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Groundbreaking Avatar Sweeps Box Office

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Alex Seclow
February 5, 2010

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Director Cameron’s latest film revolutionizes the Hollywood film industry, intriguing viewers

Who would have thought that animated blue creatures could create such a following? The newly released movie Avatar, directed by James Cameron, earned around $70 million opening weekend and is quickly approaching Cameron’s Titanic, the greatest grossing movie of all time.

The movie is having a strange and mesmerizing effect on some people. After seeing the movie they become depressed that a dream-like place like Pandora does not really exist. The idea of Pandora makes them realize just how imperfect our world is.

People are experiencing these so-called “Avatar Blues” partly because Cameron spent copious amounts of money and time making the utopian Pandora seem so authentic. According to Wired Magazine, he even hired USC linguistic expert Paul Frommer to create a language for the native people of Pandora, the Na’vi. Frommer worked for 13 months to form the language, including the grammatical structure, and throughout filming he instructed the actors on correct pronunciation.

With the help of Jodie Holt, chair of UC Riverside’s botany and plant sciences department, Cameron created detailed descriptions of the plants and wildlife on Pandora and then organized them into taxonomy. Cameron, along with experts, writers, and editors, put together Pandorapedia, a 350-page manual about the culture, science, and life on the planet. Then Cameron sent the actors to a jungle in Hawaii where they went “native” for three days to prepare them to move like the Na’vi. As a young boy, Cameron was inspired by Edgar Rice Burroughs’ stories about Tarzan.

The film contains a environmental message as the story involves developed people who need to learn from the indigenous people. The Na’vi have a close connection to Mother Nature, which is in danger of coroporate takeover. This idea has caused critics to draw parallels to U.S. digging for oil in foreign countries.

The plot of Avatar is seemingly unoriginal, following the cliché idea of white supremacists’ exploitive treatment of the peaceful and innocent natives, while the main characters turn on their own misaligned civilization. Despite the similarity to earlier films, such as The Day the Earth Stood Still, Pocahontas, and Dances with Wolves, Cameron’s character development, vivid imaginary world, and use of newfound technology and science makes Avatar unique and worthy of Academy Awards.

In a statement, Time critic Richard Corliss accurately asserts that “for years to come [Avatar] will define what movies can achieve.”

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