When my nephew wanted to see Avatar, his father insisted on the 2D version, so I went along to get the “whole picture,” so to speak. My brother was concerned that the “3D stuff” would be a distraction. Having seen both incarnations of Avatar (See my review here), I can unequivocally declare the 3D version superior.
In 3D, the movie is a much more immersive experience. Not only do foreground elements appear to be right in your lap and the peripheral images almost beside you, but everything on the screen seems to exist on its own plane. Most impressively for me, the backgrounds appear to be really far away. I think that is what I noticed most – forget stuff flying at your face; the jungle canopy looked like it was miles and miles deep into the screen. The heads-up displays used with a lot of the military tech hovered in space before the operators in the 3D version; in 2D, everything was flat, and techies labored behind green-glowing screens. While Sully was lost in the forest of Pandora, the 3D wildlife moved around among the trees; in 2D, they hid behind flat barriers. Writer/director James Cameron not only shot the film in 3D, he designed it for 3D. That’s why the colorful jungle seems so animated. That’s why he doesn’t feel the need to make characters throw stuff at the audience every 90 seconds. The 3D-effects are not mere gimmicks in a movie; they are the movie.
If you have the choice, see Avatar in 3D. If you see it in two dimensions, go back and experience it the way Cameron intended. Avatar is a much deeper film in 3D.