It is not a leap forward in storytelling, but the technology is something that is going to pay off in the future as these new technologies that Cameron has helped create will continue to evolve and push the limits of movie-making. At some point the storytelling will catch up to it and that will be something special. Until that time we will have to settle, which I will do with a smile, for familiar stories with wonderful visuals.
Effects and story aside, the performances are quite good, if not entirely memorable. Sam Worthington leads the cast as Jake Sully. It is an interesting performance in that he is the hero, but he does not always make the best decisions, is not the smartest, and is not quite the action hero one world expect. The supporting cast is peppered with decent, if slightly overdone, performances from the likes of Sigourney Weaver as the head scientist, Giovanni Ribisi as the corporate suit (think Paul Reiser in Aliens), and Stephen Lang as the military commander who just wants to kill the natives. On the other side of the coin, Zoe Saldana is strangely alluring as Neytiri, the Na'Vi princess who saves and falls for Jake.
Bottom line. Fascinating film. Not all that I had hoped for, but still rather breathtaking. James Cameron may have spent a long time away from the big screen, but he has made a rather triumphant return. This is a movie that has to be seen to be believed — just keep your hopes in check. Yes, I realize that sounds odd. Wait until you see the movie.