Well, just got back from seeing Avatar on the biggest movie screen in town and, well, yes, WOW!
***** Warning! Spoilers Below! *****
From a purely technical standpoint, I thought it was, as hyped, the best CGI movie yet.
Although I was disappointed with the previews shown earlier this year (it all looked a bit 'fake plastic blue' or something) the final product was somehow much more convincing.
I suspect this is mainly because you were bombarded with such a huge amount of gee wizziness that any cracks in the visuals were just lost in the flood, but I think there was also something else going on, and what I consider to be Avatars *real* achievement - the very convincing facial animation of the CGI actors.
This hugely helped 'sell' the characters as realistic entities, and not just CGI (erm) 'avatars' standing in for real actors. Granted, the characters aren't actually human, and if they had been it may not have worked so well. But they did successfully achieve a sense of realism I haven't seen yet in supposedly realistic CGI animation.
The 3D was fine, but not IMO particularly any better than, say, Up3D, and I still can't see myself being happy with having to watch ALL movies in 3D!
Finally, the scenery was stunning, surprisingly New Zeland-ish in fact with what look like plenty of ferns and 'koru's all over the place, and was teeming with plenty of imaginative and quite beautiful animals and plants.
As for the actual story, I actually enjoyed the first half of the movie immensely.
The story gets stuck in right from the outset, and before long our paraplegic hero has transferred into his brand new, 9 foot tall blue alien body and is hoofing it madly through the forest for the sheer hell of it.
It's an exciting, romantic moment, and the movie carries on in that spirit for quite a while. There's even a quite nicely pitched bit of human-alien romance in there which works surprisingly well.
But of course, this is an evil-humans vs virtuous-natives story, so the film has to eventually turn into a huge prolonged orgy of military violence - about an hours worth in fact.
At this point, the movie changes tone dramatically, and things start getting a bit weird. The virtuous-natives are apparently too stupid to save themselves without human help (there's some vague 'chosen one' device at work too) at which point it gets a bit (more) condescending.
But, the visuals remain strong, and the battles are pretty spectacular. It all manages to remain more or less entertaining right until the (pretty crappy) ending, although you feel like you've mostly lost touch with the characters by then.
A shame really. If this really is some kind of American Indian or Afghanistan allegory (as has been claimed) or something, I can think of far more interesting/subversive ways to end it. But hey, this is James Cameron, and he seems to be far more comfortable with characters who carry BIG SEXY guns - indeed, by the end even our hero has grabbed himself a gun and has ditched his wimpy bow and arrow/knife combo...
But bah, I liked the first half, didn't like the second - no doubt there are some people who think the opposite! A case of something for everyone, perhaps...
Whatever, it was, first and foremost, hugely entertaining.