Join 3,516 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Avatar is actually pretty good
December 12, 2009 12:51 AM   Subscribe

The most expensive movie ever made, is getting its first reviews ... and so far the thumbs are mostly up.

Roger Ebert: "There is still at least one man in Hollywood who knows how to spend $250 million, or was it $300 million, wisely.".

Previously.
posted by philip-random (357 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
Given the tenor of the reviews, I think a 91% on RT is incredibly generous.
posted by Oxydude at 1:02 AM on December 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


I wasn't too excited about Avatar up until now. It kind of looked like Warcraft vs. Starcraft, but even less interesting. However, as he is wont to do, Ebert just completely convinced me to see it. At the very least, its special effects innovations will be reason enough to pay the ticket price. I thought his comparison of the film to Star Wars seemed very salient. I'm not sure it'll be capable of leaving even close to the same cultural impact though.
posted by One Second Before Awakening at 1:22 AM on December 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


I have very little interest in seeing a movie about a bunch of blue Scottie Pippens.
posted by flarbuse at 1:28 AM on December 12, 2009 [20 favorites]


So is this set in a world where people evolved from cats instead of monkeys?
posted by jefficator at 1:33 AM on December 12, 2009 [3 favorites]


Tell me of your homeworld, Sully.
posted by fleacircus at 1:34 AM on December 12, 2009 [9 favorites]


Given the tenor of the reviews, I think a 91% on RT is incredibly generous.

That's the problem with dropping all the reviews into two buckets. 91% of reviewers felt luke-warm or better. It's not necessarily a 9 out of 10 on anyone's scale. Kind of like the Myers-Briggs personality type thing — most people are somewhere near the center on all four axes, and the result doesn't give any sense of magnitude.
posted by knave at 1:36 AM on December 12, 2009 [3 favorites]


When I'd heard people talking about this movie, I'd somehow thought that JC was adapting Avatar: The Last Airbender, and I was kind of excited and wary, because I have way more love for that cartoon than an adult really should.

So I was a little disappointed until I watched the trailer, which looked pretty awesome. I have no idea how I've missed the hype so far, but if Ebert says it reminds him of watching Star Wars for the first time then I guess I'm in.
posted by jnaps at 1:36 AM on December 12, 2009


Well, good for Cameron if he made it work. But personally, I really have doubts about it. What I've heard of the story feels very clichéd and underdeveloped. I don't like the look of it a lot either, but I'll probably go see it with friends for pure escapism and to check out the 3D.

I'm crazy about Roger Ebert, whom I feel missed his calling as a writer handling topics more serious than movie reviews. But his reviews always feel a bit tainted by his associations with the industry (plus the fact that he no longer differentiates between "who" and "whom" properly saddens me!)

I'm among the small crowd of people utterly turned off by Star Wars though, so don't ask me. Maybe it'll make a billion dollars and blue make-up and attachable plastic tails will be the hot item for next year's Halloween.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 1:43 AM on December 12, 2009


I wouldn't say people are luke warm. There's a pretty serious surprise vibe, but the general sense is: Heh. This is good.
posted by effugas at 1:43 AM on December 12, 2009


AVATAR 'GREATEST EVER FILM WITH BLUE PRETEND CAT PEOPLE'
posted by seanyboy at 1:43 AM on December 12, 2009 [4 favorites]


I'm already sick of hearing aobut this movie.
posted by GavinR at 1:45 AM on December 12, 2009 [3 favorites]


Although I have to say, this exclusive youtube clip does make it seem like it will be something very special.
posted by seanyboy at 1:48 AM on December 12, 2009 [8 favorites]


Better than 'Dougal and the Blue Cat'? That's a pretty bold claim.
posted by biffa at 1:49 AM on December 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


I've done something of a U-turn on this, and a lot of it has to do with the new trailer. The initial trailer from ages back was awful. Sure, the visuals looked pretty spectacular, but all I could see was a cast of unknowns, snatches of terrible dialogue and a succession of clichés. I went to the cinema a few weeks ago and saw the extended trailer — holy shit. Some of it still seems hokey — 'unobtainium', seriously? — but now I can see where those hundreds of millions of dollars went. Whereas before I was probably just going to see it out of curiosity, now I'm genuinely excited about it.
posted by jaffacakerhubarb at 1:52 AM on December 12, 2009


I'm sold.
posted by Hicksu at 1:56 AM on December 12, 2009


Sorry for the snark, but spending $250 million on a 2 and half hours of entertainment, seems, well, a tad excessive. Lord only knows what that sort of money could do elsewhere in the world. I mean, how many wells in sub-Saharan Africa could you build for that sort of money? I know, bread and circus and all that, but I have a feeling of unease that such a vast amount of money was spent on such a project. (And I speak as a Wellingtonian where Weta Studios is based.)

Trouble is, I guess I will see (and pay) to watch the movie at same stage. But the unease remains.
posted by vac2003 at 1:58 AM on December 12, 2009 [7 favorites]


The trailer is quite captivating but damn if Michelle Rodriguez isn't reason enough for me to avoid, well, anything with her in it. Bleh. I'll see it anyway, of course, but seriously.
posted by disillusioned at 2:02 AM on December 12, 2009


I've seen it; I was at the London premiere.

(Declaring an interest - the company I work for does work for Fox)

It's very good. The 3D is revolutionary, and is very absorbing. Rather than use it to have people poking things out into the audience they use it to show people moving around in a 3D space. You know that bit in Star Wars where they're in the Millenium Falcon and they use the infinity drive? Imagine that in 3D and you're close to some of the special effects.

I generally hate sci fi and fantasy (I've only seen one of the LOTR trilogy and I fell asleep in that), but I really enjoyed this in the same way that I enjoyed Total Recall - just a big action film with lots of explosions, but with a logic at the heart of it.

SPOILERS BELOW!

Lots of critics and commenters in the UK have called it Dances with Aliens, or even Smurfahontis, and that's right, to a degree. It's one of those sci fi films that's really a Western, the one where the guy goes to live with a tribe, then the palefaces show up and he realises that he likes his new friends more than his old ones.

END OF SPOILERS

It's so much fun though. Cameron is great at action, and this has lots in it. You can see where he spent the money, and you can see why it took so long to make.
posted by DanCall at 2:15 AM on December 12, 2009 [9 favorites]


I was very excited at first about Avatar. I'm not a huge fan of Cameron, but when he's good he's damn good, and I liked the idea of him working with this kind of scope. However, the first trailers did a lot to temper my enthusiasm. Very pretty but very generic. "Dances With Smurfs" and all that.

Today I've read several reviews from people I respect that have positioned the movie as the kind of genre film I tend to enjoy: working within the framework of an established narrative and doing a lot with it. Much like the variety you find within formal poems. It's not the story, it's how that story is fleshed out.

I'm not incredibly excited about the movie now (beyond my nerdy love of the technical stuff), but I have higher hopes than I did a few days ago.
posted by brundlefly at 2:27 AM on December 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Pocahontas in space!
The wounded veteran hero...the violent invaders with an economic motive..the low tech natives who stand up to them...I think I'm going to like this movie's political message.
posted by Hume at 3:07 AM on December 12, 2009


Can it really surpass the unmitigated glory that is Leprechaun in Space?
posted by fcummins at 3:18 AM on December 12, 2009 [4 favorites]


Those big blue elves with tails still make my heart a stone.
posted by moonbiter at 3:21 AM on December 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Dances with Aliens, or even Smurfahontis

I thought it was more like Battlefield Smurf?
posted by tapeguy at 3:25 AM on December 12, 2009 [10 favorites]


Sorry for the snark, but spending $250 million on a 2 and half hours of entertainment, seems, well, a tad excessive. Lord only knows what that sort of money could do elsewhere in the world.

That 250 million employed a lot of people for several years and it's not like it goes out of a bank and is gone for good; there are tax-incentives, deductions and deals made that reduce the actual amount considerably. Considering his last non-fiction film went to make $1,842,879,955 (wiki), I'd say that 250 million, though expensive, is probably not going to prove to be excessive to the people who helped finance it. I movie only has to break even to be considered a success.

Also, if you're going to go down this path, you should really be looking at the cost of a single stealth plane, which is in the ballpark of 700 million dollars of tax money and don't tend to go on to earn a lot of money subsequently. If we truly wanted to solve all the world's problems, we could have done so a hundred times over. I understand where you're coming from, but there are other things to wory about first. Like Michael Bay. Transformers 2 cost 200 million as is currently sitting pretty at a metacritic rating of 35.
posted by slimepuppy at 3:39 AM on December 12, 2009 [31 favorites]


What sold me was seeing the trailer in 3D in front of A Christmas Carol.

He uses the 3D purposefully instead of as a gimmick, and it works pretty well. The 2D ads don't capture what he's doing with the 3D.

So now I'm going to see Aliens vs Ferngully.
posted by CarlRossi at 3:40 AM on December 12, 2009 [4 favorites]


I have no idea what Avatar actually is, other than blue cat people with eyeballs too big for their sockets, but is it really like Fern Gully?
posted by Solomon at 3:55 AM on December 12, 2009


Roger Ebert: "I might be awesome in True IMAX."

I wasn't too excited about Roger Ebert up until now. However, he just completely convinced me to see him in True IMAX.
posted by martinrebas at 3:58 AM on December 12, 2009 [30 favorites]


Ok, I think I will hate this movie. Never the less, I must see it in true Imax.

Los Angeles Metapeeps, where is the best place to see this movie? Also, hook me up with some tickets. Kthxbye.
posted by Justinian at 4:41 AM on December 12, 2009


As usual, looking at Metacritic seems more meaningful - it earns its 89 over there!
posted by crossoverman at 4:48 AM on December 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Some of it still seems hokey — 'unobtainium', seriously?

Unobtainium is a long-standing joke term in science-fiction. Using it here, Cameron is kind of saying, "Look, it doesn't really matter what it is. The bad guys are just after something really f'n valuable, and we're hanging the plot around it. Just stay with me here, 'kay?"
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 5:00 AM on December 12, 2009 [14 favorites]


I was sort of psychologically nauseated at the scene in the trailer where the guy is put into the avatar body and exclaims "This is great.".

A 250-million-dollar rendition of American-style hubris. The vacant power-hungry "smile". Ugh.
posted by krilli at 5:26 AM on December 12, 2009


I pretty much knew that I was going to give James Cameron my $9 (or $15 in IMAX) anyway. Even if the script sucks and the acting is stiff, you know that the action is going to be great and the visuals will be amazing. And you know that he's going to somewhat awkwardly horn in a lefty social-political statement that I'll actually agree with but still think that is clumsy.
posted by octothorpe at 5:37 AM on December 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


How many Avatar posts are we going to have to put up with?
posted by oddman at 5:43 AM on December 12, 2009


Jesus, so many sticks up so many asses here. Thank god for AskMeFi.
posted by Scoo at 5:44 AM on December 12, 2009 [7 favorites]


$9 (or $15 in IMAX)

Just checked the Swedish ticket prices for the 3D version of Avatar. It's $22, and it doesn't mention anything about IMAX. :-/
posted by martinrebas at 5:47 AM on December 12, 2009


I pretty much knew that I was going to give James Cameron my $9 (or $15 in IMAX) anyway. Even if the script sucks and the acting is stiff, you know that the action is going to be great and the visuals will be amazing. And you know that he's going to somewhat awkwardly horn in a lefty social-political statement that I'll actually agree with but still think that is clumsy.

This. I don't know why there's always so much debate leading up to Cameron's movies. This is always how it goes.
posted by middleclasstool at 5:47 AM on December 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


krilli: "I was sort of psychologically nauseated at the scene in the trailer where the guy is put into the avatar body and exclaims "This is great.".

A 250-million-dollar rendition of American-style hubris. The vacant power-hungry "smile". Ugh.
"

IIRC, the guy's character is supposed to be paralyzed. That scene is the first time he's moved his legs in years.
posted by Rhaomi at 5:54 AM on December 12, 2009 [3 favorites]


I for one love the idea of someone spending $300,000,000 in an effort to make money.
posted by Legomancer at 5:59 AM on December 12, 2009 [3 favorites]


At metacritic, Roger Ebert's scores for "Polar Express" and Jim Carrey's "Christmas Carol" are 100's and "Beowulf" got a 75. He likes this stuff. Movie critics see too many movies, and their heads tend to slip up their butts over time.
posted by Trochanter at 6:01 AM on December 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


maybe if jar jar binks had been sexier it would have worked for ebert.
posted by Hammond Rye at 6:04 AM on December 12, 2009 [4 favorites]


"The most Expensive Movie Ever Made" is not an enticement for me because usually it means special effects over story telling. And I see that in this case that is most certainly true-- I couldn't watch the entire trailer without my eyes glazing over. Maybe in an Imax theater, in total submersion, I'll be enthralled, but (as usual) I can't help wondering if someone is going to spend hundreds of millions on a visual stunner, why can't they put more effort into character and plot development? Is it just right-brain/left-brain dichotomy? Someone who loves mechanics can't be interested in human interactions?
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 6:24 AM on December 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


Roger Ebert: "I might be awesome in True IMAX."

Roger Ebert is platform-neutrally awesome.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 6:36 AM on December 12, 2009 [3 favorites]



James Cameron. The Dude who directed Piranha 2, Terminator, Aliens, Terminator 2, The Abyss, True Lies and Titanic, a fucking filmmaker who makes entertaining movies has a new film. It is expensive, but apparently very entertaining.

And instead of "Hey neat, I might go see that new film from James Cameron" we get "Fuck Him, Fuck his entertainment, he made those dudes blue, fuck movies, I don't have a television, why didn't he spend the money feeding the homeless, Snark Snark Snark"

It's a fucking movie made by a group of people who make movies. It is apparently a movie of some level of quality and is receiving positive feedback from critics of said films.

And as a sidenote.. Yes, it's a pro-environment and anti-war film. It makes very little sense as a member of the human race to loudly proclaim "FUCK Avatar! I'm Pro-War and Anti-Environment, so he can stuff those messages of positivity and goodwill up his ass"

SO yeah.. We've shot way past bean thinkers and are now some sort of fun-vampire. Walking around the world around us leeching all of the fun, frivolity and entertainment and leaving snark, malformed political opinions and bile in its wake.

And cmon.. It's 6:30am on Saturday and you're already starting?

In closing.. Don't like it? Maybe you shouldn't go see it.
posted by Lord_Pall at 6:39 AM on December 12, 2009 [90 favorites]


On the one hand, I loathe James Cameron (other than the original "Terminator" and "The Abyss"). On the other hand, I love Sam Worthington. On the one hand, I love science fiction. On the other hand, I hated "Dances With Wolves", and making the Native Americans into giant smurfs doesn't seem like it would help much. Meh, I will see it, but the 3D better not make me barfy, or else.

I was sort of psychologically nauseated at the scene in the trailer where the guy is put into the avatar body and exclaims "This is great.".

The whole point of that scene is that "the guy" is a paraplegic, and all of a sudden, he's in a body that isn't. Seems like a bit of a stretch to make that into some kind of pro-America nonsense.
posted by biscotti at 6:39 AM on December 12, 2009 [3 favorites]


Sorry for the snark, but spending $250 million on a 2 and half hours of entertainment, seems, well, a tad excessive. Lord only knows what that sort of money could do elsewhere in the world. I mean, how many wells in sub-Saharan Africa could you build for that sort of money?

If you were really worried about the well in the sub-Saharan you'd know the answer to that.

And $250 million, which employed a hell of a lot of people both directly and indirectly is much more preferable than how the military would probably spend $250 million.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:49 AM on December 12, 2009 [12 favorites]


Some more things you probably hadn't heard about Avatar:

"It is pro-indigenous native, anti-corporate, anti-imperialist, anti-U.S. Iraq War effort, anti-U.S.-in-Afghanistan ... anti-rightie, anti-Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld ... Politically, it’s pure Che Guevara"
posted by drmanhattan at 6:54 AM on December 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


On the one hand, I love science fiction. On the other hand, I hated "Dances With Wolves", and making the Native Americans into giant smurfs doesn't seem like it would help much.

That was my feeling after watching the preview.

Is it just right-brain/left-brain dichotomy? Someone who loves mechanics can't be interested in human interactions?

I love doing mechanical things, and hate movies (and science fiction books) that are all effects with no human interactions. So I don't know if it is a brain thing, or just an escapism thing, or just an honestly different view of the world.

But as a demographics thing, I know that I'm going to be out of step with the majority of MeFi users regarding movies like Avatar and Wall-E, much less LOTR. That's cool, and honestly part of what I like about this place -- it's my window into a very different form of nerdliness than my own, and I don't have to share that for it to be fun.
posted by Forktine at 6:54 AM on December 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


I Want To Believe
posted by killdevil at 7:02 AM on December 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Re: Ebert:

One thing to factor in with him is that he's generous toward visually compelling work -- wow his eyes and his heart will follow. This is the primary reason, I suspect, that he gave Dark City his 'Best Picture of 1998" title. Dark City was cool and all, but it really wasn't the best picture of '98; it wasn't even close (as a follow-up example of this tendency, see also his four star review of Knowing, by the same director. It is a completely ridiculous overvaluation).

Cameron has enough of a track record that even without seeing this film I pretty much know how it will be: Amazing visually and technically, with a story that ranges from barely passable to moderately intriguing, with the weaknesses of the story compensated for by a better than average cast of actors and very well integrated action sequences. That's pretty much a given at this point.

However, like Ebert I have a weakness for visual wow and a willingness to allow it to overcompensate for other structural/thematic flaws, so unless Cameron has gone completely Lucas and has forgotten entirely how to write a story or direct real live humans, I expect I'll have fun at the show.
posted by jscalzi at 7:02 AM on December 12, 2009 [6 favorites]


I didn't know there were two Avatar movies until a few weeks ago, and I was going to give you all my "THEY'RE WHITEWASHING AMERICAN PSEUDOANIME BECAUSE THEY'RE RACIST LIKE THAT!" speech.

Since I'm not prepared to snark about a grown man's game of make believe (that refreshingly isn't dependent on Tolkien or the conventions of space opera), let me just say, uh, wow. I really can't snark. Hollywood's trying something somewhat new, and I don't want to discourage that.

That said, I probably won't see it. A Serious Man won't watch itself!
posted by mccarty.tim at 7:04 AM on December 12, 2009


"...kind of like the Myers-Briggs personality type thing"...

You know, I would love to see the Rotten Tomatoes ratings broken down by the reviewer's Myers-Briggs type.
posted by Auden at 7:06 AM on December 12, 2009 [5 favorites]


Bunching Avatar with Wall-E is odd to me. The former is a "space western" action flick, while the latter is a slightly slapstick robot love-comedy (of sorts). For me, the latter was really well crafted, and rather endearing. The Pixar crew created little robots that didn't really say anything, yet through Charles Chaplin and Buster Keaton-like visual storytelling, it really worked. I don't think I'll be saying the same about Avatar. If you're referring to them as general "Fantasy" movies that contain SFX splendor with some storyline, that's a really broad category with lots of details to make things interesting (or painfully awkward).
posted by filthy light thief at 7:08 AM on December 12, 2009


The movie isn't pro-america nonsense?
posted by krilli at 7:09 AM on December 12, 2009


The movie isn't pro-america nonsense?

Are you being dense, friend? Have you not read the links and people's comments?
posted by billysumday at 7:15 AM on December 12, 2009


I pretty much knew that I was going to give James Cameron Michael Bay my $9 (or $15 in IMAX) anyway. Even if the script sucks and the acting is stiff, you know that the action is going to be great and the visuals will be amazing not too shabby. And you know that he's going to somewhat awkwardly horn in a lefty right-wing social-political statement that I'll actually agree loathe with but still think that is clumsy worth a wry chuckle.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 7:18 AM on December 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


On the racist front, I'm concerned that the movie is perpetuating the myth of the "Noble Savage" - especially with as much Native American imagery as it uses.

We'll see how it plays out, but a more compelling movie would be one without one side or the other being evil - we need more war movies that are all-sides-involved-are-fucked tragedies than "Cowboys'n'Indians, Cops'n'Robbers" morality plays.

I suspect Cameron really just wanted to add "A++++ W++++" to his Furry Code so he can impress people on LiveJournal. A half-billion-dollar movie oughta do the trick.
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:26 AM on December 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


In the most heavy handed commercial tie-in ever, the cast of Bones basically gave this movie an hour long stroke job culminating in a geek actually getting laid in line (only after another geek turned down the tattooed hottie), because you know, there were already people lined up for this movie in the alternate reality where we have crime fighting forensic anthropologist with guns. Oh yeah, and in this reality the movie has been out for a couple weeks now, sorry you losers missed it!

Of course, I would have thought the whole star in the East thing a bit much as well.
posted by cjorgensen at 7:29 AM on December 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


You're so vain, you probably think those indigenous people in the new movie Avatar represent the aboriginal people from your country, don't you, don't you.
posted by billysumday at 7:30 AM on December 12, 2009 [15 favorites]


The movie isn't pro-america nonsense?
I was under the impression that it was self-indulgent liberal American guilt nonsense, but YMMV.
posted by craichead at 7:30 AM on December 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


"It is pro-indigenous native, anti-corporate, anti-imperialist, anti-U.S. Iraq War effort, anti-U.S.-in-Afghanistan ... anti-rightie, anti-Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld ... Politically, it’s pure Che Guevara"

Isn't that message sort of compromised given the people who are ultimately going to profit the most from this film?
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 7:31 AM on December 12, 2009


Bunching Avatar with Wall-E is odd to me. The former is a "space western" action flick, while the latter is a slightly slapstick robot love-comedy (of sorts).

From the perspective of someone more on the outside of this, Avatar and Wall-E and a bunch of other movies get lumped together as flashy, colorful, sci-fi-esque visual spectacles that subsume any hint of humanist realism under the special effects. And I'm not saying that as a critique -- just that they have a lot more in common than they have differences.

From an inside perspective, from that of a fan of that genre, then those differences look enormous and really significant. How it looks depends on where you are sitting and what sorts of movies you are a fan of. So I'm not saying "you are wrong!" -- I'm saying that those distinctions get a lot blurrier from the outside.
posted by Forktine at 7:33 AM on December 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


I saw the special 10min preview in 3D a while ago, and while I was not totally blown away I still thought it was pretty impressive and will go to see the film as soon as it's released over here...

