With so much build-up to this movie, on this blog as well as everywhere else on the planet (the global gross just exceeded $1 billion!), I felt obliged to post a few thoughts on the film itself, some of which appeared in a recent comment.
1. The visuals. They actually were as stunning as they were hyped to be, particularly the use of 3-D, which was nothing short of groundbreaking. Overall, the Na’vi looked pretty real, the few exceptions being some of the walking shots and anything involving Sigourney Weaver’s avatar. But they shine in the close-ups and flying scenes. The final aerial battle must be seen (witnessed?) to be believed, standing as the unequivocal masterstroke of the film.
2. The script. Obviously we don’t go to movies like Avatar expecting poetry. The most one can ask for is that the script does not distract one from enjoying the action. Unfortunately, it would appear that Cameron has reached a level of success where he no longer feels the need to employ an editor… And at times his lines veer dangerously close to Lucas-esque secondhand embarrassment territory. But the actors do the best they can, and a better-paced three hour action movie would be hard to find.
3. As for the politics of the film, I felt they were harmless enough, if a bit heavy-handed with the whole 9/11-Iraq-Ferngully connection. The worst one could say is that it felt a little like it was written seven or eight years ago. Again, not that I was looking for it to have anything serious to say…
4. Theologically, although the much-talked-about pantheism is definitely there (in spades), there was a key departure in the final act – where God shifted from a “spirit which protects the natural order of things” to an interventionist, redemptive deity. Not Christian per se, but certainly more in that direction than all the Captain Planet stuff in the first half. A friend of mine summed it up well when he said that Avatar is what you’d expect if you gave a Yoga instructor $300 million and told him to make an action movie.
Overall, I’d call it a very entertaining film with truly eye-popping special effects that make the thin (stock) characters and borderline risible script easy to overlook.
As a side-note, Mbird behind-the-scenes man Jeff Dean had a very interesting take on the film, going so far as to call it an unintentional Evangelical (and Pelagian) myth:
“The lead character is introduced to a body of people who are defined by their communion with God. As he spends time with them and learns their ways, his old life seems less and less real to him. Finally he abandons his old life and becomes one with the new community entirely. As a reward for his striving/recognition of the good that was in him, the God transforms him fully into a new creation. Of course, the correlation is not self-conscious.”