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Avatar post-release discussion - Printable Version

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- lazerranger - 12-30-2009

I saw Avatar for the second time last Sunday (wanted to see it in Imax with a big group of my mates, but sadly it was sold out all day in Manchester so was another RealD showing).
I was a little scared going in that it wouldn't hold up to a repeat showing but I actually had more fun sharing it with my friends and they really ate up certain moments (flying dragon scene and the end action shots). I was slightly disappointed when I first saw the movie because it was missing the mindblowing effect I'd expected from the scriptment and Avatar day but the second time I was able to just go along with the ride and just enjoy the visuals and little moments I've missed.
I now think the movie should still hold up pretty well even in a 2D release, though of course it will be my first 3D Blu Ray when I have access to a 3D tv.


- captain mal - 12-30-2009

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Originally Posted by Bucho
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He's dead right that you don't need to think about the depth of the world to have a good time at the movie (like I did) but he's off the mark thinking that it's pointless to think about that stuff. Some people just have brains naturally wired to be curious about the hows and the whys

Just to be clear, I don't believe it's pointless to be interested in that stuff — indeed, I have a wondering admiration for anyone who can sustain that level of interest in the mechanics of a fictitious world. I just think in a film like this, it's a fool's errand. I'd feel the same about an attempt to justify the "science" of the Star Wars universe. No point. That ain't what it's about.

In the particular case of Devin's question, he's already made it plain that he doesn't like the designs, and thinks the themes, characters, and subtext of the movie are "bad," "perfunctory," etc. Given his clamorous disdain for the world in question, his query doesn't strike me as genuine interest, but simple baiting. *shrug* Maybe I'm wrong.

I also grow a little weary of the implied accusation that those of us who aren't approaching the film from a scientific angle aren't approaching it from an intellectual angle, and thereby have nothing to add to the discussion. Epistemology is perhaps the most fundamental element of criticism, and it's worth debating, IMHO.


- bobby bear - 12-30-2009

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Originally Posted by Martin Blank
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This could turn into a war between the accept-the-movie-for-what-it-is Na'vis and the scarred, unimpressed detractors clanking around in their mech suits of logic.

And it will (if it hasn't already begun.)


- kingcujoi - 12-30-2009

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Originally Posted by Captain Mal
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Just to be clear, I don't believe it's pointless to be interested in that stuff — indeed, I have a wondering admiration for anyone who can sustain that level of interest in the mechanics of a fictitious world. I just think in a film like this, it's a fool's errand. I'd feel the same about an attempt to justify the "science" of the Star Wars universe. No point. That ain't what it's about.

Star Wars is a Fantasy film, Avatar makes some pretty bona fide claims to being Sci-Fi. Of course you're supposed to wonder about the mechanics of the science in a science fiction film.


- jake - 12-30-2009

I fear that the common ground in this thread is mostly composed of unobtanium.


- captain mal - 12-30-2009

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Originally Posted by kingcujoI
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Star Wars is a Fantasy film, Avatar makes some pretty bona fide claims to being Sci-Fi.

I disagree. In which parts of the film do you find genuine sci-fi elements?


- abbott & prospero - 12-30-2009

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Originally Posted by Captain Mal
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I disagree. In which parts of the film do you find genuine sci-fi elements?

Um, avatars?


- kingcujoi - 12-30-2009

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Originally Posted by Captain Mal
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I disagree. In which parts of the film do you find genuine sci-fi elements?

What movie did you see?

I think Cameron was pretty clear in explaining every part of the Na'Vi religion with an at least pseudo scientific attempt at reasoning.


- jake - 12-30-2009

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Originally Posted by Abbott & Prospero
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Um, avatars?

O_________O

mind = blown


- captain mal - 12-30-2009

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Originally Posted by Abbott & Prospero
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Um, avatars?

Be serious.

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Originally Posted by kingcujoI
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I think Cameron was pretty clear in explaining every part of the Na'Vi religion with an at least pseudo scientific attempt at reasoning.

Apart from the avatars themselves, the basis of the Na'vi religion was probably the most fantastical element in the flick. Calling it "some kind of neural network" is on par with "an energy field created by all living things; it surrounds us, penetrates us, and binds the galaxy together."

You're on to something with the term "pseudo-scientific," though. That nicely describes the window-dressing on Avatar.


- matches_malone - 12-30-2009

Simple explanations with no depth don't make it science fiction. Do midichlorians make Star Wars science fiction?

Science fiction, in my interpretation, explores and comments on the implications of scientific phenomena/advancement on humanity - either by way of analogy or direct speculation of our future. The technology and science are not simply plot devices or deus ex machina. They are the focal point of the story; how humans interact with, are changed by, and/or learn about themselves via these phenomena is the central conflict.

True science fiction in films is hard to come by. Primer and Moon are the best recent examples of this rarified and misunderstood genre.


