There are not too many "cultural events" these days. One side-effect of the internet is that everyone seems to seek out their own personal interests and focus on them exclusively. YesTalk is one example of this. But Avatar has been such a huge box-office success that hopefully there would be other folks here that have seen it and would like to share their thoughts about it, just like in the good old days when entertainment events, like the release of a new Beatles single, were events shared and talked about by everyone.
Personally, I have a rant careening around inside my brain that I just have to let out through my fingertips. It has to do with how Avatar seems to have rendered moviegoers brainless with its visual beauty to the extent that nobody seems to listen to the actual dialog in the movie or appreciate the real depth of the storyline.
There will of necessity be ****spoilers***** galore in here, if you still haven't seen the movie and still intend on doing so.
So, here it goes.....
First, the story is as simple as you are. If you are a just a pretty basic, normal sort of person, you will appreciate that there is a love story to follow, plus a simple "good vs. evil" battle at the end. If you are more cerebral, there is much more to appreciate.
Above all, the movie is the story of Pandora/Eywa. "Eywa" is the name the Na'vi have given to the planet-wide brain that controls all life on Pandora, including the Na'vi, who have never been allowed to develop their social structure beyond a simple hunter/gatherer tribal society. Eywa has seen to this in several readily apparent ways. Eywa has provided the Na'vi with air and ground transportation, so their has never been any need for the invention of even the most rudimentary transportation technology. Eywa has not allowed any insects to evolve to plague the Na'vi. Pandora has no "mosquitoes". I also never saw any sick Na'vi in the film, and I suspect Ewya has given the Na'vi immunity from microbial or viral disease. I also suspect that Pandora has some very nasty flora, but none is apparent in the vicinity of the Na'vi home tree or hunting grounds.
Like most folks whose needs are fully provided for by somebody else, the Na'vi have many innocent, child-like characteristics, which helps to make them very endearing. They appear to live in a paradise.
Would you really want to be one of them? Do you understand that you would be surrendering much of your free will by doing so? That you would be stuck in a static society which would never be permitted to evolve in any way if it would possibly endanger the status quo "balance of nature" on Pandora? Remember, the Na'vi rejected the schools the corporation set up for them. The humans had "nothing of value" to offer them, and that included any art, science, or education above and beyond what the Na'vi needed for their "ecologically balanced" hunter/gatherer way of life.
(If the humans had offered them Yes music and a good hi-fi system, maybe things would have turned out better for the corporate folks.)
Or to look at essentially the same issue from another angle, is technological advancement into a rich, varied and complex society worth the cost of disrupting the ecological balance of your planet.
The storyline clearly reflects Eywa's efforts to manipulate both Jake and the Na'vi into serving as the doomed shock troops to man the front lines of the battle against the humans. Jake's avatar should have been skewered like a shisk kabob at the start of his Pandoran adventure, but Eywa, through the usage of one of those oddly mobile seeds, gives a sign to Neytiri to spare him. Eywa wanted Jake to be adopted by the Na'vi. Also, Jake eventually becomes their leader by riding that huge predatory flying lizard. We don't see how he does so, but I would bet it was easier than anticipated.
It is not only the humans who act through avatars in this movie. Eywa does, also. Eywa (he? she? it?) is enourmously powerful, but not very mobile. He/she/it must act through the planet's flora and fauna, which he/she/it controls absolutely.
Admittedly, the Na'vi, being sentient and intelligent in their own right, must be manipulated into carrying out Eywa's will. They even think they are joining battle with the humans of their own free will, which is perhaps the best evidence of skillful manipulation.
Science fiction can be difficult to bring to the screen. Apart from the pure escaptist fantasy portion of the genre, sci-fi books tend to try and grapple with huge issues in a print formal which allows the reader time to ponder such weighty matters as they unfold. Avatar speeds by your mind at a pace which apparently has made it impossible for most viewers to even realize the bigger philosophical issues being presented. Those who describe the movie as "Dances with Smurfs" and the storyline as trite and simple are really revealing more of what is lacking in their own intellect than what was actually being presented onscreen in the movie.
Having said that, I think somewhere along the production way a conscious decision was made to bring the love story up front to attract non sci-fi geeks to the event. But the exposition about the "planet brain" is definitely there for all to see. I am most baffled by the many people, both pumpers and bashers of the movie, who talk about the "spiritual connection" between the Na'vi and Eywa or the paganism of the movie. Sorry folks. The connections are physical, not spiritual. To the extent the Na'vi seem to worship Eywa, they are just being smart, not religious. Eywa had probably kicked their asses many times in the past and has thereby earned a mighty respect. I can easily see some Na'vi genius inventing agriculture, and then mysteriously being devoured in his little patch of veggies by some fearsome Pandoran hit-beast. Eywa cares not for any one person, only for the balance.
An interesting corollary to all this is that the underdogs in the final battle are the human security forces, Light years from home, with limited equipment and personnel, and no chance of being reinforced or resupplied, they make a gallant attmept to save themselves, one which was clearly doomed from the start. Eywa was always the overwhelming favorite. It took he/she/it awhile to muster her forces for battle, but he/she/it could not further abide the brain damage he/she/it was receiving from the corporate mining and road and base building operations.
The idea of a planet-brain or planet consciousness is not particularly original in sci-fi history, but it does make the Avatar story a lot deeper and considerably different from the Dances with Wolves, Pocohontas or Ferngully storylines, and it has gotten under my skin that a lot of folks too simple minded or unobservant to actually understand the story seem so adamant in imposing their ignorance on others by complaining about the trite and unoriginal story.
Whew! There I feel better now.