Review: Avatar

Director: James Cameron
Screenplay: James Cameron
Starring: Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Sigourney Weaver, Stephen Lang
Duration: 162 min


Possibly the most over-hyped film ever, at least that I can remember (bar maybe Jurassic Park), Avatar has finally made it to our screens.  After hordes of backlash over disappointing trailers, claims of motion-sickness and general doubts that anything could live up to James Cameron’s claims that this film would revolutionize cinema, how does Avatar cope with such baggage?  Personally I’ve been sat on the fence in the lead up to it’s release, I’ve grown bored and infuriated with all the hype but at the same time I grew up watching James Cameron’s films and I’ve pretty much always enjoyed them despite any flaws they might have.  So I came to the IMAX screening feeling fairly excited but not without my doubts.  What did I think?  Well read on….

For those of you that have been living behind a rock for the last year (or fifteen), Avatar is a riff on the colonization of America, with the Native Americans replaced by big blue humanoid aliens known as the Na’vi and the settlers/cowboys replaced by humans in general (all American of course).  The humans have come to the Na’vi’s planet, Pandora, at first on a seemingly peaceful mission, teaching them English and learning about their fascinating eco-system, but once the big businessmen learn that the planet holds an immensely valuable ore (stupidly named unobtanium) the humans’ greed takes over.  A marine, Jake Sully (played by Sam Worthington) who has lost the use of his legs is brought on board to join an ‘avatar’ programme where humans are used to control Na’vi bodies.  This was introduced initially to learn their ways of life, but with a military man on board the top brass use him to help move the natives out of an area rich in unobtanium or learn strategies in which to remove them by force.  Jake manages to get close to the indigenous population, but gets too close, falling in love with the chief’s daughter and growing more in-tune with their ‘circle of life’ beliefs.  This of course causes all sorts of problems and the film builds to an epic battle for control over the area.

The plot is clearly (as predicted) very much Dances With Wolves with aliens, and doesn’t throw up any surprises, but to be honest I never expect or really want a complex or thought provoking plot when I sign up to a James Cameron movie.  Avatar is an experience, not a film.  You’d be crazy to expect the script or the performances to equal the spectacle or the technology on display.  And it has to be said, Avatar really does deliver on this front.  It helped that I watched it at the IMAX, I’d be interested to see the difference a smaller screen makes, but watching this really was a genuinely gobsmacking and exhilarating experience.  It took about 15 minutes to get used to the scale and the 3D, I felt a bit woozy at first, but once my eyes had adjusted I was stunned by how immersive the world was (I got a bit of a headache by the end too, but no one else I went with seemed to).  A couple of the more frantic action scenes were a little hard to focus on, but it was when the film slowed down that I was most impressed.  The scenes at night when the luminescent neon wildlife came alive were staggeringly beautiful and the style felt fresh and original.  The action scenes where the camera stayed more stable were spectacular too, with the typically ‘Cameronesque’ robot vs. Na’vi battle particularly pleasing the action junkie in me.

The other aspect that was hyped up alongside the 3D was the use of CGI, with Cameron claiming this was nothing anyone had ever seen before.  After watching the final product, I thought the effects were excellent and it contains some of the best CGI I’ve seen, but I don’t think they’re far enough ahead of everyone else to totally blow my mind.  What was impressive was just the sheer volume and scale of it all, as well as the integration with 3D.  As mentioned before some of the colours and designs stood out too.  On seeing the first trailers I was pretty disappointed with the look of the Na’vi themselves, but in the context of their world and up on the big screen they do look quite cool.  Some of the first shots when the humans first start controlling their avatars look a little odd, but once they’re on Pandora with the natives it looks great.

Anyway, away from all the fireworks the film isn’t without it faults.  I thought the first half was very well done, I really shared the wonder of Sully as he discovered this beautiful new world and it’s inhabitants.  The second half however does stumble from time to time with some silly, convenient and predictable contrivances (the tree of souls scenes were pretty cheesy).  I also found the film’s chief villain, a military commander hell bent on wiping out the Na’vi, to be painfully hammy and one-dimensional.  The rest of the performances were ok, not revelatory, but a good blockbuster standard.  The environmental message of the film was heavy handed at times, although not as much as expected.  There weren’t any long moralistic speeches that stood out in particular, in fact the dialogue as a whole, although not great, never got as cringeworthy as in say Transformers.

As a whole, it’s solid to standard blockbuster material presented in incredibly impressive packaging, which many will scoff at as window dressing for a pretty textbook film, but for me it was still an awesome experience.  I would thoroughly recommend watching Avatar in IMAX 3D, it made me feel like a kid again being blown away by stuff like Jurassic Park, but it’s hard to give it a perfect score because I have the feeling that watching this on DVD or Blu-ray on repeated viewings just won’t be the same at all.
 

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rot
Guest

there is a weird disconnect between the stills (like you put above) and the effect of the movie in 3-D. I thought the trailer way undersold the product and outside of the 3-D, I'm not sure why or how that happened. I did feel the singular experience Cameron was touting, it is like Jurassic Park in the spectacle aspect of it. More incredible is that the film can make you care about ten foot blue cat people, care about a love story between CGI characters.

I heard 3D IMAX is bad, but I guess you enjoyed it David.

Bob Turnbull
Admin

I have to say, I just haven't been excited to see this. Particularly with a 2 and a half hour running time. Which is strange since I love a great visual spectacle, but I can't help but feel I'd be ready to pack it in at the half hour mark. I get a distinct "Phantom Menace" feel (great to look at in spots, but devoid of anything else). The best negative comment I've heard so far is someone calling it the most expensive screensaver ever made.

But that's just my impressions from I've seen and the little I've read, so not overly fair. It's still on the list and reviews like David's are indeed keeping me curious.

rot
Guest

the one criticism I would make is because it is a spectacle film, certain scenes do drag on more than they need to, all to show off the spectacle, but I was fine with that. If you see it Bob, see it in 3-D.

Goon
Guest

The Phantom Menace comparison is actually kind of insulting, but also a funny point… people are complaining about 'lack of plot' but really if it had the amount of plot Phantom Menace does (too much), it would fall on its face. It's important to just follow Jake getting swept up into that world, making him leader, giving that time, so you can be more invested in the actual conflict. There is a plot, just a familiar one, so people start writing it off as if its not there.

What's more annoying though are some of the "oh god another anti-military movie" complaints…

Kurt
Guest

Saw it in 2D with the kiddies. It's a compendium of Cameron References, and really just a mish-mash of Star Wars, The Matrix, Dances With Wolves and Princess Mononoke – i.e. no re-inventing the wheel here, but wowsers, it is a pretty handsome wheel. ZERO sign of the uncanny valley and only one of the hundereds of animal and alien life designs (The Jungle Cat) shows any signs of CGI-ishness.

Exactly as expected -> Spectacle is at 11, storytelling quality is high, story-nuance or depth is ZERO.

I really, really made me want to watch THE NEW WORLD again, which is an odd side effect for an effects blockbuster.

