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Posted: Sat Jan 02, 2010 4:12 pm
by Kazu
Since I'm sure everyone here has gone out to see this film, or are going to very soon, it's definitely worthy of a discussion thread. Here's my initial review of the film, on my blog:

I recently saw it again, and it's better than I initially thought. The writing is not only solid, but it's exceptional, especially when considering what Joseph Campbell had to say about modern myths (I implore everyone to check out The Power of Myth). Lucas really dropped the ball with the Star Wars prequels, but James Cameron has picked that ball up and knocked it out of the park. Cameron is clearly the better student of the master.

I hear people talk about how the effects carry the film, but it's the story that's turning this film into such a huge hit. It's going to cross 1 billion in ticket sales worldwide in a matter of days (on its way to surely beating Titanic's record). After a screening of the film, my mother-in-law even asked "so where were the effects?" She thought it was all real! Being someone who has worked extensively in 3D animation, I was absolutely stunned to see what they were able to pull off in this film, but I also realize that most people don't quite notice it, since they are being taken in with the events of the story. The real magic isn't in the effects or the technology, but in the emotional catharsis being provided by the familiar, well-told tale. And the (insane amount of) technology is really working to service the story without overshadowing it.

Anyway, I highly recommend everyone go see this film while in theaters. You're really missing out if you skip this major event. I'm talking to you, Richard Pose! :wink:

Re: Avatar

Posted: Sat Jan 02, 2010 4:21 pm
by squirpy
I had so much fun at this film. I think the comparison to Star Wars is very apt. I've noticed a lot of people complaining about the simple story, but I didn't view it so much as predictable as using a classic story structure. In spite of knowing what was going to happen, I was wrapped up in the story (much like Star Wars!). The visuals certainly didn't hurt - rather than sticking all these effects right in your face, they created an immersive world. I thought that was very cool.

Re: Avatar

Posted: Mon Jan 04, 2010 2:38 am
by dik pose
I wont do it!!!

Re: Avatar

Posted: Tue Jan 05, 2010 9:03 pm
by gau dog
I thought it was a nice movie. A solid textbook blockbuster (big budget+PG-13+action+romance=$$$$$$$$$) the script was solid but nothing mindblowing (hand to hand with the big boss! yeah!!). I remember reading the Avatar script years ago and only thing I recall was it being a decent story and the ending of someone saying the character's name, then named "Josh" opening his eyes and cutting to black. I'm sure Cameron rewrote it and I never imagined all this. The 3D integration effects in this movie were fantastic. Although I mean to me, nothing will ever beat T2 but Avatar is good Cameron. The story reminded me heavily of Native American/American stories like Dances with Wolves or Pocahontas. You could easily substitute Navi for Native Americans. I often wondered what they'd think of a movie like this. I cringed when they made terrorist political references. Jake sometimes made me think "what a typical obnoxiously dumb American in a foreign land". And then the typical pioneer American fantasy of "dumb American skools natives in their own ways (Wow! You can fly a bigger dragon! You MUST be cool!). Natives bow down to dumb American. American male steals native princess away from betroved and does her (while fully clothed!)". But that's ok, I'd share the same shameless fantasy too!! That sort of myth dies hard.

Re: Avatar

Posted: Wed Jan 06, 2010 12:21 pm
by kstipetic
I hear people talk about how the effects carry the film, but it's the story that's turning this film into such a huge hit
Kazu, you say that, but I'm really not seeing why the story is anything special. It looks like it's just choked with annoying tropes. Natives are good and pure and love nature. Natives abhor technology. As Gau Dog put it so well, "Dumb American schools natives in their own ways." And my all-time favorite, Cripple walks again. Because nothing is more uplifting to a paraplegic than the idea that the only way he can live a full life is to get a new, more powerful body.

Look, it's not that I'm against using tropes in stories. Tropes can be fun and useful, but they have to reflect some kind of truth. Tropes like the ones in Avatar just make me feel icky and cheap. For a film that's being talked about so much, I'd expect something a little bit better.

