First of all, I'd like to start with a commentary on the power of great films. I have been going through a very tough time right now, and I haven't felt truly happy in at least weeks. Watching this movie was a very welcome vacation from reality during which I felt happy and unburdened for a blissful two and a half hours. I have to admit, at first I wasn't too interested in this film. It looked like it was going to be way too much CGI for my taste. Actually, the movie is 60% CGI, but it's used in a context that is breathtaking and it's done very tastefully. It has a few explosions here and there, but it doesn't feel like James Cameron inserted gratuitous amounts of unnecessary special effects into every scene, which I greatly appreciated.
When it comes down to it, this is a typical James Cameron film. It's groundbreaking, a delicious visual spectacle, and it will undoubtedly become yet another classic, but plot-wise it's not the best I've ever seen. You know what's coming. You can predict certain major plot twists, and you know how it's going to end. However, it's not a total yawn-fest where you sit there saying, "Boring. Saw that coming. That, too." It's still an engaging story, and it really wraps you up so that you actually believe in what's happening on the screen. It does feel a little bit like a lot of other movies all mashed together (a few that crossed my mind were Pocahontas, Peter Pan (the 2003 live action version), The Mission, Star Wars, and The Lord of the Rings), but it works, so I can't complain.
As for the acting, it's definitely passable. I wouldn't say that it's the best performances I've ever seen in my life (Sam Worthington's British accent is particularly noticeable at times), but the character development is good, and you really find yourself becoming emotionally involved with the characters. And there weren't any scenes where I wanted to smack myself in the face at the utter corniness or just downright bad acting, which is pretty rare for me, especially in science fiction movies (let's be real here, they can get a little over the top with the drama). Also, the characters were relatable, despite the fact that many of them were aliens.
But, honestly, the best part of this movie was the graphics. They were breathtakingly beautiful, and far more realistic than anything I've seen so far. The Na'vi actually looked like people, and you could see shadows of the actors playing them in their faces. For someone who isn't so hot on the CGI craze like I am, this was a thoroughly enjoyable use of it that I hope other directors will emulate. (Of course, you know what happens next is that everyone else rushes to copy it, and it becomes tired and overused, and we have to hold our breaths and wait for the next fresh take on it.) Seriously, though, the effects were spectacular, and the planet of Pandora was absolutely beautiful. I really enjoyed the variety in the flora and fauna as well as the Na'vi themselves. In fact, although I'm not too keen on this whole 3D craze, either, I would highly recommend it for this film. Once again, it wasn't used in a way that was over the top or too showy and fake. Nothing jumped out at you from the screen or anything; it just gave the film depth and made you feel like you were right there in it. When the characters were running through the jungle, I found myself flinching when a branch swung back towards the camera or wanting to bat away various glowing particles that floated through the air in different parts of the movie. It was incredibly entertaining. I do have to warn you, though, that it takes a good half hour for your eyes to adjust to the 3D vision. Up until then the film is annoyingly blurry and out of focus, which is a real pain. By the end, though, it's totally worth it. Also, try to get there early to make sure you get good seats. We ended up in the front row, which was not pleasant, especially since we were seeing it on the IMAX. My neck was sore by the first hour.
All in all, Avatar is a fantastic film that I highly recommend. It's cinematic history in the making, and you don't want to miss out. It will change the face of modern film. Here's to the genius of James Cameron. The man sure knows how to make a blockbuster.