Drew
Guest

Why didn't you watch it in 3D? After all that is the way the director wants it to be seen.

Rusty James
Guest

Drew, Kurt's throwing caution to the wind and goin' rougue. He doesn't care about yer rules, regulations or director intent. He's off the grid!

Jean
Guest

Quite hated the film. All it had was creatures(so called people) of an immaterial world with fake Hollywood cliches.

Goon
Guest

When I was at the theater, I asked the ticket ripper about the 3d vs. 2d sales.

"The 3d theater is packed, the 2d theater sold 3 tickets, which is 3 too many"

Tsk Tsk Kurt

kurt
Guest

Hey, if it is all sold out (besides the kids couldn't keep the glasses on for that length of time anyway (well perhaps, Willem who was glued to the movie this time), also, I had a bit of a headache yesterday and didn't want to push it with IMAX 3D (which wasn't an option, again, due to the sell out).

Also, the local Imax is all sold out during my usual Sunday 10pm slot. So I guess I'll see it that way eventually, but really there are two different avenues to look at the movie:

Spectacle (even in 2D that is there)

and

Story (nothing new under the sun there, even if you pull out "The way it is told" – well other than the technology, there is no new way of plotting the thing. I imagine the bulk of the regular moviegoers are going to know each plot point as it happens, about 5 minutes BEFORE it happens. WOuld have been nice if Cameron could have had a 'fresh story' to go along with all the techology. The characters are all a bit lame, even if the actors make the most of things.

Look at how awesome Stephen Lang was in Public Enemies, and here he is stock villian.

What sort of bizzaro world do we live in when Paul Reiser (Aliens) does a more slimey job than Giovana Ribisi (Avatar)? Oh, yea, because we've seen all this before.

I'm all for the autuer thing where the filmmaker keeps kicking at the same can, but it has to be done with story and character, not with special effects.

(ANd for the record almost Zero compaint with how the film looks, it's handsome and crisp and clean, even in 35mm).

Jandy Hardesty
Admin

Saw it yesterday (non-IMAX 3D), and my review, had I written one, would be almost identical to yours. Routine story, seen it a hundred times, but the draw here are the visuals, and they were definitely impressive. I've not seen a lot of 3D films, but the segments and trailers I've seen in 3D usually seem gimmicky, lots of stuff flying toward you, and focused more on action scenes. The 3D scenes that impressed me the most in Avatar were the still ones. The ones with Jake and Neytiri just talking, but the world had such depth. The kid next to me (maybe four or five) kept reaching out to try to catch the snowflakes in one scene, and I don't blame him.

I hope that now someone who is actually a visionary storyteller can use this tech and create something truly transcendent, with a deep story and characters to go with the incredible visuals.

Kurt Halfyard
Admin

My 'HOLY SHIT' visual experience (and this was in 2D) of 2009 was Gaspar NOE's ENTER THE VOID. If he had done that in 3D it would have been the first true 'storytelling integrated fully into 3D'

Goon
Guest

"there is no new way of plotting the thing."

I'm going to disagree. The fact that Jake is a paraplegic, and the fact that this is an alien world rather than another nationality or culture makes a lot of difference to me.

That first scene where he enjoys his legs and just takes off is important. The despair of having to leave his avatar behind and report back to people frequently, sets it apart from the full on immersion of the other Dances With Wolves type stories. There's plenty of these little things that to me make it unique and immersive. if you want to reduce plot to one sentence, yes its "the same", however doing so writes off way too much of how important it is for this particular character to be having this particular experience.

Rusty James
Guest

@ Stephen Lang was in Public Enemies

Really? That fucking movie…

rot
Guest

I gotta agree with Goon, while certain beats were the same as other films I felt there were enough new elements that made the experience feel different. Avatar does not feel like any other movie, and I would suspect even in 2D that would be the case. You have a ten foot female alien cradling the human in her arms that is the original body of the person she fell in love with… I just don't remember ever seeing a love story like that, in even the hard sci-fi, let alone what is ultimately a kids movie.

kurt
Guest

The look was original, the world was original, all the alien races and species looked original. The story, the conflict, the love story, never felt all that original to me. Not a huge problem, but Avatar is a victim of its own media induced promises. It simply cannot live up to its own bloated hype. Really, we just have a jumble of blockbuster plots (albeit told cleanly and clearly, but still bombastic insofar of its making sure that everyone in the room got every message) wrapped in a very new looking package. I guess the Star Wars analogy (a rough analogue of Samurai film Hidden Fortress) is apt here. I certainly will not argue with the statement often typed around the internets "If I were 12, this movie would have seriously kicked my ass!"

Unfortunately, I'm not 12 anymore, so Avatar is a joyful bauble (a great fireworks show even in 2D) that I will not really ever hold dear because the derivative nature of the story simply did not rock my world.

kurt
Guest

Brain Storm: FUCK, I wish that Cameron harnessed this look and technology package to make ENDER'S GAME into a full blown film. I think that would have been pretty awesome.

Goon
Guest

"never felt all that original"

I'm not sure what you can mean by 'feel original' – you've either experienced it or not.

Yes, I've seen the Matrix, plugging into the world.

Yes, I've seen Dances With Wolves, immersing into another culture.

But here we have a guy plugging into another world that ACTUALLY EXISTS, immersing himself but being pulled away against his will on a moments notice. With just these two things in mind, I see something new. It doesn't "feel new", it IS new, to me at least.

Seriously, I thought I'd have a comedown from the first rush of the movie, but I'm more and more convinced the premise is being severely underrated. Not because its particularly novel, but because people are acting as if there isn't one at all.

Goon
Guest

"What sort of bizzaro world do we live in when Paul Reiser (Aliens) does a more slimey job than Giovana Ribisi (Avatar)? Oh, yea, because we’ve seen all this before."

Ribisi's Scientology background always makes him inherently slimy for me. Even in frigging The Other Sister.

Andrew James
Admin

Haven't read all the comments here – I gotta get out of town. But I saw this today. The 3D works best with the small details (the hair, the little tendril things that attach to the beasts, the little floaty seed things and the 3D computer layouts (ala Return of the Jedi briefing room) were friggin awesome). The rest of the 3D was kind of unnecessary. I liked the movie alright for what it was. More on the Cinecast tomorrow night.

I see you.

Later.

rot
Guest

SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERSSPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERSSPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERSSPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERSSPOILERS SPOILERS

Going back to Goon's argument, Kurt, can you remind me what other films of this nature have love stories told through surrogate bodies, and then break that illusion to have the two confront one another in the real world? I found that pretty original. Dances with Wolves and New World are definitely felt in this story but the whole notion of the Avatar feels new to me.

kurt
Guest

Well, The Matrix somewhat fulfills this (ditto the 'unconscious' hero attacked in the 'real world' while he is having an out-of-body experience elsewhere. Action picture Total Recall plays with the concept a bit, but never quite goes where Avatar is.