I have a small pet peeve though, not only this movie but Science Fiction in general:
What annoys me besides the whole Ppocahontas in blue thing here is the compulsive heterosexist gendering. Of course the hero is a guy who gets an avatar that is very alien but still doubtlessly male, and comes together with an alien that is still doubtlessly female. I guess we can imagine a whole lot of things, like going to other planets, switching bodies, totally alien ecospheres, but oh my god: let them be straight.

A hollywood SciFi flic can pretend to be as progessive as possible, like mentioned above: Totally Ché Guevara, but it seems it is impossible to subvert the gender dichotomy even a little bit. Maybe this is considered too small a side contradiction to even bother thinking about it.
I'm also not really surprised that the SyFy channel got one of the worst ratings for not inclusion of lgbt characters in it's shows. I do not think that it is only the supposedly predominantly teenage male audience that makes this a huge no-no.
posted by ts;dr at 7:33 AM on December 12, 2009 [16 favorites]


a more compelling movie would be one without one side or the other being evil - we need more war movies that are all-sides-involved-are-fucked tragedies than "Cowboys'n'Indians, Cops'n'Robbers" morality plays

We just had one here. As I recall, the reason some people at least didn't like it was because it wasn't placed the invaders in a tragic and somewhat sympathetic situation themselves. I'm not sure I disagree with you in the case of Avatar specifically, but certainly the question of which is a better way to go - bluntly anti-invasion or "war is hell, period" - is debatable.
posted by AdamCSnider at 7:34 AM on December 12, 2009


ahem...

Adjusted for inflation, this film cost over $700 million to make, and is thus the most expensive film ever made.

Avatar doesn't come close. Not even with marketing expenses added.

All I can say is that the last big-budget fantasy movie whose preview looked as bad as Avatar's was Ang Lee's Hulk. And we all know how that turned out.

Any word on how Cameron's focus on the CG hooters paid off?
posted by Joe Beese at 7:36 AM on December 12, 2009 [3 favorites]


Gah. Preview is my friend: that should be because it wasn't black and white enough, and placed the invaders etc. Too early in the morning to be posting.
posted by AdamCSnider at 7:36 AM on December 12, 2009


I was under the impression that it was self-indulgent liberal American guilt nonsense, but YMMV.

That makes sense. All I'm basing my dismissivness and negativity on is the trailer. Clearly, that's a kind of weak point to stand on. I saw an american-style trailer of an american-style movie, about an american-style army that's real proud of going american-style to an exotic location and be all Earth! Fuck yeah! The ham-fisted Epic Pride presentation of the "This-is-great." scene caused made all of us wince that were watching the trailer. And so my opinion was formed. And now being reconsidered.

The trailer is nauseatingly ham-fisted in its American-y epic-ness. To me. To me.

But perhaps it is a delicate and artful lure designed to draw people that are proud of armies into the movie theater and show them that blood-for-unobtainium is really bad - in colourful 3D.
posted by krilli at 7:46 AM on December 12, 2009


Dances with Smurfs, heh. —So basically, it's anti-war, pro-Green®, pro-indigenous, anti-corporate story about a native population that just needs a white boy to get their act together and fight back? And more to the point, a native population explicitly designed to ensure that the ingenue is though alien still fuckable?

Y'know, I think I prefer more consciously incoherent texts.
posted by kipmanley at 7:46 AM on December 12, 2009 [15 favorites]


"Lisa, what's the opposite of the shameful joy thing of yours?"
"Sour Grapes?"
"Wow. Those Germans have a word for everything."
posted by Navelgazer at 7:53 AM on December 12, 2009 [4 favorites]


I'm waiting for the CapAlert review.
posted by Artw at 7:55 AM on December 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


So basically, it's anti-war, pro-Green®, pro-indigenous, anti-corporate story about a native population that just needs a white boy to get their act together and fight back? And more to the point, a native population explicitly designed to ensure that the ingenue is though alien still fuckable?
More or less, but you've also forgotten the important bit where the native population teaches the white boy important lessons about sharing and nature and shit, thereby allowing us to resolve our anxiety about our society's greed, environmental destructiveness, militarism and whatnot.
posted by craichead at 8:00 AM on December 12, 2009 [22 favorites]


Pirates of the Caribbean: Ar World's End cost $300 million, while Avatar's budget was about $240 million, and a lot of the cost of this film was an investment in developing new techniques for integrating live action performances with 3D animated environments in real time, so that the actor is performing on a virtual set. It's one of dozens of proprietary advancements that Cameron made in this film, all of which, from the sound of things, has made it possible for the nuances of a live performance to be translated to an animated environment in a credible way -- we're past the uncanny valley now, and the tech that Cameron developed will continue to pay him back, likely for the rest of his life.

And it's not even close to being the most expensive film ever made. Even the 1963 version of Cleopatra, if adjusted for modern costs, cost more; The Russian version of War and Peace, in the meanwhile, cost an estimated $600 to $700 million in today's dollars.

I think Cameron's storytelling skills are a bit more complicated that he is given credit for, mostly because his dialogue often seems perfunctory or, at worst, forced. But Cameron's is a visual storyteller -- the dialogue is at the service of the visuals -- and he's easily one of the best ever, and not just because he has a genuine genius for staging action. It's a bit like film directors during the studio system, who were often saddled with mild genre scripts and so learned to tell more complex stories via mis en scene, even through selection of a meaningful color palette or use of light and shadow. Titanic, for example, had hundreds of secondary characters who you mostly saw in the background of scenes, but they all had their bits of business, their own telling character touches, and, eventually, their own deaths. The films repays multiple viewings, because you start to chart some of these characters over the course of the film. And, come on, propeller guy? As far as I am concerned, he's the star of the movie.

But there is his genius for staging action, and it's unsurpassed. Think of the scene in Terminator 2 when Sarah is breaking out of the mental hospital while the T-100 is breaking in to kill her AND John Connor and the reprogrammed Terminator are breaking in to save her. It's a dazzling bit of sustained action, from Sarah's handiness with improvised weapons to the T-100's grim relentlessness, and there is so much going on that it should be hard to follow, but it isn't -- he provide his audiences with a lucid understanding of what is happening that's just extraordinarily rare. And Avatar, from the sound of things, is a film that really digs into visual storytelling and storytelling via action -- Cameron has a great fascination for the world that he has created, much of it inspired by the years he spent recently making 3D documentaries about the world under the seas. And the last 40 minutes are one sustained action sequence.

Oh man, you'd better believe I'll be there opening day.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:03 AM on December 12, 2009 [23 favorites]


I'm a science fiction nerd. I read science fiction books, comics, and a fair portion of my movie collection is sci-fi, including James Cameron movies. I'm generally predisposed to give sci-fi movies a shot.

But there's just something about Avatar... Maybe it's the Dances with Blue Aliens thing, or maybe it's all the hype insisting that this will be the most awesomest spectacle ever. Ever since Phantom Menace, I'm much more skeptical about movies that make grand claims about their own awesomeness.

All the futuristic military stuff looks really cool, but every scene with a blue alien just turns me off. I'm a visual guy, and they just look... weird, but not in a good way.

The fact that it's in 3-D definitely turns me off. I hate those stupid uncomfortable glasses that don't fit me right and conflict with my prescription glasses and the movie doesn't quite look right and is a little blurry around the edges and stupid gimmicky UGH.

I want to give this movie a fair shake. I know there's a lot of cool technology being pioneered, but I'm just having a lot of difficulty finding interest, personally.
posted by Fleebnork at 8:17 AM on December 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


can I just say that I've been waiting almost two decades for a live action remade of Fern Gully: The Last Rain Forest and I'm so excited to see it includes pterodactyls and gundam
posted by Baby_Balrog at 8:18 AM on December 12, 2009 [11 favorites]


>
In his defense, he does review for his target audience. That's why he gave Garfield a thumbs up, and probably why he like A Christmas Carrol.
posted by mccarty.tim at 8:22 AM on December 12, 2009


I mean, for the film's target audience. His readership is not entirely kids who like pew pew pew lazerbeam CGI, I mean to say.
posted by mccarty.tim at 8:22 AM on December 12, 2009


Interesting recent New Yorker article: Man of Extremes: The Return of James Cameron.
posted by ericb at 8:23 AM on December 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


Metafilter: not entirely kids who like pew pew pew lazerbeam
posted by billysumday at 8:31 AM on December 12, 2009


Sorry for the snark, but spending $250 million on a 2 and half hours of entertainment, seems, well, a tad excessive. Lord only knows what that sort of money could do elsewhere in the world.

Likely, 200 of the 250 million would end up in the hands of politicians and corrupt government officials, who, if they were so inclined, would use it to buy more guns and ammo to support their twisted cause.

Or whatever.

I've said it here before, I'll say it again. Money is fuel. It has no purpose except to be burned when required. If Mr. Cameron and his army of collaborators have burned this money well (ie: toward the cause of a damned good movie that engages audiences of all ages, nationalities, agendas for years to come and, on some level, actually brings people together in a positive way) then good on him (and them). But if Cameron lames out on the ending again as per the Abyss, or the whole f***ing concept as per True Lies, then well, let's just say I hope that a certain big budget hell awaits him.
posted by philip-random at 8:53 AM on December 12, 2009


This comment really has nothing to do with the movie, but why is it that when I hear the name James Cameron I always end up picturing James Cromwell?
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 9:00 AM on December 12, 2009 [3 favorites]


I'll wait until it comes out on pirated DVD .
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 9:04 AM on December 12, 2009


Hey.

Actual concrete question here. Apparently my eyes are just-fucked-up-enough that 3-D doesn't really work with me. Not the red and blue kind, not the new polarized clear kind. It's always flat and I see double and then I get a headache. Will I get anything out of the True 3-D Imax thingee?
posted by The Whelk at 9:06 AM on December 12, 2009


I don't think the CGI looks so great. Looks like a video game. Too clean, like something from several years ago.
posted by Liquidwolf at 9:08 AM on December 12, 2009


The Whelk: "Hey.

Actual concrete question here. Apparently my eyes are just-fucked-up-enough that 3-D doesn't really work with me. Not the red and blue kind, not the new polarized clear kind. It's always flat and I see double and then I get a headache. Will I get anything out of the True 3-D Imax thingee?
"

I remember there being a question on the green about this. here it is
posted by ArgentCorvid at 9:22 AM on December 12, 2009


I might end up seeing this movie sooner or later, but I don't understand the anticipation people have for it. I saw the trailer, and my reaction was, "there is nothing new here." The comparison to Ferngully is an apt one.

Now, maybe I'm too old: maybe it's because I remember Ferngully, Dances with Wolves, and 25 years worth of these clichés that I'm pretty much bored by the prospect of Avatar. Maybe if I didn't remember seeing all of this stuff before, I'd be excited. But as it is, I've look at the trailer, know what I'm going to bashed over the head with, and know that it's not going to be particularly compelling or exciting for me.
posted by deanc at 9:31 AM on December 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


This comment really has nothing to do with the movie, but why is it that when I hear the name James Cameron I always end up picturing James Cromwell?
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 12:00 PM


you're not the only one. i do too. Cromwell looks like Cameron's long lost older brother :)
posted by liza at 9:33 AM on December 12, 2009


What theaters will it be playing? I can't find a list.
posted by stbalbach at 9:40 AM on December 12, 2009


stbalbach: "What theaters will it be playing? I can't find a list."

All of them.
posted by octothorpe at 9:45 AM on December 12, 2009 [3 favorites]


Here and here are two not very good reviews if anyone feels the need to balance out the fawning froth that this effects movie has generated.
posted by Monkeymoo at 9:47 AM on December 12, 2009


I have to say Lord_Pall about all the wannabee FunCrushers® around here. But I do have two critiques of this movie, based on what I know of it. The first is that the plot is so obvious, right? I mean we've all seen this movie before, even if it wasn't with all 3D effects.

And the second is that these blue aliens just look goofy.

Still, It might be worth seeing just for the 3D effects, as pure spectacle with a reasonable plot to go with it. I mean don't have a 3-D TV at home. Cameron created something here that hasn't existed for years and years: An experience you can't get at home.

You know in that Howard Huges biopic The Aviator they talk about how everyone in America would have to see his movie twice for it to make a profit. But in the end he did, because there was just no competition. Seeing pitched air battles from perspective of the pilot just wasn't something that happened without seeing that movie. So lots of people saw it over and over again.

There may be something like that going on here as well. Cameron created something that could be an enjoyable experience, something people might want to see again and again in the theater. I know I kind of want to see it, even though I'm not sure if there will be a 3D theater playing anywhere near me.

Plus like I said, goofy looking aliens.
posted by delmoi at 9:54 AM on December 12, 2009


Sometimes I think MetaFilter's soul is a little bit dead. The only things which readers here are actually capable of liking are The Muppets and Mister Rogers. Everything else is a source of endless snark and bitterness, with accusations of money being ill-spent and better spent on patronizing developing world economies, or else it's all just a mashup of things which have come before and therefore not worth any attention.

Seriously people, get over your bad selves. It reminds me of a few months ago when I wrote a long bit about the catty cynicism that many gay men seem to fall into and end up sitting eternally on the outside, incapable of appreciating anything and simply offering up endless "witty" snarky remarks in lieu of participation. Someone responded that it sounds a lot like MetaFilter, too. This thread kind of supports that conclusion.

As so many are fond of pointing out here on MeFi... you don't have to read the thread, and you don't have to pay to see the movie. Move your attention elsewhere, there's nothing to see here, you can go about your business.
posted by hippybear at 9:57 AM on December 12, 2009 [12 favorites]


Everything else is a source of endless snark and bitterness
Well, everyone needs hobbies.
posted by craichead at 10:01 AM on December 12, 2009


> And the second is that these blue aliens just look goofy.

Aside from being blue and ten feet tall, they look like a guy I went to high school with whose eyes were farther apart than the average person's. That dude was a walking, talking Uncanny Valley.
posted by The Card Cheat at 10:02 AM on December 12, 2009


> sitting eternally on the outside, incapable of appreciating anything and simply offering up endless "witty" snarky remarks in lieu of participation.

B...b...but that's what the internet is for!
posted by you just lost the game at 10:04 AM on December 12, 2009


Metafilter: We're way past being bean-thinkers. Now we're the fun-vampires.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:05 AM on December 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


Just because I don't like popcorn sci-fi effects movies doesn't mean my soul's dead, for Chrissake.
posted by box at 10:09 AM on December 12, 2009 [8 favorites]


Was at the premiere in London. I was expecting Titanic in space, but it is far, far better than you expect it to be.
posted by marmaduke_yaverland at 10:13 AM on December 12, 2009


I mean, how many wells in sub-Saharan Africa could you build for that sort of money?

I love how everybody jumps all over this comment as if it's just ridiculous beyond compare. As if he is just some do-good freak whose heart is bleeding all over your precious sci-fi. I don't care what your politics are, or even if you think a blockbuster action movie is the zenith of culture, when huge sums of money are spent in any direction, it is a worthwhile discussion to contemplate what our priorities are.

Be consistent. You can't really defend a huge amount of money on a movie by suggesting that other people spend even huger amounts on even stupider planes and stuff. And that until those other people stop being most stupidist, you can continue to be stupid cause they are the real problem here. You can't really argue that the budget is justified because JC is employing people, because presumably somebody gets paid to make the bombers.

Obviously, the people financially investing in the movie were able to justify the expenditure. It's about profit for them. Justifying something isn't very hard to do if you only argue a from a single perspective. Happens all the time; sports star's salaries, new stadiums, Walmart tax breaks, on and on. I guarantee that if this movie sucks, people will feel a lot more comfortable in questioning the amount spent on it. Just like when A-Rod turns out to be a prick in your city, or when your local government decides to build a stadium for a team that moves a couple years later, or when Walmart starts impacting jobs in your family.

Money is fuel.

Right. And our job is to decide where it should take us. It's about priorities. We can't blame JC for making the movie. It's his job, and he is going to take every dollar somebody is willing to give him. So is the military. So are the Yankees.

Here's the thing: The people that go to the movie paid for the movie. We vote for our priorities with our dollars. Every single day. It is reasonable, and correct, to ask ourselves what our priorities are. Maybe for you it's sub-Saharan wells, or action movies. But by the looks of things, it ain't education, or affordable health care, or (___).

All I can say, is that it depresses the shit outta me what we, as a people, choose willingly to prioritize. It's our own fault. We get what we pay for. And I'm as guilty as anybody.
posted by nickjadlowe at 10:22 AM on December 12, 2009 [4 favorites]


[comment removed - profile page info needs to stay on profile pages, sorry.]
posted by jessamyn at 10:25 AM on December 12, 2009


Be consistent. You can't really defend a huge amount of money on a movie by suggesting that other people spend even huger amounts on even stupider planes and stuff.

Can I defend it by pointing out, again, that blockbuster, big budget movies are a money making enterprise, and when the last dollar of blu ray and DVD sales comes trickling it, this film will likely have made four or five dollars for every dollar spent to create it? Which is exactly as wasteful as me spending $100 to make $500, just over and over and over. In other words, if you want to do something sensible to funnel money a certain direction, it would work a lot better to make the huge movie and devote a portion of those big capitalist profits to good deeds than to skip the money-generating ventures altogether.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 10:37 AM on December 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


Just promise me that when our asteroid ship arrives at Proxima Centauri we aren't going to name our new planet "Pandora," 'cause that's just asking for trouble.

I'm in the huge sci-fi fan with zero interest in Avatar camp. I even somewhat enjoyed Dances With Wolves, but I can't deal with the noble savages fighting against freaking machine gun laser gyrocopters or whatever it is those evil Earthers are using. Nuke it from orbit and suck the Unobtainium out of the smoking wreckage, it's the only way to be sure.
posted by ecurtz at 10:38 AM on December 12, 2009


However, like Ebert I have a weakness for visual wow

Or, maybe you're apt to read a certain genre of reviews. Just an Ebert aside: I'm not surprised Ebert gave this movie a decent write-up. A lot of more academic types in film criticism loathe Ebert (Jonathan Rosenbaum's books explicitly deal with Ebert's incestuous ties in film corporations) but Ebert has one feature I find unique, democratic, and sometimes infuriating: he reviews films based on genre, not on a larger scale of universal creativity. This means he'll appraise "My Dog Skip" on how it contributes to the PG-rated canon of animal movies that encompass "The Yearling" and "Homeward Bound" and "Hotel for Dogs" rather than measure it with a much longer cinematic ruler that incudes Ingmar Bergman and "Battlefield Earth." It's a somewhat unusual approach in a field that often allows (and even expects) reviewers to complain in cookie-cutter critiques for "My Dog Skip" about predictable plots, dumb animal tricks, and bad child acting. The fact that Ebert gives every film a chance to stand up to the confines of its genre means the little crowd-pleasers sometimes get a giant's pat on the back. Ebert is most definitely reviewing Avatar based on what its "visual wow" because that's what the genre demands: great CGI effects and fiery explosions.

The downside to this approach is that Ebert implicitly encourages low- and middle-brow films to stay within rigid parameters of style. If "Avatar" broke the Blockbuster Framework with, say, a dense philosophical monologue or too much character development, the review might not be so favorable, even if it took an artistic risk.
posted by zoomorphic at 10:51 AM on December 12, 2009 [10 favorites]


Enemy Mine?
posted by edgeways at 10:52 AM on December 12, 2009


When I saw the first preview trailer I was a bit floored. Blue aliens with tails and cat noses? On a moon orbiting some gas giant at freaking Alpha Centauri? Unobtanium? But then I figured it out. This is a movie that at once is trying for absolute naturalism and verisimilitude (where the effects are concerned) and at the same time overtly asks us to suspend disbelief in the same way as we would need to for a middle-school staging of The Tempest.

Suspension of disbelief is something we've almost forgotten how to do, because most comparable big-budget event movies these days are loud, empty, hyperkinetic spectacles that offer us little to believe in in the first place. Michael Bay and McG offer us no narrative, no message, no story beyond the bare chickenwire of a plot that allows the requisite giant robots, explosions and pneumatic young stars to be lashed together. Such movies have nothing to say to us, and ask nothing of us.

Avatar, it's not empty. It's nominally about aliens, but it's really just like Titanic: an emotional, coherent fable staged against a very spectacular backdrop. Its themes are universally relatable. It'll play well everywhere, or at least I want to believe that it will. Cameron is asking those of us who know that real aliens likely wouldn't be tall blue dragon-riding cat-hominids to suspend disbelief, but he's offering us something worthwhile in return for checking our cynicism at the door: a classic, lovingly-crafted and very human spectacle.

Anyhow, he's got my 9 bucks.
posted by killdevil at 11:00 AM on December 12, 2009 [3 favorites]


Yes, the paraplegic needs to become a racial impersonator in order to overcome his disability.
posted by prefpara at 11:08 AM on December 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Yes, the paraplegic needs to become a racial impersonator in order to overcome his disability.

That is an odd and angry take on the movie.
posted by killdevil at 11:14 AM on December 12, 2009 [3 favorites]


a dense philosophical monologue or two

Screw that. That's what anime is for.
posted by Artw at 11:17 AM on December 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


I was immediately turned off by the blue cat nose people the first second I saw one months ago. BUT, I'm fascinated by the recent improvements in 3D. A little while back I saw Coraline in 3D. That was a revelation. Beautiful, surreal, and the 3D was largely immersive not jumping out of the screen. There is a bit where her entire world deconstructs itself down to abstract sticks and white. I could have watched three hours of just that. So uh... anyway. I'll probably end up seeing Avatar in order to see the 3D work in the hands of a master technical filmmaker. Still the blue lizard cats? Ugh.
posted by Babblesort at 11:25 AM on December 12, 2009


The trailer is nauseatingly ham-fisted in its American-y epic-ness.

Perhaps it's meant to be ironic. James Cameron is Canadian.
posted by Hildegarde at 11:26 AM on December 12, 2009


a dense philosophical monologue or too much character development

Cross "On Deadly Ground" with "My Dinner with Andre" and you'll quickly realize why no one wants this.
posted by Cyrano at 11:32 AM on December 12, 2009


Unobtainium is a long-standing joke term in science-fiction. Using it here, Cameron is kind of saying, "Look, it doesn't really matter what it is. The bad guys are just after something really f'n valuable, and we're hanging the plot around it. Just stay with me here, 'kay?"

