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Avatar post-release discussion - Printable Version

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- Nooj - 12-16-2009

No, just 'Sleazebaggano.'


- cuchulain - 12-16-2009

To be fair to Cameron, the term isn't unique to this film. It's a term people in the real world use, e.g. scientists and engineers. It can refer to an unusual material or an element of a scientific or engineering model that does not yet exist or "obtain."


- ken savage - 12-16-2009

Quote:

Originally Posted by Cuchulain
View Post
To be fair to Cameron, the term isn't unique to this film. It's a term people in the real world use, e.g. scientists and engineers. It can refer to an unusual material or an element of a scientific or engineering model that does not yet exist or "obtain."

I was about to post the same thing - complete with link.


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unobtainium


- kriegaffe - 12-16-2009

Some comments.

- I liked the Stephen Lang character. He may have been a cliche but it was well done and I was always entertained when he was on screen.

- The 3D distracted me a lot of the time. It sort of impressed in the pure CGI sections (it looks like a pop up book in the human sections). In some scenes I should have been looking at the main characters but it was the jellyfish thing floating in the foreground grabbing my attention.

- I really thought it was going to go a bit more epic when they gathered all the tribes up, but it sort of went nowhere. The big army mostly got slaughtered and then the animal kingdom came to the rescue (only featuring animals previously seen).

- This film features too many slow mo death scenes.

- I did like some of the corny shots, like the general guy jumping out of the mega copter in his mech. The giant bird smashing copters around was also neat.

- All in all the actual 'avatar' concept felt a bit wasted. It boiled down to... "I'm helping the Navi, wait someone unplugged me. Oh now I'm free again and helping the navi. Oh wait I've been unplugged again. Lets escape from jail and go help the navi". As a sci-fi concept it seems like it could have been a bit more interesting.

- The "human to Navi converter" at the end was a bit too neat aswell. I nearly expected the words "AND THEY LIVED HAPPILY EVER AFTER" to appear on the screen.


- timothy q - 12-16-2009

Quote:

Originally Posted by Cuchulain
View Post
To be fair to Cameron, the term isn't unique to this film. It's a term people in the real world use, e.g. scientists and engineers. It can refer to an unusual material or an element of a scientific or engineering model that does not yet exist or "obtain."

Interesting info... handwavium and wishalloy too!? Goddamn wikipedia is great. I'm way more interested in reading about this film than actually watching it. I suppose that would make my money unobtanium as far as Cameron is concerned. Zing!


- joeypants - 12-16-2009

Just to play devil's advocate on the whole Unobtanium thing...

Yes, it is an actual term that is really used. However, the fact is, it sounds goofy as hell and just based on the local anecdotal evidence here, people have to wiki it to believe that it is an actual term. So then the question becomes, WHY use this goofy-ass term? Why not invent some slightly believable name?

From my understanding, the term represents something not yet found that once it is, will fill a need. It would seem that in this film, they've found that substance and know what it will be used for. Is it still "Unobtanium" at that point, by definition?

(And yes, I realize how horribly nitpicky this is. And I haven't even seen the film. Just throwing thoughts out there and playing the advocate is all. I'm sure a goofy term will be the least of my concerns when viewing)


ETA:



Quote:

Originally Posted by Devin's Review

It's like a painting of cyborg dinosaurs equipped with rocket launchers and ridden by beautiful naked women: totally fucking awesome but utterly without any deeper meaning or resonance.

Awesome.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Devin's Review

Except it doesn't take two plus hours to look at such a painting.

Or would it?


- doc happenin - 12-16-2009

Aah, talkbacks. Look at them go on Devin's review. Thank you for that, Mr. Faraci, a fair and balanced look, especially one so nicely written, is always welcome.


- damimegood - 12-16-2009

Great review, Devin. Always fair and balanced. My expectations are thankfully temperred.