And I'm thinking about this, because I do believe there is a movie or two that does this. (And a few sci-fi novels). But I'll certainly give that that moment was fairly touching, but the rest of the relationship between those characters is pretty rote. Is it a fault of the director to introduce such a rich world and elaborate mythology of the central humanoid then breeze by the nuance of all this stuff? Seems (like a lot of these movies) that it would benefit as a multi-season show that allowed a lot of the tribal stuff to breathe. Even David Lynch's DUNE gets more out of the pushed-aside Chani (Sean Yonge). Come to think of it, AVATAR quite resembles Dune a lot as well.

kurt
Guest

Hey don't get me wrong, I liked the movie. But not a lot of lasting impression beyond the technology, which in the end is kinda boring. The illusion provided by a novel and great story (SFX or not) can trump this.

For me it is that simple.

But really, most of these types of movies don't do it for me these days.

Marc Saint-Cyr
Editor

Hmmm, all interesting comments, and good review too. But like Bob, I'm just not that hyped to see it. I've pretty much stood back and watched from a distance as the hype for this thing gradually mutated to colossal proportions. If James Cameron's prophecies came true with this film (e.g. "This film will change things forever blah blah blah"), that'd be pretty cool – but that's a pretty big if; too big for me to invest anything beyond the smallest glimmer of hope. Plus, I'm not really on the 3D bandwagon. 3D's not something I need, or feel I should need in order to be moved by a film – countless other directors have done fine without it, and I don't really see what it'll bring to the table.

Anywho, end of rant. I'll probably see Avatar soon-ish.

Goon
Guest

People are also acting as if there's no underlying themes or commentary about how people actually are with their secondary worlds, their own avatars – how he goes without eating, shaving, and is able to fall in love with a race of people that he's not truly experiencing. I guess such a thing has become so commonplace now that when Cameron properly incorporates that obsession into Jake's character, its so natural that it goes unreported/uncommented. The fact that nobody discusses it maybe says more about our society than if they did notice.

As rot says, this is a love story between a surrogate and an actual alien, and its done well, and even if you thought it was merely 'meh' rather than a laugh out loud ridiculous deal breaker to me is quite an accomplishment.

Kurt Halfyard
Admin

When I was watching the film and upon reflection afterwards, that simply wasn't enough for me to really sit up and take notice of what the film is saying (or perhaps that everything is underscored so bluntly, there wasn't much worth saying, in particular, the environmental/mediator/balance theme was handled significantly better in any number of Miyazaki's films, (in particular Nausicaa and Princess Mononoke – the quasi sentient tree spirits also seemed to be lifted from Miyazaki/Japanese Mythology – not a problem, just an observation).

The your-in-my world, now I'm-in-your world has been done many times (not the least of which was The New World, also with natives and Wes Studi.

If Avatar would stop long enough to consider or delve into Nuance it would a) be a totally other type of movie, and b) a lot more interesting to me personally.

This is the same problem I have with his ALIEN movie vs. Ridley Scott's or David Finchers. Sure he makes a dynamite thrill-ride action picture, but there is so much more to chew on in Alien or Alien3. Even the motherhood thing in Alien, it's one real interesting and novel contribution thematically, is presented so bluntly that it simply doesn't linger much like good science fiction does. Cameron's more interested in the bravado and the hardware. Fine. That only carries me so long.

I like the 'recovery from being paraplegic element in the film, but it brushed by so abruptly that there is not much consideration or time spent thinking to really engage at that level.

Kurt Halfyard
Admin

@Goon: "and is able to fall in love with a race of people that he’s not truly experiencing."

Isn't the tech so good that is pretty much is? I mean, he certainly has the micro-reflexes down to the point where the differences is negligible. I mean, except for a bit of philosophy, isn't he pretty much a Na'vi Guy when he is in body? Of course, this is how it ends up anyway.

I'm surprised nobody is bitching or moaning about Unobtainium, something used as a gag in the not-very-serious The Core, yet here the macguffin is embraced quite straight-faced. It is ridiculously out of place to the point where it almost seems lazy in light of the detail and time spent on the colour and physics of the MOSS on Pandora amongst other things.

Also, the 'gather for the world tree' ceremony for Sigourney Weaver seemed crazy considering, what over 20% of the actual Na'vi probably died in the tree-fall.

Oh, and the fall in love with the Surrogate bit is actually done (on multiple levels) in Alastair Reynolds mighty-fine CHASM CITY, which is another novel that I'd like to have had Cameron throw $350 Million dollars at, it is totally his cup 'o tea with testosterone, big hardware, some hard-science, and epic scope with mega-action sequences. Yea, I'd love to see James Cameron take on CHASM CITY!

Kurt Halfyard
Admin

Forget Delgo, the overall story arc is A LOT simimar to TERRA, although Terra also got mired down in typical Star-Wars and blockbuster cliches to fully realize its story. Cameron's movie is not lopped off at the knees as TERRA (or The Battle for Terra as it was renamed when upcoverted to 3D)

Kurt Halfyard
Admin

More falling in love with Surrogates:

Peter Jackson's KING KONG.

Disney's BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (also the Ron Perleman/Linda Hamilton TV show)

Any movie where someone is stuck in a totally foreign culture for a period of time then re-emerges and brings their significant other into the other world is roughly qualifying. I'm not really sure where I'm going with this, but I guess the whole, he's experiencing this virtually doesn't really pack too much of a punch because post-Matrix it has been done a lot. Avatar is quite simply another movie that uses the phrase "My People"

Goon
Guest

"Isn’t the tech so good that is pretty much is? I mean, he certainly has the micro-reflexes down to the point where the differences is negligible."

No, because he gets bitch slapped back to reality often enough that it causes him misery, well shown through his diaries, which I think in an effects driven movie people dont pay enough attention to becuase they're waiting for the next batch of candy. I think even well versed filmgoers can tend to skip important stuff because they're watching the film for only one specific reason.

Goon
Guest

I think your surrogates examples are pretty weak Kurt.

Goon
Guest

"I’m surprised nobody is bitching or moaning about Unobtainium"

It's a ridiculous thing to bitch about. That name says it all anyways. If it were called Helium-3 then you'd require an unnecessary extra scene about it's nature.

rot
Guest

I agree with Goon, weak examples.

Even with The Matrix, Neo doesn't change significantly at all and neither does Trinity, there is none of the falling in love with a surrogate scenario in it, and King Kong?! Unless there is a Malcovichian tube entering Kong's head I don't see the link.

In fact Being John Malcovich is the only film I can think of where a surrogate love story takes place… that and Mrs. Doubtfire.

now I haven't seen much by way of anime or read sci-fi too deeply…

Goon
Guest

…and the Being John Malkovich example is rooted in cynicism…

In the Matrix Neo realizes himself as a leader which is similar, however yes, it's not the same at all, because they are both in the same real and fake worlds together at all times. In Avatar Jake is always in a borrowed shell among actual Na'Vi.