It shows the same kind of lazy disregard for details (and disrespect for the audience, IMO) as if Captain Picard were to say "Engage Plot Device Drive!" or if Joel Cairo offered Sam Spade $5000 to retrieve "the black figure of a MacGuffin that's just arrived in town".

I have no problem with handwavium or inside jokes. But "unobtainium" seems like not even making an effort.
posted by Lexica at 11:38 AM on December 12, 2009 [10 favorites]


"On Deadly Ground" did have a dense philosophical monologue!
posted by The Card Cheat at 11:39 AM on December 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Yes, the paraplegic needs to become a racial impersonator in order to overcome his disability.

That is an odd and angry take on the movie.


Not only that, but it's a criticism written without seeing any of the film other than the trailers, if even that (look at the publication date), AND the website name pretty much tells you the agenda of the "reviewer" before you even read the piece.
posted by hippybear at 11:40 AM on December 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


We can't blame JC for making the movie. It's his job, and he is going to take every dollar somebody is willing to give him.

I am not Jesus, though I have the same initials
I am the man who makes films about militias
And how was your day?
Is Metafilter still trying to do your head in?
A cross-eyed man told me to beware of 3D
He said: "It was not an easy time for me"
But I'll get through, as I've got miracles to show you

I'd like not to make this website whine, but it's impossible
I've got to make these bitches cry
I'll read my script if it helps you sleep at night
I've got some snark if you ever need a fight
Oh I am just a man, but I'm doing what I can to entertain you

I'd like not to make this website whine, but it's impossible
I've got to make these bitches cry
And I'm not worried that we will never touch the stars
Cos stars belong up in Hollywood and CGI is where we are, oh yeah

Metafilter: aren't you happy just to be alive?
Anything's possible
You've got no cross to bear tonight
No not tonight, no not tonight

I am not Jesus, though I have the same initials
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:43 AM on December 12, 2009


Just because I don't like popcorn sci-fi effects movies doesn't mean my soul's dead, for Chrissake.

I, on the other hand, love a good popcorn sci-fi movie. I've been entertained by the worst crap as long as the story is decent.

(No word yet on whether my soul is dead or not. I can feel something squirming, but that might be indigestion.)

Anyway, even though this movie should be right up my alley, something about it is leaving me cold after seeing the preview. Well, two things, 1) computer-generated effects don't tend to work for me anymore, and 2) it seems like a Message Movie, and I loathe Message Movies (even if it's a message I agree with).

I'm thinking of the Star Wars prequels, where basically the entire freaking movie was shot on green-screen with a couple of actual people thrown into the mix - like all those scenes on Coruscant. On first glance, it looked pretty cool. On rewatch, something about it seems soulless (and I'm not even talking about the bad acting and wooden dialogue). All those amazing effects shots, where they create an entire alien CG world? It's...I don't know. I want to say fake, but...hyper-real, maybe? There's just something about it that makes my eye latch on to the human actors and hold on for dear life. Maybe it's the focus or depth perception. Maybe it's the Uncanny Valley.

I'd like this to be a good movie, because I like being entertained. I'd like to see it, and I'd like to find out if this 3-D shit works with prescription glasses. I've never been able to see a 3-D movie, and I'd like to. But right away I feel like I'll have to overcome some pretty major inertia. I'm hoping people are right that the CG stuff is truly a next generation step ahead, because I'm starting to feel like an old fart who insists that things were better in the good old days when actors acted and special effects artists worked with paint and models.

Now get the hell of my lawn!
posted by Salieri at 11:45 AM on December 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


Like with The Incredible Mr. Fox, I can't watch previews for this movie without the subconscious dread that it's gonna become furry porn at any second.

Thanks a lot, internet.
posted by The Whelk at 11:47 AM on December 12, 2009 [3 favorites]


It shows the same kind of lazy disregard for details (and disrespect for the audience, IMO) as if Captain Picard were to say "Engage Plot Device Drive!" or if Joel Cairo offered Sam Spade $5000 to retrieve "the black figure of a MacGuffin that's just arrived in town".

Like Hiro Protagonist?
posted by Hildegarde at 11:48 AM on December 12, 2009 [14 favorites]


Pater Aletheias : Can I defend it by pointing out, again, that blockbuster, big budget movies are a money making enterprise, and when the last dollar of blu ray and DVD sales comes trickling it, this film will likely have made four or five dollars for every dollar spent to create it?

Sure you can. I think you missed my point. These expenditures can always be justified by the people wanting to make them. I didn't suggest that it was a stupid way to make money (provided you don't make this years Waterworld). Large investors, and the those financing those investments, are many things. Stupid they ain't. And they certainly are efficient in their money making efforts. Largely, of course, because they give us exactly what we want. Examples: easy home loans, Big Macs, freedom from terror, etc. I think we both agree that they are good at it.

What they aren't quite as good at is summed up in your second point: funnel money a certain direction (apart from their own pockets, that is). So, when we give them our money...we, for the most part, really are giving them our money. JC isn't spending that other $4 of our $5 on things that may be, for many people, of higher priority than his next blockbuster about whatever.

I mean, we aren't really naive enough to think that our entertainment money will ever get reinvested in creating a better quality of life outside of the 2 hour duration of the movie are we? No. We aren't. Our entertainment money gets us - entertainment. If we want something else (and I'm not saying you do), then we have to spend our money on that, not movies. Hey, more power to the makers of Avatar. My beef isn't with them.

I'm just commenting that our collective priorities have led us to a point in time that, despite what would seem like a whole planet-full of other pressing needs, makes $300M a reasonable amount of money to spend on a movie. Again, we get what we pay for.
posted by nickjadlowe at 11:49 AM on December 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Cross "On Deadly Ground" with "My Dinner with Andre" and you'll quickly realize why no one wants this.

JCVD was not a million miles removed from this. It wasn't bad.

The Matrix sequels were like this as well. They were absolutely atrocious, and the Philosophy 102 content justified neither the fight sequences nor the lectures themselves.

Ebert has one feature I find unique, democratic, and sometimes infuriating: he reviews films based on genre, not on a larger scale of universal creativity.

I think that's one of the attributes that makes him the best synthesis of an "academic" critic and a traditional "newspaper" critic. I also believe that, when it comes to larger scales of universal creativity, innovations in visual and aural splendor rank alongside innovations in storytelling and theme. Film is, at base level, a medium for visual intake, and what's more, it is an art form enjoyed not only by adults with sophisticated cinema tastes, but also everyone else, including children. Ebert is a unique figure because he is an erudite man appears to be broadly interested in just about every conceivable genre of film (except maybe pure avant-garde?).

That other movies in other categories (including broad non-genre groupings as "movies for adults with sophisticated cinema tastes") can explore exciting territory outside of "fun story, good fight sequences, great FX" shouldn't take away from whatever virtues Avatar might possess.

Besides, as I paw through even Rosenbaum's reviews just now, I feel he does much of the same thing as Ebert, although I imagine you're referencing academic film critics that aren't him. I see Rosenbaum, say, reviewing Brian De Palma movies through the lens, not of being a good movie by normal standards, but by the standards of considering what his strengths and weaknesses are even as his own idiosyncratic self. As a BDP fan I can't complain, but it doesn't make Ebert's tack that unique in my eyes, even in the levels of criticism that are above pure quote-whoring.

That said, I remain pretty uninterested in Avatar, but who knows. I have poor impulse control sometimes.
posted by Sticherbeast at 11:56 AM on December 12, 2009


"Or, maybe you're apt to read a certain genre of reviews."

No, not really. I was a full-time film critic for a number of years, have written a book on film and I still write film criticism and commentary on a weekly basis. I'm pretty sure I know my own critical biases. Moreover I read very widely among critics as a business practice, and have done for two decades now.

Re: Ebert: He certainly does look at a film in its context, which I don't think is a bad thing -- he's closer to "average filmgoer" thinking in that respect, which is one reason he's popular -- but his bias toward visually striking films is a global bias and not confined to one genre (although admittedly SF/Fantasy films have more obvious opportunities to be visually striking than many other films).
posted by jscalzi at 11:57 AM on December 12, 2009


$CGI$POS$

Next time, spend your money on Good Writers.
posted by squalor at 12:15 PM on December 12, 2009


What annoys me besides the whole Ppocahontas in blue thing here is the compulsive heterosexist gendering. Of course the hero is a guy who gets an avatar that is very alien but still doubtlessly male, and comes together with an alien that is still doubtlessly female. I guess we can imagine a whole lot of things, like going to other planets, switching bodies, totally alien ecospheres, but oh my god: let them be straight.

Or three sexes even. Or non-sexual. Or non-carbon base. I guess intelligent life forms that don't have breasts and soulful eyes are too much to ask for in a movie marketed for teen age boys.

As so many are fond of pointing out here on MeFi... you don't have to read the thread, and you don't have to pay to see the movie. Move your attention elsewhere, there's nothing to see here, you can go about your business.

Why do you feel the thread has to fall into complete approbation? Does it somehow lessen your enjoyment to hear that others don't share your enthusiasm? I'm sure there are other web sites where you can go hog wild with anticipatory praise, but MetaFilter isn't a fan site and my contribution is every bit as valid as yours.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 12:18 PM on December 12, 2009 [4 favorites]


MTV reviews Avatar.
posted by hippybear at 12:18 PM on December 12, 2009


As one might be able to read from my above comment, for whatever reason I really want this film to fail - which is not a sentiment I normally have towards movies. I've worked in film, I went to a very expensive college for film. I love movies, and want more good movies. I even get a kick out of well-done spectacle. And yet the fact that Avatar is getting good reviews pisses me off at my lizard-brain-level and I'm trying to figure out why.

I think, first and foremost, the fact is that James Cameron is hubristic in the extreme and as much as I've loved most of his movies I just feel like, for the universe to function, he needs to be taken down a peg. It happened to Kevin Costner with Waterworld, where he earned it. It happened to Ed Zwick - who is a good man and kind of an acquaintance of mine - with The Last Samurai, and he probably deserved it there as well. Michael Bay is incapable of shame, but the fact that critics everywhere at least hate the crap he's spending so much time and money on sits well for me. But I don't like to be a negative person.

Secondly, I'll say that my roommate and I have very different tastes in movies, though the more I look at it the more similar our tastes get when we reach our favorites. He loves action and comedy - the more balls-out and breakneck the better. That's what he goes to the movies for, but if a movie can reach him on that level and then hit him with a well-told, emotionally engaging story on top of it, it'll be one of his absolute favorites.

I come from the opposite direction. I want a well-told, emotionally engaging story, but great action and comedy score a huge amount of points from me, and my favorite movies will involve all of them, or at least two. Where my roommate and I tend to come together are on things like The Dark Knight, Wall-E, The Incredibles, V for Vendetta, etc. And both of us, watching the constant Avatar trailers the last few months, have constantly thought, "oh god, that looks awful."

Now, I revere Roger Ebert like I revere few people in their jobs, but he is not without faults. While he does a fantastic job of critiquing a film on it's level (which only the A.V. Club does nearly as well) he also shows a weird trait of loving or dismissing a film based on something that nobody else really was concerned about at all. Check out his review of Zoolander, which is fixated on the Prime Minister of Malaysia being a real person, or Die Hard, which he thinks could have been a great action movie, but rates at two stars because of Paul Gleason's deputy police chief. He also has been far more praiseworthy of anything half-way decent since he came back from his illness, which is totally understandable, and hasn't hurt his writing skills at all, but which makes me take what he has to say with a lot more salt now.

I haven't seen Avatar. I'm sure I will, at some point, but there are a lot of movies with much greater claim on my interest at this point. The story, as it's been pitched, isn't at all interesting to me, if only because I've seen it done so, so many times before, and what I've seen of the CGI casts it directly in the deepest chasm of the uncanny valley, where I can't pay attention to anything other than how fake it all looks.

I know Cameron can direct an action sequence with clarity and suspense like few can, and that's one of the most rare and valuable skills in Hollywood. I just have't seen anything about this that would make it worth my time other than the PR-drummed-up idea that everybody else will see it, and I'll be left out if I don't. And frankly, fuck that noise.
posted by Navelgazer at 12:23 PM on December 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Just because I don't like popcorn sci-fi effects movies doesn't mean my soul's dead, for Chrissake.
posted by box at 1:09 PM on December 12


But you're just a box.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:25 PM on December 12, 2009 [3 favorites]


Like with The Incredible Mr. Fox

It's Fantastic Mr. Fox and if you like droll, dry humor with kick ass non computer animation, then you're cheating yourself by not seeing and dead inside, just like a box!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:33 PM on December 12, 2009


AND the website name pretty much tells you the agenda of the "reviewer" before you even read the piece.
I don't understand this criticism, to be honest. It's a website about feminism and disability. It's not like they're hiding the agenda. If you don't care about feminist disability rights analysis, you can discount what they're saying. Is the argument that people shouldn't engage in agenda-driven analysis of pop culture? What if some of us enjoy reading agenda-driven analysis of pop culture?

I personally am interested in feminism and disability rights. I agree, though, that it would be more interesting to hear a feminist, disability rights perspective on the movie coming from someone who had seen it.
posted by craichead at 12:53 PM on December 12, 2009


Film is, at base level, a medium for visual intake

Sorry but I must quibble. If film (as we know it now in 2009) were "at base level at medium for visual intake", there'd be alot of silent films being made. There aren't (unless you count cool backdrop stuff at raves, clubs and rock concerts). Film is very much a fusion of the visual and sonic. Best way to "get" this is to 1. watch a movie without the soundtrack, 2. listen to a movie without the picture ... and then compare notes. Which experience revealed more of the story to you? Which experience revealed more of the emotional punch to you? Hint: neither experience comes close to delivering the punch that the two do working together.

I mean, we aren't really naive enough to think that our entertainment money will ever get reinvested in creating a better quality of life outside of the 2 hour duration of the movie are we?

In the case of Avatar, it seems that a lot of the money which was spent went toward the development of new tech (3-D, CG etc), which will likely continue to inform movies (and other visual communication media) for years to come. I can easily see how this might be a very positive thing that could help "create a better quality of life outside of the 2 hour duration of the movie".

But maybe I'm just naive.
posted by philip-random at 1:16 PM on December 12, 2009


Many years ago, I remember sitting in a theater in Boston and watching the weird flat script of Star Wars roll the words, ""A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.." toward me. It was a fantastic moment of anticipation, one of those instants in time when you know something truly entrancing is beginning to take you in. It has happened again to me only a few times, which include watching the opening scenes of Terminator, Terminator 2, and Titanic. And seeing these movies has always created a marvelous feeling of being transported into a different place, then emerging with a sense of the world I didn't have before I entered the theater. It is the same extraordinary feeling of having perspective changed that you get from seeing great art or reading a literary masterpiece. I've seen a lot of very good movies since then (and before then) but the movies that are utterly engrossing from the first moments, that are original and break prior visual barriers, are rare. James Cameron has managed to make three of them.

I do wish all artists were paid what their art is worth, and I also wish Cameron were less of a jerk in his personal life. I also think other people make movies that are far more literary and witty and well scripted. But he is a true artist, with really original ideas and unparalleled skills in execution. I'm feeling very joyful to live at the same time he is producing his movies. And I simply cannot wait to see this one, with a joyous hope of that same transcendent experience of transformation.

Thanks for this FPP.
posted by bearwife at 1:26 PM on December 12, 2009


So far, I've just seen the TV ad, which makes my skin crawl, for this line only:

"Gentlemen... we're not in Kansas anymore."

Please, Hollywood -- please please please!

If your movie doesn't have Frank Morgan and a green witch and a twister and a 16-year-old singer and lots and lots of little people -- DO NOT USE THIS LINE. Not even to be ironic.

JUST STOP IT STOP IT STOP IT. Create your own, new iconic lines.

Too much to ask, I know. Sigh.
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 1:27 PM on December 12, 2009 [10 favorites]


I'm crazy about Roger Ebert, whom I feel missed his calling as a writer handling topics more serious than movie reviews. But his reviews always feel a bit tainted by his associations with the industry (plus the fact that he no longer differentiates between "who" and "whom" properly saddens me!)

Irony much?
posted by jock@law at 1:35 PM on December 12, 2009 [9 favorites]


What annoys me besides the whole Ppocahontas in blue thing here is the compulsive heterosexist gendering. Of course the hero is a guy who gets an avatar that is very alien but still doubtlessly male, and comes together with an alien that is still doubtlessly female. I guess we can imagine a whole lot of things, like going to other planets, switching bodies, totally alien ecospheres, but oh my god: let them be straight.

It's pretty funny that you're leveling this sort of criticism against a James Cameron movie. This is the guy who brought you TWO of the strongest female protagonists in the history of mainstream :

1) Linda Hamilton as Sarah O'Connor in Terminator II
2) Sigourney Weaver as Ellen Ripley in Aliens

And in Avatar itself: the blue alien Pocohontas is really more of a warrior woman than a wallflower, Sigourney Weaver's character is a domineering senior scientist, and Michelle Rodriguez (a card-carrying lesbian) plays another one of Cameron's stock characters: the ass-kicking female gunship pilot.

I mean, come on.
posted by killdevil at 1:51 PM on December 12, 2009 [15 favorites]


> If your movie doesn't have Frank Morgan and a green witch and a twister and a 16-year-old singer and lots and lots of little people -- DO NOT USE THIS LINE. Not even to be ironic.

Seconded for truth. My wife (who reads and reviews screenplays for various individuals and funding bodies but, to be fair, is not the target audience for this film) groaned out loud when she heard this line in the TV ad. She tells me writers use variations on it in their scripts all the time and that it *never* comes across as anything but cheezy and forced.
posted by The Card Cheat at 1:51 PM on December 12, 2009


mainstream movies:
posted by killdevil at 1:52 PM on December 12, 2009


Lord only knows what that sort of money could do elsewhere in the world. I mean, how many wells in sub-Saharan Africa could you build for that sort of money?

Yeah. You know that DVD you rented? That movie you went to? That $2.50 latte or smoothie you bought yesterday. Or whatever little extravagance? That could've paid for the bucket for ten of those wells in sub-Saharan Africa.
posted by tkchrist at 1:52 PM on December 12, 2009


Sarah O'Connor. Jesus, I'm having an off day here.
posted by killdevil at 1:53 PM on December 12, 2009


V for Vendetta

Whoa. V for Vendetta is one of your favorite movies? Good lord. I have no idea what to say. You are literally the first adult I have ever heard even remotely liked that movie. That movie in my opinion was so fucking awful on so many, many, levels. I can't imagine what sort of ironic emotional state or mind-altered curcumstance I'd have to be in to declare it a "favorite."
posted by tkchrist at 1:58 PM on December 12, 2009 [5 favorites]


Sarah O'Connor.

She changed it when she emigrated from Dublin.
posted by tkchrist at 2:00 PM on December 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


I for one love the idea of someone spending $300,000,000 in an effort to make money.

What do you think happens when one company buys another?
posted by nathancaswell at 2:03 PM on December 12, 2009


But he is a true artist, with really original ideas

See, I don't see how you could watch Titanic and think this. James Caneron does not have original ideas-- he is, however, talented at exploiting film as a visual medium and pushing the limits of what is possible. Everything we know about Avatar seems to line up with this history: he has really expanded the frontiers of CGI for a film with a mediocre cliched premise--and, even worse, something that seems like a Message Movie. If you can look past all of that and primarily enjoy movies for their visual entertainment value--which the culture of filmmaking prioritizes-- then it may well attract a large audience. But let's not think it will be anything other than what it is. I highly doubt Cameron expended a lot of energy on trying to find the "right script" for this. Rather, the purpose of the script for him was to provide a skeleton around which he could build his special effects extravaganza.
posted by deanc at 2:04 PM on December 12, 2009


This is the guy who brought you TWO of the strongest female protagonists in the history of mainstream

He's also the guy that brought you the impassioned speech about not knowing real creation until you've felt life growing inside you (T2); a black-guy, family-man scientist (T2); and a blond-haired, blue-eyed bad guy dressed as a cop (T2).

And oh yeah, the most successful movie ever made. Which, while nominally a disaster movie, is really about female empowerment and female self-actualization in the face of a crushing patriarchal society (Titanic).

That said, he also had Jamie Lee Curtis dancing in her underwear while her husband played a sick-and-twisted game with her very identity (True Lies). But still ...
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 2:08 PM on December 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


A Serious Man won't watch itself!

I wish it would've. More than my $12.00 I'd like my two hours back. I could have spent both more productively buying my brother a bottle of rot-gut Whiskey and listen to him tell me about his three divorces and still have $2 left for a 9mm round to blow my brains out.
posted by tkchrist at 2:09 PM on December 12, 2009 [9 favorites]


Its about uncertainty! Or something!
posted by Artw at 2:14 PM on December 12, 2009


Whoa. V for Vendetta is one of your favorite movies? Good lord. I have no idea what to say. You are literally the first adult I have ever heard even remotely liked that movie. That movie in my opinion was so fucking awful on so many, many, levels. I can't imagine what sort of ironic emotional state or mind-altered curcumstance I'd have to be in to declare it a "favorite."

I'm not sure I'd put it in my top ten, but yeah, I fucking love that movie. No irony, no detachment, nothing. It was fantastically well-done, beautifully shot, deftly performed, tightly edited, the action sequences were top-notch (and carried off with the same talents attributed to Cameron here) all while dealing with a highly morally ambiguous "hero."

I know that there are a lot of people out there in the internet who didn't like it. I've never met anyone in the flesh who's seen it and isn't a fan. Most of the internet criticism I've read about it seems to boil down to, "Alan Moore disowned it," whereas most of my friends who are Alan Moore fans retort, "fuck him if he's too blinded to see how good this adaptation was."

I don't know why you didn't like it, though, and tastes will vary.
posted by Navelgazer at 2:20 PM on December 12, 2009 [4 favorites]



Its about uncertainty! Or something!

Yeah. It's one of those movies that is shot perfectly, acted convincingly, couldn't be edited any tighter, intelligently scripted but the underlying fundamental story is so mean-spirited, cryptic, and unappealing you have to put your self in a full cognitive trance to convince your self something like "smart people are supposed to enjoy this depressing edgy incomprehensible shit. so... uh... I guess I enjoy it."
posted by tkchrist at 2:23 PM on December 12, 2009


highly morally ambiguous "hero."

