I got a lot of requests to re-post my response of Avatar from my Facebook that I decided to paste it here:
For Michael’s request (a film study review) (SPOILER!!!): Avatar will not break any new ground in story telling. The plot was predictable and linear, a safe bet for a sci-fi movie trying to incorporate a new user experience. There were two philosophical points being made here (beside the obviously corporate/political non-green message).
Point one: Humanity’s lifeless existence and lost souls. When the main character was not in his avatar, Cameron’s human angles (shots) were flat, creating a sense of conformity. The scenery in the human aspect of the movie were devoid of color, monochromatic. A harsh reality that makes up day to day life. When in the avatar, the angles were sweeping from low to high or high to low. The world was rich of color and depth, not real but surreal (to dream). The only color in the human reality were the computer displays around them. Even when looking at Pandora (the avatar’s world) with human eyes (through glass on ships) the world was darken. It was Cameron’s attempt to describe our existence as blind without technology. We cannot see ‘color’ unless a computer tells us otherwise. Cameron tried to flip the dream state as where humanity must be rather than the drones we live awake.
Point two: Feminist strength and equality. Every female character in this movie is portrayed as strong, or stronger, to their male counterparts. The lead scientist played by Sigourney Weaver was headstrong and defiant of male authority while her male team was frightful of their surroundings. The female soldier played by Michelle Rodriguez broke rank when moral judgment conflicted with a soldier’s duty. The Na’vi woman (Neytiri) played by Zoe Saldana was a warrior and hunter (a role not held in many traditional tribal depictions). Even the final scene, the hero was the Na’vi woman saving her lover (typically that is reserved for a man).
Point One and Point Two comes together for the finale. As Sam Worthington’s character, Jake Sully, falls out of his avatar link unit and Neytiri reaches for him, colors become richer around him, fading away the human existence as technology fails. When Neytiri looked upon Jake’s human form, she is stronger, holding a fragile male in her arms (role reversal reflecting a strong feminist point). They both say ‘I can see you’, a portrayal of a vision that is now one.
So as you can see, the story was predictable yet enjoyable. For kids, it depends if you are ok with cursing and alien nudity (subtle). We found no offense with our children and had a great discussion afterward about what I discussed above. What was interesting was that my two little ones were engaged for the length of the movie that pushes to three hours. But they found meaning behind the joyride of the 3D experience.