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A Little Bigger Than the Sum of its Parts. Vague Spoilers Included
Obvious comparisons abound with Costner's Dances With Wolves and the story of Pocahontas but here the story and character development, though fine for a blockbuster, are but the thin spine within a very strong spectacle indeed. Cameron rarely disappoints on the SFX side and this is certainly one of the most especially effective films of all time.
Watching the end credits you'll see about half a dozen special effect companies all helping to provide a very real looking and almost tangible world. I found myself wondering how deep Cameron has thought through his imagined world; do the myriad creatures portrayed here have a sound Darwinian back-story? The film gives a nod towards making the Eiwa-hypothesis believable with the help of Sigourney Weaver's scientist Grace but ultimately these thoughts don't hang around for long when your eyes are being treated with such a pure vision of vertigo dreams.
Add to this a small amount of anti-corporateness, some anti-colonialism (all war films are anti-war films aren't they?), a smattering of anti- in-group/out-group (shake it all about group) hatred and a fair deal of pro-environmentalism (SPOILER: Earth is referred to as a dying world with no trees) then you've got yourself a nifty piece of liberal propaganda.
Which, of course, is a good thing. ;)
Although, I did wonder what fate would befall the losers in this film... a dark sequel to come?
Go and see it in 3D IMAX.
A list of possible influences that popped into my head during the film: Dances With Wolves, Pocahontas, Romeo and Juliet, LOTR ROTK, Final Fantasy VII, Warhammer 40000, James Lovelock's Gaia, Aliens, Braveheart.