- dimitril - 12-16-2009

Too bad he's wrong about the King Kong thesis. We've already had that this year - it was the piece of shit known as Watchmen. What a shallow, trite, flat, unreal piece of garbage, and defiling the original work in the process (which makes the King Kong analogy even more apt). I would've called it Watchmen: Shitting on the Mona Lisa.


- dr_k42 - 12-16-2009

So... what is worse.... Unobtainium or Crematorium?


- joeypants - 12-16-2009

Finally finished the review. Thanks for writing it; very enjoyable reading your fair and balanced take (regardless of what talkback idiocracy has to say).

I love how your very valid criticisms on the design and the effect that might have on the film are NOT allowed to carry over once you've seen it. There is one correct answer, apparently: fawn. Anything other than that, and you've "had your mind made up for months" and "can't admit when you're 'wrong.'"


- andrew merriweather - 12-16-2009

As opposed to Drew, Harry et al, who clearly went in with an open mind. Nick's the only prominent online guy to love it who didn't spend the last year worshipping at the AVATAR altar.


- dimitril - 12-16-2009

Quote:

Originally Posted by joeypants
View Post
Finally finished the review. Thanks for writing it; very enjoyable reading your fair and balanced take (regardless of what talkback idiocracy has to say).

I love how your very valid criticisms on the design and the effect that might have on the film are NOT allowed to carry over once you've seen it. There is one correct answer, apparently: fawn. Anything other than that, and you've "had your mind made up for months" and "can't admit when you're 'wrong.'"

Devin CAN admit when he's wrong. That doesn't mean he's right here. And he's specifically wrong when he talks about the the CGI being the only technological advance in the movie. (*) I'm sure he WAS fair about the movie, and since I haven''t seen it yet, I reserve judgment.

But it doesn't mean he's not shitting over Cameron in a wildly unfair way, the same way Jeff Wells shits all over Peter Jackson. When Devin started attacking Cameron this summer for, y'know, inventing and discovering things - THINGS THAT ARE POWERS OF MAGNITUDE MORE USEFUL THAN BEING A MOVIE GEEK - that's when I lost any pretense that Devin would be fair and balanced towards Cameron.

Towards his film, yes, I believe he tried his best to be objective. I believe Devin's honesty is unimpeachable. But just like Devin attacks the "noble savage" theorem, I attack the theory that there's any such thing as true objectivity.


* He's even wrong talking about Cameron's version of mocap and how much animators are involved with the performance. Hell, there was an article this morning about how medical outfits are now trying to figure out how to use his system in medical scanning, because ofhow it captures the subtleties of human movement instead highly-detailed scans of 2D pixel data. The whole POINT of developing this system was so they could "pour the motion-capture data into the rig and it would come out the other side right." That's why he was able to SEE the actors' performances, as Na'Vi, LIVE ON THE STAGE.


- damon houx - 12-16-2009

Using the word "right" means you don't understand criticism.


- andrew merriweather - 12-16-2009

So Cameron invents and discovers things. Great. He's still at the bottom of the pile when it comes to writing an affecting and original screenplay, which to me is of far more value in a hyphenate like him than coming up with a great new camera.

I swear, some of you guys must have Cameron's face tattooed across your chests, Alan Partridge-style.


- ryan s~ - 12-16-2009

Quote:

Originally Posted by DimitriL
View Post
Devin CAN admit when he's wrong. That doesn't mean he's right here. And he's specifically wrong when he talks about the the CGI being the only technological advance in the movie. (*) I'm sure he WAS fair about the movie, and since I haven''t seen it yet, I reserve judgment.

But it doesn't mean he's not shitting over Cameron in a wildly unfair way, the same way Jeff Wells shits all over Peter Jackson. When Devin started attacking Cameron this summer for, y'know, inventing and discovering things - THINGS THAT ARE POWERS OF MAGNITUDE MORE USEFUL THAN BEING A MOVIE GEEK - that's when I lost any pretense that Devin would be fair and balanced towards Cameron.

