James Cameron’s latest film is a marvellous visual adventure, by turns awe inspiring, joyful, exciting, heart-wrenching, and ultimately leaving you with that wonderful feeling so often strived for so seldom achieved: true sensawunda.

Visually it is a complete triumph, a beautiful dream that contains the implausible and nightmarish elements of any dream, truly extravagant and wonderful rendering of an imaginary forest world.  This botanist was very satisfied and took great delight in the superb attention to detail in the creation of this fantastic place, animals, plants and geography.

Yes, there are flaws, the plot is light, the key turning points and encounters are by and large predictable.  Jake, (Sam Worthington) the main character and main avatar of the film is not very convincing as a marine, his moral revolution is not an apocalyptic personal epiphany and feels more like the moment he has been waiting to arrive all through the film.  The bad guys are bad, the good guys are enlightened, wise and happy to kick your arse if you act like a moron.  Tough love.

Does this detract from the film?  Hardly.  You know what you are going to get in this sort of film and it makes all the right gestures in all the right places.  It’s more than enough to keep you in the moment, and even satisfying when these archetypes conform to expectations in their drives, their loves and hates, their greed and fears.

Cameron doesn’t pull his punches either. Beauty is destroyed in painful and ugly ways.  It’s not a bloody film but there is horror and a lust in battle when it comes.  Many characters developed during the film do not make it to the end, which is all the more bittersweet for that.

In a recent edition of the Culture Show, Mark Kermode made the point that 3D was best suited to the low-brow hacker/slash end of the movie spectrum – genres he said he himself loved.  His point being that 3D does not add significantly to the cinematic toolkit in the way that colour did, for example.  After seeing Avatar I’m not so sure.  There are some clever tricks, mostly subtle ones, the 3D is seldom to the fore, but boy does it add to the immersive experience of this film.  For the future, I’ll wait and see.  For this particular film it works beautifully because Cameron uses it as a tool, not a gimmick.

I went to see this with my son.  ‘Pesky humans,’ he said as we came out of the cinema into the monochrome light of a winter evening.  He knew which side he was on, and so did I.

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