If you haven’t seen Avatar, the 3-D effects and what-not make the movie worth seeing in the theater. A world of floating mountains and crazy biological symbiosis on the world of Pandora are cool to see.
That said, it has been well noted that while James Cameron spent a lot of money making his own planet on the big screen, he probably should have hired a first year college English major to improve upon his script. Actually, the average high school creative writing contestant could probably better what Cameron put on screen for two hours. It seemed to me like the only moments in the dialogue where I didn’t feel like bursting into spontaneous, but (often) inappropriately timed laughter were when the characters spoke in Navii. To be fair, I might have wanted to laugh at those as well, since I’m certain James Cameron could manage to direct his actors to butcher the syntax of a language that he himself made up.
The plot seems familiar the whole time, with every possible fork in the road taking the most obvious, familiar (and lamest) turns. If you’ve seen any of the following, you will probably not encounter a single surprising moment in the film: Pocahontas, The Last Samurai, Dances with Wolves, Ferngully, the old Robert DeNiro film “The Mission”, the Jar Jar subplot of Phantom Menace…and that’s just off the top of my head.
What makes me sad isn’t so much the (blatant) political overtones (although G.W. bashing is pretty out-dated now, even for Hollywood), but the fact that with so much effort created to make a 3-D landscape, we end up with the most 1-D characters ever put on screen. Jake Sully, (dumb, tough guy), people who connect with nature (and do not seem remotely interested in technology at all), big mean C.E.O., big mean soldiers, nice scientists. The bad guys have on the blackest cowboy hats imaginable, and the good guys just finished bleaching theirs. You can combine technology with genuine character development (see Spider-Man 2, Iron Man), but Cameron has long refused that road (see Titanic or just remember how badly you wanted little John Connor to be killed by the end of T2…) in favor of special effects. O well.
That said, Avatar is worth seeing once because of the special effects. But be warned…Sarah Palin joining Fox News was a bigger plot twist than anything happening on Pandora.