Thomas’s review published on Letterboxd:
“Avatar” is definitely a strange cinematic milestone. On the one hand, it was the most commercially successful movie of all time for a whole decade, and on the other hand, it´s also one of the most divisive films ever made. Many people love it, many people hate it. I´m somewhere in the middle, feeling overall pretty ”meh” about it.
But first, I have to give credit where credit is due. James Cameron´s constant strive for innovation and determination to push the boundaries of the medium are inspiring and deserve respect. The groundbreaking visual effects still hold up really well and look amazing for the most part. The effects, masterful cinematography, awe-inspiring set pieces, and several breathtaking shots make the film a feast for the eyes, while the excellent worldbuilding and high attention to detail make it an immersive experience. I also admire the epic scope and overall feeling of grandeur, which is further elevated by the great James Horner score.
Unfortunately, there are three major weaknesses that prevent me from completely enjoying the film: Pacing, plot, and characters.
The movie is just much too long for the highly predictable, formulaic, and derivative story it tells. Furthermore, it´s self-indulgent, self-important, and heavy-handed when it comes to its themes and messages (it clearly believes to be more profound than it is), suffers from clunky exposition, and has a corny and not very believable romance as it´s (ineffective) emotional core.
The characters are bland and forgettable. The protagonist is the blandest of them all, but the others are not much better, and let´s not even talk about the one-dimensional villains. I watched the film two days ago and yet I have to look up most of the names. That´s strange, since characters are something James Cameron normally excels at. I mean, how could I forget Hicks, Hudson, Bishop, Vasquez, Apone, and Burke from “Aliens” (I didn´t need to look up those names). And speaking of things Cameron normally excels at, even the action is forgettable for the most part. The final battle really didn´t do much for me. And we speak of the man, who made “Terminator 1+2”, “Aliens”, and “True Lies”.
Still, I don´t hate the film. Yes, ambition, technological innovations, and stunning visuals are not everything, but they are definitely something and they deserve to be appreciated.
I just hope those sequels are worth the time Cameron puts into them. He is one of my favorite directors and I want to be blown away again by one of his movies, but I remain skeptical.