Went to see it, in glorious 3D yesterday. Some reactions ... the film was beautiful - CGI, or however implemented, the world Pandora was quite stunning. Special effects were impressive.
However, it wasn't only me who considered the plot pretty derivative. I reckoned it was a patchwork of Tarzan (human identifying with other race), The Matrix (body swap) and Return of the Jedi (cute, environmentally friendly aliens in touch with their intuitive side). Other facebook friends suggested:
- Fern Gully on steroids;
- Pocahontas in outer space;
- Smurfs on drugs.
I'm sure there are more.
The "science" part of the SF was slightly better than (say) Star Wars - though not a lot. At least we didn't have blasters and hyperspace. However, we did have alien race that was basically human-looking, trees that were basically earth-style (one huge one that was a bit like the home tree in the middle of Disney's Animal Kingdom in Florida), an unexpected and priceless mineral ("unobtainium" - where does that feature on the periodic table?!) which of course was right underneath the natives' home, and an atmosphere that had produced a kind of megaterran ecosphere and yet wasn't breathable for humans.
The underlying message of the film was, as can be deduced from the cross-references to other films above, similar to every other anti-war, vaguely environmentally conscious, vaguely new-age, tree-hugging film that you have ever seen - except with more explosions and oxygen masks.
Some people talked about Avatar as paving the way forward for cinema in the future. To be honest, I'm not sure. It is great from the point of view of spectacle, and that will certainly draw people in. But how many huge explosions or animals rushing out at you are you likely to pay to watch? The real power of cinema is not to do with amazing special effects, but to do with a captivating story. Avatar was okay, from that perspective, but nothing to write home about - it's too much like too many other films.