Towards his film, yes, I believe he tried his best to be objective. I believe Devin's honesty is unimpeachable. But just like Devin attacks the "noble savage" theorem, I attack the theory that there's any such thing as true objectivity.


* He's even wrong talking about Cameron's version of mocap and how much animators are involved with the performance. Hell, there was an article this morning about how medical outfits are now trying to figure out how to use his system in medical scanning, because ofhow it captures the subtleties of human movement instead highly-detailed scans of 2D pixel data. The whole POINT of developing this system was so they could "pour the motion-capture data into the rig and it would come out the other side right." That's why he was able to SEE the actors' performances, as Na'Vi, LIVE ON THE STAGE.

Two questions:

1) In what way has Devin been unfair to Cameron? Is he wrong about his scripts, his style of driecting etc.?

2) What does the last asterisked part have to do with the movies he makes?


- joeypants - 12-16-2009

Cameron's advances may have built far more solid guideposts, but the animators still have to step in and tweak. And that work is invaluable. Without it, none of these CGI creations would work at all.


- ludwig - 12-16-2009

Devin, that was a very mature, even-handed review. I enjoyed it immensely.

I went to my IMAX theatre yesterday to buy tickets, and not only did they not actually get Avatar for the opening weekend, they have no idea WHEN they will be actually getting it!! I just assumed it would be showing given how it's an IMAX-compatible film and all, but apparently not. Which sucks ass, as out of the 8 screens Avatar is showing on in the city, only 2 are 3D capable. I am trying to purchase tickets for Sunday matinee at one of those screens today. I definitely want to see it in 3D the first time out. Are any of you guys with IMAX theatres close to you experiencing this??


- ryan s~ - 12-16-2009

Quote:

Originally Posted by joeypants
View Post
Cameron's advances may have built far more solid guideposts, but the animators still have to step in and tweak. And that work is invaluable. Without it, none of these CGI creations would work at all.

Yeah, it's called secondary animation and it's the bread and butter of a good animated show.


- danko - 12-16-2009

People weren't psyched about 3D, but now they are.

Every other director now HAS TO FOLLOW
(see Ridley Scott and the upcoming Forever War adaptation - another MUST sci-fi work BTW, despite the "not so" original themes again: war is bad, senseless death and blah blah, yet the story is brilliantly narrated and you end the book in tears unless you're a hopeless cynic).

Anyway, I can appreciate the criticism, but I also understand that with the money involved Cameron has to go for the masses, pick a more linear story and deliver a SPECTACLE.
This is what I expect from a theater night after all: to be blown away.
I look for dialogue and elaborate plots in serials, where the budget drives another kind of approach (and still serials get canceled all the time, if they're not "massified" enough).

Sorry for my poor english


- andrew merriweather - 12-16-2009

I don't think I like people any more.


- jake - 12-16-2009

Quote:

Originally Posted by Merriweather
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I don't think I like people any more.

Welcome to my world.


- dimitril - 12-16-2009

Quote:

Originally Posted by Ryan S~
View Post
Two questions:

1) In what way has Devin been unfair to Cameron? Is he wrong about his scripts, his style of driecting etc.?

2) What does the last asterisked part have to do with the movies he makes?

1) He went on a rant about Cameron this summer, essentially calling him a fat-cat adventurer. In a world where people have little curiosity about anything, and even less enthusiasm about exploration and discovering, I thought it was deeply unfair.

2) It was addressing specific points in Devin's review.


- Nooj - 12-16-2009

An animator friend of mine told me about the bullshit behind the production of The Incredible Hulk. The production did invest time and money into using mo-cap for the CG characters. It didn't work. At all. In the end, it was pretty much animated by hand. But the movie still pushed the 'magic of mocap' on a world that could care less. Hahaha.


- dimitril - 12-16-2009

Quote:

Originally Posted by joeypants
View Post
Cameron's advances may have built far more solid guideposts, but the animators still have to step in and tweak. And that work is invaluable. Without it, none of these CGI creations would work at all.

