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Avatar post-release discussion - Printable Version

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- dynamotv - 01-31-2010

The highlight for me was when he called out the people who are depressed about not living in Pandora. It was priceless. Overall it wasn't that harsh of a review all things considered.

The one thing that he touched on that I totally agree with is that James Cameron is almost a scientist when it comes to making a blockbuster that makes shit loads of money. It isn't even art. It's a formula and it works.

My feeling is that Cameron REALLY wants to make speculative documentaries like "Walking With Dinosaurs" except on a much much larger budget. Avatar should allow him to fart off another 10 years and make those kind of less commercial films.


- the rain dog - 02-01-2010

Quote:

Originally Posted by Alan "Nordling" Cerny
View Post
Looks like the PHANTOM MENACE guy reviewed AVATAR.

Part 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uJarz7BYnHA

Part 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dLzKwTcGO_0

Particularly great moment: at one point he compares it to the Garbage Pail Kids.

...see if your brain is made of playdough, and you actually have some kind of human emotions left, then Avatar can mould you into like a crying, tree hugging, man-baby



Golden.


- Nooj - 02-01-2010

Quote:

Originally Posted by dynamotv
View Post
The one thing that he touched on that I totally agree with is that James Cameron is almost a scientist when it comes to making a blockbuster that makes shit loads of money. It isn't even art. It's a formula and it works.

Maybe not an art. But definitely a craft that takes some kind of skill to be effective. The 'formula' is used by lots of movies and not all of them result in ridiculous phenomenons.


- the rain dog - 02-01-2010

I'd argue that a puppetmaster isn't doing his job right when you can see the strings, but then there's now at least 2 billion dollars worth of reasons telling me I'm giving people far too much credit thinking that.


- Nooj - 02-01-2010

Either that or people just LOVE strings. Familiar... comforting... strings... Wave of the future!

And then there's the simple fact that this site is generally used by people who see the strings better than most audiences.


- the rain dog - 02-01-2010

I reckon Helen Keller could spot the strings in Avatar personally.


- Nooj - 02-01-2010

No doubt. But if you go along with Devin's Mad Libs comparison, Avatar is successful precisely because people are so comfortable/familiar with the visible strings.


- frankcobretti - 02-01-2010

I don't think anyone's arguing that Avatar isn't formulaic pulp. The point is that it's well made formulaic pulp.


- MrTyres - 02-01-2010

Quote:

Originally Posted by Bucho
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I've talked about it with a few people and to me it comes down to the fact that Jake saving them wasn't as a result of him being genetically superior (the race analogy).

My issues with 'White Guy Saves the Natives' don't come from a genetic superiority, but the sense of a cultural superiority. From my quick tally, there were 4 non-white staff members of the mining organization. The lone black man had no words. Of the two Hispanic characters, one was the spicy Latina stereotype who sacrifices herself, and the other was the 'mole' inside. I think I remember one stock Asian character who worked in the laboratory. All of the Na'vi were voiced by non-Caucasian actors. Could we have a conversation about 'other' cultures without resorting to those stereotypes? I mean, I don't want all the Russians to be British, but with a chance to show a non-human culture, Cameron decided to throw all the old stereotypes at us.


Quote:

The second part of the criticism has been that Jake is shown to be fundamentally superior because he's able to do something the na'vi could never do themselves when he tames the jesus dragon. This is a case of "Listen closer Deaf Ears!!!" because it's clearly explained by Neytiri that five other na'vi have tamed jesus dragons in the past. Jake's good, but he's not necessarily superior, so the racism thing falls down there too.

I didn't take this as racial superiority, but a willingness to exploit a cultural touchstone to achieve his end. 5 Na'vi have done this before, in all of their recorded history, and this schlub is able to do it after only one try and 3 months in body? It's like me appearing as a prophet in Rome and start transubstantiation miracles due to my advanced technology. (Star Trek TNG had an episode about this.) Maybe he understands the process better as he is an outsider, and thus able to understand the greater system, but he is playing into their cultural biases to achieve his goal.

