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Avatar post-release discussion - Printable Version

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- pop zeus - 12-20-2009

I will freely admit that the 3D was fantastic. I mean, there was depth to the reflections in the windshields on the human's vehicles. That shit just works. Contrast that with the trailer for Piranha 3D that played before Avatar, which was loveably low-budget and screaming Bimovie, yet at the same time, the 3D in that trailer was so bad to be ineffective.


- jacknifejohnny - 12-20-2009

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Originally Posted by BusterG
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I remember seeing TRAINSPOTTING in the theater, when I was barely able to stay awake. I managed to stay awake, but I thought it was a stupid movie.

When the friend who recommended it exressed incredulity at my reaction, I realized something was wrong, and went back to see it, only this time well-fed and rested. It wasn't a stupid movie ... I was just stupid from lack of sleep.

I'm not saying this was Devin's problem, but it very plausibly could have been. I THINK he saw it at Butt Numb A Thon, but I'm not sure, but Avatar screened at the very end of the festival, and he had probably been awake more than 24 hours BEFORE the film started! There's no way he could have given it a fair shake (whether or not the film deserves a fair shake is a seperate issue).

Devin, are you going to go see it at a proper screening, in a proper frame of mind? (If you haven't already, I mean).

I enjoyed the film, and loved the Alien Princess. I'll have to go see it in non 3D, so I can enjoy the Images (RealD is too dark and murky ... I can't believe that's what Cameron wanted it to look like).

Really?


- tylenol jones - 12-20-2009

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Originally Posted by JacknifeJohnny
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Oh, come on, man.

See, there you go, again!


- captain mal - 12-20-2009

This morning I found myself thinking about the eye/sight theme/motif running through the film.

There are, of course, the repeated shots of Jake's eyes snapping open throughout the film (and, indeed, bookending the story with the opening and closing images), but there are a lot of other allusions as well. The fact that he has a hard time keeping his eyes open when he's in his "real" body (the exhaustion doesn't seem to bother him when he's driving the avatar), the Na'vi expression of love ("I see you"Wink, the fact that a lot of the creatures on Pandora have more than two eyes, Rodriguez' character painting blue across her eyes, the close-up on the horse's eye when Jake plugs in, and the small but significant bit where the bulldozer driver is seeing Pandora through cameras (or mechanical eyes) and Jake smashes them, eliciting the frustrated response, "I'm blind!"

These are just the bits I recall, but I wasn't looking for them when I was watching the film. It will be interesting to see it a second time, paying more attention to the voice-overs and dialogue, and see if there is anything else to it.

The obvious conclusion is that Cameron wants us to believe that the Pandorans see more clearly than the humans do, but see what? And is the point that the humans refuse to see, or that they can't? Have they fallen asleep, exhausted, or been blinded? Or simply closed their eyes out of guilt or fear or greed?


- devincf - 12-20-2009

hahah, see 'what?' Are you kidding?


- wadew1 - 12-20-2009

Devin did you have a HEARTY BREAKFAST the day you saw Avatar? Not having a proper breakfast (the most important meal of the day), is another thing that could have made you not give Avatar a fair shake.
Just sayin.


- in tyler we trust - 12-20-2009

I have to say Devin.. the way you are acting in this entire situation.. on your twitter and all of that.. really strikes me as the way an antagonistic teenager who lives in his own world would act..

Anybody else get that vibe?


- micah robinson - 12-20-2009

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Originally Posted by Pop Zeus
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The problem I had with the score is that some of the big themes are rip offs of Horner's earlier, more inspired work. Couple that with the idea that hearing is a lot more closely aligned with long term memory than, say, sight (visuals), and you have a major element of the film that pulled me right out of the movie at the exact time I should've been pulled in.

This probably resonated with me more than any other facet of the movie.

That one fucking three-note cue that Horner uses in EVERYTHING ("Hey, I just remembered that Enemy At The Gates actually existed."Wink just snapped me out of Pandora time and time again.

Despite that, it was a mostly entertaining tech demo, buoyed by Lang and Weaver. I will admit this film doesn't benefit from fantastic advanced word raising expectations nor the fact that I watched that 70-minute YouTube breakdown on why The Phantom Menace failed the night before.

I think the aforementioned actors are the only people in this flick that would pass the "character description" test.


- captain mal - 12-20-2009

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Originally Posted by devincf
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hahah, see 'what?' Are you kidding?

