I went on opening day to see Avatar, the first feature from James Cameron since he was crowned King of the World in 1998. From the ads, I had relatively low hopes for the film. I thought it was going to be Dances with Wolves as directed by George Lucas. Thankfully, my worst fears were not realized. By and large, I liked it.
First off, the story was less Dances and more Dune, which is fine, since I haven't seen Dune ripped off a hundred times. (Only the once.) The acting was pretty solid. I liked Sam Worthington much more here than in Terminator Salvation. Zoe Saldana did some nice work as an alien. Giovanni Ribisi is fun. And Sigourney Weaver never disappoints. Special kudos to Stephen Lang for his hyper-dedicated (though not strictly crazy) bad-guy-army-dude.
On the down side, it was a tad long. At two hours and forty minutes, I think it could have withstood a trim of about fifteen to twenty minutes. But that's really a quibble.
The special effects are, no question, state of the art. Do they look like "reality"? Nope. But they're getting mighty close. The environments are stellar. There might have been a few too many weird creatures in the jungle, but it is a jungle after all, so I can buy it. And the finale sequence was Cameron doing what he does best: action. It's basically what Lucas tried to do at the end of Return of the Jedi, with an indigenous and primitive race battling a technologically advanced invading force. This one was much more believable.
The thing that really impressed me was the seamless way the human actors are integrated into the environments. What's funny is that it's not that the environments necessarily look more real (well, they do, but that's not the point) it's that the humans look more fake. It kinda works.
All in all, much more enjoyable than Titanic, but still not in the same league with Cameron's earlier work.