Except that's not true with the facial parts of animation. Cameron's perspective is that the animators, largely, wreck the facial performance. He specifically points out Gollum - not as an example of failure, but an example of animators shaping the performance, and flat out stating that it's not what they did on Avatar.

He also says that they did nothing at all revolutionary with the body mocap performances, so I'm sure the animators had a great deal with forming that part of the character action.


- Nooj - 12-16-2009

Quote:

Originally Posted by DimitriL
View Post
Except that's not true with the facial parts of animation. Cameron's perspective is that the animators, largely, wreck the facial performance.

Wreck is an odd word to use. I don't think he put it like that. If he did, that's a slap in the face to animators.


- dimitril - 12-16-2009

Quote:

Originally Posted by Andre Dellamorte
View Post
Using the word "right" means you don't understand criticism.

Nonsense. If someone agrees with you, you believe it's right. The fact that you don't understand that 'right' is entirely subjective means YOU don't understand criticism. Siskel and Ebert spent twenty years telling each other that they were flat-out wrong.

And again, I'm not addressing the movie itself. I have no idea if I'll agree with Devin or not. (I usually do.) I'm addressing the extraneous stuff to which I take exception; what I see as attacks on personality, factual misstatements as I interpret them, et cetera. [/QUOTE]


Quote:

Originally Posted by Merriweather
View Post
So Cameron invents and discovers things. Great. He's still at the bottom of the pile when it comes to writing an affecting and original screenplay, which to me is of far more value in a hyphenate like him than coming up with a great new camera.

The problem is, judging whether something is of quality is ENTIRELY subjective. Attacking someone for doing something useful is a character attack, and I think it was beneath Devin, who I believe is a generous and perceptive individual.

And incidentally, coming up with a new technology that everyone can use? That IS more valuable than a fucking action movie. Why? Because pretty much everyone CAN make a fucking action movie. Not everyone can invent. If you think the opposite, I think you're symptomatic of everything that's wrong with America.


- joeypants - 12-16-2009

You're not an objectivist by chance, are you?

Quote:

Originally Posted by DimitriL

Not everyone can invent. If you think the opposite, I think you're symptomatic of everything that's wrong with America.




- dimitril - 12-16-2009

Quote:

Originally Posted by mcnooj82
View Post
Wreck is an odd word to use. I don't think he put it like that. If he did, that's a slap in the face to animators.

He didn't use the word wreck, I did. But I believe that's largely what happens - if the actor disappears beneath a CG-mask to the point of nonrecognition, then it's a failure. Gollum was an amazing creation, but you weren't seeing Andy Serkis - you were seeing an interpretation of Andy Serkis, which has value. But you're seeing the actor through someone else's lens, instead of viewing the performance directly. It does more justice to the performer.

(I thought this was true of Bill Nighy's Davy Jones as well - it was a revelation to see feel like the actor was wearing CG makeup instead of being an animation. This type of mocap is the very opposite of uncanny valley, in that the soul comes through.)


- ludwig - 12-16-2009

Quote:

Originally Posted by DimitriL
View Post
Nonsense. If someone agrees with you, you believe it's right. The fact that you don't understand that 'right' is entirely subjective means YOU don't understand criticism. Siskel and Ebert spent twenty years telling each other that they were flat-out wrong.

And again, I'm not addressing the movie itself. I have no idea if I'll agree with Devin or not. (I usually do.) I'm addressing the extraneous stuff to which I take exception; what I see as attacks on personality, factual misstatements as I interpret them, et cetera.