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In fact the na'vi are shown to have intelligence and wisdom beyond what the humans in the film have and the movie clearly wants us to believe they have evolved a superior way of life to what humans live. I don't think the racism criticism holds up to any scrutiny unless you want to bash Cameron for actually dissing the white folks.

The audience is preconditioned to think the Na'vi are culturally beneath the viewer. 'Hyuk, why are they throwing Arrows at metal helicopers?' Does the white guy have knowledge that the Na'vi do not? Sure he does. Do the Na'vi think White Guy culture is beneath them? Yes. In the end, the audience is supposed to switch sides to the Na'vi. The 'evil' people are white, the 'good' people native. It shows that culture is a Zero sum game and in that game, the winner is right, so the Na'vi culture is better. I don't think that it is realistic or progressive. None of it has anything to do with genetic superiority, but cultural issues.


- hyperspace - 02-01-2010

Quote:

Originally Posted by Alan "Nordling" Cerny
View Post
Looks like the PHANTOM MENACE guy reviewed AVATAR.

Part 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uJarz7BYnHA

Part 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dLzKwTcGO_0

Particularly great moment: at one point he compares it to the Garbage Pail Kids.

Not very good compared to the usual standards of the reviewer...
I mean the only laugh moment I got was for the 'rednecks in the briefing scene'

As for the remaining points - All Valid, but simultaneously invalid - Because Cameron did them all ON PURPOSE. (sexy Na'vi, big eyes, obvious villains, etc) Yeah some of us will quibble about such decisions, but he was very calculated in making them, and correct from a ROI perspective - as the Box Office shows.

Quote:

Originally Posted by FrankCobretti
View Post
I don't think anyone's arguing that Avatar isn't formulaic pulp. The point is that it's well made formulaic pulp.

"That's a Bingo!" - QFT!


- phil - 02-01-2010

He wasn't criticizing him for accidentally making those decisions; he was calling out the blanket refusal to make anything other than the safest possible narrative calls throughout.

Film student in one of my buddy's classes: "Avatar only feels cliched because it's so perfect."


- hyperspace - 02-01-2010

Quote:

Originally Posted by Phil
View Post
he was calling out the blanket refusal to make anything other than the safest possible narrative calls throughout.

I am not necessarily disagreeing with that. But making an extremely expensive (most?) 2.5hr+ 3D film about blue CG people wasn't exactly a 'safest possible narrative call' to begin with. (Just look at the negative heat the film had before the release, here and elsewhere)

Cameron does take risks. He is just very calculated about where he takes those risks.


- phil - 02-01-2010

Those were financial risks, not narrative ones.


- keith f - 02-01-2010

Quote:

Originally Posted by Phil
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Those were financial risks, not narrative ones.

Yeah, I enjoyed Avatar but there is nothing risky about the story, not one bit. Every beat is supremely calculated.

I'll just defer to Cobretti's statement.

Not a big fan of Rain Dog's assertion that the ticket sales equals mass ignorance of the public, or maybe I'm laying something on Dog that I shouldn't- the notion that if you liked Avatar you must be stupid.

This is what I say to that: Mittens!

Also, haven't we figured out by now that 'negative heat' (or positive heat for that matter) on the internet has absolutely zero bearing on whether or not a film will catch on with the public? It's not a question of intelligence, that's just our arrogance, but the general public rarely gives a flying fuck about the petty concerns we have with narrative structure, character development, or anything else we fret about day in and day out.


- greg clark - 02-01-2010

Quote:

Originally Posted by Phil
View Post
Film student in one of my buddy's classes: "Avatar only feels cliched because it's so perfect."

I hope he gets bludgeoned to death with a hardbound copy of Bob McKee's STORY.


- Nooj - 02-01-2010

Quote:

Originally Posted by Greg Clark
View Post
I hope he gets bludgeoned to death with a hardbound copy of Bob McKee's STORY.