And Jake is clearly in control of his own destiny, the Na'Vi have their prophecies and such but he's not under pressure to become "the One", it's all his own motivation and his own desire to be more than a cripple among invading assholes.

kurt
Guest

OK, goon, how about the Star Trek '09, wherein Kirk meets Old Spock which convinces him to like and get along with Young Spock? Sure that is a platonic one, but it still has this sort of 'outsider' to make the connection in the 'real' world (here a tangent universe).

I'm not sure what point I'm trying to make, other to underscore that the 'surrogate' angle for Avatar being highly original and unique in the framework of 'hero quest, understand foreign culture' blockbusters.

kurt
Guest

The Departed slash Infernal Affairs?

The whole, go undercover, fall in love, understand the cause, come out the other side? It's been done a lot.

And as for the doesn't want to be a cripple, the metaphorical version could easily be adopted to 'i was incomplete until I went undercover and discovered my true calling on the other side, in which case, I abandon former life and join this one'

Goon
Guest

"I'm not sure what point I'm trying to make"

You're not alone 🙂

Goon
Guest

It's starting to feel like you're grasping for straws to be honest, like you have disallowed yourself to like Avatar beyond a certain level. of course I couldn't know for sure, but as I mentioned the rollercoaster of hype has put a cloud over a lot of complaints I'm hearing from people who've been pooh-poohing so much along the journey.

Kurt Halfyard
Admin

What possible motivation do I have for 'disallowing myself to like Avatar?" – the assumption is ludicrous. I can only attempt (badly) to try to explain the feeling I had while watching the movie. It's good entertainment, that is all, it doesn't resonate for me, even the environmental/invasion/occupation elements in the movie do little for me.

I've been poo-pooing the journey, and really the product I got was a heck of a lot better than I thought it would be. As a blockbuster SFX movie, it is benchmark in the production design and story-telling mechanics were rock solid. As a movie that makes me feeling something, inspires me to think about it or get excited beyond its technical aspects.

Zilch.

End of story. That simple.

The rest is wankery, something of which, I'm rather good at. 😉

When I go in and am blown away by a movie that I've talked bad about, trust me, I'll admit it. If I walk out passionately from something like DRAG ME TO HELL, for instance, a movie I thought would be totally dreadful. Or Fantastic Mr. Fox, a movie I also thought wouldn't work, hey, I'm more than happy to admit my judgement on the marketing materials given was wrong.

Avatar certainly won me over in 'not-looking-like-a-video-game-cut-scene' but I couldn't shake the feeling that i've seen this story too many times.

Actually applying that logic, the love story and some aspects of Matrix 1 which feel rote and old-hat, make me like the batshit weirdness of Matrix 2 a lot better. And the fact that Matrix 3 falls waaaay back in to the same-old-same-old cliche's of the blockbuster hero quest movie, makes me dislike that one the most.

I'm merely trying to articulate my reaction to the movie. It is doubtful to change at this point. When the crowds go away, I'll give it a whirl in IMAX 3D (show sold out again tonite), but I'm actually dreading the run-time this time around. I'll give Cameron's 3D its fair shake though, I'll watch the thing how it was intented, if only to look a the fauna and flora on a massive screen.

I can't imagine it will dethrone the spectacle of Hong Kong and Chicago in Batman's Imax experience. Many that was something to behold in IMAX (2D, of course).

Kurt Halfyard
Admin

@Goon, "If it were called Helium-3 then you’d require an unnecessary extra scene about it’s nature."

Yea, and that shit was pretty awesome in MOON, which is a far better movie than Avatar, despite itself cribbing from as many 'harder-sci-fi' examples as Avatar does fantasy blockbusters.

And MOON is a more enjoyable viewing experience because Sam Rockwell is awesome, whereas Sam Worthingtone (and Zoe Saldana) are merely wide-eyed and earnest most of the time. For me there was more 'wonder' and tactile-ness in Moon than Avatar, and at what, 1/50th the budget and 1/50 the cast?

The reason why Sigourney Weaver was the best single character in Avatar because she was worn a bit, rough around the edges, and to a large degree had a sense of humour that seemed to be lacking in any sense from the rest of the characters beyond mediocre dialogue.

Goon
Guest

"What possible motivation do I have for ‘disallowing myself to like Avatar?"

I have no idea, I just saw wankery that was coloring a little too far out of your usual lines, beyond "Kung Fu Fighting in the trailer" irrational to me 🙂

All extenuating circumstances aside, I think we're all a little sad you didn't go for the 3d.

Kurt Halfyard
Admin

Not my choice really, I would be at the film now, if the thing didn't keep selling out. I'm kinda waiting for it to die down.

I guess the first viewing was for story, the second one will be fore texture.

I will say that the 35mm print I saw of the movie was very, very CLEAN and crisp, so much so I could forget I was watching celluloid. There is an alien-ness (I had the same reaction with Soderberg's RED-shot CHE pair of flicks) to the cinematography which is rather interesting.

Goon
Guest

"For me there was more ‘wonder’ and tactile-ness in Moon than Avatar, and at what, 1/50th the budget and 1/50 the cast?"

It's apples and oranges to me, sometimes budget stuff is relevant, sometimes it isn't. I don't think this example is relevant. Back to the Future had 2714 times the budget of Primer, and a lot of people like the latter more. Is Zemeckis supposed to apologize for not being 2714 times more entertaining?

Kurt Halfyard
Admin

I know they are different worlds and very different artistic intent. But watch THE NEW WORLD (also beautiful cinematography on that Maxi-48 format) back to back with AVATAR, and despite Cameron avoiding the Uncanny Valley, his movie doesn't have the 'alienness' of the world to its would-be conquerers that Malick brings to that film.

Avatar has to constantly tell you that Pandora is hell.

The New World only has Captain Smith come back to the Viriginia compound to see how the folks are living and you KNOW that things have gone to hell in a handbasket.

The natives assualting the fortress and the ensuing battle in THE NEW WORLD feels 1000x times more tangible and disturbing than Avatar.

I guess what I'm saying that perhaps at this point in my movie-going 'journey' (or what-have you) I'm more interested in being disturbed than entertained. Weird, but probably true.

And I personally think that Princess Mononoke or David Lynch's version of DUNE are far more compelling and interesting 'hero-quest' movies than Avatar. For all its sound and fury and barrage of technological prowess, it lacks something profound.

Kurt Halfyard
Admin

@Goon: "Back to the Future had 2714 times the budget of Primer, and a lot of people like the latter more. Is Zemeckis supposed to apologize for not being 2714 times more entertaining?"

No, my point was that in the quest to be big, and most assuredly that was Cameron's point, it loses something. It's not that a $500 Million movie has to be 100x better than a $5Million dollar movie, it is just strange when a $500 Million movie is not as good as the $5Million movie. But this has always been Hollywoods problem (Or in this case Cameron's). Spectacle over Brains. Every now and again the get it right by accident, get something brainy and smart and savagely funny (i.e. Fight Club) or pure blissfully joyful (Drag Me To Hell or Temple of Doom).

