The barrage of reviews that consisted almost entirely of "Avatar was AWESOME" took their toll on me and I walked into the theatre with great skepticism. I had always intended to see the movie in the theatre because I do know that the visuals warranted that much and likely were "AWESOME," but I also want fries with my shake and I was not feeling so positive about James Cameron's promise that he created the effects around a story, not vice versa.
In the beginning, my attitude led to immediate disappointment. The use of 3D in the computer labs etc became an utter annoyance. And the oh so obvious bad guy was just ridiculous.
But the moment we actually got to step into Pandora, things changed.
The story remains a glorified Ferngully or, more accurately, Pocahontas, with a simplistic and predictable plot about capitalism, environmentalism, prejudice, etc, and the characters are, ironically, fairly two-dimensional (I could pick it apart further here, but others have already done so), but somehow, this works in synchronous balance with the OMG visuals that everyone is talking about. Somehow, had the story been more complex, the visuals would have gotten lost in it.
Never thought I'd hear myself say that! (George Lucas must be rolling in his grave with JarJar.)
Things have come a long way since me listening to the geek behind me literally repeating "OMG just look at the graphics," during Final Fantasy Spirits Within, which was supposed to be a major breakthrough, but instead was an utter failure because it spent far too much time trying to be complex in both story and graphics (I spent most of the movie trying to understand why Ben Afleck sounded like Alec Baldwin).
I really have no complaints about Avatar. Its flaws are many, but they do not overwhelm the movie or the impact this type of technology will have on our future movie watching experiences.
I only wish Cameron had given just a bit of this love to Terminator: Salvation :(