I would the fuck waste my two precious hours with a movie about that. I would have a use for it. I would have bloody use for it.


- greg david - 02-01-2010

You don't have to spend much time looking at the top grossers of years past to realize that the general public is stupid and does have shitty taste.

White Chicks was successful. If that doesn't send a chill up your fucking spine, then you're lost.


- greg david - 02-01-2010

Quote:

Originally Posted by mcnooj82
View Post
I would the fuck waste my two precious hours with a movie about that. I would have a use for it. I would have bloody use for it.

That's about the only valid use one could find for that book.


- andrew merriweather - 02-01-2010

So "its generic because he wanted to make as much money as possible" is an artistic defence now?


- hammerhead - 02-01-2010

Yes. It's called "popular culture".


- sean bateman - 02-01-2010

Quote:

Originally Posted by Greg David
View Post
You don't have to spend much time looking at the top grossers of years past to realize that the general public is stupid and does have shitty taste.

White Chicks was successful. If that doesn't send a chill up your fucking spine, then you're lost.

White Chicks wasn't the top grosser of any year. I don't think we need to bring up a movie that made 113 worldwide when discussing a movie that's going to make 2 billion.


- andrew merriweather - 02-01-2010

Yes, Greg, only films that makes LOTS AND LOTS of money can have their faults excused with "well everybody else liked it!".

Come on, guys. You're better than this.


- cuchulain - 02-01-2010

While I can see getting on Cameron's case for nakedly making the safest movie for the broadest base of customers possible, I think he does deserve a lot of credit--even artistic credit--for making a movie that is not only inoffensive to most people but gets most people into the theater. To make a movie most people must see is an achievement. It shows a deep understanding of group psychology.

Anybody can make a movie that contains absolutely nothing offensive and offers people a "ride." Outside of Transformers 2, it's what Michael Bay did every single film.

What Cameron has managed to do is make a movie with an extremely left-leaning worldview and sell it to most of the moviegoing public. With the thin characters, hackneyed plot, and all that, it's easy to dismiss the story until you realize that. How many people can get the public to love a movie that takes positions at least half of them spend most of their political lives demonizing? It's an achievement, no matter how you cut it.


- sean bateman - 02-01-2010

Quote:

Originally Posted by Merriweather
View Post
Yes, Greg, only films that makes LOTS AND LOTS of money can have their faults excused with "well everybody else liked it!".

Come on, guys. You're better than this.

That wasn't my point. Clearly. I'm saying a terrible movie making 70 million dollars doesn't say anything damning about the general public.


- andrew merriweather - 02-01-2010

People love the 3D. Not the confused eco-message that he wedged into his $500million money-burner. What a great way to save the world!


- andrew merriweather - 02-01-2010

Quote:

Originally Posted by Sean Bateman
View Post
That wasn't my point. Clearly. I'm saying a terrible movie making 70 million dollars doesn't say anything damning about the general public.

TRANSFORMERS 2 making a buttload kinda does. But then you're the wrong person to fight that battle with! (said in jest)


- ben thomas - 02-01-2010

Merriweather, the best thing you've contributed to this thread is your avatar.


- andrew merriweather - 02-01-2010

Seriously, have I run over your dog or something? I'm not seeing where my negativity is so much worse than other people's.


- Paul C - 02-01-2010

I'm guessing it's because your charming personal brand of negativity is expressed entirely through snidely dismissive single sentance paragraphs with no supporting reasoning or actual substance whatsoever. Hope this helps!


- andrew merriweather - 02-01-2010

For a second I actually considered being a complete douchebad and going back and pulling quotes from my previous posts where I had attempted to outline my take on the film, only to have people jump on my view of the film being an event rather than a great film in and of itself and act like I was blaspheming for holding such an opinion. But I really can't be bothered.