Avatar seems to be stuck in limbo. It's way better than your run-of-the-mill action-scifi blockbuster, but far short of doing something that makes the film feel fresh and exciting and new, beyond it's skin, anyway.

Goon
Guest

But Pandora isn't hell. The humans are the ones who say that, its part of the ongoing theme that humans wouldn't recognize a new Eden even if they saw it. It's only a few that manage to see the good side. I'd say you missed the boat here

"watch THE NEW WORLD"

I think its been established that I just don't like Malick. I wouldn't flat out avoid it, but it would have to be a free and/or library rental.

Goon
Guest

"it is just strange when a $500 Million movie is not as good as the $5Million movie. "

I actually may put Avatar ahead of Moon on my year-end, and you know I gave Moon a 5/5 as well. They both hit me in different ways, and have different intentions.

And don't take this as 'popularity = right', but if you take a look at the IMDB right now, it should be clear that you should never discount that Cameron does actually seem to know what the public wants after all.

And seriously… thats not an excuse, I mean I dont like T2 very much at all. But I have to give the man props, he takes big risks, people doubt him, and then they end up with some degree of egg on their face.

Rusty James
Guest

@ “it is just strange when a $500 Million movie is not as good as the $5Million movie. ”

yeah Kurt, that's bullshit. You're reviewing the budget not the film.

Kurt Halfyard
Admin

@Goon: "The humans are the ones who say that, its part of the ongoing theme that humans wouldn’t recognize a new Eden even if they saw it. It’s only a few that manage to see the good side. I’d say you missed the boat here"

No it is exactly that heaven/hell paradox I'm talking about here. For those who immerse vs. those who conquer.

Kurt Halfyard
Admin

@Rusty

Sure I'm taking into account what the film cost. With Cameron, it is hard not to, the budget of his films tend to take on as much more interest and significance than the plots of his films! It is pretty hard to ignore that he pretty much breaks the bank every time he makes a film, and I guess when you are always breaking the bank, you can risk new tech, but not new stories. My chief fault with Avatar is that the story is not new. Sure there is little new under the sun, especially in the 'hero-quest blockbuster' type movies, but Avatar in the plot department (the movie if you will….) is often groan worthy, i imagine, to folks who have grown up and seen hundreds of these types of films.

What I was grappling with in the Moon/Avatar contrast is that Moon also borrows a huge number of hard-sci-fi film influences but seems to tell a new and interesting story with the hommages, not simply pack things in a bigger and more expensive wrapper.

Henrik
Guest

Kurt, you've reached a new low in your inability to explain yourself and go off on random tangents effectively alienating the people arguing with you. I am beginning to see why you were chosen along with Gerry to portray the braindead body-snatched entities in Colore Non Vedenti :).

I think Cameron did enough with his world to justify the treehugging. I mean, I can't remember ever seing a culture, where their love and worship of nature isn't just a random occurence (it's there and we don't get it – ergo god), but actually integrated within them, they are a part of the nature around them, and their bodies connect to it. Their evolution is connected with the environment, so it makes perfect sense that they protect it, it actually is less religious, because it is part of them.

I mean if I had some sort of tail that was supposed to link to something, and somebody then tried to kill everything it was able to link to, I would take it pretty personal. I think this is new and a good way to make it more believeable that they would fight for their place, instead of just arbitrary holy trees.

That is just one example, but I felt the movie had enough of these little touches, putting the film more comfortably within a world of its own, a sci-fi/fantasy world that could exist without having to draw parrallels to real life. The whole dances with wolves thing came from script reviews anyway, can you imagine reading the script for this? No visuals? No wonder people were saying it was horrible.

Henrik
Guest

Maybe I was alittle rough on you Kurt, but I want to ask you, if you feel like you have completely stopped being impressed by these effects movies why go watch them? As much as I like be a snob, and champion film as a more serious medium, I can't help but be impressed and overwhelmed by some of these movies. Avatar certainly impressed me alot, and I felt that it justified whatever system made it. Transformers 2 also impressed me at points with its visual effects, I can't help but being swept up with some of the visuals. Like an aircraft carrier blowing up in Transformers 2 or an army of neon-green pterodactyl-like creatures flying against a massive ship in Avatar. That's why I still go see these things.

Kurt Halfyard
Admin

@Henrik.

I generally do skip them, crap like The Mummy franchise, and the Pirates of the Caribbean and The new Hulk I simply do not bother with. Deep down, I supposed I wanted the film to be like Cameron's grittier B-Movies. I like The Terminator a lot more than its sequel. I liked The (theatrical, not the directors cut) of The Abyss a lot as well.

The fact that Avatar was an 'original' story and not based on some pre-sold material (comic books, etc.) was also a draw.

I happen to think that Cameron is a very good story teller, but really he should stop writing at this point if all he is going to do is fall back on the usual stuff of blockbusters. Trust me, the mediocrity of the screenplay still manages to shine through the visuals -> clearly.

But yea, sad on me, that I will attempt the film again in IMAX-3D for the sake of the visuals. Its hard not to be a film fan and ignore something as massive as Avatar has been. Any time I go into the theatre, I'm hoping to be blown away.

Henrik
Guest

"sad on me, that I will attempt the film again in IMAX-3D for the sake of the visuals."

I don't think that's sad. Visuals are an important part of film.

Kurt Halfyard
Guest

Sure, in fact an argument could be made that it is the ONLY reason for the film being. Cameron has demonstrated what can be done with the latest set of toys, but it will take someone else (or another kick at the can) to use them in service of making something great with these toys.

Goon
Guest

"I mean if I had some sort of tail that was supposed to link to something, and somebody then tried to kill everything it was able to link to, I would take it pretty personal. I think this is new and a good way to make it more believeable that they would fight for their place, instead of just arbitrary holy trees."

Well put

Henrik
Guest

"Sure, in fact an argument could be made that it is the ONLY reason for the film being. Cameron has demonstrated what can be done with the latest set of toys, but it will take someone else (or another kick at the can) to use them in service of making something great with these toys."

Hell, you can substitute Cameron for Summer-Hollywood.

Henrik
Guest

And I actually really like when movies treat their mcguffins carelessly. I mean you're not going to be profound explaining greed in this, so just call it unobtainium and say its expensive and get to what you ARE going to be profound in: CGI.

Henrik
Guest

Unobtainium is the equivalent of the sun in sunshine, just something ridiculous to get to what you're interested in.

rot
Guest

I just don't get how Avatar is unoriginal and penalized for that and yet Kurt you can admire a million straight genre films without bating an eye at how derivative they are.

I find pure genre boring because it relies too heavily on formula, and had Avatar relied too heavily on formula I would have the same response, but like Henrik mentioned, like Goon mentioned, there are some unique aspects to this story, to how it is told, to the premise, enough in my mind to make it an enjoyable experience.

Kurt Halfyard
Guest

rot. I can't explain it either. Some films sing to me, others do not. It is probably that simple.