Re: Avatar

Posted: Wed Jan 06, 2010 2:29 pm
by Stick
I liked the movie (especially the CGI), but if you watched Dances with Wolves, or Pocahontas, then you know pretty much the entire story, so that wasn't its strong suit.

Re: Avatar

Posted: Wed Jan 06, 2010 4:30 pm
by SonOfaRich
I feel the same way that the story is unoriginal (it's told at least once a year in tv, movies, and/or in video games)

What I do love is the storytelling. James Cameron isn't rusty at all. But has he become a better filmmaker? I'm not sure. He makes great use of the technology, but I don't see it being revolutionary.

I saw it in 3D but not on an IMAX. I think I might go see it again in 2D. It looks crisper and the colors are more vibrant.

Re: Avatar

Posted: Wed Jan 06, 2010 4:42 pm
by gau dog
kstipetic wrote:Because nothing is more uplifting to a paraplegic than the idea that the only way he can live a full life is to get a new, more powerful body.
It's true, man! Why do you think they push stem cell so hard?
That mining corporation must've been ghetto cheap to give Jake a regular wheelchair and not even subsidize their crip soldiers some bionic Mecha-Legs or something.

But the script executed things fairly well. Notice how all the characters made fun of Jake first before the audience had that chance to make fun of him being a dumbass themselves. That ruined my jestful attitudes toward the main character and ironically made me take him more seriously since everyone basically acknowledged he was just a dumb jock.

Re: Avatar

Posted: Sat Jan 09, 2010 11:28 pm
by Jimbo68
Alright, I finally went to see the film everyone is talking about, Avatar. I have to admit that I came away from it feeling a little bit empty. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed the film but there just seemed to be something missing. The 'missing' I'm referring to is that giddy feeling I will get when I see movies that really grab ahold of me and put a big ol' smile on my face. The kind of smile that comes from knowing that I'm viewing a visual art form where both the story and the visuals move me emotionally, similarly to how certain songs can affect me.

A short list of some of the movies that have made me feel this way in the last 15 years are: (in no particular order) Lord of the Rings-Return of the King, Wanted, The Road to Perdition, There Will Be Blood, No Country For Old Men, The Sixth Sense, Green Street Hooligans, Slumdog Millionaire, Gangs of New York, Benjamin Button, and Titanic, just to name a few. (I've omitted comedies simply because the motions they stir, for me, belong in a category all by themselves)

My condensed and novice written breakdown of Avatar is as follows...

-The shoe on the other foot storyline, i.e., humans as the aliens for a change
-The love story is fine by me, worked in Titanic, why not an intergalactic romance?

-The obvious story line results were very predictable, the indigenous would obviously win, but at a price, no surprise twists (blame M. Night Shyamalan for this)
-Too much jungle, often felt like I was watching another Jurassic Park film
-Didn't really feel connected to either the greedy humans (even though I am one) or the tall blue folks. Perhaps this is why I constantly fluctuated in who I was rooting for
-Never said to myself, during or after, "WOW! That was something else." No deep breadths, no continued thoughts as I drove home, no excitement to share the experience with my wife over dinner. Just a bizarre empty feeling. Wanted to feel more, but I couldn't.

*Sidebar: I actually watched Public Enemies on Blu-Ray last night and really enjoyed this movie more than Avatar. I do agree with other postings, Terminator 2 was amazing. I think I might have to give the film another viewing, and then look back on my initial thoughts to see if they have changed or not. Take care folks and a belated 'Happy New Year' to you all!

J. Sayer

Re: Avatar

Posted: Sun Jan 10, 2010 6:05 pm
by Ganter
You know, a friend of mine once said that the fear of unoriginality is the death of art. If you worry about creating something "original" too much, you're bound to end up talking to no one but yourself, and I feel like as artists it's our job to communicate to the average person. I'm so happy about Avatar's success, because it reinvigorates my faith in the power of story over genre, format, and medium. Avatar is making a billion dollars because it's a good story told with nothing but the audience's experience and understanding in mind, and thinking about the audience is what a lot of entertainment is lacking. Sometimes I can tell the artist is just thinking about themselves, about sympathy for their plight or for doing things to entertain themselves. There is room for that kind of art, but it's just really nice to see something that I felt like was made "for me" -- that is, made with me (the viewer) in mind.

