If you have not seen Avatar, then don't read below as I will spoil it :)
Ok, first, the production values were incredible. Just great animation, although the 3-D-ness did not bring that much to the table. It was an enjoyable flick.
BUT I am tempted to re-title the movie "Dances with Elves/Ewoks." I think that Cameron wanted to try out his new film-making procedures and crafted a very simple Cowboys/Corporations vs. Indians story so that he would have an excuse to show off his pretty stuff
There were lots of cool features in the movie--the first flying scene was fun, the luminescent stuff was nice, the blue folks were nicely imagined. The battle scenes were well choreographed.
But it was not a subtle flick, especially once the ex-Marine/private military contractor started talking about terror and pre-emption. So, are the blue folks Iraqis or Indians?
And the Marine was a jarhead. He did a nice job of orchestrating an aerial ambush, but the ground strategy of a frontal assault was just stupid. I kept expecting it to be part of a trap. But no, they had to have the mother spirit run the show far more successfully. So, lots of the Na'vi died needlessly. Aside from riding the nastiest beast and fighting well, the lead, Jake Sully, did not lead particularly well.
The stuff about the networked planet was good, but when some of this was discussed, I was almost hearing a Yoda-like voice saying "Hmmm, yes, together bound are we. The trees, the plants, the creatures--sustains us they do." Well, you get the idea. A story does not have to be original to be compelling, but it does help.
So, was it a great movie? No. I just did not get sucked into the story that much. The acting was fine, and the effects were amazing. But I was not taken away to a magical place. It is definitely to be seen in theaters, although I am not sure it was worth an addition $3.50 per head for the 3-d.
The take home message--humans suck, capitalists suck, and American capitalist humans really suck. Got it. I am sure George Lucas is thinking somewhere "If I had that technology, I could have used Blue folks for the Endor scene, rather than the Ewoks, but which make for better toys?"