First, the effects. Yes, this brand new 3-D technology is groundbreaking. Much as I dislike a lot of tech toys and gadgets these days, when it comes to creating a fully immersive, enriched, magical experience different from normal movie-watching, I do embrace this new stuff. While so much technology these days takes us away from the present moment and has people trying to juggle ten things at once (all on a tiny little screen), this foray was all about getting completely absorbed in an extraordinary experience. You forget that you're sitting in a movie theatre and feel like you're actually in the movie, experiencing everything that the characters do. There was a real sense of wonder and discovery and excitement in the air, and afterwards I felt like watching the movie again on IMAX because it was just that great and completely new of an experience.
Second, the story. Reviewers are discussing and analyzing political, environmental, anthropological, etc. themes all with a good dose of cynicism and intellectual superiority. I was expecting not to care much about the story based on what I had heard, but instead I found it quite compelling and I really embraced the themes and characters. There are very explicit environmental and political messages that have been accused of being too left-wing, which I didn't mind as they pretty much reflected my own views. The Na'vi live in harmony with their planet and are deeply spiritual and completely in touch with nature. Cynics say this is boring, unrealistic, idealized, etc. I honestly believe this is how it is meant to be. The way we live now is no more "realistic". All other creatures, plants, even the weather live in balance, following the cycles of life and maintaining delicately balanced ecosystems. This is life, and it's very real. Human beings brandishing money, guns, technology, and caring more about these things than about the planet that gives them life is definitely not more "realistic" and meaningful to me. So yes, it saddens me a bit that people don't wish to connect with themes about respecting nature and living in community with each other. Apparently only 6 year old girls would wish to live in this kind of magical world.
Aaanyways, this is not about disagreeing with critics or defining what constitutes a great film. This is about experiencing something new, beautiful, possibly thought-provoking, and really fun. Through this new technology, you can discover a beautiful new planet, fly, run through a colourful rainforest, and see through someone else's eyes. Soon many films will be shown in 3-D, and I think this is a great one to start with. Beautiful, colourful, hopeful, and encompassing themes that really do mean something :)