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You need to look at science fiction as a separate classification than "adventure" or "drama" or "comedy", because a film can be any of those while still being science fiction. One level speaks to content; one speaks to tone or narrative. Heartbeeps is science fiction (content) but also a comedy (tone). Alien is science fiction (content) but also horror (tone).

People get confused about this regarding westerns as well. "Western" is content; it can still, via tone, be action, comedy, suspense, drama, etc.
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Originally Posted by Teitr Styrr
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I thought Avatar was a science fiction versus fantasy story myself.

There's truth to this. Na'vi = fantasy. Humans = sci-fi. Essentially Jake abandons sci-fi for fantasy, as do Cameron and the film.

Truly, Cameron doesn't seem all that interested in the hard tech of the story except as a device to get him where he really wants to go, Pandora. All his tech thinking went into the actual making of the flick, not the verisimilitude of the in-movie tech.

If we follow this to its logical conclusion, Cameron is no longer as interested in the clunky sci-fi tech of Aliens and the Terminator movies; he seems to have mellowed into more of a flower child. I think he's said something to the effect that he respects the military, but at the same time he wants to go put flowers in their guns. Avatar, if nothing else, expresses this dichotomy.

Cameron's last true original sci-fi movie was The Abyss. (And even that ended with the aliens saving us from our stupid selves, and offered the first spark of Cameron's ambivalence about the military.) What has he done since? T2 (which was an expansion of the original), a spy comedy (though on a massive Arnie scale), a historical romance, some documentaries about the deep. I think it's the documentaries more than anything that formed what Avatar would ultimately become; the awe at strange and peaceful alien life forms (which is what the serious-deep-sea critters look like). That the Na'vi don't look like squid or jellyfish is probably just a necessary capitulation to the mainstream/the studio.
And I didn't read everybody's shit because odds are a good chunk of it was blather, and I've been drinking. So if I was redundant, make a new year's resolution to forgive me.
I think a work of "science fiction" is any work where the characters know or experience a *different* knowlegde base and technological level than the one we're familiar with in our world.

So to me the term applies widely, whether we're talking about a more advanced society or even LESS. Or simply, one where science and technology (or evolution!) took a slightly different path than ours.

I mean, just think about Clifford Simak and his Days Without End (not sure this is how the original title sounds like)
Not to derail the fascinating Blade Runner tangent y'all are on, but I finally caught up with Avatar tonight. I had a great time watching it in theaters, but I seriously question whether I'll ever see it again. Visually, it's as good as advertised (and thanks to all who recommended the 3D, it was worth the extra $$). It's been a long time since I've seen such a well-crafted film. Plus, Cameron's ability to stage big action sequences & make them work so well is truly amazing; he hasn't lost his touch for that.

It's really a pity the characters are such non-presences, and that the story is so cliche-riddled; this could have been truly great. As it is, it's only a fun time in the theater, and not something that will stick w/me.

My gamer husband thought Avatar felt like a long cutscene from a kick-ass video game. When Jake & Quaritch squared off at the end, he leaned over & said, "See, he's already faced him once in his first form. Now, he has to face the boss in his second form before he can get his piece of heart." Hard not to laugh out loud.
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Originally Posted by Phil
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You need to look at science fiction as a separate classification than "adventure" or "drama" or "comedy", because a film can be any of those while still being science fiction. One level speaks to content; one speaks to tone or narrative. Heartbeeps is science fiction (content) but also a comedy (tone). Alien is science fiction (content) but also horror (tone).

People get confused about this regarding westerns as well. "Western" is content; it can still, via tone, be action, comedy, suspense, drama, etc.

This is the interesting thing about science fiction; it's sort of a "secondary" genre, always paired with one or more other genres. 2001's an adventure story, Eternal Sunshine's a comedy and romance, The Fountain's a love story, a period piece and an adventure story, Burst City's a concert film. I don't think it's possible to write a science fiction story that doesn't in some way depend on an existing genre.
Just saw Avatar tonight. Very good film, extremely entertaining.