Kurt Halfyard
Guest

For the record, Avatar was not 'un-enjoyable' I was simply not engaged with the story as much as with the visuals, I'm sure I'm not in the minority on this one, as much as this thread implies.

Rot, I'm surprised you don't take the 'checking off story points' stance you did with Ironman, is it not similar in Avatar, storywise? I guess 'direct link with nature, direct link with surrogate is enough to distinguish this from the hero-quest pack?

Kurt Halfyard
Guest

I seem to be falling into complete devil's advocate territory here, I didn't hate the movie, I was merely disappointed with its conventional plotting and very flat characters. If the film had the nuance in its narration that it did with its CGI, this movie would be blowing minds.

Henrik
Guest

"If the film had the nuance in its narration that it did with its CGI, this movie would be blowing minds."

Of course, but to me, the visuals are good enough to warrant a 5/6 on its own. What you are describing is 2001: A Space Oddysey. I would have loved that as well, but any sort of insight/innovation is worth praising. If we only praised movies on the level of 2001, we wouldn't be praising much.

John Allison
Editor

Joining in late on the discussion but this really comes down to the same discussion we all had over District 9. Kurt wants an arthouse blockbuster where the rest of us are happy to get a good blockbuster. I don't think Kurt is wrong in having higher expectations (as in District 9) or in just needing more (as in Avatar) but I also don't think everyone else is wrong in enjoying it.

I for one did actually think there was a strong enough story and I did care for the characters. Of course I have not seen Fern Gully nor Dances with Wolves yet (Sorry Andrew).

Henrik
Guest

I'd much rather have Avatar than District 9. District 9 for me is marginally smarter than Avatar, but not by much, it's still the same ballpark, and quite a few issues style-wise. If America is to produce one or the other, I'd rather sit through Transformers movies to get Avatar, than District 9 or Children of Men, where it's still all about the effects, but they try and be clever about it, and don't spend as much on the effects. I mean clever, I can get that elsewhere, I can't get effects elsewhere.

Here's something to consider Kurt: You say that it's going to take another go at it or another filmmaker to use the technology in Avatar for a good story. Technically, the stuff that Avatar pushes forward is developed among other things from technology pioneered in Ang Lee's Hulk. So I guess the smart blockbuster with this stuff has already been made, and Hollywood has actually regressed, story-wise!

Jandy Hardesty
Admin

I'll jump in on Kurt's side on this one. I loved the visuals (and I'll be glad to hear Kurt's opinion after he's seen it in 3D), but I wanted more from the story. I wanted it to be as innovative and unique as the technology used to tell it. I'll concede the point that there are interesting elements to the story – the avatar/real life situation instead of the more common avatar/virtual life one and the neural connections to the natural world being the two that interested me the most. But the beats of the story, the actual plot points, were predictable to a fault. I didn't want predictable, I wanted to be taken somewhere I couldn't imagine.

The implications of the natural network that the Na'vi could tap into – that was interesting, but it was brought up by Grace and almost just as quickly shunted to the side, only to be used as necessary for the plot point of winning the battle. I wanted to know more about that, how it worked, what Grace was hoping to learn about it, do with it. But nothing. The fact that the avatar was part Na'vi, part human DNA – what implications does that have? How would that affect Jake's ability to become Na'vi, how will it affect the future of the Na'vi now that their de-facto leader is part human PHYSICALLY? Apparently not at all, but it should. (How many fingers will Jake and Neytiri's children have?)

Other things I would've liked to have seen – some stakes to Jake's decision to turn Na'vi. He basically had nothing to lose and everything to gain. It would've been more interesting he had to give up something to join the Na'vi, giving him some internal struggle (besides overcoming his loyalty to the military, which wasn't really that much of a struggle). It would've been nice if the military/humans weren't wholly evil except for like three scientists and one pilot. I wanted more nuance to the conflict instead of pure good vs. evil. If the humans had some reason to be there other than pure greed, so there was some kind of moral dilemma in question, that would've made it more interesting.

If they were going to go with such a familiar, unnuanced story, I would rather they had just pared it down to even less story and just made it rhythmic and poetic – unapologetically letting the visuals stand on their own. I fully enjoyed watching the movie, was entranced by the effects, and thought the narrative, such as it was, was pretty well-done. I'd give it a solid 4/5, which, honestly, was more than I expected to give it. But with as much as we were given, it just made me yearn for what more it could have been.

Henrik
Guest

"I wanted it to be as innovative and unique as the technology used to tell it."

WE ALL WANTED THAT. It just seems grumpy to focus on this when you've visuals like these.

Henrik
Guest

I mean 4/5, that's no small grade. How many movies are 5/5 for you?

The whole argument is that it's still an amazing movie, even if it isn't the movie to end all movies.

dan
Guest

Late to the discussion too, but enjoyed Avatar, even slightly more than District 9. Sure the story's a little weak and the characters weren't very deep. But the movie was effective in immersing me in it's world and visuals, to the point of being more forgiving of it's flaws. I'm as cynical as they come (I think Raiders of the Lost Ark is way overrated) but found Avatar's story to work for me in context of what it was, the hollywood blockbuster, which I typically avoid. I could have used more quiet scenes of Jake Sully doing everyday, cultural stuff with the NaVi or whatever, like cooking and eating or hanging out. This not only would have added to the characterization of jake and the chick, but would have made me more emotionally invested in the events that occur and Jake's motivations and actions more resonant. Even with the extended running time, some aspects of the story felt rushed.

Sure Kurt, it's not as good as The New World, but few movies are. That one's a masterpiece in my eyes.

Jandy Hardesty
Admin

Henrik, not many movies are 5/5 for me, true. But there are at least five or six this year that are 4.5/5, and probably ten or fifteen that are 4/5. Avatar hit my 2009 list at around 15 or 16 out of about 40. It's actually very close on my list to Moon and District 9, because I had narrative issues with those films that I don't with Avatar – but they reached for a lot more than Avatar did, which I respect. They had more ambitious stories but didn't realize them perfectly, whereas Avatar has a very unambitious story realized very well.

I'm just tired of the argument that because Avatar is pretty it doesn't matter that the story is routine. If it DIDN'T have the visuals, it would be a 2.5/5 for me, and I think that's a fundamental problem for a movie that many are proclaiming among the best of the year (I don't know that anyone here is claiming that, but many filmgoers are). The visuals are making people think it's got a better story than it does, but it's all surface. I'm just trying to balance that and look forward to a story that will be worthy of this tech. Avatar is groundbreaking, sure, but it's not the fulfillment – it's only the beginning.

Rusty James
Guest

It seems like Kurt, and I guess Jandy, are really eager to judge the film for what they know about its budget and production history but completely unwilling approach it based on what they know of the director and his body of work.

The storytelling is broad. Fine. Now lets move on from this observation and talk about what Cameron does bring to the table. I don't think broad necessarily means bad. Some storytellers can tell a familiar story in a way that makes it seem fresh. Cloverfield was that kind of thing and Cameron has also proved successful at it in the past.

