When I originally reviewed Avatar (way back in Irreviews, 2010: Issue II), I mentioned that I wanted to see it again to determine if its awe-inspiration and story hold up under further scrutiny. Left unsaid (or unwritten, rather) was that I wanted to see if it could make its way onto my personal "All-Time Great Movies" list.
Well, I've seen it two more times since, and I have my answers.
First of all, yes, the awe-inspiration holds up. While many of the 3D sequences did lose some effect, the flying sequences (particularly the initial ikran/banshee scene) remains as breathtaking and wondrous as they were the first time I saw it. That it does so is even more meaningful (to me, anyway) in that I saw the film for the third time the day after I saw How to Train Your Dragon (another great 3D film, and great film in general, but I'll talk about that one in the next Irreviews). I simply can't say enough about how fantastic Avatar looks.
Moving on to the story. There are many, many films whose stories are "worse" upon subsequent viewings, and there are many, many films whose stories are "better." Whether this is from an inherent ability to notice more during a second look or the phenomenon of it "growing on you," I can't claim to know. But I do think Avatar's story offers quite a bit of depth that gets overlooked the first time one watches it. There are many subtle moments found in the protagonist's portrayal that I simply didn't see initially, and the same holds true for much of the so-called hidden commentary in the film. So, yes, the story does hold up and actually improves, in my opinion. Does this put the story in the same category as the stories from the films typically recognized as the greats? No. But it certainly speaks to Avatar's (and James Cameron's) competence in telling a story.
Still, while I do recognize Avatar as one of the most important films of all time, it does not make my "All-Time Great Movies" list (in which there are only seven films). It almost did, and I must admit that I wanted it to, but it doesn't. What it does do is change filmmaking forever. Regardless of your own personal opinion of the movie, that is an inarguable fact.