I have to say "Thank you" to Nick for his review and "Fuck You" to Devin for his.

Good night all. Flame on!
So did we figure out what was up with the hoops playing Na'vi? Other Avatars, I suppose? What the fuck are they doing the rest of the movie?

Anyways, finally saw this, blah, blah, blah.

Really, really wished Jake's narration would've been a more constant presence. Would've helped to get inside his head a bit. Instead it just feels slapdash.

Amazing that even with a running time of 160 minutes, the script is total shorthand.

Also, anyone think it would've been more interesting if Jake wasn't paralyzed?
Somewhere back in the thread I posted that I'd heard Cameron say the movie is somewhere between sci-fi and fantasy and that's how I took the film. Turns out it was Dave Chen's interview in which Cameron said ...

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District 9 obviously borrowed pretty heavily from the ideas of Alien Nation ... but then goes much farther - and almost in the way Avatar does. You come into the film with one perspective of the aliens ... they’re hostile, and they’re kind of in our way, and we gotta deal with them and get them out of the way. And then you end up very sympathetic towards them at the end. And in a way, it’s a real triumph, because the aliens are so unsympathetic looking. They really did go pretty far in making them alien. Truly alien to us. Where the emotional affect is missing completely. It’s almost the opposite choice that I made on Avatar ... I didn’t feel I was doing truly a science fiction film, I think of it more as a fantasy, science fiction fantasy, kind of located halfway between fantasy and science fiction. And for me, it was important that my so-called alien people be completely relatable, because they’re my main characters. Your not having a human viewpoint to interpret them through. You go live with them and you essentially become one of them, and they have to make sense to you emotionally. So that was a choice that was made very early on.

It doesn't feel to me like sci-fi in the way Aliens does, I think because all that tree-hugging stuff in Avatar, especially the animals coming to the rescue - as much as it has a nominally biological explanation in the movie, feels more magical than anything else. To me it might as well be the march of the Ents at that point, although that dumb midiclorians malarky also comes to mind.



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Originally Posted by Ady Meet Roy
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My gamer husband thought Avatar felt like a long cutscene from a kick-ass video game. When Jake & Quaritch squared off at the end, he leaned over & said, "See, he's already faced him once in his first form. Now, he has to face the boss in his second form before he can get his piece of heart." Hard not to laugh out loud.

Sounds like your experience was much the same as mine, and what your husband said resonates with me too. The most glaring gaming part of the movie for me is that vertiginous trip to the banshees home, especially all that jump-onto-the-moving vines stuff. Having such a relatively blank main charater to project onto only furthers that feeling.


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Originally Posted by Captain Mal
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Just to be clear, I don't believe anyone's trying to do that, and am fairly certain I've never implied otherwise.

No, I don't think you have, but others have and so I figured I'd include it in case anyone else is crazy enough to read it.


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Originally Posted by Captain Mal
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I agree with this, and I feel like it's the film's biggest failing. FWIW, I don't believe the answer has anything to do with how many arms that character has.

I don't think it's the arm-count either, and I don't think it's even in the design or I never would have even engaged with Neytiri. And apart from the weirdness of the substantial waterfall from the relatively small floating landmass and the little helicopter lizard there was nothing overly intuitively jarring about the "science" of the world for me. I just mentioned the limbs/eyes thing because it's in the movie and in the conversation and I get that it could bug people who are versed in that branch of science the same way the waterfall and lizard subconsciously bugged me from a physics standpoint. But none of that stuff tarnished the film for me anywhere near as much as the underdeveloped character relationships.


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Originally Posted by Captain Mal
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Disagree. Titanic and The Hangover and The Matrix are not simply the same sort of thing with differing quality. They're each trying accomplish something completely different (artistically, anyway — I guess you could argue that they're all trying to make money).

