Um, spoilars ahead. Ye be warned.
So I just watched Avatar and I was thoroughly satisfied - save for one thing. But before I get into that I want to throw out that I opted to see it without the marvelous gimmick that held the movie back for so long, because it was exactly that: a gimmick. I figured if this movie is remotely worth the > $300 million production cost it would wow me just fine without the need of headache inducing glasses. And it did. And yes, I know how awesome the new polarized effect is compared to the old red/blue method - I've seen it. Better: yes; Perfect: no. You're still forcing your eyes to focus on a fixed image while the image is telling your eyes that there are objects at various ranges. The brain and the eyes get into an argument over this and the result can be unpleasant. I figured I was taking a gamble on this to start with, I wasn't going to let needless eye strain drag down my opinion of the movie.
Anyeays, you all know the plot. The white folk are destructive bastards, they find out someone else is sitting on what they "need", some neutral white guy infiltrates the others with the intent to convince them to gtfo peacefully, he falls in love with mother nature and one her sexy sexy inhabitants, betrays whitey, whitey attacks, neutral hero gets blamed for the attack, gives epic motivational speech, regains acceptance, saves the day. You've heard it a hundred times. Nothing original here and no one claimed it would be. Everyone has their role and plays it exactly as labeled. Everyone does everything predictably, on cue, right where you know they should. No plot twists to worry about. No thinking required.
The real spectacle here is ...the spectacle. They made a whole new world, gave it a compete ecosystem full of well thought out animals and plants, a way too humanoid alien species with their own working language, and all the stunning visuals to reinforce you that this is a place you've never seen it before and it's incredible. And they pulled it off. We've had CG critters and scenery in Star Wars and it was convincing enough, so I don't really think it was too groundbreaking... but gorram, they made floating rocks look plausible. Disbelief thoroughly suspended. And a full D short of his complete vision no less. Don't get me wrong, the whole time you know you're looking at something fake, but that's not important. It just looks so good you stop caring.
So there I am, skepticism out the window, enjoying the show despite how utterly stock the story is, and then... well I'm just going to say it. Unobtainium. The thing the humans came to Pandora for is called, literally, unobtainium. They call it that, on screen, with a straight face. Twice. I actually laughed out loud in the theater - that was the single biggest moment of lampshade hanging I've ever witnessed, and in the middle of the most expensive movie ever made? *******. I felt like I was getting trolled. They might as well have called it cake. In case you're confused, "unobtainium" is the long established mock term for whatever mythical item or element that drives the plot. Writers typically have the good sense to think up some b/s technobable term for it, or pick an obscure but existing mineral... or never explicitly mention it to sidestep the matter. Calling it unobtainium on screen is like having the main characters introduce themselves as "The Hero" and "Love Interest". I am at the same time deeply disappointed and highly amused. I just... I just can't see that slipping through -they knew what they were doing and they knew it completely wouldn't matter.
TL;DR: I nominate this for the Lifetime Achievement Award in "Least Original Story Ever" but fully endorse everyone watching it for eye candy alone. I plan to watch this at least once more in the theater, I might even give the 3D edition a shot.