Every one I know who has seen Avatar has liked it. Every one. Not one person suggested it was not worth the ticket price. I am now that person.
First, yes, effects were excellent. We went to the theater because 3D effects need a big screen. We did not pay extra for IMAX. So that has been said: the effects were splendid.
What a terrible film. It's one thing to have a three hour film when you have three hours of plot, even two and a quarter can be stretched to three....but when you've only written an hour of story, have mercy on your audience and do not turn it into a three hour movie!
Remember going to see Fellowship of the Ring and leaving the theater and being surprised that you'd been in the dark for three hours? Avatar is not like that. You're sitting in the theater wondering how much time has passed because it seems like you've been in there for three hours already, and you can tell the movie is not half over. You don't walk out anxious for a sequel, either. You hope that James Cameron will buy an island somewhere and give up making movies now that he has the two top grossing films of all time.
Two of us had seen it before and liked it well enough to want to come again. One of them fell asleep. Can you imagine going to see Gone With the Wind in 1939 and falling asleep in the theater? No, I know you cannot.
So, very little plot stretched out over a very long three hours. But, wait, there's less: Zero character development. None. All stereotypes, every one. Even the main character was flat. Nobody died whom you didn't know would die. Nobody lived whom you thought was marked for film death. Nobody turned bad who'd looked good. Nobody evil reformed. No surprises. Nothing original. That's it more than anything. There was nothing original in the story or the characters.
Without the effects, this story couldn't even have aired on the Hallmark channel.
All of that is bad enough on its own, but the message of the film, which was as lacking in subtlety as everything else about it, is just plain sad to me. I don't believe in a deity who can be killed. My God is omniscient, eternal, omnipotent, and will redeem those who have placed their faith in Him. He created all, but He is more than His creation. He protects me; I don't protect Him. How lonely and frightening and egotistical to believe that men could kill God.
I do not think those beliefs equate with the inability to write an interesting story or make a great film. They just came together in the lackluster blockbuster Avatar.