Hubby and I saw "Avatar" on Sunday afternoon in 3D. It was playing to an almost full house, not completely sold out but quite a good crowd for the movie being out for several weeks already.
Beware of spoilers ahead!
We'd heard a lot about the story, and for us nothing that happened in the movie was very unexpected. Certain plot points were set-up well in advance, and maybe we're just old and jaded, but for example, as soon as they encountered the large orange dragon-like creature and told the story that only five leaders had even ridden one, we knew that Jake Sully would be the sixth. When they tried to save Grace by transferring her into her avatar, it was obvious that Jake would choose that option and it would work, because he was not so weak. Immediately after the film, Tim commented that Grace would become the Obi-Wan character, if Jim Cameron made a sequel, and since then, he read an article that said Sigourney Weaver would be back for the follow-up.
The computer effects were very good for the most part; there were only a few moments where I noticed poor CGI. Notably they are the shot where Neytiri reached out to grab Jake when he's first following her through the forest and nearly fell, and then later when the guys are all climbing the vines to get to the creatures that they're going to try to ride. It's like their biceps weren't flexing at all, so it seemed there was no effort to the climb. For only a couple of moments to jump out at me as being poorly animated in a movie with this much CGI, that's pretty good.
The 3D effect was very well done. I must say, I did not have any "reach out and grab" it moments in the theatre, which I have felt like doing at Disney World -- but
I think it's because the Disney 3D movies were designed and filmed to capitalize on the 3D effect, whereas Cameron was telling a story that just happens to be in 3D. I must also say that whenever a shot seemed to call particular attention to the 3D aspect of the film, it pulled me out of the moment. They missed a few opportunities to take advantage of the 3D, such as when Jake is first trying out his avatar and his tail is knocking things over. Something could have been knocked towards the
camera or the tail could have flicked by our faces; Tim believes Cameron chose not to do that, because it would have pulled the audience out of the moment and reminded them that they're watching a film.
The designs of the hardware were good, but also kind of disappointing because everything Cameron does features very similar machinery. We saw the hunter-killers from "The Terminator" and the power loader from "Aliens." Very early on,
I heard a clip of music that was probably right off the "Aliens" soundtrack, thus confirming for me that the hack James Horner did the music. Most of it was good and seemed original, although after becoming disillusioned with his work after hearing
so much of the "Star Trek II" & "STIII" music rehashed in "Aliens" I have not gone out of my way to listen to his music. For all I know the pieces that sounded like Native American flute music could have been rehashed Celtic music from "Titanic"
played on a different instrument. In the final fight between the Sarge (was he a Sergeant?) and Jake, ooh, surprise, the same "thrilling moment" music Horner used in both "Trek" films, and "Aliens" and "Clear and Present Danger" and "Krull" and everything else he's ever done. I suspect he probably used it in "Titanic" but it wasn't as recognizable being played on Celtic instruments. And Lord save me from the "hit single" that was played over the credits. That was painful.
Lest you think I didn't enjoy the movie, I was entertained, I cared about the characters, and I had a good time. It just wasn't as special as the $1.6 billion+ box office would suggest. If the plot were quite so simplistic and predictable, it could have been an excellent movie instead of mediocre. I suppose mediocrity doesn't really matter when you're getting butts in seats and winning all kinds of awards for the cleverness of getting butts in seats.
Before the film, they played several 3D trailers, which surprised me. I wasn't expecting that at all. "Alice in Wonderland" was one, plus "Shrek Forever," "Piranha 3D" (interesting choice, since Cameron directed "Piranha 2" when he was first starting out as a filmmaker), and something else about a supervillain and his young nemesis but I can't recall the name.
So, that's my review of "Avatar." It's not the best review the movie will get, nor is it the worst. Ultimately, it's making Cameron even richer, and I suppose that's all that really matters to Hollywood.