Nope. Indulge my ignorance, please.

EDIT: Or we can just go back to "fanboy" vs. "dead inside," I guess.


- jacknifejohnny - 12-20-2009

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Originally Posted by Tylenol Jones
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See, there you go, again!

There I go again with what? Only up until a few days before the film's release did I ever post a single thing about Avatar. I was not interested in the endless debates about Cameron's merits as a filmmaker, and I'm not a hater or a fanboy, I went in with an open mind and I saw what I saw.

The film is very pretty and pretty middling, and that isn't enough for me. Period.


- busterg - 12-20-2009

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Originally Posted by wadew1
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Devin did you have a HEARTY BREAKFAST the day you saw Avatar? Not having a proper breakfast (the most important meal of the day), is another thing that could have made you not give Avatar a fair shake.
Just sayin.

Eating something before a film IS important.


- wadew1 - 12-20-2009

I try to have two eggs, a grapefruit and a bowl of oatmeal before every Jim Cameron movie.


- ryan s~ - 12-20-2009

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Originally Posted by wadew1
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I try to have two eggs, a grapefruit and a bowl of oatmeal before every Jim Cameron movie.

Well, there's your problem. You need to eat a man's breakfast before a Cameron movie. The eggs are fine but they need to be raw. Change the grapefruit for steak and the bowl of oatmeal for another steak and you'd've loved the movie.


- Nooj - 12-20-2009

I snacked on some nails before the movie started.


- ryan s~ - 12-20-2009

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Originally Posted by mcnooj82
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I snacked on some nails before the movie started.

Galvinized or non-galvinized?


- chris hill - 12-20-2009

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Originally Posted by Pop Zeus
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Contrast that with the trailer for Piranha 3D that played before Avatar, which was loveably low-budget and screaming Bimovie, yet at the same time, the 3D in that trailer was so bad to be ineffective.

Yeah, but they had some 3-D boobs in there.

Re: the score, was it all technically "original," despite that Horner was ripping off himself and others? The only time I noticed the music, and liked it, was during the big battle when Tsu'tey* jumps into the open landing platform of one of the flying ships and takes out all those marines just before he is killed. And that piece sounded very familiar. Is it possible I have heard that in some promotional bit for the movie, or does Horner re-use music to such an extent that I'm reminded of a different score?

Does anyone know the specific bit of music I'm referring to? Is that the over-used 3-note motif Micah mentioned above? Although I liked that bit, I never paid attention to the music in any of the other scenes (except for maybe the Na'vi singing, which didn't do anything for me) but it was serviceable. It never distracted me.

*Jeez, I just went to IMDB to get that character's name, and their Avatar page is all slick with a blue background.


- wadew1 - 12-20-2009

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Originally Posted by Chris Hill
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The only time I noticed the music, and liked it, was during the big battle when Tsu'tey* jumps into the open landing platform of one of the flying ships and takes out all those marines just before he is killed. And that piece sounded very familiar. Is it possible I have heard that in some promotional bit for the movie, or does Horner re-use music to such an extent that I'm reminded of a different score?

I think Horner uses that particular piece of music all the time. I remember he used it over and over again in TROY.


- Nooj - 12-20-2009

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Originally Posted by Ryan S~
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Galvinized or non-galvinized?

A little of column A, a little of column B.

As I have repeated in this thread ad nauseum, my biggest gripe with the movie is that I simply wished I cared more. The movie was a fun experience. Pretty good overall. But I really wanted it to be better by way of being more emotionally involving. As has been said before, it really does seem like Cameron told this story as a means to show off his unfiltered vision of Pandora. And he succeeded on that front. I guess it's kind of a miracle that I cared for the story as much as I did, but this was clearly not a story that Cameron just HAD to tell. It was a means to an end.

It reminds me of what I think happened with Wall-E. I hyped myself up quite a bit for Wall-E, but had a more reserved reaction to the film itself. I think it's great, but I didn't loveLOVE it. The emotion I felt from it didn't match what I expected from some of Pixar's previous films. And from interviews with Stanton, it seemed like Stanton really had to force a story on Wall-E's basic concept to make it into a feature length film. It was a really cool idea that he needed to get out. Compare this to Stanton's own Finding Nemo, where the genesis of the story idea came from him realizing how his fear of his own son being in danger made him stifle the boy's growth. That was something he felt deep down as a father and it was a story he just needed to get out there. And that story wouldn't even need to be one about fish. The dressing of that story came later. I think it's a major reason I connected much more to Finding Nemo than I did with Wall-E.