That's an understatement. Hey let me hold you in a cell for months, rape and torture you, so you can attain my same higher level of consciousness. Seriously? God, that movie was so over-wrought and goofy with thinly veiled sado-masochism.

But I'm not a Moore fan-boy by any stretch. I thought the comic like the film was beautifully stylish and visual was completely adolescent and like nearly all of Moores work ridiculously over-rated, too. So there is that.
posted by tkchrist at 2:30 PM on December 12, 2009


Michelle Rodriguez (a card-carrying lesbian)...

Actually, she considers herself bisexual.
posted by ericb at 2:39 PM on December 12, 2009


This is the guy who brought you TWO of the strongest female protagonists in the history of mainstream

I would quibble with that "he brought you" business-- Aliens is based on a character that was well developed in Alien, a movie he neither directed nor wrote. Essencially he was handed a great character and the actress who portrayed her so I would give him...half a credit.

But I think you are misunderstanding the original point: "compulsive heterosexist gendering [...] but oh my god: let them be straight." It isn't about whether Cameron can portray strong women, the question is why, when dealing with aliens (where you would think anything "goes" as far as imagination) movies always imagine straight male-female pairings. As I chimed in, why not threesomes? Why not some weird, imaginative ALIEN-type sex pairings? And why not homosexual/asexual/bisexual pairings?
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 2:39 PM on December 12, 2009 [5 favorites]


It's pretty funny that you're leveling this sort of criticism against a James Cameron movie. This is the guy who brought you TWO of the strongest female protagonists in the history of mainstream :

1) Linda Hamilton as Sarah O'Connor in Terminator II
2) Sigourney Weaver as Ellen Ripley in Aliens


Both of whom were primarily heroic in those movies because of their super-strong maternal instincts. They were muscle-mamas with guns. I mean, yes, its good to have tough women protagonists, but it's not like he's breaking all sorts of boundaries here. His characterization of women many not be sexist, but it is still very heterosexist.

Michelle Rodriguez (a card-carrying lesbian) plays another one of Cameron's stock characters: the ass-kicking female gunship pilot.

I can't comment about the character in this movie, but the butch-lesbian in Aliens was also sort of an idiot who disobeyed a direct order and ended up getting herself and a bunch of her friends killed. She wasn't a bad person, but she did screw up. And just having an "ass-kicking" butch is one thing; actually portraying a lesbian relationship (as anything more than titillating male 3-way fantasy) is another. Call me when Cameron does the latter.
posted by Saxon Kane at 2:40 PM on December 12, 2009 [3 favorites]


I can't wait for GREY CUBE Vs GREY CUBE, the 100% knapsacker approved movie.
posted by Artw at 2:41 PM on December 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


This thread is well north of 100 comments so I doubt anybody will really notice this, just I as bailed on reading the comments about halfway down.

That said, I'm a video professional and at the SMPTE meetings this movie has been coming up in discussions for a while now. It really is groundbreaking how far Cameron is pushing things. I mean, just the camera rig he used for the live action shots was something, and that's before you even get into the CGI. I'll be going just for those technical reasons, just as I did for the first digital 3D movie in wide release*, and just as I did for the first digitally projected movie shown on 4K projectors. Hmmm, both in 2005.

Still haven't ever seen Titanic, don't plan to. Liked Strange Days though.

* awful, of course, stayed for 20 minutes to get a feel for the 3D and then bailed
posted by intermod at 2:48 PM on December 12, 2009


All I can say is that the last big-budget fantasy movie whose preview looked as bad as Avatar's was Ang Lee's Hulk. And we all know how that turned out.

I enjoyed the hell out of Hulk, despite the misgivings I got from the trailer.
posted by brundlefly at 2:54 PM on December 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


“Hollywood metonymy for female characters is ‘handbags,’ also known as ‘girlfriend parts’—in other words, incidental sidekicks. Gale Anne Hurd, Cameron’s second wife, and the producer of his first three films, says that Cameron always found women more interesting than men as protagonists. ‘He felt that they were underutilized in sci-fi, action, and fantasy,’ she said. ‘And that just about everything you could explore in a male action hero could be explored better with a woman.’

….As a young writer, Cameron borrowed a trick from Walter Hill, who, working on the outer-space horror movie ‘Alien,’ took a character (a young ensign named Ripley) that was originally male and, with minimal revision, made the character female. (Sigourney Weaver played the role, Ellen Ripley.) As Cameron described the technique, ‘You write dialogue for a guy and then change the name.’” *
posted by ericb at 2:56 PM on December 12, 2009


Re: V for Vendetta -- I don't care that Moore disowned it, and it was, by far, the most successful adaptation of his work (League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and From Hell just sucked, and Watchmen was terribly acted and cast for the most part) but it still wasn't that great. The movie really liberalized the source material, which is far more interesting (if more uneven). The superiority of the book to the movie, for me, comes from a number of things. "V" in the book is not really a human in any recognizable way. He is not motivated by revenge at all, the way he sort of is in the film, and he doesn't "love" Edie. He's completely devoted to an idea, and in that sense, far less sympathetic (although perhaps rather admirable) than he is in the film. That, to me, is way more challenging and interesting. And Edie's character arc is a lot more dramatic and compelling, showing real development and change. Finally, while Moore's work is definitely anti-fascist, it is not pro-liberal democracy. V is not fighting for all the people to get together and wear V masks and vote and that shit. He is out to destroy the system, plain and simple. He's a figure of anarchy and chaos, which is why he needs to die at the end and Edie needs to take over. He isn't trying to bring people together; in a sense, he doesn't care about that. He wants to tear down the fascist state that dehumanizes everyone (including himself). The future, while he perhaps hopes it will be more humane, is not his concern. He does not provide us with an example of what we should be; he is the counterpart to the evil of Fascist England, and when it goes, he goes. The scene at the end of the film, with everyone wearing their little V masks, was tremendously stupid because it, to me, missed the whole point of V's character.

the underlying fundamental story is so mean-spirited, cryptic, and unappealing you have to put your self in a full cognitive trance to convince your self something like "smart people are supposed to enjoy this depressing edgy incomprehensible shit. so... uh... I guess I enjoy it."

tkchrist: Thanks for that insight into my psychology. Can you next tell me about why I fight with my girlfriend?

You may not have liked A Serious Man, but I did. I don't pretend to know why you didn't like it, nor do I feel the need to impute some insulting reasoning to you that implies that you are full of shit or stupid. So please don't do so for those of us who did like the movie. I assume that your reasons for not liking it are valid, so in the future, please assume that my reasons for liking it are also valid.

killdevil: I now realize that you were talking about Michelle Rodriguez the actor, not the character she plays in the film, who may or may not be straight/bi/lesbian. Still, my point stands: Cameron's films have a heterosexist viewpoint. I'm not saying that makes him awful or evil, but still, it's something.

Re: Avatar ... I also liked Ang Lee's Hulk (until the end), but I agree with delmoi and others above that the aliens in this film look too... clean. That said, I'll probably see it, eventually.
posted by Saxon Kane at 2:57 PM on December 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


His characterization of women many not be sexist, but it is still very heterosexist.

Most of humanity is heterosexual, so I'm not sure what the complaint is. Cameron is a heterosexual and most of his stories are essentially love stories, so it's pretty normal that he'd more traditional roles than some would like.

Though Aliens 2 did have a brief bit about a time the Marines had sex with aliens, but it was male, yet for that alien it didn't seem to matter. It was when they were in the mess hall, right after waking up.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:57 PM on December 12, 2009


If Roger Ebert loves it you know it's a piece of dogshit.
posted by clarknova at 2:59 PM on December 12, 2009


This thread is well north of 100 comments so I doubt anybody will really notice this, just I as bailed on reading the comments about halfway down.

AN OUTRAGE, SIR!

Signed,
You Probably Won't Read This One Either, Neener
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 3:01 PM on December 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


killdevil— the inclusion of strong female characters is kind of irrelevant to what I think ts;dr is talking about. Cameron is still reinforcing the notion that a given person (human or non-) is fundamentally, intrinsically male or intrinsically female, that this is unchangeable and is a dominant factor in any interpersonal interactions. This makes sense in a movie about contemporary human beings, but makes much less sense in a movie about putting yourself into an artificial body to interact with aliens.
posted by hattifattener at 3:08 PM on December 12, 2009 [5 favorites]


Regarding the 3-D camera used for filming Avatar:
“Ten years ago, with Vince Pace, who had worked on ‘The Abyss,’ Cameron started to develop a 3-D camera. He wanted to use it to shoot a dramatic, gritty, realistic Mars movie that would present a compelling case for planetary exploration. At the time, stereoscopic cameras weighed four hundred and fifty pounds and were the size of washing machines—so cumbersome that when Cameron shot a 3-D short for a ‘Terminator’ ride at the Universal theme park the stuntmen had to run at half speed for the camera to keep up with them. Cameron challenged Pace to come up with what he called a ‘holy-grail camera’: lightweight, quiet, and capable of shooting in 2-D and 3-D simultaneously.

While researching his Mars movie, Cameron made friends with a number of astronauts. In 2000, he went to Russia to train for a flight aboard the Soviet-era spacecraft Soyuz; the idea was that he would spend thirty days at the International Space Station, do a space walk, and film the whole thing in 3-D. He’d catch a ride home on the NASA space shuttle. It would be like living inside Kubrick’s ‘2001.’

But, before bringing a camera into space, Cameron had to prove it safe. He decided that the best way to test the camera’s worthiness was ‘combat at sea,’ and he took it to the site of the Titanic wreck. His brother Mike, an engineer (and once his fort-building and rocket-launching accomplice), designed two remote-operated vehicles, each equipped with an early prototype of the 3-D camera that Cameron and Pace were developing, and nimble enough to explore the ship’s interior. Late in the summer of 2001, with Vince Pace as D.P., Jim and Mike spent several weeks diving the wreck in submersibles launched from a Russian research vessel, recording images of places that only the ship’s passengers had ever seen. In the middle of the expedition, the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were attacked, and the trip was cut short. The mission to the space station was put on hold, but the footage from the dive was released as ‘Ghosts of the Abyss,’ a 3-D documentary.

…The camera that Cameron and Pace developed allows a director to more finely control the aesthetics of the stereo-space, and, to a great extent, the expectations of the 3-D industry ride on ‘Avatar.’ ‘When you look at the history of film, there have been to date two great revolutions—sound and color,’ Jeffrey Katzenberg, the head of Dreamworks Animation and a tireless promoter of 3-D, told me. ‘This will be the third great revolution. People are still somewhat skeptical and wonder if it’s a gimmick and if it is better suited to cartoons. I don’t believe that for a second. I think the day after Jim Cameron’s movie comes out, it’s a new world.’ Michael Lewis, the C.E.O. of RealD, the leading 3-D projection company, says, ‘The industry is looking for its ‘Citizen Kane,’ its definitive work of 3-D, and ‘Avatar’ may be that film.’” *
posted by ericb at 3:08 PM on December 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


but the butch-lesbian in Aliens was also sort of an idiot who disobeyed a direct order and ended up getting herself and a bunch of her friends killed.

Wait, what? If Vasquez hadn't disobeyed the order to turn over the magazines for her smart gun, the squad -- or what was left of it, to be more precise -- likely wouldn't have made it back to the APC. The flamethrowers, small arms, and Hicks' shotgun wouldn't have provided enough firepower.

She was also the main one responsible for covering the rear when the protagonists made the run for the dropship. It's arguable that she contributed to Drake's death, but that's about it. The idiotic characters whose screwups got people killed are Lt. Gorman and Burke, both men.

sorry for the slight derail, but Aliens is one of my favorite films of all time. OF ALL TIME.
posted by lord_wolf at 3:13 PM on December 12, 2009 [9 favorites]


This makes sense in a movie about contemporary human beings, but makes much less sense in a movie about putting yourself into an artificial body to interact with aliens.

I have no idea why people are surprised that a big budget movie is using the traditional male-female.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:13 PM on December 12, 2009 [1 favorite]



tkchrist: Thanks for that insight into my psychology. Can you next tell me about why I fight with my girlfriend?

Sorry. It was an insight to MY psychology (Or at the least my perspective on the marketing of the movie which constantly harped about how "smart" the movie was). Not anyone else.

I'm surprised you liked it, though. Seeing how heterosexist it was.


PS. You probably fight with your girlfriend because she, like all right thinking people, hated A Serious Man. You should break up.
posted by tkchrist at 3:14 PM on December 12, 2009 [6 favorites]


Wait, what? If Vasquez hadn't disobeyed the order to turn over the magazines for her smart gun, the squad -- or what was left of it, to be more precise -- likely wouldn't have made it back to the APC.

And the criticism is doubly ridiculous when you take into account the large portion of the heterosexuals in that movie acted like cowardly imbeciles or self serving loathsome corporate drones. Homosexists!
posted by tkchrist at 3:18 PM on December 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


Cameron's films have a heterosexist viewpoint. I'm not saying that makes him awful or evil, but still, it's something.

Yeah. It's something alright. 99% of all films have a hetero "sexist" viewpoint.
If you think about it this is a rather silly critique to lay on Cameron.
posted by tkchrist at 3:21 PM on December 12, 2009 [5 favorites]


Why not some weird, imaginative ALIEN-type sex pairings? And why not homosexual/asexual/bisexual pairings?

Yeah! And why not aliens with some kind of non-theistic animist religion -- that actually works!? . And seriously, when are we finally going to get a post-industrial Georgist alien society, huh?

James CAmeron, what a hack, amirite?
posted by namespan at 3:29 PM on December 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


Whoa. V for Vendetta is one of your favorite movies? Good lord. I have no idea what to say. You are literally the first adult I have ever heard even remotely liked that movie. That movie in my opinion was so fucking awful on so many, many, levels. I can't imagine what sort of ironic emotional state or mind-altered curcumstance I'd have to be in to declare it a "favorite."

This is a little over the top. I thought it was a fun movie. It wasn't as good as The Matrix or Bound but it was better then the matrix sequels (as far as watchowski brothers movies go). There were some cheesy elements, but it wasn't terrible.

Re: V for Vendetta -- I don't care that Moore disowned it, and it was, by far, the most successful adaptation of his work (League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and From Hell just sucked, and Watchmen was terribly acted and cast for the most part)

I enjoyed watchmen. In particular, the meticulous effort to stay close to the source material (it seems like most of the shots were right out of the comic). I think the director's goal was to match the comic as closely as possible to keep someone else from fucking it up. Moore has a blanket policy of disowning every movie, no matter how close to the material it is.

But as far as I know he hasn't disowned This Youtube clip of him singing!
posted by delmoi at 3:33 PM on December 12, 2009


Like Hiro Protagonist?

Yes, exactly like that. That book sucked balls. Thank gods Stephenson finally found his sea legs with Anathem.
posted by adamdschneider at 3:39 PM on December 12, 2009


I can't wait for GREY CUBE Vs GREY CUBE, the 100% knapsacker approved movie.

I know, I'm still waiting for the game to come out.
posted by fungible at 3:43 PM on December 12, 2009


the butch-lesbian in Aliens was also sort of an idiot who disobeyed a direct order and ended up getting herself and a bunch of her friends killed.

I assume you mean Vasquez. Vasquez may have been butch, but wasn't portrayed as lesbian. It's clearly implied that she and Drake were a couple.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 3:47 PM on December 12, 2009


The inclusion of strong female characters is kind of irrelevant to what I think ts;dr is talking about. Cameron is still reinforcing the notion that a given person (human or non-) is fundamentally, intrinsically male or intrinsically female, that this is unchangeable and is a dominant factor in any interpersonal interactions. This makes sense in a movie about contemporary human beings, but makes much less sense in a movie about putting yourself into an artificial body to interact with aliens.

Did this question of how much sexual identity is part of us already get solved? I thought that it was one of those questions that people are still wrestling with in art. If it is something being figured out and battled with, that means portraying a heterosexual pairing is not counterrevolutionary; it's a perfectly acceptable jumping off point. When I watch Moon, I don't suddenly demand to know why there are no people of color in the cast. I can let that question rest unless they fight that battle. Art can never wage all the wars that you want. The artist wrestles with the angels that he wants, and we have to appreciate on our terms from his creation (or not appreciate it). I'm not saying you can't critique the social-political ramifications of art (if you're feeling like a Plato), but it's unreasonable to demand that they wage the wars you want in cinema.

JC had a vision and I'll see it. I'm not expecting it to overturn everything I know for two reasons: 1) it's a blockbuster and therefore is for all people not just me, and 2) interesting storytelling often has to start from a place people know and go into a place people don't know. As heterosexuals are the majority of movie watchers, it's not unreasonable to start from there and go elsewhere. It might not be groundbreaking as far as sexual identity, but it's reasonable.

Oh, by the way, I loved V for Vendetta and know plenty of adults that still love that film, talk about that film, and think about the film. You can say it blows all you want, but lots of people would disagree with you. They may be wrong, but they are certainly there.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 3:49 PM on December 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Thank gods Stephenson finally found his sea legs with Anathem.

I'd pound my head on the table with that comment, if only Anathem hadn't already left me brain-damaged enough.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 3:50 PM on December 12, 2009 [5 favorites]


I've got myself in the trap of taling about what I don't like. Which is boring.

Overall I've really enjoyed all of Cameron's movies. Excepting Titanic. Which was about 30 minutes too long and a bit too Romance Novel for my tastes. But pats of it were amazing. His story telling and pacing are great even if his dialogue is a little silly. I can't think of any of his movies I haven't sat through a couple of times. Not many directors can do that.
posted by tkchrist at 3:52 PM on December 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'd pound my head on the table with that comment, if only Anathem hadn't already left me brain-damaged enough.

Hey, I'm not saying he's the greatest writer ever now, but it least it wasn't as nauseatingly twee as Snow Crash.
posted by adamdschneider at 3:53 PM on December 12, 2009


Yes, exactly like that. That book sucked balls. Thank gods Stephenson finally found his sea legs with Anathem.

Anathem better then The Baroque Cycle? Madness.
posted by delmoi at 4:13 PM on December 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


When I watch Moon, I don't suddenly demand to know why there are no people of color in the cast.

Right, because everyone knows white people are "default" a person of color is an unusual exception and it remembering to include some is a lot of work and really only worth doing to "fight a battle"
posted by delmoi at 4:16 PM on December 12, 2009 [3 favorites]


I'd pound my head on the table with that comment, if only Anathem hadn't already left me brain-damaged enough.

Hey, I'm not saying he's the greatest writer ever now, but it least it wasn't as nauseatingly twee as Snow Crash.


Jesus, can't you people just enjoy something for once?
posted by delmoi at 4:17 PM on December 12, 2009 [6 favorites]


Right, because everyone knows white people are "default" a person of color is an unusual exception and it remembering to include some is a lot of work and really only worth doing to "fight a battle"

I suspect I agree with you, but that's a hard sentence to parse.
posted by Dumsnill at 4:20 PM on December 12, 2009


After absorbing the misery in this thread I vow to watch this fillum at the nearby IMAX and enjoy it so hard my fucking head explodes.
posted by Gamien Boffenburg at 4:35 PM on December 12, 2009 [4 favorites]


Jesus, can't you people just enjoy something for once?

Yes, I enjoyed Anathem. I actually haven't read the Baroque Cycle. I had given up on Stephenson after Cryptonomicon, but I saw Anathem on sale for 50% off and decided to give him one more shot, and afterward thought (based on some comments I had read) that maybe I should give the Baroque Cycle a shot, and someday I will.

I did not enjoy Snow Crash.

P.S. It sucked balls.
posted by adamdschneider at 4:35 PM on December 12, 2009


delmoi: "Jesus, can't you people just enjoy something for once?"

Do you read the same Metafilter that I do?
posted by octothorpe at 4:37 PM on December 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


Jesus, can't you people just enjoy something for once?

Not a Stephenson novel, no. His books suck ass, and their enduring popularity makes no sense to me.

Yes, my favorite band sucks, too, etc.
posted by Forktine at 4:38 PM on December 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


lord_wolf: Point taken. She wasn't a bad character, and she certainly wasn't as stupid as many of the other characters. But, she's still a token, and the movie, in many ways (as in Terminator 2) is about being a good mom.

So, tkchrist, rather than acknowledge that someone else might have a valid viewpoint, you act like a smart-alecky dick by intentionally misinterpreting anything the other person says? OK, good to know.

First off, I never said that I didn't like Cameron's movies because they were "heterosexist" -- thus saying that I shouldn't like ASM because it is also "heterosexist" (which it is, although I would say to a lesser degree) is just stupid and asinine. Someone else made the comment that Avatar uses (or seems to use) a heterosexual model of human relations and assumes that it is universal. killdevil then brought up Ripley and Sarah Conner. I said, sure, they are tough women, but they are heroic in a large part because they are good, heterosexual moms -- Sarah Conner literally because she falls in love with the man who saves her life then spends the rest of her life pining away for him and trying to replace him with a new father figure for her perfect, Christ-like son, Ripley metaphorically because she fights to protect her surrogate daughter Newt against the transgressive mother-Alien and forms a sort of nuclear family with her and Hicks (although Ripley is less of an emblematically heterosexual character than Conner). I didn't say either of those things were bad, or reasons not to like the films, as I happen to love all of those films. I'm just making an observation that, as partial reflections of the culture from which they emerge, the films suggest an assumption of the natural universality of heterosexuality -- which Avatar seems to continue. Does it mean that Cameron is evil, hates gay people, or whatever? Not, it means that, perhaps, Cameron is a product of his culture, or, perhaps, he realizes that his culture has a limited ability to accept or relate to non-heterosexual unions -- either way, he writes to them (and, as you say, so do the writers of 99% of other films). One could say the same thing about the Coens, but, in my opinion, they are far, far better filmmakers for a variety of reasons (and my girlfriend, who also loved A Serious Man, agrees). But, as you and namespan seem to think, by pointing out that Cameron tends to repeat certain themes, I (and others) are DEMANDING that he make his films entirely pan-sexual multiculturalist orgies. Maybe someone else might want to say that, but not me. I do think, hey, you're talking about aliens on another planet, use a little bit more imagination to make them more than just blue, Native American thundercats. If you want to explore how being in a different body can change one's perspective, surely going from a male human body to something that defies our understandings of normative sexuality would be more interesting. To me, at least. If you're fine with Avatar the way it is, more power to you. I like my sci-fi to be a little more imaginative; from what I can tell re: Avatar, it pushes boundaries only in the realm of effects, not in terms of its storytelling or imagination, so its really more of an action film with a sci-fi gloss.

