The story is a simple one which you can easily glean from the trailer. A corporation backed with mercenary muscle goes to a foreign planet named Pandora to mine some kind of extremely valuable mineral (exactly what it does is never explained). The planet has an indigenous population, greatly resembling a combination of American Indians and African tribes called the Na'vi who live on top of a particularly rich deposit. Scientists/anthropologists have been among the Na'vi people learning their culture and language and teaching English through a technology that allows them to connect their minds with specially cloned Na'vi body, an avatar. The scientists, including Grace, Sigourney Weaver's character, have tried enticing the Na'vi with offers of medicine and education which the Na'vi have no use for, thank you very much, so of course the corporation is now considering a military option. The main character Jake is a Marine who has lost the use of his legs (how isn't revealed, or I didn't catch it) and he's among the crew chosen to go among the Na'vi and learn their ways to try to convince them to move. The hard-bitten military commander, Col. Quaritch, asks Jake to give him intelligence and tells him he'll get his legs regenerated if he does. But of course in the best Ferngully, Dances with Wolves, story line, Jake becomes enthralled with the unspoiled world of Pandora and enamored of a female Na'vi, all of which tests his loyalty. When the inevitable happens and the earthlings invade, what Jake decides to do isn't much of a surprise.
Now the movie is truly visually stunning. I mean just an incredible experience. They've clearly spent a lot of time inventing a complex and fantastic world of alien, bioluminescent plants and creatures. The Na'vi ride on pterodactyl-like creatures (think Dragonriders of Pern)with whom they establish a mind-link, and this makes for many breath-taking flying scenes. My favorite part was when Jake climbs up into the eyrie to capture his own creature as part of a test of manhood. The Na'vi are very appealing, both in appearance and character. The motion is fantastic. I could watch them all day. Interesting contrast between the beautiful animated world of Pandora,which is literally a dream-world for Jake and the anthropologists, and the cold, metal environment inhabited by the humans.
The story is one that we've heard before but certainly needs to be told again, as we keep forgetting that other peoples have as much right to exist unmolested as we do.So having said that, I really wish that with all the incredible amount of work they put into the amazing visuals as well as developing the Na'vi culture and complex Pandora ecosystem that they had worked just as hard at making a complex story. Why do most movies these days have cardboard cut-out villains and simplistic good vs. evil plots? This movie sets up lots of potential for some real drama, but they needed to raise the stakes. For example, tell us what use the valuable mineral has and maybe make it a key ingredient to cure a plague back home or to solve an energy crisis to prevent millions of humans from starving? Give us more background about Jake, more ties with his fellow soldiers that would make his choice that much harder. Give us more about Col. Quaritch and his motivations, beyond being an insensitive prick. And why oh why must it always devolve into a video game with everything in sight blowing up? Maybe to sell the inevitable video game? It seems it's always about which side gains the military victory, which is the equivalent of gaining the moral high ground. If you win, you must be right. Right? I would have preferred to see both sides come to an accommodation that ended in peace, or at least have the Na'vi find an alternative to outright war such as using the biological energy of their planet, or is that asking too much? Yes, I guess that isn't as dramatic and doesn't satisfy a desire to see the good guys kick badguy ass, but an alternative to violence,that's the real message we need. Anyway that's just me wanting something more from my sci fi, because this is oh so good in the eye candy department.
I will likely go see it again for the visuals and the appealing characters. We'll see if it passes the enjoyed-a-second-viewing test. So, if you've seen it, what do you think?
Btw, I just found this review that I agree with completely, so if I'd just posted the link last night, I could have saved myself some writing time. lol.