Avatar is visually stunning. It has precisely all of the elements you would expect from a modern science fiction epic. I give major credit to James Cameron for an original idea, although the plot itself is a pastiche of mostly unoriginal classic memes. My snarky tweet-length review is “a visually stunning remake of Disney’s Pocahontas“. That said, the film is on its way to become one of the top-10 grossing films of the decade, which until now has consisted entirely of remakes/reboots, sequels, and/or book/comic book adaptations (i.e. not a single original idea). (Note that a non-trivial factor in Avatar‘s opening weekend success is the higher ticket prices for 3-D and IMAX showings.)
A word of warning for my typography nerd friends (you know who you are): all of the subtitles are in Papyrus. Hey, at least it’s not Comic Sans, right?
I, like many other commenters, am very interested in the technical aspects of how the film was made, and I do expect that, like the motion control techniques invented for the original Star Wars, we’ll see a significant shift in how movies with fantastical elements are filmed. It also seems likely that some of the performance capture technology will be applied to video games, especially those with more immersive plots like single-player RPGs.
Another thing I’d add: the 3-D version isn’t strictly necessary to enjoy the visual experience of the film. While RealD, as a single projector polarized 3-D technology, is certainly better than the old red-blue systems, or the ones that required bulky electronic goggles to alternate flickering in each eye, I don’t think it adds a huge amount.
So, overall, I liked the movie, but I wasn’t blown out of the water, due largely to the tropeful plot. That said, it certainly got me thinking about a wide variety of topics, including racial issues, exobiology, and linguistics. I plan to see it again, probably in IMAX. Detailed thoughts below the cut (with some vaguely spoilerful comparisons to District 9).