As for your snarky response to my snarky response to your snarky comment about people who like ASM... well, you said, you have to put your self in a full cognitive trance to convince your self something like "smart people are supposed to enjoy this depressing edgy incomprehensible shit. so... uh... I guess I enjoy it." What's completely lame about that is that you apparently refuse to believe that anyone could disagree with you on a point of personal taste and not be lying to themselves. Seriously? How egocentric. And your snark suggests that you refuse to grant that anyone should take any offense whatsoever at you presuming to tell them that their opinions and tastes are bullshit. Again, how egocentric. But, if that's the way you gotta be, that's the way you gotta be.

And, on a point of fact, I don't think that in V for Vendetta, the movie or the book, that V rapes Edie while he's holding her captive. It may be suggested at times, but if it was, I don't remember it. He certainly tortures her psychologically, though.

I await your dismissive and sarcastic response.
not really
posted by Saxon Kane at 4:40 PM on December 12, 2009 [3 favorites]


tkchrist: I've got myself in the trap of taling about what I don't like. Which is boring.

Not boring at all actually. It's always weirdly interesting when someone feels compelled to reveal the genuinely good (V For Vendetta) and damned good (Serious Man) movies that they HATE. Please, tkchrist, show us more of your shadow.
posted by philip-random at 4:48 PM on December 12, 2009


Wow. Even by Metafilter standards, the hate be strong in this thread.

For myself, I'm rather relieved to hear that the film is getting good reviews - insofar as I find that I usually have lower standards than the average film critic, this means that I'll probably really enjoy this film.
And I will enjoy it. If only to spite you all.
posted by AdamCSnider at 4:52 PM on December 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


adamdschneide - Yes, exactly like that. That book sucked balls.

I always read Snowcrash as a vehicle for ending the cyberpunk genre - essentially bookending a genre with Neuromancer.

Naming the one of the main characters Hiro Protagonist was very very deliberate (as well as having another character name herself YT/Yours Truly/Whitey and another character with a stupid number in the middle of his name, Da5id - and perhaps having a Japanese rap artist ironically named Sushi K performing a culturally translated version of a passe form of popular music, all nestled within the naming convention of all the 'burbs and their leaders) and nothing like lazily using unobtainium.

I'll probably be dragged off to watch to movie; I suspect that I'll end up liking the technology and trying to ignoring/forget the story.
posted by porpoise at 4:55 PM on December 12, 2009


Paragraphs, my friend. Sweet, sweet paragraphs.
posted by Gamien Boffenburg at 4:55 PM on December 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


I actually kind of enjoy Titanic.

Though WTF old lady? Your hear may be an ocean of secrets but what is up with throwing that rock into the sea? That thing is worth money!
posted by Artw at 5:04 PM on December 12, 2009


I always read Snowcrash as a vehicle for ending the cyberpunk genre - essentially bookending a genre with Neuromancer.

You can't kill a genre. It just evolves. Like bacteria. Though Stephenson did thoroughly demolish the original form.

There is a lot of cyberpunky stuff in Richard Morgan's Altered Carbon which was published a decade after the Stephenson. And it has a lot to recommend it, if you like the cyberpunk aesthetic now with added cynicism and violence. And, yeah, I know cyberpunk already had a lot of cynicism and violence.
posted by Justinian at 5:16 PM on December 12, 2009


But, as you and namespan seem to think, by pointing out that Cameron tends to repeat certain themes, I (and others) are DEMANDING that he make his films entirely pan-sexual multiculturalist orgies.

Maybe you're not doing that, but the phrasing I was directly responding to sounds like it is.

I do think, hey, you're talking about aliens on another planet, use a little bit more imagination to make them more than just blue, Native American thundercats.

If the goal to come up with the most imaginatively different alien lifeforms and to build an experience around an examination of the ways in which their biology and society is unlike ours, then sure, Cameron's falling short, and I'm potentially interested in a film where you have three sexes that may not really correspond strictly to ours because one is a "gestator" and another is a "contributor" to the gestator but only through a third "coupler." But really, even that isn't all that imaginative, you want alien with-a-capital-A I think at a minimum think you're talking about something like the snake-braid "brothers" from Greg Bear's Anvil of Stars.

Of course, if your film's setting is really instead a prop for (a) visual effects and (b) a tale that could probably be told as a clash between two human societies, making your aliens really really alien is superfluous at best and a distraction at worst.
posted by namespan at 5:34 PM on December 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


When you're all enjoying/despising Avatar in 3-D, spill a little popcorn on the floor for those of us in non-English speaking countries. Evidently even the new 3-D makes subtitles headache inducing, which means that, in Japan, nearly all 3-D movies are being released with dubbing only. I imagine this holds true in other countries as well. I'll be seeing it, but probably only in 2-D. Damn.

And the Baroque Cycle is worth a read. You might notice it's a touch long. I'd avoid trying to carry all three books at once, though. Spinal compression is a nasty thing.
posted by Ghidorah at 5:34 PM on December 12, 2009


I had mixed feelings about V for Vendetta. It was visually nice, but the only characters who felt even remotely human to me, let alone the only ones I could care about, were Edie, and the two cops. Everyone else seemed like an overblown caricature, or a thinly-developed caricature. Washing throughout the entire movie was The Message, over and over again, "fascism bad". It got pretty tiresome pretty quick. "Hate" is a strong word for what I felt about this movie. I didn't hate it. It was alright. The characters could have been fleshed out more, the villain(y) could have been less on the nose (e.g., if the fascism was less a boot in the face, and more a CCTV cam mounted in a shadowy corner of your living room), and the repeated underlining of the movie's message could have been scaled down. But then it's a movie based on a graphic novelist who works in extremes, so the end result didn't really surprise me.

And I guess that's why I can understand Ebert's reviews. To some extent you can judge all movies by the same metric, but you also have to take into account the genre you're watching. I'm not one for action movies, for example, so it's a lot harder for me to like them. But if I watch an action movie within the parameters of what makes an action movie a good one for the genre, I can appreciate it on more levels. That's why I think there's a difference between saying "this was a terrible movie" and "this was a terrible action movie".
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 6:25 PM on December 12, 2009


Saxon Kane you're taking my comments far too seriously. I was teasing you before. That's all.

I am the very first person to say how tiresome Metafilter Taste Wars are. I wasn't invalidating your taste. I was just teasing you a little.

I happen to love the Coen Brothers. But A Simple Man I found well-made, beautifully shot. But horribly cynical, manipulative, and dull. I think perhaps it was a very personal movie for them.

So you weren't critiquing Cameron. You were making an observation. Okay. Either way that's fine.

My opinion is your observation is, well, don't take this the wrong way, stupendously not insightful. 99% of all films are heterocentric and in light of this why make this observation about Cameron in particular. You say "A pattern?" Since 99% of all films are heterocentric then every film maker would seem to have this pattern.

You seem very insulted by my "ego centrism" (a bit of psychoanalysis of your own, BTW) while simultaneously being very invested in defending your own "matter of taste" and convincing me of my wrongness. Again, I was just teasing you. No harm intended.

You are taking this way too seriously so I will apologize for being a dick and bow out.
posted by tkchrist at 6:36 PM on December 12, 2009


Edie

AHHHHHHHH. Evey!

But then it's a movie based on a graphic novelist who works in extremes, so the end result didn't really surprise me.

Me either, which is a shame, because the cast and the visual stylings were there. Part of the problem was that the Warchowskis turned the story into a screed against fascism and tried to aim it specifically at the sort of creeping authoritarianism they saw in the United States under Bush. But the original V wasn't an anti-fascist, he was an anarchist. Which is very much not the same thing. He wanted to tear down the system not despite the chaos that would ensue but at least partly because of the chaos that would ensue.

It was a much more subtle message if the word "subtle" can be applied to a story involving blowing up the House of Parliament and so forth. Okay, I take it back, it wasn't a subtle message at all. But it was a more nuanced message, and V was a much more nuanced character.
posted by Justinian at 6:39 PM on December 12, 2009


I tried to write several responses on the reactions to my little awkwardly worded snark on heterosexism in Science Fiction, but my english seems to be not entirely sufficient... So in the future I will just endorse everything Saxon Kane says.

I am in a way biased because I know that that the predominant two-gendered, hetero model is insufficiant to represent the human experience alone, and it's just fucking lazy to not being able to think just one fucking inch beyond that.
Maybe I'm just naive to think that Science Fiction should be able to do this, because SciFi aothors have no problem making up the most far fetched technological and evolutionary advancements. But just representing more progressive sexual or gender models that are visible even today, let alone trying to think where we as a society could go beyond them, ...
doesn't happen.

I am really modest here, I'll take everything from different ideas on gender as in Ursula K Leguin's Left Hand Of Darkness, Charlie Stross Glass House, or Iain M. Banks The Player Of Games, or just alternative sexuality like in Delany's Dhalgren, Miéville's main gay character in Iron Council, or Richard Morgan's The Steel Remains (while I hate everything else Morgan has written).
There are, after all, authors who tried to give a flying fuck about sexuality and gender, and if we settle with lesser and forbear any criticism of the predominant sloppy ignorance on this matter, why should other authors and film makers bother to take our experiences seriously?

I don't want James Cameron to make my own personal perfect little film, but my Science Fiction should think beyond this heterosexist model of society. This is just me, again, I myslef think everything else is mostly boring and not worth my while.
Those 3D effects though? Gorgeous.
posted by ts;dr at 6:43 PM on December 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


and i really tried to weed out those typos. Why am I so bad at this?
posted by ts;dr at 6:46 PM on December 12, 2009


But just representing more progressive sexual or gender models that are visible even today, let alone trying to think where we as a society could go beyond them, ...
doesn't happen.


I'll admit to being a little confused. You follow this sentence up with a list of a few of the many authors who have written Science Fiction or fantasy which grapples with ideas about gender and sexuality. How do you square a blanket statement that such representations don't happen with a list of books in which such representations do happen?
posted by Justinian at 6:50 PM on December 12, 2009


There does seem to be a compulsion, in a lot of contemporary storytelling, to set up male/female pairings even when it makes no real sense to do so. WallE is one of my absolute favorite movies of recent years, but I can't be the only one who thought it a little odd that so much effort was put into making robots -- robots! -- a male/female pair (gendered names, straighter lines vs. more curved lines, voice pitch, etc., etc., etc.) It made me flash on the way Futurama used to make fun of that sort of thing. ("One mistake now and Bender will be trapped forever between the already ill-defined robot sexes!")

This also, of course, applies to stories about aliens or certain types of anthropomorphised animals (snails will get divided up male/female even though snails aren't, for example.)

Now, there's two ways of looking at this:

1) These stories, although nominally about robots, aliens, snails, etc., are really about us, and our society. WallE and Avatar aren't really about robots and aliens, they are about humans -- stories of love and war and whatever else that use purportedly "alien" creatures as metaphors to allow the story to take a step back and examine what it means to be human. Male/female pairings are a common and recognizable way to indicate love, sex, or pairing in a story, and therefore used regardless of the apparently "othergendered" characters.

Viewed in this light, you could complain that too many stories in general use male/female pairings and ignore other possibilities, to the extent that this kind of pairing often falsely seems like the only acceptable kind (and I do make this complaint) -- but there's no particular reason to single out stories about aliens and robots for doing this any more than one would single out a traditional romcom for doing so.

2) Alternately, this happens because people are PROFOUNDLY UNCOMFORTABLE thinking about pairings outside the traditional male/female norm, and slavishly apply the pairing even when it makes no sense whatsoever to do so, consciously or subconsciously, because if your five-gendered alien or ungendered robot has a relationship, well, then, they're (gasp) gay.

Viewed in that light, it makes perfect sense to single out stories about aliens and robots etc. as being even more heteronormative than your traditional romcom, because out of a kind of subtle homophobia, a gendered relationship has been imposed upon characters who would not normally be "heterosexual" in any reasonable definition of the term, because of course anything not heterosexual is unacceptable.


And in all honesty, I have to admit I lean more towards the second explanation than the first, even though the first is also true. You've *already* made your character nonhuman. You can talk about humanity using a robot ... but only if it's a boy robot? Why? Why can't you take that extra baby step? Why do you trust your audience to realize that a robot love story is about humans, but not that an ungendered love story is still a love story?
posted by kyrademon at 6:52 PM on December 12, 2009 [4 favorites]


Me either, which is a shame, because the cast and the visual stylings were there. Part of the problem was that the Warchowskis turned the story into a screed against fascism and tried to aim it specifically at the sort of creeping authoritarianism they saw in the United States under Bush. But the original V wasn't an anti-fascist, he was an anarchist. Which is very much not the same thing. He wanted to tear down the system not despite the chaos that would ensue but at least partly because of the chaos that would ensue.

See now, that I can appreciate. The graphic novel is in many ways a storyboard waiting for a movie as it is, so if the story is good, there should be little you need to do to convey it into film. Or at least you won't be going through as many of the mechanics entailed in cinemizing a book. I love graphic novels of many different genres, so I always get excited when a rare favorite gets made into a movie, but am sometimes disappointed (From Hell is a great example).

Oddly enough, this doesn't happen as often when manga get made into anime. I'm not exactly sure why, but there is more often than not a steadfast faithfulness to the original storyline during the transition from one medium to the other, unless the manga series is already closing in on volume 20 by the time a studio decides to animate it, in which case a lot of subplots get omitted.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 6:53 PM on December 12, 2009


(Since the point has been brought up, I will say that I should have said "Hollywood movies" rather than "contemporary storytelling". There are, of course, plenty of stories in various media that do not feel compelled to cleave to heteronormative pairings even when they are not applicable.)
posted by kyrademon at 7:05 PM on December 12, 2009


If Roger Ebert loves it you know it's a piece of dogshit.

Actually, if Roger Ebert loves it I'll give it some consideration even if I wasn't initially drawn to the flick if only because I have a certain amount of respect for his opinion, since he's devoted a lifetime to watching movies. So your 'you' may be a little too all-inclusive for some.
posted by metagnathous at 7:39 PM on December 12, 2009


I am in a way biased because I know that that the predominant two-gendered, hetero model is insufficiant to represent the human experience alone

James Cameron's Avatar fails to express the full breadth of the human experience. Noted.
posted by namespan at 8:14 PM on December 12, 2009 [13 favorites]


I am in a way biased because I know that that the predominant two-gendered, hetero model is insufficiant to represent the human experience alone, and it's just fucking lazy to not being able to think just one fucking inch beyond that.

How about James Camerons Aliens? Alien society definitely moves byond a rigid two-gendered hetero model. Maybe Cameron should have spent some more time exploring the gender issues that arise from such a different reproductive system - Being of the sex or gender "queen" must come with some baggage. Perhaps we could of explored the story of an alien born with the body of a worker but the mind of a facehugger?
posted by phyle at 8:25 PM on December 12, 2009 [3 favorites]


If Roger Ebert loves it you know it's a piece of dogshit.

Some of Roger Ebert's favorite film directors: Terrence Malick, Werner Herzog, and Errol Morris. So either you really like Old Dogs (which Ebert didn't like) or you're a bit misinformed of the man's taste.
posted by billysumday at 8:56 PM on December 12, 2009


WallE is one of my absolute favorite movies of recent years, but I can't be the only one who thought it a little odd that so much effort was put into making robots -- robots! -- a male/female pair (gendered names, straighter lines vs. more curved lines, voice pitch, etc., etc., etc.

There's nothing odd about it when you consider that in the context of the story, they were designed by humans. Hell, we have male wire connectors and female wire connectors in the present day, it seems very logical that the dominant pairing would be seen as the normal model by people.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:09 PM on December 12, 2009


Of course, if your film's setting is really instead a prop for (a) visual effects and (b) a tale that could probably be told as a clash between two human societies, making your aliens really really alien is superfluous at best and a distraction at worst.

This.

But then, isn't Cameron the man who brought us this? Those machines. Always ready to step up with the fanservice.

My $.02, like many here: I like sci-fi and fantasy, and big budget movies (as well as quirky, shoe-string numbers) but I don't much like the look of this. The same two reasons as many others here: I don't like to be clobbered with a Message (even moreso when I agree with it) and I hate total CGI. And yes, I'll go for the 3-D. Since Up, I want to see where they're taking the tech.

And heck, remember before LOTR, we used to say things like "Looks pretty good, for fantasy"? Now we expect more of genre films. Well, this -- it looks pretty good, for fantasy. I'd probably love it if I were 12.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 9:26 PM on December 12, 2009


But then, isn't Cameron the man who brought us this?

Errr.... no. No he isn't.
posted by Justinian at 9:32 PM on December 12, 2009


I can't believe we have people bashing "V for Vendetta" but no one's mentioned all the gawdawful dialog. I couldn't stomach more than a line or 2 of a "v" rant with all that corny forced alliteration before I started gritting my teeth and groaning...I'm not sure if it was supposed to be clever, but it gave me that feeling you get watching someone you know or like say something really stupid in public. I wanted to kick him in the balls.
posted by Hoopo at 11:43 PM on December 12, 2009


Errr.... no. No he isn't.

Am I misreading this credit, then?

Written by
Characters:
James Cameron
Gale Anne Hurd

posted by Durn Bronzefist at 11:56 PM on December 12, 2009


I was skeptical. Ebert and the promise of effective 3-D will make me go see it.

Being willing to see it is not an endorsement of the film as the hottest shit EVAR, nor does it mean I tacitly condone the heterofascist? depiction of people on the screen, or that I get a hard-on from kind of furry looking aliens.

Would you people reserve judgment, indignation, praise and scorn until after you've actually seen it? Christ.

That said, I love reading a bit of good snark, but this thread is way too sprawling (what with people shitting on everything from Aliens to Wall-E to Stephenson to Ebert to Homosexuals to Africa to Russian epics to whatnot).

This is not the MeFi I've come to know and love.
posted by flippant at 11:57 PM on December 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Am I misreading this credit, then?

Written by
Characters:
James Cameron
Gale Anne Hurd


Yes, you are misreading that credit.

Cameron created the Terminator as a concept, and co-wrote the first two movies. As such, every successive film in the franchise will have a "characters" credit to him, because Hollywood pays out on such credits and he's the man who invented the entire thing. But he had no hand at all in writing the third or fourth films, and he likely was not even consulted on the direction the story should go during those movies (or else there would be a "story" credit to his name -- different from written by, etc.)

This is exactly like how comic book movies will often say things like "Characters: Stan Lee", but don't actually have any input from Mr. Lee himself in the script or plot.
posted by hippybear at 12:17 AM on December 13, 2009


"... they were designed by humans. Hell, we have male wire connectors and female wire connectors in the present day ..."

Except they weren't designed to mate or fall in love in such pairings. They were going outside their programming and achieving a level of emergent AI. Which coincidentally resulted in a traditional male/female pairing.

Look ... it's not that every movie Must Explore Gender Issues. In fact, it's almost the opposite -- a number of movies are *adding in* gender issues by imposing a male/female narrative when it doesn't make sense to do so.

The argument a few of us are making here needs to be taken in context, I think. There are already complaints from some quarters that the heteronormative love story in the movies has elbowed out every other possible love story; not just the most common, as it probably is in real life, but shown to the near exclusion of all others, which doesn't reflect real life.

Now, in that context, think about movies where heteronormative love stories don't even make logical narrative sense, and have to be forcibly imposed. That's going to get some people's dander up.

This isn't to say that any given movie is bad in some way for doing this. It's not even to say that a given movie can't have a decent reason for doing this -- it sounds like Avatar is pretty clearly a gloss for issues taking place on earth among humans right now. But looking at the pattern as a whole, seeing it over and over and over again can be irritating. Which can set people off when they hit it in any given otherwise blameless movie.
posted by kyrademon at 12:28 AM on December 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


(flippant -- I friggin' LOVE Wall-E. I was not trying to snark on it at all. I was pointing it out as an obvious example of a larger pattern. The presence of the pattern does not make any individual movie bad; it's a problem when movies are taken as a whole.)
posted by kyrademon at 12:30 AM on December 13, 2009


Ah, check. Thanks for clearing that up, hippybear.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 12:41 AM on December 13, 2009


Lord only knows what that sort of money could do elsewhere in the world. I mean, how many wells in sub-Saharan Africa could you build for that sort of money?

None. Because what we've learned about dumping money into Africa a quater billion dollars at a time is that you end up with a bunch of richer thugs and the same poor you had before.

But if you want to piss money away to stroke your liberal guilt complex, knock yourself out. It got Bob Geldof a knighthood, didn't it?
posted by rodgerd at 1:13 AM on December 13, 2009 [3 favorites]


Thanks nickjadlowe. I appreciate your support. All I was trying to do was to raise an unease I feel at the amount of money that is spent of this, and by implication, other movies, regardless of their critical worth. Avatar may be as good a film as Transformers is not, but that is not that point. Nor is the question of the number of wells in Sub-Saharan Africa, or otherwise. That was merely used for the sake of contrast. It is a question worth debating and reflecting upon. What are our priorities and where do we spend our money? Is spending $250 million on a movie a "good thing". Apparently most of those who contribute to this thread think it is. I am simply not so sure.

What intrigues me is the reaction to my unease here on Metafilter. For example, rodgerd says I have guilt complex and implies I don't understand development aid in Africa. Lord_Pall seems to think expletive-laden faux-'it-is just-a-movie'-outrage , is the way to go, as do the significant number of Mefites who favorited the post.

Tough crowd tonight!
posted by vac2003 at 1:37 AM on December 13, 2009


In a novel you can have an alien race with unusual sexual makeup, because there's no limit to the time you can take to explore and describe the alien's idiosyncrasies. The author has all the time in the world, and can spend whole chapters detailing the aliens' bizarre anatomy -- and culture, and art, and what have you -- if he wants to. But, a movie doesn't have the time to spend on that sort of thing. Unless the plot was somehow about the aliens' otherwordly genders, no movie could spare the time necessary to explain it.

