highest grossing film in worldwide box-office history Biggest. Film. Ever.

In terms of story, well, “Avatar” was “Dances with Aliens” — a paraplegic Marine tasked to exploit the Na’vi alien race in a body resembling theirs joins their cause. (Like the best moments of “Terminator 2: Judgment Day,” “Avatar” examines the obligations of finding a soul in a synthetic body.)

But in terms of action and cinematic spectacle, “Avatar” represented a magnum opus for Cameron, motion-capture performance and the digital 3-D format. It’s fully immersive, majestically detailed, indelibly composed and, most importantly, infrequently disorienting with its 3D wizardry.

Plus, Zoe Saldana’s motion-capture performance as Neytiri — the Na’vi people’s warrior goddess — grabs lapels with a forceful feminism and emotion fierier than anything the technology previously provided.

An incredible character all its own is Pandora, the moon on which “Avatar” is set. It’s a living entity with phosphorescent flora, hybridized fauna, floating mountains and a biological USB port of sorts the Na’vi use to access Pandora’s spirit. When the shock-and-awe attack on Pandora commences — led by the delicious dastardliness of Stephen Lang’s Col. Quaritch — it’s more wounding than wowing.

For all the justifiable knocks on Cameron, his personal investment in any project is never in doubt. With “Avatar,” his passion for pushing the very possibilities of film as a medium pays off. Here’s hoping that we see him again before 2021.