Avatar Thoughts

I saw the new James Cameron film Avatar this weekend and loved it.  Loved it. Once again, JC totally delievered.  The movie is quite a spectacle.  It’s not so much the chracters, but the story and the visuals that make this film.  Even if you’re not a sci-fi fan, you need to check this out to see how $250 million bucks should be spent. Or as Ebert says in his review:

“Avatar” is not simply a sensational entertainment, although it is that. It’s a technical breakthrough. It has a flat-out Green and anti-war message. It is predestined to launch a cult. It contains such visual detailing that it would reward repeating viewings. It invents a new language, Na’vi, as “Lord of the Rings” did, although mercifully I doubt this one can be spoken by humans, even teenage humans. It creates new movie stars. It is an Event, one of those films you feel you must see to keep up with the conversation.

If you haven’t seen the movie, the rest of this post isn’t for you.  If you have, here are some thoughts:

I found the plot to be a mishmash of movies i’ve already seen:

  • So much of the story seem extremely similar to the Kevin Costner film Dances With Wolves.  Not a bad movie to rip off considering it took home 7 Oscars.  But seriously, check this out: a guy from a modern culture sent to live with the natives. He falls in love with the native ordered to teach him their ways and in the process begins to prefer their “primitive” ways to his.  He then switches sides in an epic battle for the natives’ survival.   Of course, Avatar does this battle is a much cooler way and the natives are 12 foot blue people.  But still, it’s much of the same
  • When the machines are stampeding through the forrest and the natives are with bows and arrows and rocks trying to stop them, i couldn’t help but think of the Ewoks scene in Star Wars where the cute and awesome rebels put the kibosh down to destroy the shield.

The look of the film was incredible.  Really amazing.

  • The colors and lighting in this film are a sight to see in the theater and in 3D which is the best 3D experience i’ve ever had.  None of the dimming that typically occurs happens here.
  • I was worried about the Uncanny Valley effect.  This effect states that when a robot or CG person is made more and more humanlike in its appearance and motion, the emotional response from a human being to the robot will become increasingly positive and empathic, until a point is reached (the valley) beyond which the response quickly becomes horrible (or a strong repulsion) which is what happened to me with most movies like this (remember Jar Jar or Polar Express).  However, the fact that Cameron was able to make the Na’vi human-like with CG opens the door for truly imaginative films to emerge.  This has NEVER happened before.
  • The last time i saw CG so clear and real was when i saw the Lord Of The Ring films, so i wasn’t surprised to see that Peter Jackson’s New Zealand shop, WETA, was the shop responsible.  Those guys are just getting better and better

If you know James Cameron, you’ll recognize some of the pieces of his past films showing up here.  Some things that stood out for me

  • I remember how obsessed Cameron was with the Harrier jets in “True Lies” and how he made Arnold hang from it for a major sequence.  So I wasn’t surprised when the main plane in this film was a smaller, sleeker Harrier.
  • If you read Wired you’ll know that JC loves going underwater.  He’s built and patented his own submarines so he can go deeper than anyone has ever gone.  Also, you’ll remember Titanic has a big chunk dedicated to the team going through the wreckage. Thus, it was no surprise to see that the land of Pandora looks very much like an underwater environment.  There are Jellyfish floating, sea-like creatures flying in the air, and tropical coral as vegetation.
  • Breathing is a big theme in the movie.  Similar to how the final scenes of “The Abyss” involve the main character running out of liquid air, this film ends in with Sully fighting to breathe.
  • Am I the only one who remembers the big human-like machines in (Cameron-directed) Aliens that Sigourney Weaver used at the very end where the machines mimic your movements but with more power? (see this pic to remember what i’m talking about) Well those things are back in this movie and while they are a bit more nimble, they are exact ripoffs from Aliens.

Anyway, just some thoughts.  What did you think?

You Might Also Like

9 thoughts on “Avatar Thoughts
  1. I'm sure the movie looks great, but it's ironic and a little annoying that Cameron is using a $250 million technological extravaganza to tell a story with a “Green” message. The Greens want to roll back the Industrial Age, exterminate most of the human race, and relegate the survivors to living the lives of medieval serfs, which is all very sad because it is a proven fact that wealthy, capitalist societies have cleaner environments (and better movies) than piss-poor countries with mostly indigenous populations like those idealized in Avatar.

  2. like i was saying, it's pretty much the same message that Dances With Wolves had. Regardless of the Green message, it still looks pretty sweet and there is some kickass action scenes

    It is ironic that we need all the technological advances to see a movie that advocates for a lack of technology. Hadn't thought of that. Good one

  3. It was a lot of fun and a complete spectacle, but James Cameron's movies will always be a notch below perfect so long as he writes his own scripts. The dialogue between the characters was painfully cheesy at times.

  4. we just saw it and thought it was amazing. your comments on human likeness are interesting and so true. to me, the worst part of the movie was the main “bad guy” who was so over the top that people laughed when he wasn't trying to be funny – never a good sign. otherwise, the movie totally blew me away. so glad i saw it in the theater. oh, and, regarding the green comments, the movie was targeting advanced technology used for war. the main character used technology to get to the land and that ultimately was a good thing for him and the people. i don't think it was necessarily “anti technology” , (which isn't a synonym for green either).

  5. totally fantastic movie. while hollywood can be pathetic quite often (and jules is right that the dialog was distractingly poor), i loved it and it was a masterpiece of epic film-making.

  6. I loved it even though like you said it was kind of like DancesWithLastOfTheMohicans. The visuals blew me away and the story was good enough – even if you could guess the ending – that it didn't feel like two hours and 40 minutes. The main military character was a bit on the cartoon side for me.

Comments are closed.