My wife and I saw Avatar this weekend in IMAX 3D (a cool format, although it made me sick being in the 3rd row, and I don't get sick in movies...).
This movie has gotten a lot of excellent press and recommendation from friends. Maybe I was expecting too much (although trying not to) and maybe I started off by being in a bad mood from having to sit so close, but I did not love the movie. The effects were phenomenal, and the story backed them up. But the story at the same time did not wow me. It was rather predictable, and I felt angry through most of it because of the injustices. My wife wants to get it on Blu-Ray, but right now, I'm not sure I even want to see it again because of the anger I felt during the movie.
Maybe the movie did it's job, though. It made me think about injustices in this world. In many ways, Avatar was a sort of avatar of modern life. Media at its best does that. It's one of the things I like about Star Trek: having us engage in moral and ethical dilemmas, but making the context foreign so we're able to see the issues better and not be so resistant to challenging our beliefs.
For those who haven't seen it, you may not want to read more (although none of this will be that much of a spoiler, I don't think). Also, there is another great blog post on Avatar as a metaphor for evangelism, so others are thinking of it in metaphorical terms.
Anyway, back to being ego-centric about my reactions. :) The first strong negative emotion I had was anger. The humans were being driven by money and greed (anger point #1) and then doing very inappropriate things to others while they had absolutely NO right to do this (anger point #2).
One of the strengths of this film versus others is that it let the audience get to know and understand both sides of the conflict. It starts with humans (who the audience has an obvious automatic affiliation). Then it helps us build a bond with the Navi.
So when things get heated, I cared about both sides. It made me sick seeing both sides get killed. And I actually thought it was unfair that most of the soldiers had to die while the leaders (the true corrupt ones) walked away (well, there was one exception). I didn't really hold most of the humans responsible for their actions since they were unaware of the full picture. But those who were exposed to the Navi and the injustice that went on were responsible. And they acted.
How often does that occur for us, though? We often do things without full knowledge of the situation. And we often act incorrectly. That doesn't mean we were not wrong, but should we always be condemned? I'm not sure. Yet we do often condemn others.
The movie also made me sick because it so beautifully and graphically and emotionally showed the tragedy of displacing the Other for our benefit. It made me realize the power of the horror that humanity has committed to so many populations over the millenia.
Again, I think this is a strength of media at its best: Helping us experience the world differently when we are unwilling or cannot see it directly. Basically, media can be an avatar for our lives. And that can be good. So good that I think it can be quite holy. (Not saying this movie was holy, but you get the idea. :) )