I go into the film accepting these boundries because I understand that film can be many things. And because I think the technical side of cinema is relevent as well.

Kurt, you seem to be sliding into some margin where you're only allowed to be entertained by a film if it has some ironic or post modern hook: The Happening, Pontypool, whatever else.

I think even you have to concede that if you're going with the mind set that "if it cost x amount it must be (entertainment)x" then you're not watching in good faith. It's like you're fighting the movie.

You wouldn't even do the film the courtesy of watching it in 3D!

And I still haven't seen this damn movie. I was snowed in all weekened. Fuckin' East Coast bullshit.

rot
Guest

Jandy, you might as well ask for more nuance to the Emperor in Star Wars, its not THAT sort of a film, it is about archetypes and that can be done well so long as there is enough in the narrative to make me forget the formula, and with Avatar it worked. I didn't know in Avatar they were actually going to destroy the sacred tree (every other film would have that as the final battle where the heroes win). I also didn't know how they were going to make a comeback considering the avatars were under the control of the military and Jake was in prison. It was a smart idea to have remote units that they could hide. I didn't know Weaver was going to die, I didn't know that the way Jake was going to win over the Nav'i after his betrayal was to harness the Taroc, these are examples of the story that I could not anticipate. Also the final battle had real stakes, I thought how improbable it would be to beat the sky people with arrows, but the way they played it, it made sense, and the suspense paid off. I think the reason I couldn't anticipate the story had something to do with the spectacle put in every moment onscreen, Cameron is able to distract enough to make the story unfold, at least for me.

Iron Man lacks the spectacle element but also is far more conservative in how it plays out the formula… the comic hero origin story being far more ubiquitous than the fighting with the natives concept.

Also, like Gamble said on the last Cinecast, Avatar is NOT about the story, it is about the experience, the story leads you from one experience to the next, and it succeeds on that level entirely.

rot
Guest

spoilers in my last comment by the way

Rusty James
Guest

@ Sure Kurt, it’s not as good as The New World

The New World!!!! Kurt wanted the film to be The New World!!!! It doesn't make any sense.

It's perogative to be entertained however you want. But it's also annoying that you've fallen into such a rigid mode of film watching and that you persist in going into these escapist adventure movies in bad faith.

Again and again you're watching Back to the Future and complaining that it's not Primer.

There's no reason why "dances with wolves in space" can't be a perfectly good premise for a scifi adventure film.

And I do like Malik but The New World kind of pisses me off. It took me several viewings to come to terms with the realization that TTRL is a masterpiece but TNW is a pale immitator.

rot
Guest

spoilers spoilers spoilers spoilers spoilers spoilers spoilers spoilers spoilers spoilers spoilers spoilers spoilers spoilers spoilers spoilers spoilers spoilers spoilers spoilers

@Jandy, about Jake not having any stakes… he was given the possibility of having his legs back in his real life, thats a pretty big stake to not indulge in the Avatar life, and also when he begins he is not portrayed as a skeptical outsider of the military, but proudly part of the military. I felt that his conflict was natural, he starts losing control of what is the real world. I don't think anyone has mentioned it but I thought Sam Worthington was really good, the first time I've ever seen this actor.

Kurt Halfyard
Guest

@Rusty, "You wouldn’t even do the film the courtesy of watching it in 3D!"

This argument is such bullshit. I will see the thing in 3D, as if anyone ever talked about a movie that that caught on Video/DVD. Presentation is of course important, but it is hardly the only thing that makes watching a movie an experience. I think you should watch it in 2D before you criticize me for holding off a bit on catching it in 3D. 😉

Rusty James
Guest

It shows that you're unwilling to approach the film on its own terms.

Kurt Halfyard
Guest

"It’s perogative to be entertained however you want. But it’s also annoying that you’ve fallen into such a rigid mode of film watching and that you persist in going into these escapist adventure movies in bad faith."

Three Words: Temple of Doom. I don't dislike adventure movies, I dislike ones that feel so bloody old hat that I yawn as the thing goes through the motions (even if it goes through the motion on grease and rainbows). And for the record, I was entertained by Avatar, I don't hate the movie, but it is certainly not the 'game-changer' promised beyond some production/filmmaking toys.

Rusty James
Guest

@ but it is certainly not the ‘game-changer’ promised beyond some production/filmmaking toys.

I don't understand these reactions to the film's "hype". All I ever heard was people bitching and whining.

Kurt Halfyard
Guest

@Rusty, we obviously frequent different media.

Kurt Halfyard
Guest

And even beyond that. I take Cameron to task because I happen to quite like his films. Well, Aliens, The Terminator and The Abyss. He's been sliding into narrative irrelevancy since Terminator 2.

Rusty James
Guest

@Rusty, we obviously frequent different media.

all I can figure is that you're responding to things Cameron himself has said.

Jandy Hardesty
Admin

I get the experience argument, and I've been trying to mentally quantify why I was blown away by, say, Speed Racer – which has much less of a quality story than Avatar, and I think the difference is that Avatar seems to want us to take its story seriously. It's earnest, and it wants to be important on more than a technical level. It wants to have an ecofriendly message, and it wants us to care about that deeply. Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and sure, Iron Man – these are all films built on action, visuals, and archetypes, but they don't take themselves seriously. I'm not saying an eco-friendly message is bad, but it's safe. If you want to do that story and have it be mind-blowing in 2009, you've got to outdo The New World, Kurt's right.

And since Star Wars has come up again, yes, the Emperor in the original trilogy is evil without nuance, but he's a pure evil in a metaphysical sense. He's not just a greedy bastard. I should reconsider my use of "evil" to describe Avatar's humans, actually – they're not evil incarnate. But the face of the Emperor is Darth Vader; we barely see the Emperor until Return of the Jedi. And Darth Vader is nuanced. That would be like, in Avatar, if Giovanni Ribisi had been pure evil, bent on dominating other worlds just because it was his archetypal duty to do so, but Stephen Lang had been nuanced. But he isn't. They're both one-dimensional.

I'm glad there was enough in Avatar for you to forget the formula, and there was for me while I was immersed in it, but it's superficial. As soon as Neytiri told the story about her grandfather being the Taroc-machtor and reuniting the Na'vi, I was like, okay, the only reason for that story to be told right here in the middle of nowhere is because Jake's going to have to become a Taroc-machtor in order to save the Na'vi.

Regarding Rusty's point about Cameron – I haven't seen a lot of Cameron films. This one, Titanic, and Terminator 1 & 2, most of those several years ago. I don't have enough of a grasp to do an auteur reading of his career. Oh, and I don't care what it cost. That's not entering into my analysis at all.

Jandy Hardesty
Admin

Wow, you guys wrote a lot while I was busy with other stuff. 🙂

@rot, true, but you've got the choice between normal human legs and the things you've become accustomed to doing with Na'vi physiognomy? Not much of a choice. "You can walk again, but, oh, right – no more soaring around with a perfect neural connection to your mount, no more running and swinging through a forest with a body ten times as agile as a human one. You okay with that?" I'll grant you the connection to the military, and that can be a strong connection, but he seemed a little put out at the beginning that they weren't doing anything to get him his legs back, and then there were NO decent military people except Michelle Rodriguez on Pandora. No reason to remain emotionally connected to that particular division of the military.

