I like the special effects too Doug, I thought it was a political film trying to make a statement about the destruction of the tropical rain forest and the government seizing natural resources with respect to oil in foreign countries. I didn't like that the antagonist were mercenary soldiers cast as semblance to Blackwater. Jake Sully mentioned in his narrative at the intro that in this economy there was an abundant use of former marines as mercenary soldiers for muscle, his brother even died defending this country. Although they were paid security they were former US American soldiers following orders. From my humble perspective these guys don't make good enemies. I love the effects, I'd see it again for that.
I made the Blackwater connection too. "Civilian contracters," as they are now called, cross the line when they leave the military and join companies that are not held accountable under the UCMJ and which often report directly to corporate authority. It's not only Blackwater: there are quite a few of these companies -- Haliburton has them. The direct connection between mercenaries and the corporate interests they are paid to protect removes any notion of serving one's country. Contracters make over 100,000 dollars a year; soldiers make an embarrassing fraction of that. Also, half the forces used in Iraq were contractors. This is one of several methods the Bush administration employed to do an end run around democratic process. Another was to call up national guard units, extend enlistments, etc., in order to avoid starting the draft. Charlie Rangle nailed it the first week of the war.
That said, I determined not to read the film through a PC lens, rather enjoy it as an archetypal epic -- and it succeeds. The plot is as old as any epic; the way it was managed was utterly brilliant. Shakespeare stole plots from other authors and made better plays from them. This is what I see happening here.
There's 2D and 3D. I saw the 2D with my wife. I grew up watching 3D when I was a kid. Once you've done it, it's not all that interesting. With the 2D I was able to really appreciate the craft of the film without being distracted by the gimmick.
I, too, was blown away by this movie, and I highly recommend seeing it in 3D in a theater with a good digital projection system. The effects aren't cheesy at all. They make you feel like you're actually walking on this new planet along with the characters. They're very well done and add to the experience. I was so entranced by the movie that I don't think I moved or spoke during the whole thing. After the end, I got up stiff and speechless. I just didn't have words to describe what I'd just been through. The movie is absolutely visually stunning and shows you what the future of movie making will be like.
I want to see it but haven't yet. From what I hear, it's best to see on IMAX in 3D. So I definitely want to do that. Funny story though: I just heard from one of my students who saw it and then threw up from the 3D! Ha!
I find it interesting that "up" in the Main Bar, Jon Loomis is talking about the demise of publishing real, in-your-hand books and the lack of controls over the electronic industry, while here we have a movie that reduced professional actors to producing sound tracks for animators and no one is lighting a candle in the window of the screen actors' guild.