Not saying that Wall-E and Avatar are equal in quality or anything. But I think they're similar in what each film served to its creator. A chance to do something they thought was really cool as opposed to a story that they just HAD to tell.

About Horner's score... I actually do like the main theme, though the first 2 notes of it immediately make me think of Titanic.


- bartleby_scriven - 12-20-2009

So I saw the movie with an American friend and two Serbian friends. The American loves all the Death Wish movies. The Serbians are obsessed with Rambo and everything Ah-Nuld. This made for a great viewing experience.

I liked the movie quite a bit, but my American friend and I cracked up at everything Stephen Lang did. He loved that Lang was drinking coffee during the destruction of the tree scene (btw, shades of 9/11 with Jake walking through the ash afterwards?)

The Serbians guys were, however, not so pleased. After about 45 minutes one of them leaned over to me and said, "Bro, what the fuck is going on in this movie?" When the movie ended, the other guy (who doesn't speak as good of English) said "Stupid movie for little kids." The first friend then went on to explain how in their country, and Europe in general, movies tend to end on a down note. They were displeased that Jake didn't die at the end. Interesting.

Also, did anyone else notice a few notes of "Bishop's Countdown" when Jake jumped off the big ship at the end, right before Lang followed in the Mech?


- graham - 12-20-2009

Roger Dean should sue.


- Evi - 12-20-2009

It'll take me a while to gather my thoughts concerning the film, but my initial reaction was that it is technically one of the most impressive films I've ever seen. District 9 beats it hands down when it comes to photorealism, but the scope is incredible. The story, on the other hand, began to grate as the film went on. For the first hour or so it totally had me in a classic story told well by a master storyteller sort of way, but by the time we got to Sully intoning "This is our land!", I just wished for a little bit of invention. Anything that doesn't involve fancy alien fauna.

Which brings me to the 3D. This is by far the best use of it I've seen in a movie, but I'm still not sold on the technique for one simple reason. I have yet to see 3D add anything significant to the art of cinema. Previous advancements - sound, colour, editing etc. - have been used to enhance the narrative and the way the film is communicated to us. 3D on the other hand is just a THING - yeah, it's neat, but the point still eludes me. Maybe it just requires a better filmmaker than Cameron.


- the prankster - 12-20-2009

A few pages ago someone made the argument that the story had to be this cliched and predictable because that was the only way to engage with an action blockbuster, or something. The thing is, if Avatar had been as bizarre and exotic an alien world as was advertised, I could almost concede the point. If this was a world that was so bizarre and hostile to humans that you had to relearn the rules every time you stepped outdoors, and if Na'vi culture was just utterly strange and confusing to the humans in both the movie and the audience, than having this kind of bog-standard journey of discovery might actually have been necessary. Hell, it would have made for much better drama. The whole second act could have been spent explaining Pandora, both the world itself and the Na'vi culture, and it wouldn't have been boring because we would have been dying to understand how this strange world worked. I always think The Matrix is a great example of this kind of structure: throw weird shit at the audience for the first act, explain it in the second when they're engaged.

Likewise, if the Na'vi had been more inhuman, if the audience had needed to be convinced of why they were cool and why we should side with them over the humans, it would have resonated a lot more. It would have felt earned. But since Cameron used so much shorthand in developing Pandora, and since we probably already sympathize with native American-style cultures, the plot feels redundant and preachy.


- ocallaghan - 12-20-2009

Pranksters outlined most of my complaints with the film beautifully. Such invention and creativity is evident from the visual aspect of the film, it's a shame that same intelligence wasn't applied to the script a bit more. So much potential tension and drama is diffused because Cameron seems to just want to get the story over and done with and out of the way without significant effort that the whole affair just feels flat and by-the-numbers in ways that other films that employ the same Heroes Journey blue print don't.
Star Wars, the film people keep coming back to, is fantastic because aside from all the whiz bang special effects it had a cracking story and fantastic characters; these things are, for me anyway, absent from Avatar.
I wish to godly christ I could have been on board the film like some are, but the blahness of the story was something I just couldn't get past.


