I went to see this a few days ago. It was described to me as ‘Dances with Smurfs’, so my expectations were pretty low. The special effects are great, but it’s clear that this is an animated movie. Whether it was intentional or not, the scenes with the blue aliens seemed dreamlike as opposed to the aim for a gritty reality in CG animated films like Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within.
Within the special effects and action scenes, the story clumsily shoehorns two distinct allegories. The first is a clear representation of colonial brutality fed by greed, with a definite nod at the cruel treatment of North American native peoples.
The second is an eco message; Earth of 2154 has been scarred by war and resource depletion and it’s populace is looking elsewhere in the galaxy. The main character even comments on how green the planet/moon Pandora is, compared with Earth’s grey and barren landscapes. The eco message is woven even more deeply; the native people of this story, the Na’vi, have both a spiritual and physical link with their planet’s biosphere and this relationship defines the people, and as we discover later in the movie, the planet’s other species.
What really impressed me about the movie was the 3D. I was expecting it to be a disappointing experience, but I was pleasantly proved wrong. The 3D wasn’t a ‘jumping out the screen’ type, but a lot subtler. This was mostly expressed in a depth of field in close up scenes and increased sense of perspective in the landscapes. The feeling that clouds of flies or dust motes in the air were just in front of your face was impressive.
The only annoyance was the damn 3D glasses which from time to time was a distraction, as was the occasional blurring of the extreme far sides of the screen. The glasses needed to be more comfortable, and the ‘lenses’ wider so the field of view wasn’t interrupted by the frames. I’m told that the IMAX 3D experience is much better.
At the end though, it’s an enjoyable enough colourful and mostly fun action romp – a big popcorn B-movie with a heart.