Turns out this isn't hyperbole, at least as far as how movies are made.
But let's start with the story. The story sucks, although probably not much more than a lot of the shit that makes tons of money. James Cameron should stick to inventing awesome things and stop writing. If the script was ready to go ten years ago, you would think someone would tell him in that time to make his characters less boring and his story less cliched. I guess everyone was too awed by the camera.
A lot of people say that the movie is clearly a commentary on the United State's actions in Iraq (note: James Cameron is Canadian), and Cameron has apparently made comments that support this view. I still think it's bullshit. First of all, this movie was ready to go ten years ago. If it's about any war in the MidEast, it's probably about the first Gulf War. Or, as one of my friends says, it's clearly about Native Americans. Or maybe it's about the British Empire or the Belgian Congo. Attacking people whom you see as primitive because they have some resource you want is obviously a very old and very universal theme, and I think the movie suffers a little because of that. Maybe it is about the Iraq War. But it doesn't have to be, and whether it is or not makes no difference.
But the technology does make a difference. I firmly believe that Avatar will change the way movies are made, at least when the price comes down a bit. It was incredible to look at, with super-crisp 3D, beautiful colors and style, and amazing captures of depth of field. Just the sheer amount of the movie that was in 3D was amazing, and HE SAW THE WORLD AS HE WAS FILMING IT!
Given that Cameron invented this camera specifically for this movie, it's interesting to see how the widespread use of the technology will play out. I have no idea what kind of person Cameron is, and whether or not he will allow others to use the camera, or if he will try to make it less expensive, or if he will guard his secret until someone else figures out the technology on their own. But I can't imagine that someone who makes action movies or movies about aliens or anything roughly along the lines of Avatar could possibly see this movie and not think "Holy shit, this is what I need to be doing!" Who knows if anyone else will in the near future? But Avatar has certainly set the bar very, very, very high for the future of movie-making.