- abbott & prospero - 12-30-2009

I guess I could be wrong, but they appear to be using fictional science to project a persons mind into genetically engineered hybrids. I haven't actually seen this yet, did it turn out that the machines they accomplished this with were powered by dragon eggs and magic dust?


- jake - 12-30-2009

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Originally Posted by Matches_Malone
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True science fiction in films is hard to come by. Primer and Moon are the best recent examples of this rarified and misunderstood genre.

Isn't that why there's a divide between SF/Hard SF? I'm not trying to be a dick here, I seriously don't know the definition of Hard SF compared to SF, I've just seen the term bandied about.


- matches_malone - 12-30-2009

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Originally Posted by Abbott & Prospero
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I guess I could be wrong, but they appear to be using fictional science to project a persons mind into genetically engineered hybrids. I haven't actually seen this yet, did it turn out that the machines they accomplished this with were powered by dragon eggs and magic dust?

Again: The presence of "science" in a film doesn't make it a science fiction film.

Here's a thought experiment. Take all the science stuff out of Avatar - they don't go to another planet, they don't download themselves into cloned bodies. They're not looking for unobtanium, they're looking for, say, coal, or gold, or land.

Ok - now, has the basic story changed at all?


- stelios - 12-30-2009

Many a nerd had their blood spilled over such discussions. No need to go down this path with this one. Hasn't Avatar caused enough strife already?


- abbott & prospero - 12-30-2009

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Originally Posted by Matches_Malone
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Again: The presence of "science" in a film doesn't make it a science fiction film.

Here's a thought experiment. Take all the science stuff out of Avatar - they don't go to another planet, they don't download themselves into cloned bodies. They're not looking for unobtanium, they're looking for, say, coal, or gold, or land.

Ok - now, has the basic story changed at all?

Yeah.


- matches_malone - 12-30-2009

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Originally Posted by Jake
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Isn't that why there's a divide between SF/Hard SF? I'm not trying to be a dick here, I seriously don't know the definition of Hard SF compared to SF, I've just seen the term bandied about.

Yes, that divide began in the literary world by people who didn't want their space shoot-em-ups to be called "space opera".

"Hard" science fiction is exactly as I have described it in my post. The rest is basically adventure/action/military/fantasy fiction with space lasers.
I love them all, to be honest. But I'm not going to call a chicken a duck.


- jake - 12-30-2009

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Originally Posted by Matches_Malone
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Yes, that divide began in the literary world by people who didn't want their space shoot-em-ups to be called "space opera".

"Hard" science fiction is exactly as I have described it in my post. The rest is basically adventure/action/military/fantasy fiction with space lasers.
I love them all, to be honest. But I'm not going to call a chicken a duck.

AH. Got it.


- abbott & prospero - 12-30-2009

Here's another thought experiment: Take the basic story element out of Avatar - it's just a movie about a guy who downloads himself into a cloned body so that he can explore a hostile and toxic to humans alien planet. Is it a science fiction film?


- kingcujoi - 12-30-2009

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Originally Posted by Captain Mal
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Be serious.

Apart from the avatars themselves, the basis of the Na'vi religion was probably the most fantastical element in the flick. Calling it "some kind of neural network" is on par with "an energy field created by all living things; it surrounds us, penetrates us, and binds the galaxy together."
Avatar.

In this case though the planet is supposed to be a living entity, an actual brain of sorts. There are elements of actual thoughts and ideas left in what is probably now a rather watered down iteration of Cameron's original story.

I'll agree that most of the science as presented amounts to plot devices.


- matches_malone - 12-30-2009

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Originally Posted by Abbott & Prospero
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Here's another thought experiment: Take the basic story element out of Avatar - it's just a movie about a guy who downloads himself into a cloned body so that he can explore a hostile and toxic to humans alien planet. Is it a science fiction film?

Not at that level. What is the reason for exploring this planet? Is it our first journey out of our solar system? What are the implications of the technology used? If these concepts are explored in depth within the framework of exploring a planet hostile to humans, then that might be a great science fiction film.


- abbott & prospero - 12-30-2009

Are we talking about what constitutes great science fiction or just a science fiction story?


- alan "nordling" cerny - 12-30-2009

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Originally Posted by Matches_Malone
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Not at that level. What is the reason for exploring this planet? Is it our first journey out of our solar system? What are the implications of the technology used? If these concepts are explored in depth within the framework of exploring a planet hostile to humans, then that might be a great science fiction film.

I think you're making a judgment call based on quality. There's tons of lousy science fiction out there but I wouldn't hesitate in calling them such. You're making a distinction between sci-fi and hard sci-fi, and AVATAR is decidedly not hard sci-fi (though it wants to be).


- alan "nordling" cerny - 12-30-2009

Put it another way - Bradbury's THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES. Sci-fi or not? I'd say easily sci-fi although the science in it is wonky. Same thing about Asimov's FOUNDATION books. They are political sci-fi, but I can't remember anywhere in it where the science of those books was proved up in any way.


