Avatar ★★★★½

"Everything is backwards now, like out there is the true world, and in here is the dream."

Above time, judgment, and a volatile industry, Cameron’s career-consuming blockbuster epic remains a resounding achievement that succeeds due to the filmmaker’s overwhelming conviction for the material. Story and spectacle are of equal concern for him, and that’s an immutable fact. Rarely, if truly ever, is one sacrificed for the other. From a crash-course prologue to the breathless, ever-escalating finale, it’s the attitude and intimacy of the work that capture us, keeping audiences as captivated now as we were in 2009. Even when derivative narrative elements or the sometimes clunky dialogue dampen certain moments, our investment remains unchanged because of the earnestness driving the overall presentation, those missteps included. It also helps that these characters and their world are rendered to an awe-inspiring degree that still dazzles today (a testament to Cameron's vision for the quality of the technology and effects required in addition to his painstaking attention to the vast construction of Pandora).

Of all the legacies that it could hold, the one that seems to shade any number of the discussions surrounding Avatar is its footprint on entertainment culture, or rather its lack thereof. Compared to other tentpole productions and series (some tended to by Cameron himself), you’d expect the highest-grossing film of all time to be further at the forefront of the blockbuster conversation, especially considering its myriad of impressive technical accomplishments. And while I suppose it isn’t for many, that doesn’t really matter. When all these other properties run their course through sequels, prequels, reboots, and TV expansions, and as their fans slowly become more fractured and cynical from this or that, there will always be Avatar. Yes, it is getting four new chapters within the decade following a 13-year hiatus. But when you look at the current franchise landscape dominating media, few of those projects are as genuine as what Cameron has created, let alone as thematically pointed.

"I see you."

P.S. There's an alternate version of this where Cameron, during the course of development and production, becomes anxious about the story's idiosyncrasies, so he adds self-deprecating humor to allow audiences some kind of tonal relief. Thank God he's a filmmaker that actually believes in himself and our capacity to engage with his films, no matter how bizarre they become.

P.P.S. The footage shown of The Way of Water during the re-release’s credits was enough to increase my anticipation tenfold.

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