In a nutshell, it’s because the mega-budget 3D sci-fi spectacle “has been designed with a sort of calculated universality” that “will play across almost all racial and cultural boundaries…there’s no country on the globe that Avatar won’t work in.”
The bullet points:
(1) The US has a global image problem, and Avatar‘s “black and white depiction of primitively-equipped Na’vi good guys struggling against heavily armed US space soldiers — all clenched teeth and good ol’ boy attitude — will play like gangbusters around the world…imagine the opening night crowd at the Baghdad plex.”
(2) White man? Black man? Red man? Try blue man. Sam Worthington‘s Jake Sully is a young marine whose mental/emotional/spiritual essence is transferred into a Na’vi body, and thereby becomes in effect a racial avatar for every tribe on the planet…he’s simultaneously no race and/or whichever race has ever been outgunned and oppressed” — an ideal cipher for viewers of whatever tribal background.
(3) Pandora’s almost-Earth’ look “provides the film a grounded reality “that will elicit just as many oohs and aahs from audiences in Paris, Texas, as in Paris, France.”
(4) Three really is the magic number with Avatar giving adult audiences who haven’t quite experienced a profound 3D high “a comfortable way to experience the well-established format.” The film has therefore “been positioned as much as a talking point as an entertainment — something ‘you’ve gotta see.'”
(5) One for the ladies. “As Avatar progresses, Worthington’s character meets and falls in alien love with a Na’vi princess (Zoe Saldana), and their affair is deftly handled — in a sense the affair registers more authentically than Jack and Rose’s did in Cameron’s Titanic, and it is given plenty of screen time.”
Avatar “might have a softer edge than Cameron’s earlier sci-fi rockers Aliens and Terminator 2,” Cleveland concludes, but “family friendly = wider box-office net…it’s a great time at the movies and a good-value ticket. The film hits all its marks, a highly unusual entertainment packaged with something for everyone.”