I expected to dislike AVATAR, which I saw last night at an IMAX theater. It is James Cameron, who made the dreadful TITANIC. It is an SF movie, which meant character would be neglected in favor of special effects that make no sense (i.e., KNOWING, 2012, etc.) It features women with the proportions of Barbie dolls and perfect make-up even when dropping through trees. And the tickets were over-priced.
All of these things turned out to be true, sort of. And yet -- I really liked this movie. The three hours went by without a moment of boredom. And although the character development is predictable, it's both heartfelt and appropriate. The plot, too, is predictable, and very old. A man from a more technologically advanced nation joins a low-tech one, falls in love, eventually stakes his future with his adopted people against "his own kind." The blue natives of Pandora could be Cheyenne, or Carthaginians conquered by Rome, or any number of other exploited peoples in Terran history. And yet, plots do not have to be new to be appealing. How much did Shakespeare crib from Hollinshed?
And the visuals of AVATAR are ravishing. I say this even though I am not a visual person, and even though I watched fully 1/4 of the movie without the 3-D glasses, which were hurting my ears. From the tech aboard the human ship to the plants in the Pandora jungle, everything is detailed and exciting. One reason the three hours went by so fast is that there is so much to see.
I did, however, walk out of the theater with some objections. The floating mountains, on a planet where everything else obeys gravity, are just ridiculous. More seriously, the two villains are complete caricatures: the corporate representative who is not only evil but stupid, and the Marine colonel mostly interested in killing everything in sight. Nor are the natives very interesting characters except for the heroine, but then, she's the only one we see much of.
And in the end, these objections didn't matter much. AVATAR gave me back my childhood sense of going to the movies: all disbelief temporarily suspended (or at least ignored) because one is caught up with what is happening on screen. Frankly, I didn't think Cameron had it in him. I'm glad he did.