Kurt and I are on the same page here. It's a really good, possibly even excellent film, but it isn't a game-changer except for paving the way for other filmmakers to use the tech to take us where Avatar doesn't. And it certainly isn't the best sci-fi film ever made, as I've heard multiple people saying over the past few days.

Marina Antunes
Guest

What? Ribisi’s a Scientologist? Oh dear.

Yes, from 60+ comments that's the one thing that stood out.

As for Avatar, even with my dislike for 3D movies (they more often than not make me feel sick) we decided to take the plunge into IMAX 3D. It's one of those movie experiences that you only have once – you will never again be wowed in the same way by AVATAR as you are the first time you see it and despite my qualms with the story, the running time and some of the plotting, I have to admit that I got swept up into the story and damned it if Cameron doesn't know how to pull at my heart strings. Yes, it has problems but I honestly feel they're overshadowed by the awesomeness of the overall experience. I was immerse in Pandora for nearly 3 hours and would have stayed longer if he'd let me.

Jandy Hardesty
Admin

I will totally agree with Marina that being immersed in Pandora was great, and it didn't feel like nearly a 3-hour running time. I'd gladly play a Pandora-set action RPG for hours on end, if they could get the 3D graphics and CGI to look that good on PC or console. 🙂

Louise Dragon
Guest

David,

Great Review . . . Lots of contoversy. I can't wait to see this!

Henrik
Guest

It sounds like we're all in agreement. It's just that Kurt and Jandy are apparently talking to some other mob of people who are saying that the story is a game-changer of cinema and that this is the best sci-fi movie of all time.

Why don't you talk to the people actually participating in the argument?

I agree that the Taroc-Makhtor thing was completely obvious, but to me, it's not old hat, it's classic shit. It's like when Thulsa Doom takes Conans fathers sword, or like when Arnold promises not to kill in T2. It's just something to look forward to, a set-up, and you sit there going NOT "Oh, I can tell there is going to be a payoff. I AM SMARTER THAN THIS", but rather "Nice. I can't wait to see him tame the beast". Except I guess, if you want to watch the movie to collect evidence why it is ONLY excellent and not the best movie ever.

Henrik
Guest

"If it DIDN’T have the visuals, it would be a 2.5/5 for me"

What kind of arguments are these? I think the story in this, on its own is probably close to a 0/5, but fortunately, there is more to moviemaking than telling a story.

Kurt Halfyard
Admin

"Why don’t you talk to the people actually participating in the argument? "

Oy Vey! Pot meet Kettle! 😉

Trying to articulate my thoughts, bouncing off other peoples thoughts. I thought it was a discussion, not an argument.

There comes a point when you've seen enough movies that it simply takes more 'surprise' or 'originality' to help along the product.

If you are happy with Product that is fine. I'd like a little more art beyond the selection of paints and brushes.

Kurt Halfyard
Admin

@ Henrik, "But fortunately, there is more to moviemaking than telling a story."

But these Hero-quest blockbusters live and die by thier story and plotting. it is a big contribution, something difficult to ignore or write off. We agree on the visuals, I think everyone in this thread agrees the film is handsome and fascinating visually, but there has to be more than simply a fireworks show, doesn't there? Is it asking too much for a film to hit me in the gut, show me some heart. I get that from Princess Mononoke (and it is a hand-drawn cartoon!). Heck, I get it from Dune (which is about as 'over-produced' in the costume and set-design as anything out there, yet Jurgen Prochnow, Patrick Stewart, Jose Ferrer, Sian Philips, Kyle MacLachlan and that little girl all bring something characterwise). Avatar, not so much. It's the characters, there isn't much character on screen. I'd love to see Bill Paxton's 'Game Over Man' or Paul Reiser's slime ball, but nothing in Avatar comes even to that simple level!

Henrik
Guest

Kurt, why don't you highfive me over my razorsharp observation concerning Avatar vs. Hulk? I thought you would get right on board with that.

Kurt Halfyard
Admin

So you are arguing that Ang Lee's Hulk is the trial run for technology of Avatar to hit art? Uh, OK. Is that the art of movie-making now? Digitally creating characters? In service of what?

I like the 'High falutin' Greek Tragedy' of Ang Lee's Hulk mixed with its comic book aesthetic. But I also thought Nick Nolte, Jennifer Connolley and Eric Bana (even the caricatures of Josh Lucas and Sam Eliot) was what made HULK a great movie, not the big CGI man that smashes stuff.

Henrik
Guest

"I thought it was a discussion, not an argument."

Well, english isn't my first language. I didn't realize the subtle difference, I should have said discussion.

"but there has to be more than simply a fireworks show, doesn’t there?"

Depends on the fireworks, this would seem obvious. If somebody shows you innovative fireworks, are you going to deny being impressed, asking "Why didn't it spell out E=mc2?"

I mean you don't have to be impressed with Avatar, but why would you keep hammering it on the grounds that the story didn't touch you, when there is so much more to the movie?

I thought stuff like "Papa Dragon" was pretty classic Cameron. All of the marine stuff just took me back to his earlier military films, and I actually really liked Stephen Lang I thought he was great. And I think that if you're going to do this Avatar-concept, having a paraplegic who gets thrown into it (it makes sense that scientists, not the military would be the ones spending time on an Avatar-project) is fresh to me, and enough to not annoy me while I look at the visuals. I mean the other movies that give me visuals like these have robots humping peoples legs.

Henrik
Guest

I am saying, in terms of using technology to create a CGI creature that can portray human emotions, Hulk used it to tell a much better story than Avatar does.

rot
Guest

Jandy and Marina used the word 'immersed' and this is the point I have been trying to make, IF you are immersed you are not anticipating or figuring out the formula, you are immersed, and James Cameron pulled it off. I made a similar argument with Star Trek, the formula is there but what Abrams did to make it work for me was his pacing, he made it fast enough that mind was only focused on the immediate… Iron Man lingers too long (that prisoner sequence at the beginning i.e.) and the mind has time to catch up and get bored… Avatar and Star Trek do everything they can to prevent this… now I admit some scenes went on too long for pure spectacle, I am not saying Cameron did a perfect job but overall IF you are immersed than you can't also be saying you were offput by the familiarity of the story.

In 3D especially this thing is a wonder, you are watching everything as it is happening, and I'm sorry I never saw the taroc-machter thing coming at all, because as that story was being told my mind was taking in all the visuals.

Kurt Halfyard
Admin

I wasn't immersed. So the film only is immersive in 3D?

rot
Guest

also what I am saying is it is easy to after the movie evaluate what you saw, decide if it fits too neatly to formulas and be critical, but what did you feel as it was happening? I was immersed and I think that was the point.

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