Avatar ★★★★½

An appealing, lavishly rendered science fiction epic, James Cameron's "Avatar" is striking entertainment. Coupling a cinematic world of originality with a well-worn story, the director fashions a riveting and lush piece of cinema.

Taking place on a far-off world where humans control genetically engineered avatars to mingle with the indigenous population, "Avatar" follows a particular human who becomes close to one of the locals. Becoming part of the native community, that man grows opposed to the treachery of his fellow human interlopers.

Part romance, part war film, part observation of cultural and ecological destruction, "Avatar" spreads itself thin with its many themes. Cameron is never subtle about his points, but they grant the narrative a sense of purpose and importance.

Beyond a certain timeliness of story, Cameron's thrust behind "Avatar" is the world built by his team of artists and technicians. It is a three-dimensional landscape of detailed and breathtaking flora and fauna. It is deep and alive, verdant and dynamic. This effects-driven and art-designed world makes up for the film's rather two-dimensional humans.

Though Cameron delights a little too much in battle scenes and heroic theatrics, "Avatar" has the power to stun. It is a visual marvel with enough depth and cinematic personality to thoroughly engage and completely entertain. It is a grand display of the art and science of filmmaking.

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