Extraneous details have to be removed so that there's time to show the stuff that is important to the plot. It's why nobody ever gets change when they take a cab in a movie. So aliens are heterosexual because the majority of people in the world are heterosexual, and as such they won't be confused when they see a masculine-looking alien kissing a more feminine-looking alien, and the story progresses unimpeded.
posted by rifflesby at 2:56 AM on December 13, 2009 [5 favorites]


I don't want James Cameron to make my own personal perfect little film, but my Science Fiction should think beyond this heterosexist model of society

I think that it is a bit much to assume that James Cameron is going to be involved with or care about making a cerebral science fiction piece that changes our perceptions about how we see the world, and that Avatar will be that fillm.

And vac2003, money is not "spent" on making a movie in the same way it is spent on a candybar. Rather investors and banks finance a movie in the same way that one finances a startup company. No one, for example, says, "I can't believe that Volkswagen is paying all those billions for Porsche, when that money could have been used to dig wells in Africa" or that venture capital companies "spend" X amount of money on a startup. Maybe you should wonder how much money people spend on watching movies could be used to dig wells in Africa.

Also, seriously: are there really those of you, like the V for Vendetta fans, who like being donked over the head with a pedestrian "Message" when seeing a movie?
posted by deanc at 3:05 AM on December 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


Being willing to see it is not an endorsement of the film as the hottest shit EVAR, nor does it mean I tacitly condone the heterofascist?

It's a bit much to be calling the dominant human pairings fascist.

Except they weren't designed to mate or fall in love in such pairings. They were going outside their programming and achieving a level of emergent AI. Which coincidentally resulted in a traditional male/female pairing.

I don't find it odd that fictional characters chose the dominant form of pairing as model.

But he had no hand at all in writing the third or fourth films

I believe the director of Rise of the Machines tried to get Cameron to consult on it, but Cameron was like "I hope you make a good movie, but I'm not getting involved"

Now, in that context, think about movies where heteronormative love stories don't even make logical narrative sense, and have to be forcibly imposed.

What movies would that be?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:39 AM on December 13, 2009


In the wilds of 4chan, I spotted a spoiler which might intrigue those who fear Avatar is going to be completely heteronormative, but it might also be a total falsehood.
posted by Sticherbeast at 9:31 AM on December 13, 2009


are there really those of you, like the V for Vendetta fans, who like being donked over the head with a pedestrian "Message" when seeing a movie?

Depends on the message. In 2005, while a pretty solid majority of the US was still busy praising W for invading Iraq and the DISSENT=TREASON brigade was in full swing, V For Vendetta was a lovely bit of fresh air.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:02 AM on December 13, 2009 [5 favorites]


Now, in that context, think about movies where heteronormative love stories don't even make logical narrative sense, and have to be forcibly imposed.

What movies would that be?
I find that a large number of movies have a "love story" shoehorned into the narrative, regardless of whether the narrative requires one. On the other hand, I'm not particularly offended by it and consider it part of the cinematic landscape. Movies are very, very simple: you have a single theme/"big idea" and in it you have a simple plot device that holds the movie together, and usually some kind of love/tension developing between the protagonists wraps things up for the viewers. That Avatar apparently has one, too, doesn't seem surprising. Since it's not a movie that's about the arbitrary nature of gender roles and exploring the possibility of life forms that don't conform to our earth-bound conceptions (heh!) of sexuality, I don't see why one would expect anything other than a standard "love interest" one would expect in a big budget movie.
posted by deanc at 11:09 AM on December 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


re: the Na'Vi creature design in Avatar:

Seems pretty clear to me that the design of the Na'Vi aliens was humanized so that the emotions of the actors that they spent so much time and technology capturing would be recognisable by the viewers. Also, because the story needs a believable love story between Jakes avatar and Ney'tiri.

If the aliens and the avatars looked like, for example, the aliens from Distict-9, the love story would be fascinating for Sci-Fi buffs, but not go great for your average cinema-goers out on a date. And Cameron is obviously smart enough to realise this.

Having restrained themselves on the Na'Vi design, they clearly went to town with the design of the other creatures of Pandora.
posted by memebake at 12:56 PM on December 13, 2009 [3 favorites]


I'm kind of suprised and impressed that they got as much emotional conection out of the D9 aliens as they did, and even then it could be argued they made a lot of concessions to accessibility (vaguely humanoid, puppydog eyes, etc...)
posted by Artw at 1:01 PM on December 13, 2009


It's why nobody ever gets change when they take a cab in a movie.

Or has to hunt for parking!
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 1:16 PM on December 13, 2009


Or says "Goodbye" or something similar before hanging up the phone.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 3:07 PM on December 13, 2009


The Avatar Debate: It Will Suck
posted by homunculus at 3:32 PM on December 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


When you see this film you may not realize that what you just experienced was a nightmare from the bowels of entertainment. You may be so overwhelmed by the graphic experience and special effects that you walk away thinking that what you just experienced was, in fact, great. In the weeks that follow while you watch the massive box office total rise and rise, you may experience the rush of being on an enormous bandwagon sweeping you away into something enormous.

But somewhere deep inside, a part of you will know you are living a lie.


Oh, like Dark Knight then.
posted by Artw at 5:00 PM on December 13, 2009 [3 favorites]


I'd love this article so much more if the reviewer actually watched the movie, but he's seen Titanic, and believes the Avatar trailers resemble Titanic, and he hated Titanic, ergo Avatar sucks.

Trailers are sometimes a really terrible way to get a feel for a movie. The trailer for In the Company of Men made it seem like it was going to be a swanky, white-collar version of Swingers, and not the psychological and emotional beating that it actually was.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 5:07 PM on December 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


Oh, like Dark Knight then.

*slaps Artw with fancy glove*

"Have you no culture, sir, no appreciation of the arts?! Utter another word you scoundrel and I'll challenge you to a snarkoff!"
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:33 PM on December 13, 2009


Or says "Goodbye" or something similar before hanging up the phone.

Yeah! People in movies are rude!
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 6:04 PM on December 13, 2009


Nobody ever seems to go to the bathroom in movies either! When did Luke Skywalker ever take a pee break?
posted by newdaddy at 7:56 PM on December 13, 2009


re: the Na'Vi creature design in Avatar:

It occurs to me that it would take some of the curse off the design if the characters themselves used "smurf" or "thundersmurf" or similar as an ethnic (speciesist?) slur against them.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:12 PM on December 13, 2009


AHHHHHHHH. Evey!

OH Christ. Duh. I suspected I was getting it wrong as I was typing it, but I was too lazy to check. I can't believe I did that, seeing as I've read the book a few times and seen the movie at least twice. Christ all mighty. I should have also remembered, of course, the book's preoccupation with the letter 'V'... Evey = E-V.

Anyway, this movie just looks like another round of Army vs. Na'vi.


sorry
posted by Saxon Kane at 10:24 PM on December 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


Ok. Regarding the wells in subSaharan Africa. Save your ticket money, send it to me, I'm in the Sahara and give you a guarentee that I'll build a well with the money.
posted by iamck at 12:33 AM on December 14, 2009


From the IT WILL SUCK review:

The first half of Titanic is the most mind-numbingly tedious tour through Cameron's big erector set driven by romance story that seemed to have been written by a 14-year-old on his first day high school filmmaking class given an assignment to write a new project for a ressurected Joan Blondell. And then came the second half which was essentially an aquatic snuff film in which we spend an hour watching people in olde timey dress get drowned. And then there was a Celine Dion song. And a bookend from the present.

Nasty. But too true.
posted by philip-random at 8:40 AM on December 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


Did Prog Rock's Greatest Artist Inspire Avatar? All Signs Point To Yes
posted by homunculus at 8:38 PM on December 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


It has Golden Globe nominations.
posted by Artw at 1:41 PM on December 15, 2009


homunculus: If Yes did the entire soundtrack for Avatar, I'd be there opening night.
posted by Saxon Kane at 4:45 PM on December 15, 2009


I want this film to bomb and yet, I've loved some of cameron's films, including one of my all-time favorites The Abyss, which was a masterpiece.
The commercials for this make it look cheesier each time, especially regarding the dialogue. And a bunch of Smurf rejects with pointy ears does nothing for me in 2-D let alone 3-D.
Yet, I am curious and if the mostly positive reviews hold, I'll think about it differently. But damn, this looks so corny.
Plus, Ebert liking this is a big red flag for me-the man is a joke anymore, poor health or not. He'd probably give thumbs up (among other things) to an all-nude Love Boat film in 3-D (or 4-D by this point).
posted by chudbeagle at 11:08 PM on December 16, 2009


homunculus: If Yes did the entire soundtrack for Avatar, I'd be there opening night.

Which Yes is the question? Pre-80s. Yeahhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!

Post? ugh.
posted by philip-random at 10:04 AM on December 17, 2009


The Venture Bros. - Prog Rock
posted by Artw at 10:45 AM on December 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


In fact J G thirwell should just do the soundtrack.

For everything.
posted by Artw at 11:09 AM on December 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


I saw it last night, and I really loved it. I thought it had its flaws (too long, predictable and preachy), but I'm happy to take the flaws with the rest of the film, which I thought was beautiful and sincere. I probably shouldn't admit this in a pack of jaded wonder-killers, but I had a total Star Wars moment while watching one of the big scenes, and got all little-kid excited about the Big Stuff Happening On the Screen.

The 3D was spectacular and beautifully done, but I thought the story held up very well and the aliens (especially the female lead) were so beautifully characterised and expressive that I believed in them and their plight.

I didn't have many expectations going in, but I'm still thinking about the film today, and I'd really like to see it again.
posted by ukdanae at 5:20 AM on December 18, 2009 [5 favorites]


I saw it yesterday, and while the visuals really blew me away, the terrible ethnic-kitsch soundtrack nearly ruined it to me. The underlying story is as bad as everyone said, but I didn't really care about that while watching...

re: my heterosexism rants above,
I think that the upcoming adaption of Iain M.Banks short story A Gift From The Culture has not yet been mentioned on metafilter yet. I'm soo exited about this...
A short story by Iain Banks about a transsexual alien is to be the first of his sciencefiction works to be adapted for the big screen.
...
The movie will have a budget of about £13m and is expected to begin shooting in South Africa next year. It is the first film to be made out of the Fife-born writer’s series of novels about the Culture, a utopian, socialist alien society.
...
The plot centres on a character called Wrobik, a member of the Culture in exile on another planet, who has undergone a female-to-male transformation but is still attracted to men. He is offered the chance to save his male lover from kid-nappers and pay off gambling debts by committing an act of terrorism.

The story, which was originally published in the science fiction magazine Interzone, runs to only 20 pages in a short story collection by Banks called The State of the Art.

Mike Downey, producer of the film and co-owner of Film & Music Entertainment, said: (...)
“We have been toying with doing a sci-fi film for a long time but we wanted to do something that played with the idea of gender and its role in a future society — but in a society that wasn’t a million miles away from where we are now.
This could be totally awesome!
posted by ts;dr at 6:32 AM on December 18, 2009


I saw Avatar last night, and I have to say it really was spectacular.

Unfortunately, the script was truly awful. It seems like Cameron was perfectly content to let the plot and dialogue service the visuals, and while this isn't a totally unreasonable decision, it really wouldn't have taken a great deal of effort to turn it into something memorable for more than just its artistry. The character development was overly reliant on archetypes and there seemed to be a paint by numbers approach to the plot. I got the feeling that they were going through a checklist of events — 'someone has to die here so this bit is meaningful, let's have an obsequious bureaucrat over here' — when they could easily have taken a much more naturalistic approach.

Regardless, while two-dimensionality (ha) like that would normally make me despise a film, it looked so damn good that I can forgive it those sins.
posted by jaffacakerhubarb at 7:45 AM on December 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


With "Avatar", James Cameron has once again cemented his reputation as a sex-and-violence-positive feminist.

I found Avatar, if not profound, highly entertaining
posted by KokuRyu at 1:33 AM on December 19, 2009


Which is the better visual, Imax or the Real D, 3-d? We have both options available and I trying to decide which one will be best.
posted by pearlybob at 8:08 AM on December 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


In fact J G thirwell should just do the soundtrack.

SCRAPING AVATAR OFF THE WHEEL; has a certain charm.
posted by philip-random at 9:53 AM on December 19, 2009


I just walked in from seeing Avatar.

Yeah, it's pretty excellent. Great moviemaking, fun storytelling. It's not the most original story (which isn't a new point), but it's nicely told. The musical score is very derivative, but that's pretty secondary to everything.

The Na'vi are completely wonderfully done. And the planet itself -- there aren't many times when I was snapped out of reality by thinking "oh, well, this is just all computer-created stuff." Instead, it's totally immersive and very nicely done.

The 3D is exactly what it should be -- an environment and not a gimmick. In fact, there was a preview for "Piranha 3D" before the feature, and it had HORRIBLE 3D, and actually had me a bit worried about watching 2.5 hours of a movie. Happily, Avatar's process and use is totally different and completely watchable.

We happened to wander through a bookstore after seeing the film, and I saw a Roger Dean book, and damn! If he's not listed in the credits as at least an inspiration for Pandora, he needs to sue Cameron to get recognition for his influence. Page after page of things I just saw in the movie.

I do recommend seeing it in 3D, and seeing it in theaters. It's well made and a lot of fun.
posted by hippybear at 12:47 PM on December 19, 2009


Regarding Roger Dean, "in early 2005, Dean announced plans to create a feature film titled Floating Islands. This film will be produced by Roger Dean and David Mousley. The story is based on the underlying theme depicted in the album artwork for Yes. It will feature animated 3D renderings of classic Dean images and music by Yes." *

BTW -- check out his house.
posted by ericb at 1:14 PM on December 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


I am in a way biased because I know that that the predominant two-gendered, hetero model is insufficiant to represent the human experience alone, and it's just fucking lazy to not being able to think just one fucking inch beyond that.

How about James Camerons Aliens?


Or Neill Blomkamp's District 9?

Yeah, it's pretty excellent. Great moviemaking, fun storytelling. It's not the most original story (which isn't a new point), but it's nicely told.

Sorry, I have to disagree with you on this hippybear. I saw it last night at the theater, and I really wished I would've experienced it in 3D. The graphics and computer generated stuff is the best part of it. Sure the themes are really great but they are run over by the oversimplified stereotypical storyline. Corporate guy is corporate guy, military leader is military leader, marine grunt is marine grunt, scientist is scientist. It's really bad at how much Cameron typifies the characters. It is really lengthy and you'll think you've been sitting for four hours at the two hour mark. There are forehead slapping moments in the movie where I actually did say "Why the fuck would you do that?" out loud. I think aeschenkarnos sums up a lot of other things.

P.S. If you've seen Baraka(3:35 in), then you'll recognize whole scenes that Cameron lifted.
posted by P.o.B. at 7:03 PM on December 20, 2009


Sure the themes are really great but they are run over by the oversimplified stereotypical storyline. Corporate guy is corporate guy, military leader is military leader, marine grunt is marine grunt, scientist is scientist. It's really bad at how much Cameron typifies the characters.

You didn't see any of Cameron's last three films before this one, then? If you had, you'd already know this is how he works. If you did, and you still went to this one, then you deserved every minute of your punishment for betraying your obvious dislike of his form of storytelling.
posted by hippybear at 7:06 PM on December 20, 2009


So let's see, his last three movies (minus the Docs) were Titanic, True Lies, and Terminator 2. Nope, not even close, this was clichéd faaarrr beyond any of those movies. Even the overall plot was a generic Dances with Wolves/Pocohantas/Battle for Terra/etc.. It wasn't punishment though, like I said I would've liked to have seen it in 3D.

I did notice Cameron is doing Battle Angel, so that should be promising. Strong-female-cyborg-lead, that's right in Cameron's wheel well.
posted by P.o.B. at 8:18 PM on December 20, 2009


I definitely enjoyed it, but I don't know how well it will hold up. It's visually and technically a masterpiece (although the creature design is a bit over-hyped; nothing that hasn't been seen before), but the storyline is just so incredibly generic. Every. Single. Story. Beat. No surprises at all.

I do have to say, Cameron's handling of the 3D is really effective.
posted by brundlefly at 8:40 PM on December 20, 2009


Saw it earlier today. In 'regular' 3D as I have no access to IMAX at the moment. I'm with the consensus: a cliched story with cliched characters and absolutely zero surprises at any single point. I still enjoyed it.

I think it comes down to the fact that Cameron can tell a story in a visually captivating way. I don't think his visuals are necessarily even that interesting or unique, but they are effective and functional and draw you into the world/story. He is, and I do mean this as a complement, an extremely competent director. Which, sad as it is to say, is rare in action movies today. Michael Bay, McG, Paul WS Anderson & Brett Ratner to name a few create completely lifeless movies out of adequate scripts and actors. Something that should be an entertaining blockbuster gets lost under the pure lack of talent. Persoally, I think Avatar would have easily been one of these movies had it not been for Cameron's attention to detail. None of this excuses the Space Dances With Space Wolves storyline and characters, but like everyone seems to be saying, I was pleasantly surprised.

And yeah, see it 3D. I might purchase the film when it comes out, because I want to know more about the tech/filming of it all but it won't be to watch the movie again.
posted by slimepuppy at 9:33 AM on December 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


So, to summarise what I just told other people... I just saw it, I though the first 15 minutes contained some of the most hamfisted storytelling I have ever seen - all falshbacky voiceovery exposition heavy stuff, and after that you just sort of settle into it and it's pretty great. Not the most subtle of stories, and pretty broad strokes, but pretty damn enjoyable and some nice touches here and there, and some proper decent Sci-Fi concepts - for something that revolves around mining Handwavium on the planet of the pagan tree huggers theres actually less magic crap in it than any other recent big mainstream SF movie for a good ten years - and I'd include District 9 in that.
posted by Artw at 7:53 PM on December 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


theres actually less magic crap in it than any other recent big mainstream SF movie

Except for the Deus ex machina at the end.
posted by P.o.B. at 9:28 PM on December 21, 2009


And I don't mean to dissuade anybody because yeah it's enjoyable, and you probably should watch it on the big screen, but I'm not sure I would fall in line with some of my friends saying how totally awesome it was. I mean the more I think about it the more I come to the conclusion that Cameron should've had someone else at least touch up his story. It's just riddled with stupidity and there were some glaring plot holes and just plain stupid decisions made by some of the characters, like slasher-flick character stupid.
posted by P.o.B. at 9:30 PM on December 21, 2009


Except for the Deus ex machina at the end.

Nyybjnoyr jura yvgreny.

V'z abg fher V ubyq Wnxrf snvgu gung orvat qrfgehpgviyl pbcvrq ol cynarg-HFO-cbeg vf gur fnzr guvat nf orvat nyvir gubhtu, ohgurl, gung'f uvf ohfvarff.
posted by Artw at 9:49 PM on December 21, 2009


TBH I'm more bothered by the zntargvp syhk juvpu nccneragyl qvfehcgf rirelguvat ryfr ohg yrnirf gurve erzbgvat hanssrpgrq. But come on, have you even seen what passes for SF movies these days? All of this is petty quibbling compared with, say, more-or-less the entirety of Star Trek.
posted by Artw at 10:18 PM on December 21, 2009


Also I will hugit hard for not having any fucking time travel.
posted by Artw at 10:19 PM on December 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


Nyybjnoyr jura yvgreny.

V qba'g xabj. Vg'f abg rknpgyl Pynfu bs gur Gvgnaf naq vs jr'er cnefvat orgjrra unaqjnil fpvrapr be zntvp gura vg znxrf vg ng yrnfg n cbvag bs pbagragvba. Nyfb, V guvax Vg'f hc va gur nve ba jurgure vg vf fbzr xvaq bs frys-njner Fbynevf glcr cynarg be jr'er gnyxvat npghny "qrvgl" Pnzreba qvqa'g rknpgyl rkcynva rabhtu naq jnf cebonoyl unccl rabhtu gb yrnir vg nf n angvirf jvgu zrgncubef glcr bs fgbel. V fhccbfr V pbhyq frr gur jubyr "jr arrq gb cebgrpg bhefryirf" ol jnl bs n cynarg-HFO "fhttrfgvba", ohg V fgvyy qba'g guvax vg jnf arrqrq. Jung ernyyl vexf zr vf gur pbzcyrgryl qvsshfrq naq cbvagyrff nggnpx cyna gurl unq. Gurl pbhyq'ag pbeeny gubfr shpxvat unzzreurnq euvabf vagb punetvat gurzfryirf? Ertneqyrff bs jurgure gubfr guvatf unq n HFO cbeg be abg gurl fubhyq'ir orra fzneg rabhtu gb trg gubfr guvatf eriirq hc naq cbvag gurz va n qverpgvba. V zrna JGS? Ehaavat snpr svefg vagb thaf?! Ernyyl Pnzreba? V nyfb qba'g guvax vg jbhyq gnxr n travhf gb fvzcyl gnetrg gur ovt fuvcf jvgu gur cgrebqnpglyf, rfcrpvnyyl jura lbh unir n fhecevfr nggnpx tbvat.

zntargvp syhk juvpu nccneragyl qvfehcgf rirelguvat ryfr ohg yrnirf gurve erzbgvat hanssrpgrq.

Yeah, that kind of made me scratch my head.

Also I will hugit hard for not having any fucking time travel.

Gehr, ohg vg gbbx gurz svir lrnef gb trg gb gur cynarg, fb V'z thrffvat gurl jrer geniryvat cerggl qnza snfg. Fb gurl zhfg unir qrirybcrq fbzr njrfbzr cbjre bhgchgf. Naq lrg gurl fgvyy hfr cebwrpgvyr jrncbaf?
posted by P.o.B. at 10:56 PM on December 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


BEANS!
posted by P.o.B. at 10:56 PM on December 21, 2009


Gehr, ohg vg gbbx gurz svir lrnef gb trg gb gur cynarg, fb V'z thrffvat gurl jrer geniryvat cerggl qnza snfg. Fb gurl zhfg unir qrirybcrq fbzr njrfbzr cbjre bhgchgf. Naq lrg gurl fgvyy hfr cebwrpgvyr jrncbaf?

Zntargvp syhk!

BEANS!

ORNAF!
posted by Artw at 12:32 AM on December 22, 2009


Abj, vs vg jrer zr, Cynarg HFO jbhyq fcnja fbzr glenavq fglyr ovbjrncba fuvg naq jvcr gur uhzvrf bhg gbgnyyl. Rkprcg sbe znlor n srj gebwna ubefrf gb tb onpx gb gur uhzvr ubzrjbeq naq fcerq gur frrqf - betnavfz unf tbg gb ercebqhpr lbh xabj.
posted by Artw at 12:34 AM on December 22, 2009


IMAX 3D.

