This weekend I made the choice to go against my instincts and go see Avatar. From the minute I watched the first teaser I was not enthused, and my enthusiasm didn't grow with more exposure, that's for sure.
First off, it had Sam Worthington in it. I've got nothing against the man personally, but in Terminator he seemed to compete with Christian Bale to see who could give the most ridiculously macho performance. Bale won, but only because he employed his "big boy Batman" voice.....for NO apparent reason.
Second, I think we can all agree that the big blue aliens looked silly. Oh, don't even back off that one. I think Cameron did that to himself. He stayed away from movies for years, and had mentioned that he was waiting for technology to catch up to what he envisioned, and that's what we got? Nine foot tall crosses between cats, smurfs and the clan of the cave bear? It was disappointing.
But the reviews were amazing, and I didn't want to be petty, so I went.
And it is amazing. Mostly. Yes, the creatures still looked silly from a design point of view, but the execution was breathtaking. These are actual characters. They didn't quite reach the pinnacle of cg actors, which remains Gollum, but they were close. The world he created was just mind-blowing, all the way through. It truly did create a whole new benchmark. Like Titanic, the visual effects work was absolutely second-to-none.
However, it fell into the same trap of Titantic, too. Cameron kept the story simple and as a result, the film feels pretty basic. There's simply not a huge amount of story here, considering the length, and what does happen is nothing we haven't seen before. In fact, it's pretty much Dances With Wolves, with a kick ass action climax, fuzzy quasi-religion and some pretty ridiculous dialogue.
So, in the end, you are left completely awed by the technological achievement, but totally underwhelmed by the story itself.