Hell, my biggest gripe with Avatar isn't that it's an average tasting hamburger, but that it's a hamburger at all. As much as I dug the movie, I'd much rather see that technology in the service of a more innovative story.

Fuck dude, because of you I'm going to need to go out for a burger after all this but I'll run with it anyway. If to me a blockbuster film is a hamburger, then the different genres are just different types of burger. The Hangover is the one of the best chicken burgers you ever ate, Couples Retreat is a chicken burger on stale buns and the meat was dropped on the floor.

I mean, to suggest that some pretty clever people bought a bag of candy labelled as hamburger is too much of a stretch. I mean, they're both junk food to different extents but only a retard could misjudge one for the other, and no one in their right mind (and I think you and I are mostly are in our right minds) would as far as to say only retards misunderstand Avatar. That's why I figure the subtler distinction of saying all blockbusters are hamburgers, because with all blockbusters you know what you're going to get, because they're all basically the same three story formulas made by different cooks in different kitchens. The enjoyment comes from discovering how this particular cook has made their burger on this occasion.

But what it seems like you're saying is some folks are looking for the lamb in what's really just a simple beefburger on some kind of fancy new bun, or they're wondering why there is no gerkin or fresh lettuce in their ...

Fuck it, you win, I'm too hungry to think about this anymore.
Barf!

(extended) "Na’vi Sex Scene Might Show Up on Avatar DVD"
http://www.wired.com/underwire/2009/12/navi-sex-scene/
And at least 1/4 of the internet replied: "YYYYYYIIIIIIIIIIIFFFFFFFFFFF"
Too bad there was no glass pane to slap a sweaty palm onto...
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Originally Posted by mcnooj82
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Too bad there was no glass pane to slap a sweaty palm onto...

No, but they can show all those orangey spiral plants sprout out of the ground at the same time in an Eyra climax.
And single petals falling off of flowers!
Having just seen the third Pirates movie on TV, and District 9 on DVD, I'm wondering why it is that Davy Jones and Christopher Johnson look more like they are 'there' than anything in Avatar. Suggestions?
There was LOTS of discussion about this in the pre-release thread. I think most people put it on the design and color choices made in Avatar that give them an unreal look no matter how much technology is put forth. Also that Davy Jones and Christopher Johnson are recognizable in our world because we have some basis of comparison in terms of color and texture.
Oh, I forgot to mention...

Despite the fact that I'd already seen the movie twice, I went to see it again with another group of friends that hadn't seen it.

Lordy-lordy, does that 'first act' suck. I wasn't even tired and I actually dozed off for the first 25 minutes. I was fully awake after Neytiri saves Jake from the dogs with more legs.

And it confirms my opinion that the chopping up of that first act into a voiceover of nothingness really hurt the movie for me. It plays like a recap to the pilot episode of Avatar. I can't even register Jake's voiceover. It's so dull and colorless that it goes in one ear and out the other.
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Originally Posted by mcnooj82
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Oh, I forgot to mention...

Despite the fact that I'd already seen the movie twice, I went to see it again with another group of friends that hadn't seen it.

Lordy-lordy, does that 'first act' suck. I wasn't even tired and I actually dozed off for the first 25 minutes. I was fully awake after Neytiri saves Jake from the dogs with more legs.

And it confirms my opinion that the chopping up of that first act into a voiceover of nothingness really hurt the movie for me. It plays like a recap to the pilot episode of Avatar. I can't even register Jake's voiceover. It's so dull and colorless that it goes in one ear and out the other.

I was the exact same way... the first act had me thinking that I'd be more Devin than Nick on the film, but post-Neytiri I was completely on board. Things become alive at that point. The first act doesn't ruin the film, but it could be stronger.
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Originally Posted by ElCapitanAmerica
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BTW, again the whole soul transfer ceremony was BS and just a lazy way to get us to that horrible ending. It was shown and explained in the worst way possible.