It was beautiful.
posted by pick_the_flowers at 9:26 AM on December 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


I saw it. I liked it. A lot.

It's true that some potential characters were reduced to plot devices. I am unbothered by this. People in real life are merely plot devices; empathy in everyday interaction is pretty rare. The human tendency to abstract out people with whom we don't have meaningful interpersonal relationships is a real one, and its use in film is unproblematic. And where it counts, the characters are deep enough.

Gur erny dhrfgvba sbe zr vf gur qrcgu bs Wnxr'f punenpgre, jub V guvax unf n ovg zber fgehttyr guna nanybtf va fvzvyne zbivrf. Orvat pncgherq ol gur Wncnarfr be yrsg nybar ng n sebagvre sbeg ner irel qvssrerag sebz fyrrc-jnxr genafvgvbaf orgjrra jbeyqf. Wnxr vf n zvyvgnel tehag orvat qverpgyl fhcreivfrq ol n PB guebhtubhg gur yratgu bs gur zbivr naq vf vapragvivmrq ol gur ybff bs uvf yrtf.

V guvax Wnxr'f npgvbaf unir rkvfgragvny fvtavsvpnapr ynpxvat ryfrjurer. Hygvzngryl Wnxr unf gb znxr n pubvpr gb nonaqba rirelguvat ur'f rire xabja.
posted by jock@law at 9:39 AM on December 23, 2009


V yvxr ubj nalbar jub pbhyq cbffvoyl or ng nyy pbasyvpgrq nobhg gur jubyr xvyyvat-sryybj-uhznaf guvat vf pbairavragyl xvyyrq bss fb gurl qba'g unir gb guvax nobhg vg ng gur raq.

Nf V zragvbarq orsber gur svefg 15 zvahgrf, juvpu vf fhccbfrq gb vagebqhpr Wnxr, vf shpxvat ynzr fgbelgryyvat jvfr, hfvat n jubyr ohapu bs vasbqhzc qrivprf jurer n srj qrprag fprarf jbhyq ernyyl or orggre.

Nyfb gur svefg nccrnerapr bs Pbybary Ahgpnfr vf ohevrq va gurer. Gung thl arrqrq ovttvat hc n yvggyr. Vs gurl znqr uvz zber bs n Xhegm yvxr svther jub zber boivbhfyl birevqrf Pbecbengr Jrnfry qhqr gb guebj gur uhznaf bagb n trabpvqny cngu vg zvtug znxr zber frafr guna univat rirelbar engure furrcvfuyl sbyybj uvz vagb sbetrggvat rirelguvat gung 19gu naq 20gu praghel uvfgbel unf rire gnhtug hf.

(V nyfb ernyyl yvxrq gur jnl gung Pbybary Ahgpnfr nccneragyl qbrf abg pner nyy gung zhpu nobhg oernguvat nve. Gung'f n tbbq ahgpnfr genvg. )
posted by Artw at 9:53 AM on December 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


I was having a fun time suspending disbelief and getting into the great visuals until he began blatantly ripping off Anne McCaffrey. Then, I couldn't help it. I began seeing every other plot device he ripped off to cobble that story together like they were outlined in neon.
posted by jeanmari at 11:34 PM on December 23, 2009


but I had a total Star Wars moment while watching one of the big scenes

And I had this, but it was at a point where I expected a truckload of Ewoks to be dancing around a big tree.
posted by jeanmari at 11:41 PM on December 23, 2009


I made an AskMe about it and the narrative is fairly old.
posted by P.o.B. at 12:22 AM on December 24, 2009


PROBABLE SPOILER ALERT: Ok, so if the "sky people" were running into problems like in the big scene, why wouldn't they just radio for reinforcements and the next scene would result in blue porridge? Then the sky people victors would just sift the planet remains for the valuable ore while building space monuments to the fallen. Science fiction doesn't have to be patently unbelievable. I know because I read miles of it back in the day, and the most interesting stories usually had a ring of truth to them. Notice that I'm not saying blue porridge has to be the end of the story.
posted by telstar at 12:44 AM on December 24, 2009


I think it was because it would have taken a minimum of 6 years of reinforcements to get there. Weren't the sky people using everything they had already? There was no one else on Pandora to call for.
posted by jeanmari at 6:49 AM on December 24, 2009


The first answer in P.o.B's AskMe offers up a great link:

When Will White People Stop Making Movies Like "Avatar"?

Whites need to stop remaking the white guilt story, which is a sneaky way of turning every story about people of color into a story about being white. Speaking as a white person, I don't need to hear more about my own racial experience. I'd like to watch some movies about people of color (ahem, aliens), from the perspective of that group, without injecting a random white (erm, human) character to explain everything to me. Science fiction is exciting because it promises to show the world and the universe from perspectives radically unlike what we've seen before. But until white people stop making movies like Avatar, I fear that I'm doomed to see the same old story again and again.

And so on ...
posted by philip-random at 9:17 AM on December 24, 2009


"I'm such an awesome white person that I have white guilt about my white guilt!"
posted by Artw at 10:07 AM on December 24, 2009 [7 favorites]


I just saw it, and enjoyed it a lot. Visually amazing. The plot was really problematic in ways we've seen multitudes of times before... so I figure anyone interested in discussing those issues will be able to see them for him or herself.

I'm interested in seeing what people make of the paraplegic main character. It's cool to have a main character with a disability, who is proactive, but there was also a lot of self-loathing there. Which, you know, is perhaps realistic for some people. I don't know how I'd take it if I, myself, were paraplegic.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 9:55 PM on December 24, 2009


The paraplegic aspect of the main character was mostly pointless, I thought.

The whole movie looked pretty good, but was mostly boring and soulless, and TOTALLY predictable.
posted by Saxon Kane at 11:29 PM on December 24, 2009


OK, this is killing me. I can't remember where to go to get the decrypter for the spoiler comments. A little help?
posted by Saxon Kane at 11:24 AM on December 25, 2009


Google ROT 13!
posted by Artw at 11:26 AM on December 25, 2009 [2 favorites]


THANK YOU. Goddamn, freaking brainfart.
posted by Saxon Kane at 11:34 AM on December 25, 2009


Guvf xvyyrq zr: Jul gur uryy jbhyqa'g Wnxr, orvat n fhcre-rkcrevraprq znevar be jungrire, yrnir n srj qhqrf gb thneq gur yvggyr funpx jurer uvf uhzna obql vf ynlvat PBZCYRGRYL HAPBAFPVBHF fb gung ab bar pbhyq nggnpx vg?
posted by Saxon Kane at 11:42 AM on December 25, 2009


Jryy, gurer jnf gur fpvragvfg qhqr jub'f Ningne jnf xvyyrq naq ur jbxr hc nyy fgnegyrq. Gung'f bar bs gur yvggyr ybbfr raqf V xrrc guvaxvat vf xvaq bs evqvphybhf. Gur onqnff qhqr va yvsgre fznfurf gur qbhoyr-jvqr naq V jnf guvaxvat "url, fpvragvfg qhqr vf nyfb va gurer!" Abg gung ur pbhyq'ir qbar zhpu naljnl, ohg lbh xvaq bs unir gb znxr hc n fgbel nobhg ur jrag bss naq tbg n fbqn orpnhfr ur qvfnccrnef juvyr nyy gung jnf tbvat qbja.

Urer'f zl dhrfgvba: Ubj qvq gurl...rkpergr jnfgr vafvqr gur qbjaybnq orqf? Gung fcbatl fghss rng vg hc?
posted by P.o.B. at 12:33 PM on December 25, 2009


Zrgn
posted by Artw at 4:02 PM on December 25, 2009


Artw: "(V nyfb ernyyl yvxrq gur jnl gung Pbybary Ahgpnfr nccneragyl qbrf abg pner nyy gung zhpu nobhg oernguvat nve. Gung'f n tbbq ahgpnfr genvg. )"

Jura ur rzcgvrq gur gur znpuvar tha gura fjvgpurq bire gb gur unaq tha jvgubhg fgbccvat sbe oerngu, V jnf obhapvat hc naq qbja va zr frng. N ovg yvxr jura V jnf n xvq jngpuvat "Grzcyr bs Qbbz," naq Vaql ernpurq onpx guebhtu gur pybfvat qbbe gb teno uvf srqben.
posted by brundlefly at 5:15 PM on December 25, 2009


I was having a fun time suspending disbelief and getting into the great visuals until he began blatantly ripping off Anne McCaffrey. Then, I couldn't help it. I began seeing every other plot device he ripped off to cobble that story together like they were outlined in neon.

Ahahaha, I loved that, only because I loved Pern at thirteen more than I loved life itself. When I left the theater, I said to Mr. WanKenobi, "THAT WAS THE BEST MOVIE EVER! PSYCHIC DRAGON BONDS!" to which he replied, "There were dragons?!"
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 11:09 PM on December 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


People who evolved from cats?

This has been done. And with better special effects.* So if you don't mind me, I'll just be over here watching Red Dwarf.

*by "better special effects" I mean "way funnier"
posted by koeselitz at 11:34 PM on December 25, 2009


Arire zvaq fcbbxl jbb jbb fbhy gerrf naq yvgreny qrhf rk znpuvan vg'f pyrneyl na crna gb Vagryyvtrag Qrfvta... ubj ryfr gb rkcynva gur Ubj Gur Uryy Jbhyq Gung Ribyir HFOf naq gur snpg gung nyy navznyf unq fvk yvzof ohg gur oyhr Fvbhk unq sbhe (jryy svir vs lbh vapyhqr gur HFO pnoyr).

Bu naq Pbybary Ahgpnfr jnf gur orfg guvat va vg... gur snpg gung ur qvqa'g trg uvf snpr ovggra bss ol D Gur Jvatrq Frecrag jnf n snvyrq cybg cerqvpgvba org ba zl cneg (bar bs gur srj) Fubhyq unir erzrzorerq gur Engvat.

Bu naq Ebg Guvegrra fhk!
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 1:39 PM on December 26, 2009


fearfulsymmetry: "Bu naq Ebg Guvegrra fhk!"

Lrnu, nccneragyl jr fubhyq fgbc hfvat -- QNZA VG!
posted by brundlefly at 1:44 PM on December 26, 2009


I watched Avatar this afternoon. Wow. What an experience. Who the fuck cares about the influences, the plot points, etc.? It was one fucking fun ride.
posted by ericb at 2:20 PM on December 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


Cthulu fthagn.
posted by kaibutsu at 7:43 PM on December 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


"Enhance!"
posted by sweetmarie at 10:27 PM on December 26, 2009


P.o.B: Nsgre fpvragvfg-qhqr jnxrf hc nsgre uvf Ningne vf fubg, jr frr uvz qbaavat n znfx naq yrnivat gur yno jvgu n tha naq snpr znfx
posted by memebake at 1:11 PM on December 27, 2009


I really liked it, in a kind of - "if we are going to have blockbuster movies, I'd rather they be like this" kind of way. Something like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, or I Heart Huckabees, or Memento or (insert your favourite thoughtful movie here) will always impress me more than a blockbuster like Avatar, but its still a very fine film and I'm impressed by Cameron's talents, which stretch from the very technical side right the way across to the artistic realm.

Everyone pretty much agrees that the visuals are amazing. Plot and story wise: although I knew quite a lot about this movie from watching the trailers and reading the various leaks over the last six months, and I pretty much knew how the story was going to play out (I mean, you can figure that out from the trailer) there were still lots of parts that made me think 'oh, thats a neat way of doing that'.

Something that hasn't got many mentions so far:
(ROT13 spoiler)

V xarj guvf jnf n svyz jurer gur uhznaf jrer gur vainqref naq gur onq thlf, ohg vg gbbx gung pbaprcg gb dhvgr na rkgerzr. Gur yvar arne gur raq bs gur zbivr: "Gur Nyvraf jrer frag onpx ubzr gb gurve qlvat cynarg" ... guvax nobhg gung yvar naq gur vzcyvpngvbaf ... gur zbivr qbrfag ernyyl fcryy vg bhg, ohg vg uvagf rneyvre ba gung Rnegu vf va qrrc fuvg naq Habognvavhz vf fb inyhnoyr orpnhfr vgf urycvat gb fbyir gung ceboyrz, be jbex nebhaq gur ceboyrz. Ningne raqf jvgu Wnxr yrnivat uvf uhzna obql oruvaq, naq n pbhcyr bs uvf fpvragvfg sevraqf fgnlvat jvgu gur An'iv. Gur erfg bs gur uhznaf ner frag onpx gb gurve jerpxrq cynarg, jurer cerfhznoyl gurl jvyy qvr nf n fcrpvrf hayrff gurl svaq nabgure cynarg yvxr Cnaqben gb rkcybvg, be pbzr onpx naq gel gb gnxr Cnaqben ntnva. Guvf svyz'f unccl raqvat vf onfvpnyyl uvagvat ng gur raq bs gur uhzna enpr. Gungf cerggl enqvpny sbe n oybpxohfgre gung zvyyvbaf bs crbcyr jvyy frr.

V gubhtug guvf svyz jbhyq or zber yvxr gur uhznaf naq gur an'iv pbzvat gb na haqrefgnaqvat, yrneavat ubj gb pb-rkvfg va gur havirefr, be fbzrguvat. Ohg gungf abg ubj vg raqf.

Guvax nobhg bgure ovt fpv-sv svyzf/senapuvfrf: Vaqrcraqrapr Qnl - uhznaf jva gurer, ol orvat uhzna. Fher, gurer ner fbzr onq uhznaf va gung svyz, ohg birenyy uhznavgl jvaf guebhtu. Be, fnl, Genafsbezref - gur tvnag ebobgf svaq fbzr hfrshy naq fcvevgrq nyyvrf va fbzr bs gur uhznaf, naq gurl svtug ba gbtrgure. Fgne Gerx - uhznaf ebpx, va gubfr fgbevrf. Qbpgbe Jub - gur qbpgbe nqzverf gur uhzna fcvevg, naq vf trarenyyl irel vagrerfgrq va cebgrpgvat gurz.

Tenagrq, gur vqrn gung uhznaf fhpx nf n fcrpvrf vf abg cnegvphyneyl bevtvany va Fpv-sv, ohg vgf cerggl hahfhny va ovt-ohqtrg oybpxohfgre frra-ol-zvyyvbaf Fpv-Sv.

Va gur svany pbasebagngvba jvgu Dhnevgpu, jura ur fnlf "Ubj qbrf vg srry gb or n genvgbe gb lbhe enpr, Fhyyl?", Dhnevgpu vf yvgrenyyl evtug. Vgf abg whfg gung ur frrf guvatf qvssreragyl sebz Wnxr, n cbyvgvpny qvfnterrzrag nobhg gur orfg jnl sbejneq sbe gur uhzna enpr. Vg vf yvgrenyyl gehr - Wnxr'f npgvbaf, va trggvat gur cynarg gb havgr ntnvafg gur uhznaf, znl jryy yrnq gb gur qrfgehpgvba bs uvf (sbezre) enpr.

Nyfb, negvfgvpnyyl, gurer'f fbzrguvat boivbhf ohg cbjreshy tbvat ba va cnenyyry jvgu guvf zrffntr - nf n ivrjre lbh anghenyyl vqragvsl zber naq zber jvgu Wnxr naq gur An'iv, naq rawbl gur Cnaqben fprarf zhpu zber guna gur terl, qhyy uhzna fprarf va gur onfr. Fb ng gur raq jura lbh frr lbhe enpr orvat cnpxrq bss ubzr gb boyvivba, lbh gbgnyyl tb jvgu vg.

N ybg bs erivrjf unir fnvq gung gur zbivr unf na raivebazragny zrffntr - naq gungf gehr, ohg vgf fbegbs zber guna gung. Vgf yvxr n zrgn-raivebazragny zrffntr: gung uhznaf ner sngnyyl synjrq, jvyy zbfg yvxryl zrff hc guvf cynarg, naq gura vs gur havirefr vf ernyyl hayhpxl, gurl'yy znxr vg vagb fcnpr naq fgneg zrffvat hc bgure cynprf gbb. Ningne, yvxr Ovyy Uvpxf, ivrjf uhznaf nf onfvpnyyl 'N ivehf jvgu fubrf'.

V pbhyq tb ba nobhg gung sbe n juvyr (yvxr, vf Pnzreba whfg pubbfvat fhpu n zrffntr orpnhfr vgf gbcvpny, be unf nyy uvf haqrejngre angher fghql znqr uvz ernyyl oryvrir gung?). Va n gvzr jura jr erny uhznaf ner fgehttyvat gb znxr na nterrzrag gb (evtugyl be jebatyl) yvzvg Pb2 rzvffvbaf, juvpu vf n fubeg fgrc nybat n ebnq jr unir gb snpr fbzrqnl - gung vf, yrneavat ubj gb yvir nf n enpr ba n cynarg jvgu yvzvgrq erfbheprf - naq va n jrrx jurer jr snvyrq dhvgr onqyl gb rira znxr fubeg fgrcf nybat gung cngu, guvf nfcrpg bs gur svyz ernyyl nssrpgrq zr.
posted by memebake at 1:18 PM on December 27, 2009 [9 favorites]


gy;qe
posted by jeanmari at 2:01 PM on December 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


Abg ernyyl fhecevfvat. Lbh jnag n unccl raqvat? Yrg gur Zbuvpnaf, V zrna, Aniv jva. Vg'f snagnfl fb ur'f abg pbafgenvarq ol ernyvgl. Vg'f abg yvxr gur uhznaf pbhyq ahxr gur fvgr sebz beovg...bu, jnvg....
posted by P.o.B. at 2:38 PM on December 27, 2009


P.o.b: Jryy, gur uhznaf pbhyq pbzr onpx jvgu ervasbeprzragf V thrff, ohg V fhccbfr gung gur raq bs Ningne vf zrnag gb fubj gung gurl ner svtugvat n cynarg, juvpu vf cerfhznoyl n uneq svtug gb jva. Vg jbhyq or rnfl gb unir n cybg-cbvag gung fnlf ahxrf jbhyq qrfgebl gur habognvavhz be fbzrguvat.

Perhaps something along those lines will happen, because rumour is that Avatar is part 1 of a trilogy. Although its not clear whether Cameron has the motivation to make parts 2 and 3 right now, after having spent so long on part 1. Rumour (well, MarketSaw actually) has it that the sequels will ...

... sbyybj Wnxr naq Arlgvev'f fgbel, ohg fbzrubj nyfb vaibyir bgure cynargf/zbbaf va Cnaqben'f fbyne flfgrz. Gurer'f n pregnva jnl gung Fpv-sv svyzf ner fhccbfrq gb fpnyr-hc va frdhryf, fb creuncf gur fgbel jvyy or gung Cnaqben vf fcrpvny orpnhfr gung jubyr cynargnel flfgrz vf fcrpvny ...
posted by memebake at 3:13 PM on December 27, 2009


yby @ jeanmari
posted by memebake at 3:14 PM on December 27, 2009


memebake: "Perhaps something along those lines will happen, because rumour is that Avatar is part 1 of a trilogy. Although its not clear whether Cameron has the motivation to make parts 2 and 3 right now, after having spent so long on part 1."

Cameron has said that it makes sense to do sequels, as most of the technical heavy lifting has already been done. Any sequels would be quicker shoots and cost substantially less.
posted by brundlefly at 3:49 PM on December 27, 2009


Avatar: The Making of the Bootleg
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 2:42 AM on December 28, 2009


Vg jbhyq or rnfl gb unir n cybg-cbvag gung fnlf ahxrf jbhyq qrfgebl gur habognvavhz be fbzrguvat.

Yeah, but he didn't. Instead ur unq bar fvqr cresbez n obzovat nggnpx gung pnzr va whfg nobir gur sberfg pnabcl naq gur bgure fvqr unir na nggnpx fgengrtl pbafvfg bs ehaavat snpr svefg vagb crbcyr fubbgvat thaf. If you want to appreciate the movie for some subtle things that's cool. Mileage from art is always going to vary, but in this instance we are talking about a fantasy story with a shitton of hand-waving. Setting all that aside the premise is still really weak.
posted by P.o.B. at 4:55 AM on December 28, 2009


If you really want think about something that will blow your mind is that an actor went from starring in one of the least successful movies in recent history to another that is the most.
posted by P.o.B. at 5:07 AM on December 28, 2009


Just saw the movie and frikkin loved it. Go jump off a tree, haters.
posted by Deathalicious at 2:55 PM on December 28, 2009


Nobody ever seems to go to the bathroom in movies either! When did Luke Skywalker ever take a pee break?

I'm pretty sure he peed himself when the Millennium Falcon went to light speed for the first time.
posted by crossoverman at 3:43 PM on December 28, 2009


Memebake, thanks for the analysis. It's a lot more depressing movie when you think about it that way.
posted by octothorpe at 5:25 AM on December 29, 2009


newdaddy: “Nobody ever seems to go to the bathroom in movies either! When did Luke Skywalker ever take a pee break?”

I know you're being facetious, but this is why Wim Wender's Im Lauf Der Zeit ["In The Course of Time," released in the US as "Kings Of The Road"] is a truly great movie whereas Star Wars is a fun movie to watch if you have some time to kill: because Kings Of The Road is actually about life as it is. And, as such, when the character has to stop and take a shit by the side of the road, Wim Wnders shows it.

One of my favorite moments in any movie, if only because it's jarring and refreshing to see something that's usually so thoroughly censored actually get shown.

Anyhow, carry on.
posted by koeselitz at 6:22 AM on December 29, 2009


Memebake: Something like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, or I Heart Huckabees, or Memento or (insert your favourite thoughtful movie here) will always impress me more than a blockbuster like Avatar...

Aren't all of those movies big-budget blockbusters?
posted by koeselitz at 6:26 AM on December 29, 2009


^koeslitz: well, ok some of them are quite big films, but I suppose by Blockbuster I mean fx-laden action movie.

Hmm, the history of the term Blockbuster is actually quite interesting.

