We did see Avatar today. We went to the afternoon show and we were quite surprised to be watching the movie in a full theatre. Sure, it was a smaller theatre, but it was still full.
Technologically, the movie is a triumph. I loved the world - Pandora - that they created, with all of its phosphorescent flora and brightly-coloured fauna. The whole concept of the world definitely caught my imagination and I wanted to be able to visit and experience it for myself. The world looked and felt real.
The Na'vi, or native inhabitants of Pandora, were well-thought out, too and they, like the world, looked realistic; clearly some time was spend making them look the way they did. I thought that there were a few times where the scale of the Avatars seemed to be off, but maybe that was perspective or something.
The CG needed to create things was really quite amazing and very well done. This technology has advanced quite a bit since it was first introduced and it's no longer quite as easy to tell what's real and what isn't. Creating the Navi was definitely the big achievement because they were created from the actors themselves instead of animating them from scratch.
The technology imagined and used in the movie was interesting and quite cool. I loved the curved screens with all the data and imagery and the hologram projections. I'm a sucker for that kind of "future" technology. Speaking of the future, the costuming was definitely lacking. Unless you assume that clothing and hairstyles won't change at all between now and 150 years from now.
The 3-D aspect of the movie was ok. I liked the scenes that weren't overtly 3-D, but I definitely didn't like the scenes where the action was in the foreground. Because this 3-D technology works by offsetting the image and then bringing it together with the glasses, it is very difficult to get a foreground image that doesn't look like a cardboard cutout. I also get tired of the "Look! I'm in 3-D" scenes, which weren't as prevalent in this movie but were still there.
The worst part of the movie was the story. The first two-thirds of the story, where we learned about the people, culture, and world of Pandora, were ok because the thought of the world was inspiring. Even then, there weren't really any surprises or depth to the story: there was nothing original or deep about it. The last part of the movie was even worse. It was a big battle scene and it dragged on and on with no suspense or interesting bits. It was like every other battle you've ever seen in any other movie.
Part of the reason that the story fell flat was that the characters on the "evil" side were completely one-dimensional. The corporate guy was slightly less evil because he felt some remorse after destroying the land, but nothing came of this remorse. The military guy was a gun-toting, evil, military, "might is right" caricature of a man. Had there been as much depth to these characters as to the other main characters, this movie might have been better, and might have even won more awards.
I would have loved this movie had it focused entirely on the world and the people and didn't include any of that awful "evil" stuff. It could have been such an inspiring, amazing movie had the story been better, or had the conflict involved characters and situations that were more realistic and less one-dimensional.
See Avatar for its technical achievements and enjoy the beauty of this movie. Ignore the weak story and characterizations if you can.