The soul transfer scene totally worked for me. That is, when it was called a "katra" and it was in Star Trek III.
Glad I finally saw it, and that I went for the whole IMAX 3-D experience, because I literally cannot imagine how I'd have sat through that in conventional 2-D or on DVD.

As I say, I wouldn't have wanted to miss it-- there's obviously some groundbreaking technical stuff there, and that was kind of interesting-- but I wasn't invested in any of the characters, there was not a single genuine moment of surprise, suspense, or discovery, and for most of the running time I was just bored.

I'm also rather fascinated by the vociferous tangent the thread has taken into the question of what does or does not constitute science fiction (or any derivative thereof). Am I the only one that thinks that genre labelling (whether in film, music, literature, etc.) tends to be TOO restrictive in the first place?
I ate it up.

The first fifteen minutes captured a great "we're on a new planet" feel really well.

The 'getting to know you' stretch was by far my favorite sequence in the movie. Glancing through the discussion and reviews, people seem to loathe the text-book feel of these scenes. I never once felt Cameron was lecturing on his concept art. I totally bought into the 'outsider exploring an indigenous culture' romance. Great, and perfectly worked with the new planet, exploration setup.

Before the film, I was ambivalent about the blue-cat design. Never once bothered me during the film, though I did fear for my eyes during the love-making scene.

DANCES WITH WOLVES was there, but this is a story told long before DANCES WITH WOLVES. I was actually more reminded of many soldiers' experiences during the Vietnam War. Having falling in love with the natives, they start to turn against America. Kind of a different angle on APOCALYPSE NOW.

The only dud scenes were those featuring mostly human actors. Cameron really gave very little for Ribsi, Weaver, Rodriguez, etc. to work with. Did they shoot all these scenes in one day, with only first takes?

And the story was definitely thin, but Cameron keeps it bumping along and loved the Na'vi scenes.

Obviously it's most worth watching on a gigantic 3-D screen. Seeing it for the first time on DVD is kind of pointless. It's the definition of spectacle, well worth the price of admission.
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Originally Posted by devincf
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"Invites the imagery" is simply beyond the point. It's not in the movie.

A few pages back, you cited facts in the movie's script and screenplay as a basis for one of your arguments (that the Navi were evolutionarilly inconsistent with the rest of the world). Here, however, you poo-poo someone else's argument because it's not in the movie.

If "not in the movie" is the basis for your argument, doesn't that exclude script and screenplay?

I don't agree or disagree with the argument you're having (Frankly, "what is Sci-Fi" is like the "What Is a Role Playing Game" discussion; with enough thought you can apply it to anything) , but I'm honestly curious about how you can explain this discrepancy.

While most of my thoughts for the movie have already been said, you know what I would have found very interesting?

If Unobtanium was depicted not as a mineral that Earth wants for pure financial gain, but a substance that is essential part of a cure for a disease ravaging Earth. Paint the picture that Earth needs 100,000KG of Unobtanium to save humanity, has only found 1,000 kg of it near earth, and it took 900kg of that to realize they needed it.

It makes the military's push to nullify the Navi ASAP a bit less jarring, and makes the "Aliens Sent Back To Dying World" a bit more literal.
After reading many of these posts, I have determined that the usual Chewer can write a better movie than Avatar, one which is more rich in conflict and moral dilemma, like any good piece of storytelling.
I have something to bring up to this discussion. Why all is everyone so unforgiving with this movie? I'm not even talking about Devin's review, which if you read it isn't really all that harsh on Avatar at all. I'm talking about the almost hatred and unforgiving nitpicking with the plot.

Did it suck, no. It was "Pocahontas in Space". It's a great story retold. Yet everyone trashes it because it's not original.

Did everyone trash District 9 because it was just a retread of Alien Nation? No, we looked past that and marveled in the amazing way this story was told and how a simple thing like location can resonate strongly in a movie. What about Inglourious Basterds? Did people trash it because the story was just a dumb revenge fantasy with an ending that made no sense at all historically? Nope there too. We looked at that as a masterpiece in storytelling, dialog and the theme of the power of cinema.

