While the sprogs were hanging out at the aquarium with the Grandparents Who Lurk But Seldom Comment, my better half and I went to see a 3-D IMAX screening of Avatar. My big concerns going in were that all the 3-D IMAX goodness would make me motion-sick, and that if that didn't get me, then the story by James Cameron might make me lose my lunch.
I am happy to report that neither of these outcomes came to pass. Not that the plot here is especially sophisticated, nor the characters terribly complex, but they weren't as dreadful as I had feared from the Twitterati and the Facebookers.
The main event here, unsurprisingly, is the three-dimensional world that Cameron has created on the moon Pandora. Cameron could have created a three hour nature program featuring the flora and fauna of Pandora (in glorious 3-D IMAX) and I would have been completely satisfied. However much was budgeting for visual effects here was money well spent.
Having gone into the theater with precisely no inkling of the plot, I don't want to give much away. (If you want plot points, I suspect other reviews or sources will give you what you seek.)
I will note that a recurrent theme was the question of where you belong and with whom -- or what -- you align yourself. Another theme (and one that didn't work as well for me) had to do with whether being full-up (whether with book-learning or something else) gets in the way of being able to really grasp something new.
The villains in this movie are completely predictable, but it's hard to fault Cameron for that when the military-industrial complex and multinational corporations do villainy so well in the real world. In Cameron's film Aliens, the military types ended up standing up to the company and fighting on the right side. In Avatar, not so much. There's probably an interesting story to tell here about how much closer private corporations and military forces have become in the 23 years since Aliens was released that makes their banality-of-evil partnership here so convincing.
More surprising is the fact that the scientists in this movie are the good guys (or at least, are well-aligned with the forces of good). There's a striking parallel between the scientists' engagement with Pandora and its inhabitants and the military forces' engagement with them, although the former is more biological and graceful, the latter more mechanized and clunky. It's hard to know whether there was supposed to be a deeper message suggested here (about the complexity of living things compared to products of human intelligence, the coolness of biology compared to engineering, or whatever).
The characters are not deep. To some extent, this actually works here; as you are immersed in this world's sights and sounds, the characters are blank enough slates that you can imagine yourself into their skins and try to figure out what you would do in circumstances that seem impossibly constrained. The optimist in me would have liked to have seen more of the legions on the wrong side of the fight ready to pull back and change sides, but the realist in me recognizes that some jobs (especially in harsh economic times) can really wear a person down.
There is plenty of violence in this movie, some swearing, and some cigarette smoking. It might be scary for youngish kids. However, the critters are very, very cool.
At least in these parts, shows have been selling out well before show time, so it may be a good idea to try to get tickets online rather than showing up at the theater and hoping to get lucky.