There's plenty of people doing the "one-line" response thing in here, and sue me for briefly pointing out the complete logical disconnect of claiming that AVATAR's massive popularity indicates objective quality. You've got people dancing verbal circles in here attempting to artistically justify the most basic, risk-free plot imaginable, so I thought a little brevity in response wouldn't go amiss. But hey, if you want: pointiing out, once again, that the tastes of the average CHUD reader don't align with the public-at-large's wants is a completely useless observation. By and large we as a collective go see films for different reasons than most. Making something that appeals to the public, even if it is on a massive scale, isn't some astonishing achievement to be celebrated. It's impressive, sure, but three summers ago you couldn't move outside for people wearing Crocs. You can appreciate these phenomena from a societal viewpoint, but here I would have thought people would try a little harder to explain how AVATAR should be considered "great" from a more cinematic POV.

That was kinda garbled, admittedly.


- ryan c.b. - 02-01-2010

Quote:

Originally Posted by Merriweather
View Post
For a second I actually considered being a complete douchebad and going back and pulling quotes from my previous posts where I had attempted to outline my take on the film, only to have people jump on my view of the film being an event rather than a great film in and of itself and act like I was blaspheming for holding such an opinion. But I really can't be bothered.

There's plenty of people doing the "one-line" response thing in here, and sue me for briefly pointing out the complete logical disconnect of claiming that AVATAR's massive popularity indicates objective quality. You've got people dancing verbal circles in here attempting to artistically justify the most basic, risk-free plot imaginable, so I thought a little brevity in response wouldn't go amiss. But hey, if you want: pointiing out, once again, that the tastes of the average CHUD reader don't align with the public-at-large's wants is a completely useless observation. By and large we as a collective go see films for different reasons than most. Making something that appeals to the public, even if it is on a massive scale, isn't some astonishing achievement to be celebrated. It's impressive, sure, but three summers ago you couldn't move outside for people wearing Crocs. You can appreciate these phenomena from a societal viewpoint, but here I would have thought people would try a little harder to explain how AVATAR should be considered "great" from a more cinematic POV.

That was kinda garbled, admittedly.

Do you find it indefensible that someone would like, even love, something that they do not find great?


- diva - 02-01-2010

Mr. Tyres, that's a great analysis of cultural vs. racial superiority. I absolutely agree that the viewer is supposed to switch allegiances and come away thinking that the Na'vi's culture is better than our own. It reminds me of discussions in my psychology classes over how culture is glossed over in research or reduced to "individualistic vs. collectivistic" narratives. In movies, as you've described, issues of culture get racialized as people of color are generally shown to be tribal (i.e., intellectually inferior but more in tune with each other and nature). Just because we are supposed to identify with the "enlightened" Na'vi doesn't make their portrayal any less stereotypical. And yes, I think it says something that the Na'vi are based on a racially diverse cast.


Quote:

Originally Posted by Ryan Bean
View Post
Do you find it indefensible that someone would like, even love, something that they do not find great?

Pretty much. That guy has been saying the same thing over and over for like 10 pages now.


- andrew merriweather - 02-01-2010

No, I don't find that indefensible at all. But "I loved this, it moved me to tears" et cetera isn't exactly stimulating discussion, and on a site like this I would hope that I'd be forgiven for expecting a little more thought put into it. Admittedly there's some pretty good stuff going on here, as it relates to the racial debate.


- ben thomas - 02-01-2010

Quote:

Originally Posted by Merriweather
View Post
No, I don't find that indefensible at all. But "I loved this, it moved me to tears" et cetera isn't exactly stimulating discussion.

Whereas ignoring the posts that address your issues and continually posting snark is?


- andrew merriweather - 02-01-2010

Sorry, please point me to where my issues have been addressed. To be honest it seems like the people who DO love AVATAR have gone from decrying me for labelling it a phenomenon more than a mere film about five pages ago to actively embracing that notion.

Also, claims that box-office equal quality, no matter how much box-office we're talking about, are absolutely deserving of snark.