Yes, after all these years, we watched Avatar (2009). It isn't because we are getting ready for the 20 sequels director James Cameron is planning. It's not the ads for Disney's Avatar-land that keep showing up in my Twitter-feed (maybe a little). When it came out, it was the most amazing thing every (but we didn't bother to go see it). After a few years of reconsideration, it was the dumbest thing ever ("Smurfs go to Fern Gully"). At this distance, I think the consensus is: visually cool overcomes dumb story. So we signed up.
Sam Worthington, a Marine whose legs are paralyzed, is going to the planet Pandora. He took the job when his brother died, because he is the only one genetically matched to his brother's avatar. Avatars are like biological tele-presence robots, adapted to the Pandoran atmosphere. They look like the natives, called Na'vi, 10-foot tall blue humanoids. Since humans are on Pandora to pillage the land of its unobtainium (really!), they tend to be hostile as well. Also, they can connect to other local life-forms through their ponytails and commune with them. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
Worthington doesn't seem to know anything about the planet, and the snooty scientists don't seem to be in a hurry to help him out. So it's no surprise that he almost gets killed the first time he takes the avatar for a spin. And he's supposed to be security for the team.
Of course a Na'vi princess (Zoe Saldana) pulls his fat out of the fire. I checked to see if she really was a princess, and if you count daughter of spiritual leader (C.C.H. Pounder), she was. Worthington is soon falling in love with this planet and it's noble (yet primitive) people. He realizes that the Earth humans are going to destroy it unless he, their savior, can stop them.
That reminds me, I didn't like Dances with Wolves either.
So, the story is a bit on the predicable side, and perhaps offensive to native sensibilities. But I have to say, the planet Pandora pretty much made up for it. I didn't even have to get to the floating mountains before I was sold. This is Roger Dean come to life.
I should note that Sigourney Weaver was the head scientist, and even though she has good reason to hate aliens, she was on the side of the Na'vi. Also, Michelle Rodriguez was a badass helicopter pilot, and I was worried that she would be whooping it up and shooting blues. But, spoiler, she totally came through.
In conclusion, dumb story, cool visuals. We're not anxiously awaiting the next dozen sequels, but we'll probably watch them.