Happy Avatar Day! Granted, it’s not a holiday so much as a bit of publicity-drumming from the marketing department at Twentieth Century Fox, but that’s no excuse not to grab a beer, light some fireworks and watch the just-released trailer for James Cameron’s 10-years-in-the-making follow-up sci-fi fantasy.

As an added dollop of holiday cheer, Cameron and Fox also offered an extended version of the trailer for folks willing to make the trek down to their local IMAX (in Calgary’s case, the one at Chinook mall). If you missed out, here’s some observations on what Fox is dubbing an “unprecedented experience” set to take place in theatres this December.

1. James Cameron thinks big: This is the guy who brought you the first two Terminators, not to mention True Lies, The Abyss and Titanic, still one of the biggest movie events of all time. Avatar, which has an estimated budget of almost $200 million, looks like it’s aiming to top all of ’em.

2. It’s quite pretty: Although the 3-D still feels like a gimmick and the humanoid aliens are stuck squarely in the uncanny valley, the movie is exceptionally well-rendered. I wasn’t expecting so much of it to be fully CGI – it looks like Cameron’s basically made a cartoon with a live-action intro – but it does look quite polished. The only trouble is that the 3-D makes it hard to focus when the perspective is shifting around.

3. Don’t come for the plot, and especially not for the dialogue. If the extended trailer is meant to show off the script, it could’ve stood for a few less action movie cliches – virtually every line from the main character feels ripped from a thousand meatheaded ’80s action flicks. And the plot, inasmuch as it can be deciphered from a 15 minute preview, seems to be as follows: Dude gets his mind put into a powerful alien body; runs from scientists; meets wise, nature-loving tribe of aliens; battles against former human allies; falls in love along the way. Humans are war-mongering imperialists, aliens are wise savages who we would do well to learn from.

4. It’s quite pretty.

Will it pull Titanic numbers? Probably not – that was a once-in-a-lifetime cultural fluke. But it at least looks like a sci-fi fantasy vision that could give George Lucas a run for his money, and in that respect, it’s a welcome addition to the multiplex. And heck, Lucas wasn’t much for dialogue either (or depth, or anything but big-screen mythmaking, really).

Edit: It’s since been pointed out to me that the “live action” parts I referred to are actually CGI… in which case, I’m doubly impressed with the visuals, but stand by the uncanny valley comment as far as the aliens are concerned.

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