So why the hatred on Avatar. It was what it was. A classic love story retold in a location and style that allowed some of the most beautiful images I have ever seen in a theater ever before be shown.
"It was what it was" and its variants ("It is what it is"Wink, much like the hamburger/cheeseburger/pizza/pierogi analogy, should never be applied to movies.
Bottom line is, if the story really was that well told, everyone would be giving it a pass.
Boomer, the 2 films you mention there had characters I actually gave a shit about and therefore did not then have to rely entirely on blowing me away with visual effects.

'Classic love stories' only become 'classic' if you as a viewer find yourself investing in the characters emotionally... unfortunately I didn't; and once the 'wow' factor of the 3D wore off I was left with some extremely impressive CGI (though I found the creature design underwhelming), some terrible dialogue, a sack of cliches and a couple of very exciting action sequences. So I agree that it was what it was... just to me it was a just above average Sci-Fi / Fantasy film dressed up in the best frock money can buy

Oh, and plenty of people have been shitting all over DISTRICT 9 and INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS. Perhaps not here but the hate is easy to find.
Bottom line is, it's only a movie. Which will be available at gas-station convenience stores on used DVD for $9.99 a year from now. You over there liked it, you over there didn't like it, duly noted, next, move on.
It was beautiful and exciting and fantastical and gripping. It everything you could ask for out of a night at the movies, and Nick couldn't be more right.

I have yet to feel as exhilarated at the movies this year as I did when Sully first took flight. All the animals were incredible, I thought the Ikran and giant space jaguar were particularly inspired.

The mechs were awesome too, and I liked how the inside of the spaceship was zero gs, watching everyone propel themselves around was great.
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Originally Posted by Boomer
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Did everyone trash District 9 because it was just a retread of Alien Nation? No, we looked past that and marveled in the amazing way this story was told and how a simple thing like location can resonate strongly in a movie.

People who say District 9 was just Alien Nation retold probably haven't seen Alien Nation and just know the basic concept. The reason no one, not even the people who liked Avatar, are praising the story is because it copies other, better told versions of the same story beat for beat. You know after the first 15 minutes what's going to happen in the next two and a half hours.

And please don't trot out the "classic love story" spiel--I had to live through that defense when Titanic came out, and here we go again.
Avatar was badly told by a director/writer who is often actually very good at telling such stories. I wouldn't have cared how predictable it was if only it was told well and got me to engage fully. Parts of the film did this for me. As a whole, it didn't.
I saw Avatar with some friends, all graphic designers, and we all cracked up at the first site of the subtitles, all rendered in effing Papyrus. I think this speaks volumes to how hack the whole thing is.
BEVELED AND EMBOSSED Papyrus!
They spiced things up from when I saw the 15 minute preview in imax.
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Originally Posted by Arlo
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I saw Avatar with some friends, all graphic designers, and we all cracked up at the first site of the subtitles, all rendered in effing Papyrus. I think this speaks volumes to how hack the whole thing is.

If this were true, wouldn't the fancy fonts of Quantum of Solace speak volumes about how masterful that particular film was?

Speaking of movie fonts... I found it very odd how Avatar ended with a green and oddly elongated title frame. It kinda stuck out. Especially compared to the look for the title the trailers and TV spots used.
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Originally Posted by Arlo
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I saw Avatar with some friends, all graphic designers, and we all cracked up at the first site of the subtitles, all rendered in effing Papyrus. I think this speaks volumes to how hack the whole thing is.

I think this is what Boomer was really talking about. Yes, the Papyrus font is cheesy. But in a 160 minutes action movie with impressive special effect, convincing 3D and great action scenes, it's weird that a font is what stood out for some.

I get the feeling a small part of the public (if I go by the box-office) went in looking for flaws.