I got out this weekend to see Avatar (in 3D). Impressive. Most impressive. The story, while basic, was enough to carry the whiz-bang special effects. I mean, it was basically Dune, except the desert was a hostile alien jungle, the sandworms were the flying creatures, and the spice melange was the mineral unobtanium. It was a wild ride, and I'd see it again in a heartbeat.
I'm puzzling over all the critics who call the film anti-western or anti-capitalist, though. As I saw it, there are four foils for the protagonist, Jake Sully: the doctor (knowledge), the colonel (power), the company man (profit), and the Na'vi (tradition). The doctor is, for the most part, willing to turn a blind eye to any abuses as long as she's able to do her research. The colonel is unhinged and just looking for an excuse to blow stuff up. The company man wants money, no matter the cost. And the Na'vi want stability regardless of the threats that they may face. The film is not trying to communicate the message that knowledge or power or profit or tradition are necessarily evil in and of themselves. What it does communicate is that, if pursued as ultimate ends, these things will devolve into evil.
Jake Sully is perhaps the most pro-western character in the film. He doesn't let his disability get in the way of navigating the waters between power and profit and knowledge and tradition with ingenuity and determination, even when everyone else is trying to exploit him. The colonel wants to exploit him for intel on the Na'vi. The company wants to exploit him to negotiate a deal with the Na'vi. The doctor wants to exploit him to study the Na'vi. And even the Na'vi want to exploit him for the sake of their traditions. And that, I think, is the running theme of the movie. It is not an anti-western or anti-capitalist movie. What it does carry is a strong anti-exploitation message. That gets a thumbs-up from me.