It seems redundant and a waste of time to filter any review of Avatar through personal expectation, commercial potential, or any other sense of cultural anticipation. Although the majority of my colleagues offer nothing less than thoughtful, measured responses in their own reviews and examinations, I'll leave it to them to prognosticate or contextualize its success or failure in the context of James Cameron's filmography, much less the last 12 years of film history. Because the bottom line is that Avatar desperately needs to be considered as its own effort, not a groundbreaker or a potential blockbuster or anything else. In which case Cameron's latest is scary and exciting and entertaining as hell, even if it's far too early – and too conventional in too many ways - to herald it as any kind of masterpiece.

Sam Worthington (Terminator Salvation) stars as Jake Sully, the disabled soldier-brother of a scientist who was unfortunately killed before he could complete his work brokering a deal between humans and the alien race Na'vi on a distant, futuristic planet called Pandora. Jake is immediately recruited by the project's scientific, military and corporate contingents to serve the interests of each group's managers (played by Sigourney Weaver, Stephen Lang and Giovanni Ribisi, respectively), but soon discovers that his immersion in the world of the Na'vi is not without charms that potentially preclude their demands. After meeting Neytiri (Zoe Saldana), the Na'vi warrior assigned to initiate and assimilate him in the ways of their culture and beliefs, Jake soon finds himself at a crossroads between the humans who gave him a new opportunity to serve, and the Na'vi, who essentially offer him a new opportunity to live.