I wrote this on the talkbacks, but I thought I would repost part of it here (with some grammar edits, as I wrote the original really quickly:

... the purpose of film criticism for me is to see what others are thinking about a film and to illuminate parts of a film that might otherwise have been hidden. Good criticism makes you think about a movie differently, or makes you enjoy it more. This review wasn't all that illuminating for me, but I think that has more to do with the source material not having much to hide and being pretty straight-forward. But there were parts that I will take in with me to my screening of Avatar to see if they ring true after I have seen the film. Which is what the very best film criticism does: frame a movie and give you a cypher through which to judge a work ON YOUR OWN. You would think that Devin writing this review is going to kill the movie for you or something. I look at it as a tool that I can use to make my viewing of the film better, not as a substitute for my own opinion.

Siskel and Ebert telling each other they were wrong had waaay more to do with the combative format of the TV show. In a written review, you take out of it what you want to, despite living in an age where you can directly interact with the reviewer. Also, I am not sure what is "factually" wrong in the review??


- joeypants - 12-16-2009

You're still not "seeing the performance directly" in Avatar.

And Gollum's facial structure is so different from Serkis's/any other human that to complain about animators having to step in to "fill in gaps" and manipulate the performance is silly.


- dimitril - 12-16-2009

Quote:

Originally Posted by joeypants
View Post
You're not an objectivist by chance, are you?

I hate objectivism (and don't get me started how I believe Ayn Rand coddled a serial killer, and how that's exactly where objectivism leads). I just value unique and generous contributions to society, and hate it when that's made out to be a bad thing.

I don't believe in superiority in people, but I do believe there's honor in discovery and exploration. And I get furious at easy postmodernist attacks on people who engage in this.


- damon houx - 12-16-2009

With films there are things you can be right about and things you can be wrong about. If you think that Devin's honesty is unimpeachable, why are you saying he could be wrong? Also, as per shitting on, the film is being sold as the greatest adventure film of all time. That is hyperbole worthy of being batted around to see if it holds true. And ultimately the way the thing was achieved is like arguing over wether they used modern stock or nitrate stock. How the thing was achieved doesn't change how we respond to the thing itself.


- darthspielberg - 12-16-2009

Quote:

Originally Posted by Ludwig
View Post
Devin, that was a very mature, even-handed review. I enjoyed it immensely.

I went to my IMAX theatre yesterday to buy tickets, and not only did they not actually get Avatar for the opening weekend, they have no idea WHEN they will be actually getting it!! I just assumed it would be showing given how it's an IMAX-compatible film and all, but apparently not. Which sucks ass, as out of the 8 screens Avatar is showing on in the city, only 2 are 3D capable. I am trying to purchase tickets for Sunday matinee at one of those screens today. I definitely want to see it in 3D the first time out. Are any of you guys with IMAX theatres close to you experiencing this??

There are three real IMAXs anywhere near me (a state and a half away), one of which is not showing Avatar in favor of keeping their educational programing (and one "Hollywood" IMAX Film, for one showing aday. It's Star Trek) while the other two are going all out to premier Avatar. Is the IMAX you went to part of a museum or aquarium or something like that? They might eschew the big blockbuster to show more UNDERSEA 3D stuff.


- Nooj - 12-16-2009

Quote:

Originally Posted by DimitriL
View Post
He didn't use the word wreck, I did. But I believe that's largely what happens - if the actor disappears beneath a CG-mask to the point of nonrecognition, then it's a failure. Gollum was an amazing creation, but you weren't seeing Andy Serkis - you were seeing an interpretation of Andy Serkis, which has value. But you're seeing the actor through someone else's lens, instead of viewing the performance directly. It does more justice to the performer.

(I thought this was true of Bill Nighy's Davy Jones as well - it was a revelation to see feel like the actor was wearing CG makeup instead of being an animation. This type of mocap is the very opposite of uncanny valley, in that the soul comes through.)

Wasn't Bill Nighy's Davy Jones also an interpretation of the man's performance via animators?

Eh... on film, all performance is seen through some layer/distance. You're not seeing it directly. You're seeing a performance through the volatile mix of the camerawork, the lighting, the cutting/combining of different takes that all leads back to the director. What we're talking about now is simply another level of distance from seeing a performance live.