So I just got back from seeing it (FINALLY!) so everything that follows after could very easily be me in the whole OMGOMGOMG! MOVIE! Phase of things but I think it makes sense. So if you will listen I will try to explain what I'm thinking.
I really like how one of my friends described seeing Avatar, "This must be how people felt after seeing Star Wars!" Which I think works on a lot of levels she wasn't even tuned into.
We have a return to a very simple one sided, this is black and this white storyline. Which for me is like YEAH!! Whish as you guys yourself said when doing the prequels, we had the Sith and the Jedi, black and white. We get Luke is the good guy and we get Sideous/Vader are the bad guys, we don't question it, it's pretty frickin obvious and we don't go, "Hmm I wonder why they're like that?" they just are. Copy paste onto the humans (military side) versus the Na'vi/ good humans.
I frankly Looooooove this, it's a nice change to have a story where we don't spend the entire thing delving into why our bad guys are bad, and what scarring event as a child drove them to that. I don't care! Now I'm absolutely 100% you guys will critisice this as a poor storytelling choice. The easy way. Whatever, I don't care, I really dig the fact that Cameron gives it to us the way he wants us to see it. This isn't some scientific debate where all sides need to be heard equally and then a decision will be made. NO! This is Cameron showing us one point of view about the situation (and a very strong one at that), the humans are fucking over this planet and the innocent Natives are being slaughtered by the big bad humans with their guns.
Revolutionary visuals. Fairly self explanatory.
I know I'm rambling and this is turning into much more of a stream of conciousness than a coherent argument, but hopefully you kinda get what I'm going for.
Another thing I just sort of thought of. Not sure where I'm going with this but a weird little comparison. If you think about Han Solo and you think about Jake. They're kinda the same character. They both just sort of exist in this universe, when they get pulled into something larger (Jakes brother dies and he gets pulled into the Avatar program), they both sort of go along with it not really believing in the religious/magic stuff, until they are basically forced into the middle of it (Jake starts lessons with the Na'vi), And soon starts to beleive in the magic and side with the magic people (Han turns from smuggler to hero of the rebellion alongside Luke), and they both end up fighting the bad guys who at first they just sort of exsisted with (Han existing under the Empire, and Jake with the marines).
I have no clue what that says about the movie, but I thought it was kind of interesting.
You can blame this next bit on my inexperience or what have you,I'm not paticular, but it's what I think. Going back to the whole idea of this movie as a essay versus a balanced debate on an issue, the same concept could have easily been brought over into the character arcs. The only characters who have any amount of arcs are the good guys (Jake, Neytiri, most of Na'vi (In their acceptance of Jake even though he is tecnically one of the sky people), Grace (From basically loathing Jake to fighting alongside him), etc et. I'm not saying that they are amazing arcs, I'm just saying that they do have arcs. Whereas if you look at the bad guys, the closest thing we get to an arc is a slight look of hesitation on Parkers face before he tells them to pull the trigger and blowup the Home Tree. So my arguement would state that why would a story told entirely from the point of veiw of the good guys (And very deliberatly so) want to add any amount of depth to the bad guys, they're bad and evil just because they are. Think about it, Americans didn't ask why Nazis were evil during WW2, they just were and that was enough.
You guys said that Starship Troopers (and 300) were styled as a propaganda film for that universe. I say that Avatar would fall under the same category. (Same arguement goes for Starship Troopers, we never wonder why the bugs are tryingto kill us. They're just evil, it's what they do, and they need to die. )
Hope at least some of that made sense.
BTW My name is in the credits, that made me happy. lol.