- mercury318 - 12-21-2009

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Originally Posted by Arjen Rudd
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This being the internet, I don't think anyone really cares as much as they let on. That said, did you miss the reactions to Watchmen, Dark Knight or Indiana Jones 4?

Well I get being passionate about those three. They have all had over twenty years to establish haters and lovers. Avatar's had a couple of weeks.

I AM stunned by the comments about it being "a rip off of Star Wars and Star Trek and nothing new."

Uh huh. Because Star Wars and Star Trek were super original with mind blowing never before seen monsters and worlds. Sure.

I'm also kind of stunned by people equating emotionally engaging with tears. Like Avatar didn't make them cry so it sucks. I have to wonder if they cried when Ben ate Vader's lightsaber. I certainly never felt any of the emotional beats in this were supposed to make me cry. The deaths we saw were supposed to happen and years of watching and reading other Bildungsroman stories prepared us for these moments.


- Richard Dickson - 12-21-2009

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Originally Posted by Mercury318
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I AM stunned by the comments about it being "a rip off of Star Wars and Star Trek and nothing new."

Maybe I missed it, but who has said this about Avatar?


- mercury318 - 12-21-2009

Quote:

Originally Posted by The Prankster
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A few pages ago someone made the argument that the story had to be this cliched and predictable because that was the only way to engage with an action blockbuster, or something. The thing is, if Avatar had been as bizarre and exotic an alien world as was advertised, I could almost concede the point. If this was a world that was so bizarre and hostile to humans that you had to relearn the rules every time you stepped outdoors, and if Na'vi culture was just utterly strange and confusing to the humans in both the movie and the audience, than having this kind of bog-standard journey of discovery might actually have been necessary. Hell, it would have made for much better drama. The whole second act could have been spent explaining Pandora, both the world itself and the Na'vi culture, and it wouldn't have been boring because we would have been dying to understand how this strange world worked. I always think The Matrix is a great example of this kind of structure: throw weird shit at the audience for the first act, explain it in the second when they're engaged.

Likewise, if the Na'vi had been more inhuman, if the audience had needed to be convinced of why they were cool and why we should side with them over the humans, it would have resonated a lot more. It would have felt earned. But since Cameron used so much shorthand in developing Pandora, and since we probably already sympathize with native American-style cultures, the plot feels redundant and preachy.

I think I was the one that made the point. Though I was referring to the visually foreign components of the film (how the Na'vi flirt with the uncanny valley). And I still think that I'm correct. This film DOES require the audience to make some pretty big leaps out of their comfort zone. They have to like Smurf/Thundercat love children!

Cameron had two choices when making this film. Go the lazy storytelling route and fill the film with cultural shorthand to quickly draw us in, or take a little more time for world building. Only Cameron has never taken time for world building. He's all about the cultural shorthand. It worked for me because I LOVE seeing slight variations on old stories (could explain why I've read four or five different translations of the Odyssey).

It didn't work for you and I blame District 9. In a lot of ways it is the antithesis of Avatar. They had nearly identical goals and they took opposite routes to get there. Avatar is comfort food to District 9's 3 Michelin star experience.


- mercury318 - 12-21-2009

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Originally Posted by Richard Dickson
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Maybe I missed it, but who has said this about Avatar?

Devin did?

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Originally Posted by devincf
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Yeah, Prankster's right. It's a fucking glo-in-the-dark jungle and variations on monsters from STAR TREK and STAR WARS (prequels). I wish someone could explain to me how this is an immersive alien world, because it seems like a pretty standard set of bullshit to me.

I'm still waiting for a brand new never seen anything like it before monster/alien.

Also was anyone else surprised at the sheer amount of influence Avatar's creature and world design took from Cameron's last film? If you've seen Aliens of the Deep then things are a tad more familiar.


- atomic ross - 12-21-2009

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Originally Posted by devincf
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I am getting enough shit already so I may never post this on the front page but..

Yeah, Prankster's right. It's a fucking glo-in-the-dark jungle and variations on monsters from STAR TREK and STAR WARS (prequels). I wish someone could explain to me how this is an immersive alien world, because it seems like a pretty standard set of bullshit to me.

Hey, we agree for once!


I was probably most surprised to see how much Cameron was ripping off Cameron. This is easily his worst film.


