This film is this generation's Star Wars. Okay, okay, now just hear me out.
First of all, the story is simple. It is not filled with stereotypes, but arch-types. You have the neophyte who is a master and mediator between two worlds. You have an evil empire filled with greed. You have a poor, spiritual community, based on mystic ideals and powers. And you have a battle of good v. evil. It works. It's a fairy tale, but on the popular level it simply works.
Secondly, it truly is a visual breakthrough. I saw it in 3D, and while the 3D did distract me, taking me out of the movie somewhat, I was still stunned by a lot of the scenes and images. The use of light was masterful, as well as all the biology-- from the humans to the natives to the "horses", etc-- was pitch-perfect. Every movement and look was believable and eye-popping.
Thirdly, it will certainly make the most money of any movie ever made. And it will be seen by almost everyone who watches movies.
Some of you were taken out of it, and had a less than stellar experience with it. That's my experience as well. I couldn't stop thinking about how they made it and what the story was doing and how poor the acting was, etc. But I could also see how great the film was. Yes, great. Not great on the level of Miyazaki or the Godfather films or In The Mood For Love. Rather, great on the level of Star Wars, Indiana Jones, ET, or even Die Hard. It is a spectacle that touches an emotional chord across cultures. Cameron is a master-- not so much of creating a new vision, but of telling a simple story that touches the hearts of hundreds of millions. That is a talent very, very few have. And to use this talent in more than one story? In this area, he truly is the king of the world.
My personal experience-- 3.5/5, mostly because I was distracted by hearing too much about it ahead of time, as well as the 3D. I enjoyed it, but mostly because of all the writing fodder the movie was going to grant me.
As a film-- 4.5/5 Cameron did exactly what he wanted to do-- touch hearts with technology and a simple story.