Yes, I know this is a bit late to be a proper review, but I’ve only just found time to see it. So this is not a review, but three observations. WARNING: SPOILER ALERT.
Firstly, it is visually arresting. I saw it in 3D, but I suspect that it would be an equally gorgeous visual experience in 2D. I find 3D a bit gimmicky usually, but it worked well for Avatar. Cameron’s world of Pandora is indeed exquisitely depicted. It is worth seeing the movie simply for the scenery. Which is just as well since there’s not a lot else.
Which brings me to my second observation. I found it very derivative. The battle machines of the marines looked like they had been taken out of mothballs from the Matrix Reloaded set. The dog creatures were from Resident Evil and the largest flying creature was a coloured version of the monsters from Pitch Black. The N’avi all apparently lived in the big tree in Ferngully and there was one particular moment in the final battle scenes where I was convinced that Ewoks were going to jump out from behind trees and start throwing rocks. Much of Pandora’s geography bore a suspicious resemblance to those terrific Roger Dean LP covers from several of the earlier Yes albums. Lots of floating rocks and long drops. Very Close to the Edge stuff (sorry, only Yes fans will recognise this reference but here are some examples of Roger Dean’s artwork).
And the plot? Pocahontas in outer space. I expected the N’avi princess, Neytiri, to break into “Colours of the Wind” at any moment. Oh, and a touch of Ferngully again at one point when giant tractors start tearing down trees and the hero, Jake, takes them on single handedly.
Okay, I know I’m cynical but there seriously wasn’t a lot to engage one besides the visual spectacle. Danyl at the Dim Post found the movie subversive because marines were the bad guys. I simply thought it was just the usual Hollywood plot - Evil “civilised” people beat up on harmless natives until one evil person develops a conscience and joins natives and saves the day by getting medieval with his former buddies. Any questions? No, of course not.
Actually there was one interesting thing in the movie. I was intrigued by how the inevitable Gaia-theme that developed was explained away in extremely rational terms by the character played by Sigourney Weaver. The planet’s trees were depicted as brain cells with multiple networked connections between all the trees, making a giant supercomputer. “Souls” were stored in the soul tree by some sort of organic fibre optics storing brain patterns. I am always fascinated by attempts to depict spiritual beliefs as having roots explained in hard science. The occult, almost subliminal, message, of course, is that spiritual beliefs are simply superstition and that one day, when we have more elaborate technology, we will be able to explain it away rationally. The Stupid/Superstitious/Religious verses Smart/Superior/Rational meme is one of Hollywood’s favorites. So much so that it pervades almost everything that comes out of America. Yes, even this is thoroughly unoriginal.
If you haven’t already seen the movie, go and see it. Just don’t expect anything that makes you think. Even for a second.