It’s been a good nine hours since I watched this so let’s see how much I can remember of the thoughts I had on the way out of the cinema.
Right off the bat I want to say that I really enjoyed and was very impressed by Avatar. Interesting if I were to chose some adjectives to describe the film they might include subtle, complex and adult (as in making you exhibit adult ways of thinking). There was significantly less in-your-impact than I was expecting for something tagged as a blockbuster- not that I am complaining.
Okay – let’s pick some specific areas.
I thought the SFX were exceptional and well deserving of the praise they are receiving. The 3D was understated and, apart from a couple of arrows-poking-out-the-screen I mostly forgot it was even in 3D.
The plot was one of the tightest I’ve seen and with the exception of a couple of minor things listed below I’ve yet to come up with any significant plot-holes. It has a number of interesting antecedents that have influenced it including, amongst others: Aliens (for the Marines), Speaker for the Dead (for consciousness capturing trees), Intergral Trees (for interconnected nature) and even a bit of On Deadly Ground.
In fact it makes a great deal of sense if Cameron is treating it as the long-time-coming sequel to Aliens. If you think about it for a moment then even Sigourney Weaver aside the Marine’s had a number of roughly equivalent characters and this could have been the outcome to tracing the aliens back to their origin planet.
I very much liked that in everything we saw, while some things were very far fetched, everything was rationally plausable. There was no “magic” just the ocasional unlikely outcome such as the “Gaia saves us” ending. Technically it’s possible that neural links could occur between animals and even plants in an ecosystem if rather unlikely. Some people have commented on the six legged horses being an evolutionary impossibility however I liked the six legged hyena-like creatures who use their front page of legs for attacking and, in theory at least, the horses could have evolved from them.
It took me some time to realise but there really wasn’t an in-your-face moral to the whole film. While there is a lot of “treat nature better”, “nature is in harmony”, “family / clan are very important”, “don’t beat up the supposedly defenceless” memes none of them were forced down your throat which, naturally, makes them hang around in your head longer.
I thought that technical and especially biological design were probably the best I’ve ever seen in a film. The background of Pandora and how everything fits together was some of the best world building I’ve seen in any medium. I would happily watch a documentary or read a book just about that alone. It came close to overshadowing the whole plot of the film.
Kudos to Cameron for not having his aliens all speak perfect English.
I was surprised and, in the long run, impressed by the choice to make the avatar’s remote controlled rather than full brain transfer. The mechanism in the film did make it harder for Jake to “go native” early on was used to intelligent advantage at several points.
I was extremely impressed by the characterisation. At no point did any of the characters appear to display and blood-lust except maybe of the Colonel at the end but he had just watched 100s of his troops killed. Earlier on both he and the corporate representative waited again and again for diplomatic efforts to try and solve the problem. The latter did treat the Na’vi as savages or even animals and had no problem with disposing of them when no alternatives were available but he certainly wasn’t one dimensional. The Colonel expressed only a desire to complete his assigned role well and never showed any enjoyment of the death he was inflicting. In other words there were some people prepared to do terrible things but there was no stereotypical Bad Guy.
For a long film I didn’t feel that there was any section that could be cut out. In particular after the slightly rushed start the hour of more of complete imersion in the Na’vi culture was just enough to really “see” them (to use the terminology of the film) before moving back to the human PoV.
For all of the excellent things in the film I do have a few issues.
The biggest one is that the whole plot would have been significantly different if the various air-vehicles had bullet-proof glass. Hard to believe in 2154 we can journey between stars but still have cockpit windows broken by arrows.
I’ve said above that, for the most part, everything in the movie was approached in a rational way. One of the few exceptions to this is the soul trees seeds landing on / taking off from people at important times in the film. I can’t think how that would work.
There was a missed opportunity for Jake to have a friend in the marines whom he had to kill in the final battle as they ended up on opposite sides.
It would have been nice to know why it was so unimportant for humans to have unobtanium. Also, if unobtanium makes the islands fly then why have no creatures evolved to take advantage of this capability?
Best not to mention the closing music.
All this and I’ve still not mentioned my favorite part. Near the end when Coloney Quaritch, in his mech, and Jake are squaring off there are about four bars of music which are almost directly lifted out of the Ripley (also in a mech) / alien queen fight sequence at the end of Aliens. A lovely little homage which I suspect very few people picked up on.
In short – a good movie, highly recommended which I will probably pick up on DVD although mostly for the special features as, at 2 1/2 hours, I’m not sure how often I’d re-watch it.