Also, I keep seeing the criticism that it's too cliche. But sometimes the trick isn't to come up with something no one has seen before, but to tell the same human story through the filter of your unique experiences. We haven't changed as human beings -- as animals -- but our environment has and our old tales need to be updated to express the concerns of our modern environment. I think Avatar is successful in that. Cameron spent the last 14 years in a deep sea submarine and developing technology for NASA, and you can feel his love for these things in the movie. He definitely left his personal mark, and he managed to communicate his ideas to the audience in deceptively simple terms so they could understand them and make them their own. It takes a lot of faith in your ideas to use familiar story structure, and trust in your audience to be able to accept your bare soul, even if it's cliche. It's embarrassingly cheesy because he has no shame for his ideas, but it's also why I love the movie. The fact that something like this is making billions is - to me, as an artist - a real reason to celebrate.

Avatar totally gave my creativity a boost, and for that I'm so grateful Cameron worked so hard to create something so entertaining. Seriously, I haven't felt this way about a movie in ages.

Re: Avatar

Posted: Mon Jan 11, 2010 2:01 pm
by SonOfaRich
Avatar nominated for best ORIGINAL screenplay at the WGA. :P

Re: Avatar

Posted: Mon Jan 11, 2010 7:51 pm
by johntoh
From the music to the muse, this is clearly a James Cameron flick, clearly a masterpiece, and clearly marks a revolution in blockbusters, for if you only see one film in a 3-D cinema this year, make it Avatar.

Re: Avatar

Posted: Tue Jan 12, 2010 11:28 am
by kstipetic
Ganter, I agree that artists shouldn't be afraid to be unoriginal. And I agree that cliches can be used both well and poorly. I did focus on the fact that Avatar isn't original in my earlier post, so let me update my view.

My main problem with this film (and I'm not singling it out, there's lots of films I feel this way about) is that the cliches are morally bankrupt. Like I mentioned before, the crippled character gets a new, more powerful body by the end. Not a very humane message, in my opinion.

Also, I think this is pretty funny considering the film's message about environmental and cultural rape by a greedy corporation:

Re: Avatar

Posted: Tue Jan 12, 2010 1:01 pm
by Ganter
kstipetic, I see what you mean about your earlier post. The McDonald's tie-ins don't bother me because I see it as a reflection of trying to take the message to the masses (and of course because we live in a capitalist society, to make money). My philosophy is that art doesn't shape society, but its purpose is to reflect it. It's like a mirror.

Also I don't take the cripple-to-athlete's body as literal. It's a story, so I tend to take everything as metaphor for a spiritual awakening rather than a literal physical change. It's all about the emotion!

Re: Avatar

Posted: Thu Jan 14, 2010 2:39 pm
by thirdeyeh
I have to admit that I had to keep quiet after the movie was over when all of my friends were ecstatic about the film. I was really really torn, because experience wise I thought it was amazing. I literally sat up and gasped at the destruction of Home Tree. I thought the characters and story were fine. What bothered me was just how heavy handed the message was. All of my friends said they thought it was subtle. I just didnt see it that way. I mean the climax of the movie basically figures around the main character telling the planet that Earth's mother has been killed and that humans are going to do it here and then Pandora revolts and joins the uprising against humans in the end.

Now don't get me wrong, I think having a message is really really important in any story. But when the message to me IS the story, I think its just a bit much. To me an example that used the environmental message pretty effectively is The Lord of the Rings. As silly as it may sound, that movie positioned the need to protect the purity of Earth and the value of that. I got the message, but I just didn't feel preached at quite the way this one did. It didn't make me think, it just distracted me from all of the awesomeness.