Early on in Avatar, the hero Jake Sully, played by Sam Worthington, flies into the floating mountains on the moon Pandora. These are gigantic mountains that hover in a fog. Jake's eyes and mouth open wide in amazement and the plane's pilot says, "You should all see your faces".
As you experience James Cameron's photo-realistic, 3D eco-fable Avatar, your expression is likely to be the same.
Avatar, a film almost entirely created with special effects, is visually overwhelming. Cameron has created a new world with natives, animals, plant life and even a new language. Pandora and its people - the Na'vi - are perfectly rendered in minute detail. I only wish the story had as much texture.
Avatar is set in 2154. Humans have plundered the earth and are now trying to get a mineral called Unobtanium from Pandora. Pandora is inhabited by 12-foot tall, golden-eyed, gazelle-like blue people who live in perfect harmony with nature.
They understand that all living things constitute a cosmic balance that must not be disturbed. The Navi sleep in cocoons in a giant tree and even when they kill, they thank the animal for what it has given them.
Humans cannot breathe on Pandora and instead use avatars, which are Na'avi look-alikes that are controlled by humans from the space craft. Some humans such as Dr Grace, played by Sigourney Weaver, advocate diplomacy and understanding. But the more brutal factions of this quasi military operation have the upper hand.
So eventually, the head of security, Colonel Miles Quaritch, played by Stephen Lang, and his minions, come in with guns, explosives and assorted weapons of mass destruction to wipe out the natives.
But Sulley, a crippled ex-marine, who has signed on the program only because his avatar allows him to walk again, goes rogue. He falls in love with the brave princess Neytiri, played by Zoe Saldana, and helps the Na'vi win a devastating battle against the avaricious humans.
Cameron's ambition, imagination and drive have created a jaw-dropping visual spectacle. There are moments of exquisite beauty in the film - at one point, these luminous, floating jelly fish like creatures, which symbolize good, descend on Sully's body.
The climactic battle between humans in spacecraft and the Na'vi riding dragon-like creatures is exhilarating. And the bombing of the Na'vi hometree has immense power.
The shock and awe of these visuals however, can't compensate for the hackneyed and predictable story. Allusions to the American invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan are fairly obvious here but the political sub-text does little to shore up the limp script.
I've read that every single frame of effects took thirty hours to compute but obviously the writing didn't get the same love and attention.
In terms of plot, there are few surprises here. It's your standard issue love story set against war. The characters have little depth. In fact, the Colonel is so comic-book that he seems to have been patched in from the GI Joe movie.
Avatar is a triumph of technology but it doesn't transport you or engage you emotionally. It is an event movie that fails to sear your soul.
Still I recommend that you see Avatar. It is a testament to one man's courage and vision. Just don't - please forgive the bad pun - have titanic expectations.