- chris hill - 12-21-2009

Cameron was going for the familiar with the creature designs. He didn't want his space Indians riding Xzorngs from Dimension X, he wanted them riding space horses. And flying space dragons. The creatures were designed by professional artists, not 12 year-olds. For what they are, they're pretty cool, in my opinion. And I don't even care for Wayne Barlow's art. I can understand not liking them, but they were designed to be derivative. It's not like they were shooting for bizarre, but failed. They were shooting for recognizable sci-fi tropes in all of the designs, and they succeeded.


- Richard Dickson - 12-21-2009

I wanna live where some of you guys live, where dragons and giant six-legged panthers and hammerhead elephants are considered run-of-the-mill.


- the prankster - 12-21-2009

Quote:

Originally Posted by Mercury318
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I think I was the one that made the point. Though I was referring to the visually foreign components of the film (how the Na'vi flirt with the uncanny valley). And I still think that I'm correct. This film DOES require the audience to make some pretty big leaps out of their comfort zone. They have to like Smurf/Thundercat love children!

No. Sorry. There's nothing remotely "out of the comfort zone" about this movie. The Na'vi are no harder to relate to, based on their visual design, than the average cartoon character. Humans are built to anthropomorphize. Give it eyes, a mouth, and human expressions, and we'll relate to it. Hell, the whole reason I brought up District 9 is that it shows we can make an emotional connection with something that doesn't look human at all. See also Wall*E or, even better, R2-D2, who has no human-like physical features whatsoever.

Filmmakers of the last few decades seem to assume they have to hold the audience's hand when it comes to building non-human but sentient characters. Yet it's really, really obvious that people will ascribe intelligence and emotions to a toaster oven if it's played right. Compared to that, the Na'vi are like my cousin Frank.

Quote:

Cameron had two choices when making this film. Go the lazy storytelling route and fill the film with cultural shorthand to quickly draw us in, or take a little more time for world building. Only Cameron has never taken time for world building.

The movie is supposed to be ABOUT world building. That's how it was marketed, that's how the plot is constructed. And even if it wasn't, how is "taking the lazy storytelling route" a valid option?

I don't think this kind of filmmaking is excusable at any time, but especially not from a major talent like Cameron who took years to make this film and then touted it as a revolution in cinema. There's no reason for this level of unoriginality except that Cameron thinks that his audience is very, very stupid and childlike. And you're going along with it.


- d.s. randlett - 12-21-2009

I think I feel similar to Nick when it comes to this movie. It is extremely derivative, but I think it hits so many right notes as a boys' adventure film (and what's more, the movie unironically wears this on its sleeve, which was refreshing), and the action is so thrilling and fun that it's really hard for me to honestly critique this movie, especially as a fan of Cameron's manly bluster.

It also helps that Cameron is able, more than anyone else in Hollywood, with coming up with main villains who feel like credible threats, and are deliciously hatable to boot. That goes a long way toward amping up the tension in the action scenes.


- the prankster - 12-21-2009

Quote:

Originally Posted by Chris Hill
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Cameron was going for the familiar with the creature designs. He didn't want his space Indians riding Xzorngs from Dimension X, he wanted them riding space horses. And flying space dragons.

That's not the problem. The problem is that Cameron built this movie around exploring an exotic alien world--not just the marketing, but the way the thing is structured. He gave himself tons of room to go into detailing the ground rules of this SF universe. He didn't have to use shorthand at all. Yet he did. All the creatures in this world are just Earth animals that look different. The jungle is a jungle. The floating mountains are strange, but not that hard to grasp. And the Na'vi are native Americans.

It's wall-to-wall shorthand. And so the movie spends all this time going over stuff that we don't need to go over. We already "get" Pandora. We already know the Na'vi deserve to be treated like people. We understand their spiritual inclinations. We don't need to have it rammed home with an utterly predictable plot for three hours.

If the world had been alien enough, that would have changed, because we actually would have needed that time to start to understand it. If the Na'vi culture had been strange and--gasp--maybe even a little unpleasant to Earth eyes, the simplistic plot might have been justified, because it would have provided a way in. But all the work was already done for us.

Quote:

The creatures were designed by professional artists, not 12 year-olds.

What does that even mean? The problem isn't the designs, it's the way the world was conceived. The creatures might look cool, but they act exactly like Earth creatures.


- atomic ross - 12-21-2009

When did "hey, it's for kids!" become a legitimate defense for a bad movie?

Were many people crippled morons as a child?


- Evi - 12-21-2009

I'm confused. Where does anyone say that?