I saw Avatar last night in RealD 3D and, I have to say, it is a very pretty, rather fun, awesome to watch movie. The 3D for Avatar was incredibly well done but it gave me such a bad headache and nausea that it almost wasn't worth it. Luckily, I was able to immediately go home and go to sleep, thus not dealing with the discomfort much. Needless to say, I think that I'm going to stick to 2D movies for the foreseeable future.
Diatribe about 3D aside, Avatar is a pretty great movie. Sure it's Dances with Wolves in space but Dances with Wolves was a good movie so why not put it in space. Actually, more than that, to me Avatar was Dances with Wolves meets Dinotopia in space. The color palettes of Avatar were vibrant and pretty in much the way that the palettes of Dinotopia were; furthermore, the creatures and world were sufficiently realized to make it seem like a place that one might really want to go. In fact, I think Avatar has provided me with the first artificial setting that I have had a strong desire to visit since Dinotopia.
So, having discussed the pain (literally) of the 3D, the adequacy of the story (adequate being the right word), and the beauty of the world, let's talk about the special effects. For quite a while, I have been adamantly opposed to the use and overuse of CGI in the film industry. Certainly, some studios do CGI correctly (Pixar, DreamWorks) but when mixed with live action, I tend to think that the Jurassic Park or Aliens approach of relying primarily on live action, puppets and robots is a much safer and more visually appealing approach. The clearest example of where real is good and CGI is bad is to look at the original Star Wars trilogy in comparison to the new Star Wars trilogy. Somehow, thankfully, James Cameron has not fallen in the same way that George Lucas has; Avatar beautifully mixes the real with the CGI and I did not once feel as though things had fallen into the uncanny valley.
Hopefully Avatar will end up profitable in spite of its truly ludicrous budget (officially $237M + $150M marketing) and James Cameron will be allowed to keep making crazy as heck science fiction stuff (it was at >$232M after its opening weekend so odds are pretty good). The outstanding question now is whether he's going to make a sequel to Avatar or whether he's going to make Battle Angel Alita like he's been talking about for a while.
So yeah, overall, I am inclined to recommend the Dances with Wolves meets Dinotopia in space movie, otherwise known as Avatar but I do not recommend it in 3D unless you've got some dramamine to take beforehand. Actually, that's an idea; maybe I'll pop a couple dramamine and try seeing it again, you know, for science.