[Note: Ive only seen the teaser trailer, not the 15 minute 3D IMAX trailer]
What strikes me most watching the trailer is that, despite the detail and photorealism of the images, the underlying design lacks originality and uniqueness. None of the environments, vehicles or creature designs even approach the iconic quality of those seen in 2001, Star Wars, Star Trek, Blade Runner, Independence Day, The Matrix, or even Camerons own films, Aliens, The Terminator, and The Abyss.
The spacecraft in the opening adhere slavishly to the NASA model, down to the fonts and the coloration of the reentry vehicles. The attack aircraft looks like an Apache helicopter with an A-10 tail and dual fans instead of a helicopter rotor. I understand that realism was a goal here, as it was with “Aliens”, but this is several hundred years in the future (I expect)- design standards would likely have changed, and some artistic license is warranted. The mechs- well, this is just personal opinion, but Ive seen hundreds of more interesting, realistic mech designs.
And the aliens are, disappointingly, anthropomorphic to a fault. Theyre just tall, thin humans, with blue skin, large eyes, catlike ears and noses, and a tail. Their hands and feet look EXACTLY like ours. With their oversized eyes, they look like Disney characters, only in the flesh. Cat people arent exactly the most original idea- see The Island of Dr. Moreau by H.G. Wells, The Man- Kzin Wars novels by Larry Niven, and the Thundercats cartoon, among hundreds of other examples. The ones in Avatar would probably fall into the cliché of Petting Zoo People:
If realism is a goal, then why are these creatures so humanoid? It is almost IMPOSSIBLE that evolution could produce something that close to us elsewhere in the universe. And its not necessary for narrative- District 9 manages to make the audience empathize with a giant, walking shrimp- you really only need the eyes to convey human emotion. I understand these creatures are supposed to be beautiful- the aliens in The Abyss were beautiful- but not HUMAN beautiful. James Cameron now has the most advanced, revolutionary filmmaking technology at his disposal- hes spent years talking about how this will let filmmakers create whatever they can imagine- and he gives us aliens that are only SLIGHTLY more different from humans than Klingons are. I am disappointed, to say the least.
For that matter, why does the planet look so much like a terrestrial rainforest? They could create ANY ENVIRONMENT , and they made earthlike trees with green foliage. For any kind of ecosystem to exist there have to be plants to convert solar energy (or geothermal energy) into chemical energy, but they dont inherently have to be green. There are red and brown algaes on earth - on other planets, they could be any color.
And there is ABSOLUTELY NO JUSTIFICATION FOR FLOATING ISLANDS.
Its physically impossible (dont start up with magnetic fields, you dont know what youre talking about) and its also a cliché.
Also, why would Mech designers leave the pilots whole body unarmored, inside of a glass pod that can be shattered in combat (which we see occurring in the trailer.) Even if you couldnt come up with a virtual viewport that gives the pilot as much situational awareness as a glass window, you would only leave his head exposed, and armor the rest.
All of that said, Im still looking forward to Avatar. Camerons films have always delivered a compelling balance of action and character development, and I look forward to seeing how that plays out, even if I find the visuals disappointing. I just hope he hasnt pulled a Lucas, spending all his time on the tech, and forgetting all about story and acting.