- matches_malone - 12-30-2009

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Originally Posted by Alan "Nordling" Cerny
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I think you're making a judgment call based on quality. There's tons of lousy science fiction out there but I wouldn't hesitate in calling them such. You're making a distinction between sci-fi and hard sci-fi, and AVATAR is decidedly not hard sci-fi (though it wants to be).

No, I am making a specific distinction between what many call "regular" science fiction and "hard" science fiction. To me, the "regular" sci-fi uses science as a plot device and window dressing to tell an adventure story.

Call me an elitist, but I don't call those stories/films/etc science fiction. Science fiction explores science as the root of story, and how humans or human analogues interact with that science forms the basis of the conflict or revelation.

Calling it "hard" science fiction defeats the purpose of the term. Space lasers and alien worlds do not make a story science fiction.


- matches_malone - 12-30-2009

Quote:

Originally Posted by Alan "Nordling" Cerny
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Put it another way - Bradbury's THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES. Sci-fi or not? I'd say easily sci-fi although the science in it is wonky. Same thing about Asimov's FOUNDATION books. They are political sci-fi, but I can't remember anywhere in it where the science of those books was proved up in any way.

With all respect - you're missing the point entirely. The science doesn't have to be extant. Speculation on the future of science is an inherent part of science fiction. Asimov's Foundation is definitely science fiction. The root of the story(ies) is the applications and implications of psychohistory on human civilization. I haven't read Martian Chronicles in a long time, but if I remember correctly the story is a dressed-up analogy to "white man conquers the natives" stories, and the Mars setting is simply a new background. I wouldn't classify that as science fiction.

An aside - I met Ray Bradbury when I was 10 years old at my local library. He gave an amazing talk about science fiction and futurism. He was very humble and gracious. An amazing writer and speaker.


- greg clark - 12-30-2009

What about, as Nordling put it, political sci-fi? While Cameron the technician is obviously all wrapped up in his world of Pandora, the film's story is all about commentary on current events (the only way it could have a more green message would be if the Na'Vi themselves were green), like a lot of Asimov stories, and even more of Card's. Sure, Avatar's message is base and simplistic, but that's not what's being argued here. The science gets tinkered to fit the story, and under close scrutiny doesn't add up. But since the evolutionary heredity of the Na'Vi isn't really what the movie's about, I'm OK with that.


- Nooj - 12-30-2009

I agree most with Matches' description of hard sci-fi. It pretty much goes along with a forward of an Asimov collection I read a long time ago.

Just curious... would you call Moon a film that leans more towards hard sci-fi? I do.


- alan "nordling" cerny - 12-30-2009

MOON might be the first genuine hard sci-fi film since 2001.


- matches_malone - 12-30-2009

Quote:

Originally Posted by Greg Clark
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What about, as Nordling put it, political sci-fi? While Cameron the technician is obviously all wrapped up in his world of Pandora, the film's story is all about commentary on current events (the only way it could have a more green message would be if the Na'Vi themselves were green), like a lot of Asimov stories, and even more of Card's. Sure, Avatar's message is base and simplistic, but that's not what's being argued here. The science gets tinkered to fit the story, and under close scrutiny doesn't add up. But since the evolutionary heredity of the Na'Vi isn't really what the movie's about, I'm OK with that.

I'm not sure I understand. Could you expand more on political sci-fi? My first impression is that you're talking about the analogy drawn between Cameron's story and current real-world events. I don't think drawing such analogies necessarily makes a film science fiction. To me, it all boils down to a simple question - if the science was removed from the story, would the story be the same? If the answer is yes, it's a decent indication that the story may not be science fiction. It's a simplified question, to be sure, but it's a good starting point for me.


- matches_malone - 12-30-2009

Quote:

Originally Posted by Alan "Nordling" Cerny
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MOON might be the first genuine hard sci-fi film since 2001.

I would argue Primer got there first. Blade Runner is definitely science fiction. Remove the replicants from that story, and it's irrevocably changed.

The Matrix is also science fiction. Not particularly great science fiction in my mind, but true science fiction.


- alan "nordling" cerny - 12-30-2009

Keep forgetting about PRIMER. And sorry to get off the subject.


- Nooj - 12-30-2009

It's the same criteria that makes me categorize District 9 as soft science fiction.


- matches_malone - 12-30-2009

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Originally Posted by mcnooj82
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It's the same criteria that makes me categorize District 9 as soft science fiction.

Most definitely. I would classify it as an action film. That in no way dismisses its quality or lessens the impact of the themes it explores. It's just not a science fiction film (to me).


- Nooj - 12-30-2009

If the film had stayed on its faux-documentary course for the whole runtime, it could've been a hard sci-fi film. But yeah, it goes full on awesome character drama/action flick instead.