Wikipedia settles on this for a contemporary definition:
"Although 'blockbusters' were initially created by the audience, after a while the term came to mean a high-budget production aimed at mass markets, with associated merchandising, on which the financial fortunes of film studio or distributor depended. It was defined by its production budget and marketing effort rather than its success and popularity, and was essentially a tag which a film's marketing gave itself."
Yeah, thats what I meant.
posted by memebake at 10:24 AM on December 29, 2009


Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, or I Heart Huckabees, or Memento

I think of movies like these as fake-indies.
posted by box at 12:41 PM on December 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


I just saw it. some of the scenes where beyond pschydelic. I will go see it again, but damn don't we love some violence. I could have used a few more night time in the woods sequences myself!
posted by tarantula at 5:40 PM on December 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


My friend Margo is in town for the holidays, and one of her friends asked her if she wanted to 'get Avatar-ded.' This, of course, is when you get really baked and then go watch the movie.

Has anybody else heard this expression?
posted by box at 7:36 AM on December 30, 2009


I just saw it. Amazing. As an asside, I saw in in Real 3D, not IMAX. I felt like the 3D stuff didn't work that well, it was kind of distracting and glitchy, especially in the beginning. I do kind of want to see in in IMAX still.

Yeah, the plot was really simple and cliched, but I thought it worked well. Maybe if I had seen tons and tons of 3D movies before I would have thought it was silly, but the visual experience was really intense.
gur zbivr qbrfag ernyyl fcryy vg bhg, ohg vg uvagf rneyvre ba gung Rnegu vf va qrrc fuvg naq Habognvavhz vf fb inyhnoyr orpnhfr vgf urycvat gb fbyir gung ceboyrz ....

Va gur svany pbasebagngvba jvgu Dhnevgpu, jura ur fnlf "Ubj qbrf vg srry gb or n genvgbe gb lbhe enpr, Fhyyl?", Dhnevgpu vf yvgrenyyl evtug. Vgf abg whfg gung ur frrf guvatf qvssreragyl sebz Wnxr, n cbyvgvpny qvfnterrzrag nobhg gur orfg jnl sbejneq sbe gur uhzna enpr. Vg vf yvgrenyyl gehr - Wnxr'f npgvbaf, va trggvat gur cynarg gb havgr ntnvafg gur uhznaf, znl jryy yrnq gb gur qrfgehpgvba bs uvf (sbezre) enpr.
V'z abg ernyyl fher vs V jbhyq tb gung sne. Gb zr vg whfg frrzrq yvxr gurl jnagrq guvf fghss orpnhfr vg jnf hfrshy, abg orpnhfr gurl jbhyq qvr jvgubhg vg.
Erzrzore gur yvfg bs cynprf gung Wnxr naq bgure znevarf zragvbarq svtugvat va. Irarfhryn naq Avtrevn.

Obgu bvy evpu pbhagevrf, fb V'z nffhzvat gung crbcyr jrer fgvyy svtugvat bire bvy urer ba rnegu. Jub xabjf jung guvf Habognvavhz
qbrf ohg gb zr vg ybbxrq yvxr vg jnf whfg fbzr xvaq bs nagvtenivgl zngrevny, tvira gur jnl gur obff thl jnf sybngvat vg.
V vagrecergrq gur "gengbe gb lbhe enpr" guvat nf n zber ybpny vffhr, va gung Fhyyl naq gur An'iv ner yvgrenyyl xvyyvat uhznaf.

Ohg n ybg bs gur zbivr vf xvaq bs "svyy va gur oynaxf".
Vg'f nyzbfg na vzcerffvbavfgvp fgbel, oner bhgyvarf naq nepurglcrf guebja gbtrgure gb gryy gur fgbel dhvpxyl rssvpragyl.
posted by delmoi at 12:37 PM on December 30, 2009


I just saw it. Amazing. As an asside, I saw in in Real 3D, not IMAX. I felt like the 3D stuff didn't work that well, it was kind of distracting and glitchy, especially in the beginning. I do kind of want to see in in IMAX still.

Well, i should amend that. It worked pretty well. I definitely got the sense of depth most of the time, and it was very immersive. But in the beginning I sometimes had trouble 'connecting' and felt like I had trouble seeing the depth in scenes with fast movement. I also wasn't sitting head on, and I wonder how much of an effect that had. I felt like I would have been better head on.

But once things really got moving my brain adapted, either by getting better at processing the 3D, or no longer caring about processing it correctly.

I do still want to see in Imax though, so I can see how much better/worse the technology is.
posted by delmoi at 12:48 PM on December 30, 2009


I also wasn't sitting head on, and I wonder how much of an effect that had. I felt like I would have been better head on...

I wonder, too. I saw it in probably the best seats -- center seats with eye level directly aimed at the center of the screen. The 3D was natural, non-gimmicky and immersive.
posted by ericb at 2:31 PM on December 30, 2009


Jonah Goldberg | L.A. Times: 'Avatar' and the faith instinct.
posted by ericb at 2:36 PM on December 30, 2009


Please, no straight up links to doughy pantload as if he had anything interesting to say.
posted by fleacircus at 3:28 PM on December 30, 2009


From ericb's Huffpo link:
"Of course, that sounds outlandish and absurd, but that's the point, isn't it? We live in an age in which it's the norm to speak glowingly of spirituality but derisively of traditional religion. If the Na'Vi were Roman Catholics, there would be boycotts and protests. Make the oversized Smurfs Rousseauian noble savages and everyone nods along, save for a few cranky right-wingers."
Yes. Why aren't these aliens from another planet Roman Catholics, somehow? Why can't James Cameron make this movie about some epic battle between interplanetary Space Popes?
Space popes. Lol.
posted by delmoi at 4:55 PM on December 30, 2009


Doughy pantload seems to have missed the fact that there is no religion in Avatar ...
(rot13)
Gur jnl gur An'iv gnyx nobhg Rljn vg fbhaqf yvxr n eryvtvba ng svefg, ohg nf gur zbivr cebterffrf, jr yrnea gung Rljn vf yvgrenyyl erny. Vgf n tvnag cynarg-oenva znqr bhg bs nyy gur yvivat guvatf ba Cnaqben. Gur An'iv yvgrenyyl qb unir yvsr-nsgre-qrngu, naq gur prerzbavrf jurer pbafpvbhfarff vf genafsreerq ner npghnyyl gur ovbybtvpny rdhvinyrag bs grpuabybtl, abg eryvtvba. Rljn qrsvavgryl rkvfgf, naq fb vg pna'g or n eryvtvba ol qrsvavgvba. Ab snvgu vf arrqrq - vgf whfg na rpbflfgrz.
posted by memebake at 3:10 AM on December 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


memebake, Goldberg's whole writing career is based on missing the point. That's his thing.
posted by octothorpe at 7:27 AM on December 31, 2009


Is he aeguing that there is a lack of Jesuses in SF movies? Because honestly I think we could do with a few less, we're fucking drowning in the things.

Could someone whack him over the head with a BSG box set?
posted by Artw at 9:50 AM on December 31, 2009 [4 favorites]


Fuck your ROT13, ok?

Avatar rocked, pure and simple. No, it was not perfect, but much like Titanic it managed to weave a so so story with amazing visuals in a way that works on many, but not all, levels.

As to those getting their panties or jockstrapes in a bunch over the story of the natives told through white man's eyes, consider this: Having a powerful white males completely repudiate the negative aspects of American colonialism and instead rewrite history via their movies to not only side with but triumph the native populace (and their way of life) is nothing less than extraordinary. The attempt to put himself at the top of the food chain in that rewritten narrative should be seen not a small minded arrogance, but rather as a normal human desire to matter and bring some good to the divided table of race relations.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:24 PM on December 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


My ROT13 requires a little bit of wine & dine first, ok?

I just remembered my favorite part, it was the never ending waterfalls coming out of the floating islands.
posted by P.o.B. at 5:56 PM on December 31, 2009


I just remembered my favorite part, it was the never ending waterfalls coming out of the floating islands.

Kind of like this, I'm assuming ... without the bridge attached, of course.
posted by philip-random at 9:00 PM on December 31, 2009


No spoilers or ROT13 here: same old hollywood shoot-em-up with laughably unlikely ending.
posted by telstar at 2:44 AM on January 1, 2010


Floating sky islands with never-ending waterfalls. That still shot defines the movie in so many ways.
posted by P.o.B. at 3:50 AM on January 1, 2010


I loved how the smaller floating rocks had to be tied together to prevent them from floating away.

Did you noticed how the rocks were brown and tied down? Tell me that isn't pure racism!!!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:01 AM on January 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Avatar SUCKS.
(I wrote this before reading the posts in this thread.)

Avatar SUCKS!

After three hours of stabbing, exploding, shooting, spearing, knifing, striking, gassing, strafing, pounding, gnashing ... NOTHING in the 'cutting edge' graphics could make me feel like this film was anything but a giant rip-off.

And of course Cameron delivers the classic message: the simplistic tree-hugging blue beings can only be saved by the barbaric brawn of the ex-marine human. Collateral damage be damned. (Got that, Afghanistan? Iraq? Hawaiians? Native Americans? Violence is the only answer.)

The blue beings became what they would have risen above (had Cameron had a real writer). There was so much possibility in the beginning ... but the abysmal lack of imagination won over. Binary logic ... 20th century 'glory mongering' ... complete distain for human (humane) potential ... Cameron will never be more than a Disney-wannabe. Like the corporate 'bad guy' in the film Cameron just sought box office gold.

I want my money back. More than that, I want my three hours back.
posted by Surfurrus at 11:42 PM on January 1, 2010


It's strange that you see modern day parallels in the story, then castigate Cameron for having modern day parallels.

The blue beings became what they would have risen above

Nah, they were find with fighting, especially to protect their home.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:20 AM on January 2, 2010


Do room temperature superconductors actually get mentioned at any point, or is it just implied that that's what the floating rock is?
posted by Artw at 9:42 AM on January 2, 2010


No, the rocks were hollowed out and then filled with nerdtanium to make them float.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:41 AM on January 2, 2010 [1 favorite]



Nah, they were find [sic] with fighting, especially to protect their home.


The fighting was not a good thing. It was a sad thing. A SAD thing ... and the stupid child-mind made it all happen. It didn't have to happen that way.

Cameron played out violent cultural norms. He *almost* showed other possibilities, but wimped out.

I guess this is why Dorothy Bryant's book, The Kin of Ata Are Waiting For You is not a hollywood film.
posted by Surfurrus at 11:49 AM on January 2, 2010


artw, i figured the floating rock(s) were something to do with that, as was the ... what did they call it? Not "Matrix", but something similar. And I expect there may be a few bits in the video release.

But no, I don't remember any mention of superconduction or any specific qualities being mentioned for unobtanium. (which, I nearly laughed out lout at when I heard it.) There were also some very suggestively shaped rock formations [get yer minds outa tha gutter] in that regard, which you may have noticed.
posted by lodurr at 12:27 PM on January 2, 2010


Surfurrus: Cameron played out violent cultural norms. He *almost* showed other possibilities, but wimped out.

Much as I prefer to see problems resolved without violence, and much as I truly believe that's not a futile goal, I must ask:

What traditional societies are you aware of where inter-group warfare is not the norm?

That's an open-ended question, of course -- I'm aware of several, myself (e.g., the "big man" cultures of PNZ seem to have stabilized to a proxy-war state, and the potlatch culture also somewhat effectively proxied warfare).

But let's look at the most obvious parallel: 19th C Lakota culture, as depicted in Dances w/ Wooves etc. I find Lakota culture fascinating, and I think there's a lot to learn from it, but it's very far from peaceful. While (as I recall) they tended to avoid intra-tribal killing, they were just fine with making lethal raids on members of other tribes. And if people died during an intra-tribal raid, well, that was uncool, but shit happens, enit?

In other words, these "violent cultural norms" are also really common cultural norms, once you get past the happy-horseshit version of the ethnolography to what people actually do.

This comes back around to related to other criticisms: People want more-alien aliens, more-alien alien-sex, a peaceful solution, etc. Well, folks, those would be a) different stories, and b) stories that probably wouldn't make any money.

So what you're really saying is you want different stories to make money. I'd like that, too. That's why I'm engaged in trying to write such stories, and if I (or anyone else) can get them to take off, I'll be quite happy. 'Til then, Cameron's got the talking-stick -- he paid good money for it.
posted by lodurr at 12:36 PM on January 2, 2010


The fighting was not a good thing

Pretty common thing though.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:08 PM on January 2, 2010


I think a lot of the explanation about Unobtainium and why it was so valuable got cut out of the final release (Cameron had to get the movie under the imax limit of 170 mins or something). The DVD will probably put those bits back in.

I think the floating mountains are floating because of Unobtainium though, thats pretty clear.

This unofficial wiki has more info about Unobtainium, althought its not clear where they got the info from.
posted by memebake at 2:32 PM on January 2, 2010


I think the floating mountains are floating because of Unobtainium though, thats pretty clear.

Sooooo...the humans couldn't mine those?
posted by P.o.B. at 3:22 PM on January 2, 2010


Dealing with a stationary tree and pesky natives is probably easier than dealing with a floating rock that might fall if you mine it too much.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:26 PM on January 2, 2010


I honestly can't get a read on how serious you are but they have ships twice the size as some of those rocks. It would have been easy pickings taking them. That is if it's clear that the "special rocks" made them float, which we just don't know. I mean, floating islands that produce water have to be worth something. Cameron's shitty writing comes out on top in this instance.
posted by P.o.B. at 3:40 PM on January 2, 2010


althought its not clear where they got the info from.

I'll give you one guess and a hint: they made it up.
posted by P.o.B. at 3:54 PM on January 2, 2010


Making it up or not, if the rocks are floating as a result of superconducting ore, then when you remove the rock from the field again, it's going to suddenly get heavy. Not that you couldn't figure out a way around it, but yes, given a mining colony 5 years journey out from earth (and I have no idea what the relativistic distance is in time) to which you have to haul every piece of heavy tech that you have, it might indeed be easier to mine the stuff in the ground.

OTOH, once you remove enough ore from the ground, the rocks up in the air might fall....

All of this is rendered a non-issue, in any case, when you take account of the fact that at this point in the story they don't plan to mine near the tree of souls. They plan to mine somewhere else spoilery that doesn't happen to be underneath a bunch of floating rocks.
posted by lodurr at 4:04 PM on January 2, 2010


It's pretty solidly implied that the unobtanium superconducts and that's why it levitates in the magnetic flux area, it does seem a little weird that there's no as-you-know-bob laying that on the table - Viewpoint character probably doesn't care. Viewpoint character is kind of a dumbass TBH.
posted by Artw at 4:09 PM on January 2, 2010


Superconducting rocks aside, because I get that, there's assumptions about a movie (the bug-like Prawns in District 9 are aimless drones without a queen mother) and then there's assumptions just to prop up specific things so we can't see what's behind the curtain (why do those islands flloat? it's the unobtaniium. Okay, why don't they mine those instead of killing all the native life? Uhhhhh, well it's too hard!) Sure everybody is going to draw the line someplace on where they think is an acceptable place for suspension of disbelief but I'm not going to start reading made up bullshit from rabid fans to explain away some ridiculous plot points.
posted by P.o.B. at 4:26 PM on January 2, 2010


Avatar SUCKS!
No, no it doesn't. Cameron doesn't do nuance, but he can tell a compelling story and seeing it last night - I was compelled from beginning to end. Yes, some of the characters were over the top. Yes, there were some plot holes. But the visuals were inventive and stunning, the technology is impressive, but most importantly, the story was arresting. The 2.5 hours I spent in the theater flew by, and I could have watched more.

I'm not concerned with parsing the possibility of the world presented by Cameron, any more than I am willing to subject the properties of dilithium to rigorous scientific analysis. The physics aren't the point.

FWIW, my 6 year daughter agrees that Avatar sucks. She says there were too many people hurting other people and she doesn't approve of that. I agree with her that hurting people sucks. And I'm probably a bad parent for taking a 6 year old to an allegory about colonial imperialism and the Bush doctrine. She repaid my bad parenting by having a bathroom emergency during the movie's climax.
posted by jeoc at 6:03 PM on January 2, 2010


The 'Pandora Discovered' featurette also mentions that the mountains float due to unobtainium.

And it looks like that fan wiki gets most of its info from the Cameron 'scriptment' for Avatar which made its way onto the net some years ago.

While we're at it, the Scriptment also explains the origin of the term Unobtainium - see page 13 ... "It's joke name of Unobtainium has stuck, over the years".
posted by memebake at 6:50 PM on January 2, 2010


Hmm, the final pages of the Scriptment also give some ideas on how Pandora could stop the humans from returning.
posted by memebake at 7:01 PM on January 2, 2010


The physics aren't the point.

You're right it's not. Personally I'm not arguing about the superconductor rocks, I didn't care then or now when that was brought up, but I think it's perfectly acceptable if someone is going to to tell me how the big gaps in the story made sense than I can counter that they didn't. What I'm specifically bringing up is points that directly relate to how well I'm being sold a story. I'd much rather have the explanation for a central plot point involving high amounts of precious MacGuffin be a hand-wavy "because the story takes place over there" rather than have a house of cards built from bad excuses. Regardless, it shouldn't be a surprise to have the handwavium questioned.
posted by P.o.B. at 8:54 PM on January 2, 2010


How The Alien Plants In "Avatar" Were 'Invented'.

The consulting UC Riverside botanist mentions that she got direction from Cameron's "Avatar Survival Guide" and helped to create the "Pandorapedia" -- "a detailed catalog of the moon's features, including its many plants."
posted by ericb at 6:25 AM on January 3, 2010


Unobtainium on ebay
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 7:03 AM on January 3, 2010


Til then, Cameron's got the talking-stick -- he paid good money for it.

No, the people who go to his movies paid good money for it.
posted by Saxon Kane at 9:56 PM on January 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


In other words, these "violent cultural norms" are also really common cultural norms, once you get past the happy-horseshit version of the ethnolography to what people actually do.

If something is *really common* does that make it a good source for a 'groundbreaking' film? In fact, I would argue, the kind of film that stoops to that kind of pandering is exactly the banal hollywood pablum that Disney/Cameron represent. Dances w/ Wolves had to be one of the very worst exploitation films ever - Avatar measures up as a pretty close second.

This is only significant in that Cameron alludes to a greater vision and has even been granted that 'vision' without significant challenge. Very strange. Once again, if someone says something often enough it becomes a truth?

Avatar is a lie wrapped up in a shiny tech-package to distract simple minds.

So what you're really saying is you want different stories to make money. I'd like that, too.

No, what I am saying is that I wish I had not contributed to the profit of this film in any way. I know I don't represent the general population, so it is a strange situation for me. I just resent the lie and felt I needed to call out hypocrisy of a filmmaker who is profiting from false claims.
posted by Surfurrus at 1:51 AM on January 4, 2010


FWIW, my 6 year daughter agrees that Avatar sucks. She says there were too many people hurting other people and she doesn't approve of that.

So, the 'pretty visuals' weren't worth the carnage? Take heart, there is time for her to grow out of that and join the 'normals'.

Tell her about the cool rocks.
posted by Surfurrus at 2:04 AM on January 4, 2010


No, the people who go to his movies paid good money for it.

For the Talking Stick? No, they just paid to listen to someone else (Cameron) while he held it.

It's a weird arrangement and seems to stretch the metaphor, I know, but that's Capitalism for you.
posted by lodurr at 3:30 AM on January 4, 2010


... Cameron alludes to a greater vision and has even been granted that 'vision' without significant challenge. Very strange. Once again, if someone says something often enough it becomes a truth?

I'm sorry, but it's really unclear what you mean by this. Are you saying he bought the vision without having to win it? That there really was no vision? That he's not telling us what the vision is, so we ought to assume there's really no vision? That the vision is crap? That the vision is real but destructive?

Avatar is a lie wrapped up in a shiny tech-package to distract simple minds.

What the lie, specifically?
posted by lodurr at 3:34 AM on January 4, 2010


Avatar sex scenes featured USB
posted by Artw at 2:51 PM on January 4, 2010


"Cameron has always been a proponent of Hollywood anti-capitalism: stupid corporate interests were the villains in Aliens and Terminator 2 as they are in Avatar. Avatar is Le Guin-lite, a degraded version of the scenario that Le Guin developed in novels such as The Word For World Is Forest, The Dispossessed and City Of Illusions, but stripped of all Le Guin's ambivalence and intelligence. What is foreclosed in the opposition between a predatory technologised capitalism and a primitive organicism, evidently, is the possibility of a modern, technologised anti-capitalism. It is in presenting this pseudo-opposition that Avatar functions as an ideological symptom. "
posted by stammer at 6:35 PM on January 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


stammer: ""Cameron has always been a proponent of Hollywood anti-capitalism: stupid corporate interests were the villains in Aliens and Terminator 2 as they are in Avatar. Avatar is Le Guin-lite, a degraded version of the scenario that Le Guin developed in novels such as The Word For World Is Forest, The Dispossessed and City Of Illusions, but stripped of all Le Guin's ambivalence and intelligence. What is foreclosed in the opposition between a predatory technologised capitalism and a primitive organicism, evidently, is the possibility of a modern, technologised anti-capitalism. It is in presenting this pseudo-opposition that Avatar functions as an ideological symptom. ""

This treatise should be submitted to a postmodern journal as a prank, ala the Sokal hoax.
posted by aerotive at 10:38 PM on January 9, 2010


Fern Avatar
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 4:32 AM on January 10, 2010


Some might protest: But what about Avatar's anti-imperialism and anti-corporate attitudinizing? They're red herrings, in my opinion, planted by Cameron with the cynical intention of distracting the viewer from the movie's more serious ideological work: convincing you to love your simulation—convincing you to surrender your queasiness. The audacity of Cameron's movie is to make believe that the artificial world of computer-generated graphics offers a truer realm of nature than our own. The compromised, damaged world we live in—the one with wars, wounds, and price-benefit calculations—can and should be abandoned. All you need is a big heart, like Jake Sully (Sam Worthington), the movie's war-veteran hero, and the luck of being given a chance to fall in love.
Via Andrew Sullivan's blog.
posted by delmoi at 5:25 PM on January 10, 2010


The other post on Sullivan's blog, which calls it "A Pretty Nice Cognitive Vacation" is a pretty good summation too.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:07 PM on January 10, 2010


« Older Starlight...  |  Lobster: The Journal of Parapo... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments