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Even better without special effects?
January 11, 2010 3:22 AM   Subscribe

In a very unusual move, 20th Century Fox has decided to release James Cameron’s entire screenplay for AVATAR online. Read the script as a PDF.
posted by twoleftfeet (230 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
Um, there are spoilers.
posted by twoleftfeet at 3:23 AM on January 11, 2010


Um, there are spoilers.

There are? The second time I saw this movie, I just listened to John Williams on my iPod the whole time. I feel I still caught all the high points.
posted by The Potate at 3:37 AM on January 11, 2010 [5 favorites]


Spoilers:
Page 2: "cold ass bitch"
Page 3: "sorry-ass life" "candy ass bitch"

From my "ass" searching. Cameron also apparently is quite fond of the words "massive" and "passing".
posted by emelenjr at 3:41 AM on January 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


If you've seen the trailer.. that's basically all the story already.

But good to have the dialogue from the beginning of the movie. I was totally not paying attention to anything but the rather awesome 3D spaceship.
posted by Harry at 3:46 AM on January 11, 2010


Didn't someone already post the outline?
posted by chuckdarwin at 3:55 AM on January 11, 2010 [3 favorites]


I'm almost surprised that the use of Papyrus for the Na'vi subtitles wasn't in the screenplay.
posted by Schismatic at 4:01 AM on January 11, 2010 [16 favorites]


This is presented as a "very unusual move" in the FPP. Is there any reason why 20th Century Fox did this? Any explanation out there? Am simply curious.

p.s. I am going to print out this script so I can have a 3-D version.
posted by chavenet at 4:03 AM on January 11, 2010 [7 favorites]


Is there any reason why 20th Century Fox did this?

I don't know. There has been some speculation. Could this be a push for a Best Screenplay Academy Award nod?

It is interesting that the original screenplay differs from the final film a little.
posted by twoleftfeet at 4:08 AM on January 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


ZZZWHAP!
K-WHOOOOM!
P-P-POOM!
KUNG! KUNG! KUNG!

Now that's screen writing.
posted by birdwatcher at 4:09 AM on January 11, 2010


Is there any reason why 20th Century Fox did this? Any explanation out there? Am simply curious.

Studios have posted scripts online before as part of their campaigns for Best Screenplay Oscars... I'm sure Avatars going to be a shoe-in there...
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 4:14 AM on January 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


... and of course I should have done a preview but I'm sure Avatar viewers will be used to that feeling of deja vu
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 4:19 AM on January 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Could this be a push for a Best Screenplay Academy Award nod?

This is just high-wire sarcasm, right?
posted by jaffacakerhubarb at 4:19 AM on January 11, 2010 [3 favorites]


Jake stops, unnoticed, next to the bullying man. He leans down and grabs one leg of the man’s barstool -- and YANKS.

The chair flips. The guy goes down HARD and -- JAKE hurls himself from the wheelchair, toppling on the guy, getting a grip on him like a pit bull and PUNCHING the crap out of him, right there on the floor.

THE BOUNCER jumps in, trying to drag him off and it goes into

SLOW MOTION, everybody yelling and pulling...

JAKE (V.O.)
All I ever wanted in my sorry-ass life
was a single thing worth fighting for.


It really *is* even better without special effects!

quadruple HAMBURGER with popcorn on the side and EXTRA HAMBURGER STUFFED INTO THE ORIGINAL HAMBURGER
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:23 AM on January 11, 2010 [15 favorites]


Avatar or Ferngully?
posted by EarBucket at 4:28 AM on January 11, 2010 [6 favorites]


If you have ever been witness to any type of narrative, linear fiction, you already know exactly what happens in Avatar.
posted by slimepuppy at 4:36 AM on January 11, 2010 [14 favorites]


Was this done in response to someone's pointing out that Avatar is a rewrite of Disney's Pocahontas?
posted by Doktor Zed at 4:42 AM on January 11, 2010 [5 favorites]


Does the script explain why the mining company couldn't have just easily used horizontal mining to extract unobtainium - thereby foregoing an expensive and potentially calamitous war with a group of large and intelligent humanoids? No? Okay.
posted by billysumday at 4:43 AM on January 11, 2010 [4 favorites]


It really *is* even better without special effects!

I remember reading a fight scene from the script of True Lies and it was exactly like this...
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 4:47 AM on January 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


"It turns out wide-bridged noses exhaust me."
posted by Wolfdog at 4:51 AM on January 11, 2010 [4 favorites]


ROBOT pulls a knife from its BELT and tosses it from hand to hand like it's in WEST SIDE STORY
posted by unsupervised at 4:55 AM on January 11, 2010 [13 favorites]


Was this done in response to someone's pointing out that Avatar is a rewrite of Disney's Pocahontas?
Every age produces its own sort of fables, and our age seems to have produced The White Messiah fable.
posted by ijsbrand at 4:59 AM on January 11, 2010 [11 favorites]


Ah well, does anyone ever mentions the quality of the script of The Jazz Singer?
posted by ijsbrand at 5:02 AM on January 11, 2010 [3 favorites]


Does the script explain why the mining company couldn't have just easily used horizontal mining to extract unobtainium - thereby foregoing an expensive and potentially calamitous war with a group of large and intelligent humanoids? No? Okay.

Probably because strip mining is the cheapest, safest, and easiest method to apply. The same reason why we reduce mountains to nothing in the Appalachia. And from the perspective given by the Marines and Corporation, the Na'vi looked like a cake walk (which they were until the Chosen One lead them to band together).
posted by Atreides at 5:06 AM on January 11, 2010


Ah well, does anyone ever mentions the quality of the script of The Jazz Singer?

ijsbrand, I see what you're saying, that in a technological game changer, the script is pretty much beside the point. But if you've been watching the development of CG effects, animation and 3-D, there isn't that much that is new in this film. We've seen it all in everything from "Jurassic Park" to "King Kong," "Journey to the Center of the Earth", to "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs." I would say that the 3-D "Cloudy with a Change of Meatballs" had far more visual originality than "Avatar" (which swiped its best visual images from various Miyazaki films, from "Totoro" to "Laputa"). So, yeah, the fact that "Avatar's" script bites the great big baloney with massive, metal teeth actually matter.
posted by Faze at 5:10 AM on January 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Probably because strip mining is the cheapest, safest, and easiest method to apply.

Okay, smart guy, next question. Unobtainium is a highly valuable mineral resource that is valuable because it is both dense and it floats. So why didn't they strip mine THE FLOATING MOUNTAINS MADE OF THE MATERIAL instead of blowing up a city of aliens?
posted by billysumday at 5:12 AM on January 11, 2010


Every age produces its own sort of fables, and our age seems to have produced The White Messiah fable.

a.k.a. What These People Need Is a Honky. (See also: When Will White People Stop Making Movies Like "Avatar"?)
posted by Doktor Zed at 5:14 AM on January 11, 2010 [5 favorites]


Can I just say that had I not seen it yesterday (in IMAX 3D, which is totally the way to go) I would have though "unobtainium" was some bad joke word billysumday made up?

I actually laughed in the theatre every time they said it, much to my friends' confusion.

Also, I just learned that "theater" is the preferred American spelling, according to wikipedia? That word looks so wrong to me, as an American...
posted by This Guy at 5:16 AM on January 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


As much fun as it is to MOCK Jim Cameron (and I have done so at length in the past, PACHOW!) The ACTION IN CAPITAL LETTERS is a screenwriting convention called a

BREAKOUT!

Sometimes it's even on its own line. And it's put there so people reading the script don't miss significant action. I know it's shocking, but most people SKIM- producers want to see what's BLAMMO, actors want to see their own lines, everybody else just wants to pretend they READ THE SCRIPT.

So Jim is a total tool who wrote yet another candy-ass WHITE MESSIAH movie, but he didn't make up the exciting world of breakouts. You'll find them in excellent scripts as well.
posted by headspace at 5:24 AM on January 11, 2010 [11 favorites]


Since it's mandatory for every Avatar thread:

Unobtanium. It's Cameron being tongue-in-cheek; he could just as easily have called it MacGuffinium.

Why yes, I'm being slightly defensive about the film to preserve my enjoyment of it when I finally see it. :P
posted by Drexen at 5:34 AM on January 11, 2010 [4 favorites]


You are like a BABY. You know nothing, like a BABY. Jake Sully, you are as a BABY. Why you cannot hunt? A man who cannot hunt is a BABY. A giant blue pointy ear BABY, Juke Sully. Like a BABY. Here is pacifier for you to satisfy yourself, because you are a BABY. Why you are such a BABY Jake Sully. You are so new and fresh like a BABY, wrapped in blankets with baby ducks and unformed skull like a BABY, screaming and emitting smell from head to make mother love you like BABY, drinking thick breastmilk like a little BABY
posted by Greg Nog at 5:44 AM on January 11, 2010 [14 favorites]


Asking "Why?" has taken us from the trees to the Moon.

However, it's only going to interfere with your ability to derive any enjoyment from Avatar.
posted by Joe Beese at 5:45 AM on January 11, 2010 [15 favorites]


Does the script explain why the mining company couldn't have just easily used horizontal mining to extract unobtainium - thereby foregoing an expensive and potentially calamitous war with a group of large and intelligent humanoids? No? Okay.

A ten minute 'I drink Your Milkshake' scene was removed at the last minute?
posted by DanCall at 5:46 AM on January 11, 2010 [6 favorites]


I think once you gross more than $1 billion worldwide you can try a few new ideas without upsetting the stockholders.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 5:55 AM on January 11, 2010


Making Avatar Make Sense
posted by teraflop at 5:56 AM on January 11, 2010 [7 favorites]


Unobtanium. It's Cameron being tongue-in-cheek; he could just as easily have called it MacGuffinium.

Avatar has ruined the term just as Lost ruined the generic usage of Oceanic Airlines.
posted by Servo5678 at 5:57 AM on January 11, 2010


Wolfdog: "It turns out wide-bridged noses exhaust me."

Paula Poundstone has (improbably, I think) become the funniest person on Wait, Wait. I nearly did a spit-take of my coffee when she said that. Her quiet little asides whenever anyone mentioned Avatar (about having fallen asleep in the theater) were much more scathing than any overt diss would have been.
posted by aught at 5:58 AM on January 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


Making Avatar Make Sense
posted by clearly at 6:29 AM on January 11, 2010


Ah well, does anyone ever mentions the racism of The Jazz Singer?
posted by shakespeherian at 6:36 AM on January 11, 2010 [3 favorites]


Okay, smart guy, next question. Unobtainium is a highly valuable mineral resource that is valuable because it is both dense and it floats. So why didn't they strip mine THE FLOATING MOUNTAINS MADE OF THE MATERIAL instead of blowing up a city of aliens?

Because it's safer and easier to strip mine and run over the previously thought push over natives than to setup major mining operations in an area where mountains of rock are floating around that is close to the vortex which renders scanners and other electronic tools inoperable.

/smartguy
posted by Atreides at 6:45 AM on January 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


If this movie gets a single academy award that isn't directly related to special effects then there is no God Eywa.
posted by rocket88 at 6:47 AM on January 11, 2010


Because it's safer and easier to strip mine and run over the previously thought push over natives than to setup major mining operations in an area where mountains of rock are floating around that is close to the vortex which renders scanners and other electronic tools inoperable.

Okay, tough guy, before they commenced war actions on a group of unarmed civilians, did they get governmental permission (is there still a functioning government back on Earth?) or at the least did the head of this large conglomerate get approval from the board of directors? You'd think that such reckless endeavors should have been put to a vote for the protection of the shareholders.

/cangoonallday
posted by billysumday at 6:51 AM on January 11, 2010


The original script is fairly interesting. There's a summary of the differences between it and the filmed version here.
posted by Phlogiston at 7:00 AM on January 11, 2010 [6 favorites]


From what I've read, this movie is Jim Cameron's life's work. Which may explain the quality of the story. I just saw Avatar this weekend, and got the impression that he wrote the story when he was 15 years old, and has been working towards filming it ever since.
posted by adamrice at 7:04 AM on January 11, 2010 [12 favorites]


Eh, you gotta at least enjoy the layers or abstracted experience there - uplink to avatar - avatar plugged into some other creature, and you with your 3D glasses on. Don't make it anything more than a thrill ride with some mama gaia moralizin' and it will be just fine.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:05 AM on January 11, 2010


or = of
posted by Burhanistan at 7:08 AM on January 11, 2010


I tried to make it a thrill ride, was more than happy to, but my goddamn common sense kept intruding in, whispering, "How could they have made a movie even more racially offensive than The Last Samurai? How is this possible?"
posted by naju at 7:17 AM on January 11, 2010


"How could they have made a movie even more racially offensive than The Last Samurai? How is this possible?"

I know, right? Those blue hominids descended from feline rather than simian stock who were extra tall due to the lesser gravity of their planet really were being unfairly portrayed.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:22 AM on January 11, 2010 [8 favorites]


I'm sure you picked up on the many racially suggestive traits and behaviors of the N'avi. But it goes beyond that, as plenty of linked articles in this thread have pointed out.
posted by naju at 7:33 AM on January 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


The original script is fairly interesting. There's a summary of the differences between it and the filmed version here.

That was interesting! That sounds like a much better movie the the dull and predictable Dances with N'avi in Fern Gully we were all subjected to.
posted by shothotbot at 7:52 AM on January 11, 2010


The special effects in Avatar were just amazing. Gorgeous, lush scenery on the planet that made you sad every time he took off his goggles and reappeared in his little metal Coffin o' Technology.

But the plot was absolutely predictable, and I don't think they are doing anyone any favors when it comes Oscar time by having that out there.

Some things I would have liked to know, if it hadn't added hours to this almost 3 hour long movie (WARNING: May be spoilers!!!!):

What happens to the "dreamwalker" if his Avatar is killed? Is it a Matrix "brain without the body cannot survive" thing?

Why would the N'avi spirit woman have ANY clue how to transfer consciences from dreamwalkers to their Avatars? Seriously, why would a procedure for this even exist?

Why is Jake such a moron that he didn't consider sabotaging any of the military's equipment if he was so against what was going on, rather than relying on the obviously inferior bows and arrows of the N'avi? He had a guy on the "inside," after all. Smashing a few masks, cutting some pipes on the walking robot things would have been much easier.
posted by misha at 7:52 AM on January 11, 2010


Summary of the thread so far: your favorite broadly-targeted mass-market entertainment sucks

To hell with all y'all. Avatar was freaking awesome, in part *because* the well-worn but universally and instantly relatable tropes of its narrative arc. Best movie I've seen in a long time.
posted by killdevil at 7:53 AM on January 11, 2010 [5 favorites]


Just reading "20th Century Fox" makes me nostalgic.





For the Doors
posted by Kirth Gerson at 7:53 AM on January 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


"I just saw Avatar this weekend, and got the impression that he wrote the story when he was 15 years old, and has been working towards filming it ever since."

See Luc Besson and The Fifth Element.
posted by Naberius at 7:53 AM on January 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


because of
posted by killdevil at 7:54 AM on January 11, 2010


Oh, and killdevil, I agree with you that the movie was an awesome experience, but I would argue against the "because of the relatable tropes" angle. I could have enjoyed the movie just for the creatures and the scenery without the timeworn Natives Being Overrun by Superior Technology scenario rearing its ugly head.

Still, I think Avatar is going to be the new Star Wars. Flawed, but genre-defining.
posted by misha at 7:56 AM on January 11, 2010


What happens to the "dreamwalker" if his Avatar is killed? Is it a Matrix "brain without the body cannot survive" thing?

That other scientist guy had his avatar shot up by the mercenary forces. He woke screaming in pain with sympathetic sensations but then quickly recovered and slapped on a respirator mask and went outside.

Why would the N'avi spirit woman have ANY clue how to transfer consciences from dreamwalkers to their Avatars? Seriously, why would a procedure for this even exist?

Maybe they've done it with other natives and she trusted the process? Perhaps a wizard might have also whispered it to her, ideally in a dream.

Why is Jake such a moron that he didn't consider sabotaging any of the military's equipment if he was so against what was going on, rather than relying on the obviously inferior bows and arrows of the N'avi?

He was so addicted to running and otherwise inhabiting his avatar fomr that he couldn't think straight while outside the uplink chamber and his only coherent thoughts while outside in his wheelchair were of getting back to the avatar body asap?
posted by Burhanistan at 7:57 AM on January 11, 2010 [3 favorites]


Ah, the summary of the original script is definitely interesting.

That night a Na'vi raiding party attacks Hell's Gate and destroys machinery. That gives Quaritch the excuse he needs and he launches an attack on Hometree. In Avatar they want Hometree because of the unobtanium beneath it; in Project 880 it's all in the mountains. In 880 Quaritch wants to send a message to all the Na'vi on Pandora by wiping out this tribe - this is the shock and awe campaign he's talking about in Avatar, and the night raid was the terror he says must be met with terror. Those lines are obvious holdovers from the Project 880 script.

Man, this would have been so much better. The whole idea that a gigantic load of FLOATING material lies UNDERNEATH Hometree was too stupid to bear. The notion of using the Na'vi as a permanent mining workforce makes sense, too.
posted by billysumday at 7:59 AM on January 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


Sitting there watching it in IMAX 3D, I thought to myself, "Yes, this is some weird blend of Pocahontas, Dances with Wolves, Jurassic Park, Dragons of Pern, and about 6 other movies/stories that will come to me later."

But then, the next thought came to me "...and you know what, nobody does it like Cameron. This is pretty cool to watch."

I think $1.3 billion at the box office is supporting my view. You can be a critic and find the story unoriginal, you can find offense in the characters, and you can find plot/science/logic holes (as is the case for all Sci-Fi movies). I can also name better flicks I've seen this year. However, this is the first movie in a long time that isn't Pixar yet I can recommend to just about anyone as being something they'd enjoy.

The sad fact is, for all any of us may do in life, we'll probably never do anything that deserves as much acclaim (for whatever reason you may choose) as Avatar. For that, amidst the criticisms, we have to pay some respect.
posted by Muddler at 8:02 AM on January 11, 2010 [14 favorites]


Okay, tough guy, before they commenced war actions on a group of unarmed civilians, did they get governmental permission (is there still a functioning government back on Earth?) or at the least did the head of this large conglomerate get approval from the board of directors? You'd think that such reckless endeavors should have been put to a vote for the protection of the shareholders.

This is James Cameron Space Reality, by rule, evil conglomerates / corporations care only about the bottom line. Since the most money could be made by "relocating" the locals, the Board of Directors to a man and woman voted for it. Due care was given by the corporation through the use of non-lethal gas to drive the N'avi from their home. There are plenty of trees on Pandora, hence the N'avi are not going to be deprived of new homes. Note: The corporate representative never talks about wiping out the locals, just moving them. No harm, no foul!

/toughguy
posted by Atreides at 8:06 AM on January 11, 2010


"How could they have made a movie even more racially offensive than The Last Samurai? How is this possible?"

My favorite part was the way Cameron created a race of nine-foot tall blue cat people and then, just to make sure they really came across as bizarre and alien, cast black actors to play all of them.
posted by EarBucket at 8:14 AM on January 11, 2010 [9 favorites]


Will read this to see if Giovanni Ribisi's character was ALWAYS that one-dimensional.

Seriously. He was hitting so many "this guy is a bad guy" cliches I was half-expecting some little Na'vi baby to show up with Pandoran candy just so they could show Ribisi stealing it from him.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:18 AM on January 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Another film that AVATAR reminds me of is Werner Hertzog's Where the Green Ants Dream. Bonus points if you have ever seen this 1984 film.
posted by brianstorms at 8:26 AM on January 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


Oops, Herzog. Not Hertzog. My bad.
posted by brianstorms at 8:27 AM on January 11, 2010


…cast black actors to play all of them.

Not all of them. Wes Studi is, uh, Cherokee. And starred in Dances with Wolves. Alright, maybe there is a pattern here.
posted by adamrice at 8:31 AM on January 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


Was this done in response to someone's pointing out that Avatar is a rewrite of Disney's Pocahontas?
posted by Doktor Zed at 7:42 AM on January 11


Since it's mandatory for every Avatar thread:

Unobtanium. It's Cameron being tongue-in-cheek; he could just as easily have called it MacGuffinium.


Okay, so I finally saw this movie. I've also seen Dances With Wolves, Pocahontas, At Play in the Field of the Lord, Gulf War I and II and many other films/media versions of reality that are tossed around as the original "going native"/exploitation of aboriginals stories.

Everyone who says that Avatar rips these off is wrong. Avatar, and James Cameron in particular, is brilliant.

Avatar strips bare the archetype that all these other films are built around. More precisely it strips away all the equivocation and ambiguity of context and bias that any discussion of analysis of those films is plagued of. All of these other films, like Pocahontas, DWW, or even the Iraq War, are clouded by their historical context. We are the product of the trouncing of the natives. The food we eat comes from land stolen or cheated from the Native Americans. We are the people who killed the natives sitting on the shit we wanted. So all of the earlier films of this archetype we're subject to the criticism that, while what was done back then was bad, the product of it, us, is good. Therefore, the criticism goes, those films are biased because they don't present the good that came out of it. This is the entire basis of conservative criticism of film.

Furthermore, we implicity believe that science = good and religions other than today's mainline established ones are backward or pagan, which = bad. So the natives had to be civilized and brought forward into the present out of the past, and anyone that fought back wasn't fighting only the invader, they were fighting civilization, science and progress itself.

What Cameron has done in Avatar is constructed a story in which none of that equivocation is possible. It's set in the future, so it's about where we are going, not who gave us the world we have today. So he present a choice for the audience - nothing on the screen is you or your ancestors, it is about who you want to become, where you want society to go.

Cameron executes this brilliantly. Yes, the plot is completely predictable, not because you've seen it before, because you actually haven't. Avatar differs from the plot of every single one of those archetypical films in one extremely important way - the forces of civilization/progress/technology lose. The backdrop of Pocahontas and Dances With Wolves is that history tells us the natives lost and progress won - we are here today, aren't we, so we must have won. Whatever moral high ground the natives had was rolled over by the inexorable advance of progress. The Lakotas were a good and noble people. Too bad the U.S. Army kicked their asses anyway. Pocahontas's land is now our land. The Indians gave us corn, and we gave it to Monsanto to genetically re-engineer and poison us as HFCS. Civilization has perfected its title to the native lands.

So Avatar is the first of these kinds of films to make it clear that the people who represent us as we live today are the losers. But the reason everyone thinks the plot is totally predicatable is not because they've seen it before, but because simply by beginning with the premise that Pandora has a mineral that earth desperately needs, we already know how its going to play out, because that's the history of our civilization.

You're correct in pointing out that "unobtanium" is a macguffin, but Cameron wants us to know that he knows that. That's why he picked the name. He picked the name "unobtainium" to tells us that the "thing" we want could be anything we can't already get, He also wants us to know it will always be something. Once a long time ago it was salt. Than it was gold, metals, spices, trade routes, higher ground, clean water, warm water ports, coal, oil, natural gas, uranium, a place in the sun, etc.

Jake says as much on page 103 of the script: "When people are sitting on shit you want, you make them your enemy. Then you’re justified in taking it." That's the history of the world.

What unobtainium is is unimportant in the film. Unobtainium gets less screen time than than those corkscrew plants or that giant rhino hippo thing. All we need to know is that it's something that we can't get and it's worth a lot of money. Cameron doesn't bother to explain any more because he understands that audience knows implicitly that because we can't get it we will take it. This is brilliant economy of story telling. It's like putting a black hat on the bad guy. You don't waste any screen time explaining human's motivation on Pandora if the audience walked into the theater already knowing it like it was a universal truth.

Furthermore, Cameron constructed Navi culture to be completely reality-based. The glowing tree and the interconnectedness of all things is not their quaint unenlightened religion. It's an actual, real, objectively verifiable physical thing. Grace says, "I’m talking about something real and measurable in the biology of the forest...It’s a network -- a
global network. And the Na’vi can access it -- they can upload and download data -- memories." In other words, the pinnacle of our civilization and our history, the global communications network called the internet, grows naturally on Pandora. They didn't need to learn about mining, semiconductors, Maxwell's equations or the like, because what we managed to do with that they had already.

But it's not a function of religion, it's a biological fact. So who is more quaint, humans with their unprovable religions that they ignore when it's convenient or the Na'vi personifying the very real giant neural network that constitutes their whole world?

So Cameron has eliminated the casting of the Na'vi as being in need of civilization. They don't need it, they don't want it, and what they already naturally have is in many respects better. So the audience now understands that it isn't simply - stubbornness of fear of change underlying Na'vi rejection of humans gifts to them. It's that the Na'vi simply don't need what the humans are offering.

Finally, Cameron does one more to neutralize the typical criticism of this genre (the "going native" genre, not sci fi) - he casts military training in a positive light. Jake, we are told, is a marine, the first to control an avatar. And all of his achievements are couched as a product of him being a trained marine. He gets lost in the forest, and no one expects him to survive. But he is shown, fashioning a spear, using the local flora to improvise a torch and survive. As Jake says in a voice-over "But there was only one thing I was ever really good at. Ooh-rah."

Cameron shows us that military people are highly capable, adaptable, efficient, and very often moral. There is no negative portrayal of the military (another common conservative critique). There is a very negative portrayal of Blackwater/Xe-esque corporate mercenaries, however. But Cameron is not allowing the audience to use ambiguity in the story to conflate the two.

I could go on much longer - I love that the script is available because there is so much to dig into. But in the end, I think Cameron's film is brilliant because he recasts the archetypical film about the conflict between civilization and the natives into a question for the audience. Who do we want to become? What and how much are we willing to destroy in ourselves and others to get the things we want in a n effort to preserve this imperfect world.
posted by Pastabagel at 8:34 AM on January 11, 2010 [238 favorites]


Oops. Spoiler warning up there. And sorry for all the typos.
posted by Pastabagel at 8:49 AM on January 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


In a very unusual move...

This really isn't that unusual anymore. Releasing the bare screenplay online makes it impossible very difficult for others to profit by selling it whilst leaving the Illustrated Screenplay option open. It's also very common to put screenplays online if they're looking for award nominations (for example).
posted by alby at 8:49 AM on January 11, 2010


Another example here.
posted by alby at 8:50 AM on January 11, 2010


Very, very good points, Pastabagel.

However, that all makes my main objection to the film even stronger by comparison; my biggest problem wasn't the plot itself. It was that the villains were so over-the-top and cartoonishly villain-y that it verged on parody. To my mind, when a writer does that, it's a sign that subconsciously he isn't quite as sure about the legitimacy of his ideas or of his plot as he should be.

If the rest of the script was strong enough for us to come to the conclusion that "ah, I see, the Navi are in the right and the people mining for unobtanium are short-sighted", then there would have been no need to try to make the mining representative cartoonishly evil. There wouldn't have been any need to make him anything but a regular guy with his own agenda, just like everyone else is.

But Cameron doesn't do this -- it's as if he doesn't trust that we're going to be able to tell "oh, wait, the mining company's a little short-sighted and doesn't get the Navi culture and the way it works." He is so hell-bent on us forming a particular opinion about the mining company -- and, by extension, coming to a specifically-prescribed opinion about the opposing viewpoint -- that he makes the mining rep personally repellent, to the point of exaggeration. Everyone else in the movie is a complex character except the mining company rep, who's written as such an over-the-top caricature in comparison to everyone else it looks like Snidely Whiplash has shown up in a Shakespeare play.

For me, when a character is so one-sided, it backfires on you -- "hmmmm, you REALLY REALLY seem to want me to not like that guy. What's behind that?" It verges on extreme propaganda -- and even propaganda I agree with, if it's done poorly, leaves me cold.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:58 AM on January 11, 2010 [8 favorites]


Avatar, and James Cameron in particular, is brilliant.

Ha ha ha no

What Cameron has done in Avatar is constructed a story in which none of that equivocation is possible.

.... which makes the choices made in the movie stupidly easy. With nothing at stake, why not simply throw in with the magical blue people?

The backdrop of Pocahontas and Dances With Wolves is that history tells us the natives lost and progress won - we are here today, aren't we, so we must have won. Whatever moral high ground the natives had was rolled over by the inexorable advance of progress. The Lakotas were a good and noble people. Too bad the U.S. Army kicked their asses anyway. Pocahontas's land is now our land. The Indians gave us corn, and we gave it to Monsanto to genetically re-engineer and poison us as HFCS. Civilization has perfected its title to the native lands.

So Avatar is the first of these kinds of films to make it clear that the people who represent us as we live today are the losers.


This makes it sound like we walk away from Dances With Wolves pumping our collective fist about how the conquering Europeans were the winners. As far as I can, that wasn't really the point of the film, nor was it in any way the reaction of people watching the film. Avatar is simply the latest in a long string of films that uses the "Oh shit maybe we aint oughta conquer any more, that kind of made us look like assholes"

You're correct in pointing out that "unobtanium" is a macguffin, but Cameron wants us to know that he knows that. That's why he picked the name.

Well, bully for Cameron. But again, with no detail regarding why it's any way important, it's hard to know why I should be rooting for the humans in any way. It again minimizes the choices the audience has to make about who they sympathize with in the movie, and reinforces the idea that the film is just a big ol' Xbox game, where Na'vi=GOOD and humans=EVIL.

This is brilliant economy of story telling. It's like putting a black hat on the bad guy.

Yes, let's all "economize" storytelling. "Citizen Kane was rich but in the end he only wanted his sled, The End." "Alien got onto the ship but then killed everyone but then Ripley killed it, Okay." "Blade Runner is good and kills evil robots and in the end he kills them and gets the girl, Hooray!"

Furthermore, Cameron constructed Navi culture to be completely reality-based. The glowing tree and the interconnectedness of all things is not their quaint unenlightened religion. It's an actual, real, objectively verifiable physical thing. Grace says, "I’m talking about something real and measurable in the biology of the forest...It’s a network -- a
global network. And the Na’vi can access it -- they can upload and download data -- memories." In other words, the pinnacle of our civilization and our history, the global communications network called the internet, grows naturally on Pandora. They didn't need to learn about mining, semiconductors, Maxwell's equations or the like, because what we managed to do with that they had already.

But it's not a function of religion, it's a biological fact. So who is more quaint, humans with their unprovable religions that they ignore when it's convenient or the Na'vi personifying the very real giant neural network that constitutes their whole world?


FACT: the Na'vi are actually fictional.
posted by Greg Nog at 9:08 AM on January 11, 2010 [9 favorites]


Like having an Oscar nomination is going to earn this film any more money.
posted by tapeguy at 9:13 AM on January 11, 2010


Avatar was awful.
posted by pianomover at 9:31 AM on January 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Maybe I was projecting but the mining rep seemed conflicted and then regretful about the way events transpired over the last hour or so and wasn't quite as balls out evil as Empress is saying he was.
posted by minifigs at 9:34 AM on January 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


Muddler: "I think $1.3 billion at the box office is supporting my view."

It's a huge hit in the foreign market because it demeans the American military.

But seriously, it's a huge hit in the foreign market because it loses nothing in translation. Which is a polite way of saying that Cameron writes dialogue as if he were not a native English speaker.
posted by Joe Beese at 9:36 AM on January 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Maybe I was projecting but the mining rep seemed conflicted and then regretful about the way events transpired over the last hour or so and wasn't quite as balls out evil as Empress is saying he was.

He seemed to appear contrite at the end when he was among those marched back on the ship.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:37 AM on January 11, 2010


Maybe I was projecting but the mining rep seemed conflicted and then regretful about the way events transpired over the last hour or so and wasn't quite as balls out evil as Empress is saying he was.

I think I know the scene you mean -- when he was sitting in the office looking pensively at the unobtainum? I actually perked up at that, because I thought "thank God -- looks like we're going to get a turnaround here, instead of making him all 100% unlawful evil because this has been ridiculous." But in the next scene after that, he still sounded like the same "what's wrong with these stupid savages" jackass he'd been throughout.

At least, as I remember it; it's possible that the scene after that he was reined in. But for me, everything that had come before was SO over-the-top that the damage had simply been done. But, your mileage may vary, of course; this particular point is where Cameron lost me personally.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:38 AM on January 11, 2010


It's that the Na'vi simply don't need what the humans are offering.

You are pretty clearly not understanding what the Neocons bring to savages that is of more convservative import than capitalism, industry, or fast food: Jesus.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:44 AM on January 11, 2010


Actually, pastabagel, I think you're wrong in an important way.

The movie itself only hints at this, but if we buy the Project 880 stuff, unobtanium is a room-temperature superconductor and without it, what's left of Earth's biosphere is going to hit its final collapse, everyone dies oh the embarrassment.

So when EvilSoldier asks Sully how it feels to betray humanity, he means it. Throwing in with the Navi and Pandora means that umpty billion people on Earth die.

Or, alternately, if the stakes are that high Earthlings show up again in however long a round trip takes, nuke everything to oblivion, and do their mining in rad suits. Or just fling a superluminal or relativistic impactor at Pandora, smash it to bits, and mine the bits in perfectly unmolested vacuum. In either case, all that Sully has bought the Navi is complete extermination instead of subjugation and relocation away from rich unobtanium deposits.

Oops.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:53 AM on January 11, 2010 [14 favorites]


This is brilliant economy of story telling. It's like putting a black hat on the bad guy.

Putting a black hat on the bad guy is lazy storytelling, not brilliant.
posted by billysumday at 10:10 AM on January 11, 2010 [7 favorites]


ROU_Xenophobe: Actually, that was my take on the ending. I didn't really see it as happy in the long term at all. Given what we'd heard during the movie about the earth dying, etc., there's no way the human's aren't coming back and nuking Pandora from orbit.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 10:10 AM on January 11, 2010


Greg Nog, you're a bright and amusing guy but in this case I think you're wrong and just snarking to snark yourself snark.

Pastabagel made a lot of interesting points about the movie's construction. He was portraying it in a different light than I was, i.e., that no thought whatsoever had gone into the world's construction and that Cameron had just scribbled out a story and spent fifteen years on those gorgeous special effects.

When I left the theater, there was a sense of cheerful nihilism among my friends regarding the environment. Something to the effect of, "Hey, maybe we're fucking up nature and that's a bad thing and now we're all doomed." I've got no clue if that attitude spread to everybody who saw the movie, or if change can be spread thanks to it, but certainly that's not how everybody felt after Pocahontas or Dances With Wolves, which perhaps had the same message as Avatar but really didn't drive the message home. You see Pocahontas, you leave singing songs. Nature is forgotten.

.... which makes the choices made in the movie stupidly easy. With nothing at stake, why not simply throw in with the magical blue people?

I'm of the opinion that if Cameron had made the morality more ambiguous, the movie would have suffered. This isn't a movie that's making us debate Pandora (which, as you kindly snark later, is fictional HURR HURR let's stop talking about fiction in a thread about Avatar), it's a movie that, if anything, is making us debate Earth. Phrasing Pandora's problems in an interesting science-fictiony ambiguity would lose the focus on our environment. So as far as spreading the message goes, ambiguity is a no.

Furthermore, it would kill Cameron's action scenes in the finale if we sympathized with the people who were being killed. We need a black-and-white villain to justify wide-scale carnage. And I know it offends our sensibilities, but James Cameron is all about the wide-scale carnage. He will write a script that lets him have wide-scale carnage without regrets.

Yes, let's all "economize" storytelling. "Citizen Kane was rich but in the end he only wanted his sled, The End." "Alien got onto the ship but then killed everyone but then Ripley killed it, Okay." "Blade Runner is good and kills evil robots and in the end he kills them and gets the girl, Hooray!"

Have you never heard of the phrase "economize storytelling?" It means: When you're not saying something important, don't drag it out for hours and hours. It's not saying not to have a fucking story, it's saying not to waste time on details. So we don't get an hour-long scene of Charles Foster Kane's childbirth, we just assume the guy was born. We don't have long, detailed scenes explaining how Ridley Scott fucked up the Earth, we get that opening shot of the Earth. (By the way, Blade Runner was a black-and-white scifi film that lacked all of the moral ambiguity of the novel. It's exactly the same sort of movie that Avatar is: Good special effects, terrible story.)

What Pastabagel was saying is, if the audience knows something, then you can afford to be subtle. We don't need a half hour explaining why human beings like unobtanium. Right, Greg? When you saw the movie, you got why they liked it. That's because it's not only an archetype in a movie, it's how we do things in real life. Cameron could get away with spending less than five minutes explaining it because we all understood it, and he called it unobtanium as a wink to us assholes. He's saying, "I know it's been done before, so fuck off, it's not like I'm pretending this wasn't done before."

Avatar, and James Cameron in particular, is brilliant.

Ha ha ha no


Cameron has figured out how to interest audiences more than any other director on the planet, and he does it without sacrificing his directorial integrity — he doesn't make pointless shots, his visuals all are easily understood, even in the middle of a throbbing action scene, and, while we can argue the merits of this script further (I'm critical of it myself), within that script he doesn't pull a Michael Bay and create lots of quick comedic joke characters that steal attention from the main plot. He does much of his own character/creature design, and he's pretty brilliant at it. He's capable of managing a $300 million project without losing focus, which I'd imagine is a lot harder than it sounds (and it sounds really hard).

I'm critical of the guy, I wouldn't ever call him a favorite director, I hope to make movies that are essentially the opposite of what he makes, but I have a problem with people sneering every time somebody gets a compliment, especially in cases like this, when I think the claim of brilliance is utterly deserved. Perhaps he's not a genius in the way I like my geniuses, but genius is still present.
posted by Rory Marinich at 10:15 AM on January 11, 2010 [18 favorites]


It's a gigantic, spectacular, immersive, 3 hour movie in 3-D about aliens and robots and soldiers, the most expensive ever made, and you think the screenplay should read like Crimes and Misdemeanors meets Memento?

I'm not saying that the movie is perfect, not by a long shot, but for a movie that was made intentionally to be one of the biggest of all time, in every way, I think it made sense to paint with a fairly broad brush. AND within that I think Cameron manages to do some pretty interesting things.
posted by dirtdirt at 10:17 AM on January 11, 2010 [7 favorites]


I got to see Avatar this weekend and the script was the worst thing about it. The dialogue was almost "Star Wars" bad. I got my time/money's worth out of it, to be sure, but hoo-boy there sure were some sterkeroos in there. A comment in a previous thread gave a proper call-out to the "we're not in Kansas any more" line, and really everything else spoken by Colonel Asshole was just about as bad.

But it totally works as a "thrill-ride" movie, from which I would expect no great attention to detail on matters such as plot, depth-of-character, or realistic physics or biological theory. I understood when I spent a couple of extra bucks on special glasses to watch it that it would be more of a visual trip - and it totally succeeded on that most important level, in my opinion. Much more so than G-Force, for which I'd paid about the same price to see in 3D, and which was about talking goddamn hamster spies.
posted by Cookiebastard at 10:17 AM on January 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Furthermore, it would kill Cameron's action scenes in the finale if we sympathized with the people who were being killed. We need a black-and-white villain to justify wide-scale carnage. And I know it offends our sensibilities, but James Cameron is all about the wide-scale carnage. He will write a script that lets him have wide-scale carnage without regrets.

For me, this backfired. When marines sending missile salvos to destroy the big home tree, and when lots of natives where getting blown up, I flat out refused myself to feel any sympathy. Regardless of film's message, if CGI carnage is involved, I am not going to the heartstrings to get played. It just seems wrong to me on some metaphysical level. So, instead of being moved per the intention of Cameron instead I experienced a slight disconnect not unlike what a sociopath must normally experienced. I'm sure I'm not the only moviegoer who refuses to allow exploding pixels any empathy, and I'm normally a pretty bleeding heart sort of fellow, so I think that too much of this kind of carnage goes counter generating the kind of sympathy that Cameron is gunning for. It didn'tt spoil the overall film for me, but at this point I would be more interested in the implication or allusion of lots of dead CGI things rather than go through the chore of witnessing some meticulously crafted footage of it.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:24 AM on January 11, 2010


^needs some CGI editing touchup wizardry on that last comment, sorry.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:25 AM on January 11, 2010


3D Script!
TTHHEE SSOOUUNNDD OOFF DDRRUUMMSS,, ffrroomm aa ggrreeaatt ddiissttaannccee,, ggrroowwiinngg lloouuddeerr..
FFAADDEE IINN::
WWEE AARREE FFLLYYIINNGG tthhrroouugghh mmiisstt,, aa ddiimmllyy gglliimmppsseedd ffoorreesstt bbeellooww..
VVOOIICCEE ((VV..OO..))
WWhheenn II wwaass llyyiinngg tthheerree iinn tthhee VVAA
hhoossppiittaall,, wwiitthh aa bbiigg hhoollee bblloowwnn tthhrroouugghh
tthhee mmiiddddllee ooff mmyy lliiffee,, II ssttaarrtteedd hhaavviinngg
tthheessee ddrreeaammss ooff ffllyyiinngg..
WWee aarree vveerryy llooww oovveerr tthhee ffoorreesstt nnooww,, gglliiddiinngg ffaasstt,, tthhee ddrruummss
BBUUIILLDDIINNGG ttoo aa PPEEAAKK ----
VVOOIICCEE ((VV..OO..))
SSoooonneerr oorr llaatteerr tthhoouugghh,, yyoouu aallwwaayyss hhaavvee
ttoo wwaakkee uupp......
posted by five fresh fish at 10:27 AM on January 11, 2010 [22 favorites]


^ ROBOT pulls a knife from its BELT and tosses it from hand to hand like it's in WEST SIDE STORY
When you're a JET,
You're a JET all the way
From your first cigarette
To your last dyin' day.
/snaps fingers
posted by robot at 10:31 AM on January 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


In a very unusual move, 20th Century Fox has decided to release James Cameron’s entire screenplay for AVATAR online.

If by unusual, you mean completely normal, then yes, you are right.

Sony's screenplays.
Focus's screenplays.
WB's screenplays.
Weinstein Co's screenplays.
Universal's screenplays.
posted by incessant at 10:32 AM on January 11, 2010 [7 favorites]


What happens to the "dreamwalker" if his Avatar is killed? Is it a Matrix "brain without the body cannot survive" thing?

HOVER SPOILER

Also I'm kind of annoyed at the criticism "this isn't logically consistent!!!" criticisms. If everyone in a story acted logically all the time there would be no story. The two sides would just sit down and work out their differences. Cameron packed in a ton of stuff into this movie. The dialog was cut short because there wasn't enough time. You could have made an argument that the movie should have been split in two, and there's talk of a sequel (since so much of the work was computer modeling, plus hardware, research, etc a sequel wouldn't cost nearly as much money, supposedly)

Cameron had to cut down on the 'meat' of the story to get it all in. He relied on an impressionistic way of film making, relying, yes, on clichés and broad strokes. References to obvious tropes that people would recognize right away, rather then taking the time to really hash out every character. It worked fine.

It's not like the new Star Wars where Lucas fucked everything up by trying to compress all these tiny little details until the whole plot got confusing and disappeared into nonsense.

Cameron just took paint labeled NAÏVE HERO and with a big broad stroke slapped it on. He took SCIENTIST, CORPORATE DUDE, CRAZY OLD MERCINARY and slaped 'em on. There's the story, no need to into details. You already know these people so let's get on with the action. I think it worked.
posted by delmoi at 10:35 AM on January 11, 2010 [4 favorites]


I think it worked.

Yup.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:38 AM on January 11, 2010


My biggest problem with Avatar was the absence of unpredictable conflict for Jake.

It's called the "one-in-a-million shot" and if you want a good movie you give it to your badguy not your hero. For instance, when the Colonel sees the airship taking off he grabs a gun, goes off into the airlock without a mask and blasts away at them. That's badass. Thing is, it fails, it's an exercise in futility, the good guy is going to win and there's nothing the bad guy can do about it. The plane should have gone down because it would have created far more intensity and cast a little doubt as to whether or not our hero was going to succeed. It's one thing to know the good guy wins but it's a very boring movie where absolutely nothing goes wrong for the guy.

My favorite example of the "one-in-a-million shot" is in the '89 Batman where the batplane is bearing down on the Joker with guns and rockets blazing and misses. The Joker takes out one gun and uses one bullet to bring it down.

Oh, and the dues-ex-machina? I was praying for an EMP and all I got was attack of the 3D animals. They kept talking about electrical fields and networks it had been getting my hopes up.

Someone upthread said that Cameron wrote it when he was fifteen. I totally believe this. It felt a lot like GI JOE to me, if I was 13, I would've enjoyed the two greatest movies of all time last year.
posted by M Edward at 10:40 AM on January 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


Oh, and the dues-ex-machina?

Is that like where you put your prepaid subway pass?
posted by Burhanistan at 10:41 AM on January 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


WTF
posted by naju at 10:45 AM on January 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Touchy, touchy. Don't spill your Mountain Dew just because some of us found flaws with the script. What is particularly sad is that this could have been a truly amazing movie with a bit more backstory, more complex characters, more logical drama - all of which were apparently in the original script and sadly excised.
posted by billysumday at 10:46 AM on January 11, 2010


Ummm, I haven't read all the comments yet because I haven't seen Avavatar and don't want to get too spoiled, but when I read,

"I just saw Avatar this weekend, and got the impression that he wrote the story when he was 15 years old, and has been working towards filming it ever since."

I get to thinking: "...after reading Clifford Simak's 'Paradise', published in 1946 and presumably available in a collection where I or Cameron would have read it." (Bad-boy research subject gets transmogrified into manufactured alien body to explore Jupiter(?), returns to tell the world that he's found PARADISE. Hence the title. Also a pretty good Simak short story.)
posted by sneebler at 10:47 AM on January 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


in part *because* the well-worn but universally and instantly relatable tropes

I keep seeing this argument and I don't get it. I am a fan of genre fiction and genre movies, and I am familiar with the idea of doing a good version of a given story type, but that doesn't mean that the story is predictable down to the last detail. It means that the author took the same old ingredients and made something new or at least novel with them. There was literally nothing in Avatar that I haven't seen or read before and the characters were as bland and prepackaged as any shlocky sci-fi movie I've seen. I would love to see a movie with that much visual power working with an interesting plot and real characters, that would be a great movie. Avatar is a brilliant technical exercise, but it's a mediocre film at best. I'd be very curious to see how it would have done financially without 3D, would anyone have cared? We almost certainly wouldn't be having this discussion, in any case.
posted by doctor_negative at 10:51 AM on January 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


The movie itself only hints at this, but if we buy the Project 880 stuff, unobtanium is a room-temperature superconductor and without it, what's left of Earth's biosphere is going to hit its final collapse, everyone dies oh the embarrassment.

I don't remember any of this from the movie. The dialogue relevant to unobtainium is this:

"SELFRIDGE: This is why we’re here. Unobtanium. Because this little gray rock sells for twenty million a kilo. No other reason. This is what pays for the party. And it’s what pays for your science."

Secondly, they don't attack HomeTree because it's where the unobtanium is, they attack it because that's where the cheapest unobtainum is:

"SELFRIDGE: Their damn village is sitting right over the richest unobtanium deposit for a hundred klicks in any direction. Which sucks -- for them -- because they need to relocate."

Cameron states it flatly, there is no other reason for the humans to be on Pandora other than the fact that this rock is worth a lot of money. There is no reason to attack hometree other than to maximize profts (not just earn a profit, but earn maximum profit).

I'm of the belief that films like this have to be interpreted only in the context of what the director chooses to show us on screen. I don't know what Project 880 is or if there is additional backstory on Avatar's official website. To me, it doesn't count. The work of art in question is the film. So I'm "reading" the film and the film alone.

Just say the character's name out loud five times fast. Selfridge = Selfish.

In that light, it's extremely important that Cameron NOT say that unobtanium will save the earth, because that casts the movie into a moral ambiguity that is unsupported by the rest of the dialogue and scenes, and that, in my opinion, would render the movie terrible. Well if all the humans would dies, then of course it is reasonable to try to get some of this. (But even then, that does not justify attacking Home Tree. They could take what they need from elsewhere on Pandora).

My point is that not that I agree with Cameron's argument or even its frame. I'm simply commenting on how brilliantly he presented his argument. Avatar boils down to this:

In the future, there will be a THING that is extremely valuable to us. There will be people different from us standing in the way of our acquisition of the THING. We will try to take that thing, first politely, then through delicate cajoling, then through coercion, and finally through force. That's it.
posted by Pastabagel at 10:56 AM on January 11, 2010 [3 favorites]


Regardless of film's message, if CGI carnage is involved, I am not going to the heartstrings to get played.

I'm really not sure what you're saying here. Isn't all carnage in film simulated? I mean, I would really be loath to watch an actual snuff film, personally. And the maxim in film is "show, don't tell", which is the opposite of theater where you generally find Shakespeare having the character come on stage to report the horrible battle that just occurred. That is terrible cinema, when that occurs, so of course you watch it happen instead.

Anyway, speaking of CGI carnage, I thought that the fire effects in Avatar were some of the best fireballs and explosions I've seen thus far created in a computer. Ever since the horrid swirling-shades-of-orange explosions in The Phantom Menace, I've really cringed with every CGI explosion I've seen, because they all JUST LOOK FAKE. I mean, I grew up going to see films like Die Hard in the theater, not to mention war films like Apocalypse Now, etc. I know what a fireball and explosion is supposed to look like, and most of what I see on screen these days just looks fake. The missile attack on the Hometree in Avatar was gloriously real looking as far as the fire goes, and I was glad for that.
posted by hippybear at 10:57 AM on January 11, 2010


naju, thanks for that. It's morphic resonance, and the chickens are coming home to roost!
posted by sneebler at 10:59 AM on January 11, 2010


"...after reading Clifford Simak's 'Paradise', published in 1946 and presumably available in a collection where I or Cameron would have read it."

Or, others have argued, after reading Poul Anderson's short story "Call Me Joe" (1957).

(Not that this would be the first time Cameron borrowed heavily from classic science fiction writers.)
posted by Doktor Zed at 10:59 AM on January 11, 2010


Thing is, it fails

Well, he does kill Sigourney.
posted by dirtdirt at 11:00 AM on January 11, 2010


I liked Avatar a whole lot, and have fantasized for days about riding my own bug/bat/dragon thing, and I'm sure I'm not alone there. I also discovered the music of John Fahey in the same 24 hour period, and listened to his music while reminiscing about that movie. Good times.

My lingering impression of the movie, though, is that it was really all about wish fulfillment - which a lot of fantasy is about, nothing wrong with wish fulfillment. But everything that Pastabagel talked about, I saw in a wish-fulfillment kind of light. Wouldn't it be cool if there was a society that was still in an eden-esque union with nature, but had the internet, and planes, and cool toys, or things like them? The na'vi are perfect, saintly, innocent, live somewhere beautiful, have everything we do, and win.

The scene at the beginning has stuck with me, where Jake is using the fire to scare off the pig-bears, and then gets told off for killing them and using fire. Once he turns out the lights, the forest lights up around him. It's a beautiful image... but it's hard not to see it as a fantasy where everything is painless and easy and natural. Not that there's anything wrong with that.
posted by Rinku at 11:00 AM on January 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


in this case I think you're wrong and just snarking to snark yourself snark.

I assure you, that's not the case; I rather hated the movie, and am resentful of the fact that I spent 15 bucks and nearly three hours of my time to see it. Particularly because I went into it expecting to like it a fair amount; I mean, crazy alien biology, big battles, and mostly-naked blue people, all brought to me by the guy who did Terminator? I was actually looking forward to a pretty rad movie. But man oh man, I thought it was kind of a load.

I'm of the opinion that if Cameron had made the morality more ambiguous, the movie would have suffered. This isn't a movie that's making us debate Pandora (which, as you kindly snark later, is fictional HURR HURR let's stop talking about fiction in a thread about Avatar), it's a movie that, if anything, is making us debate Earth. Phrasing Pandora's problems in an interesting science-fictiony ambiguity would lose the focus on our environment. So as far as spreading the message goes, ambiguity is a no.

I wholeheartedly disagree; when the choice is as simple as "Fuck nature up or don't fuck nature up?", then okay, sure, the answer is "Hey let's not fuck nature up." But that doesn't really have any relevance to our actual world, where "Don't fuck nature up" is actually a series of long, difficult choices. No one wants to melt ice-caps, so if you ask people: "Hey, how do you feel about global warming?", you'll likely get a bunch of "Let's stop global warming!" But if you follow that with, "Great! So stop using your car!" people suddenly get quieter, because making sacrifices is irritating. In Avatar, there's no sense that any sacrifice needs to be made in order to preserve the ecosystem or native culture. That, to me, pulls the movie straight out of any real-world relevance and makes the narrative sort of lukewarm pablum.

I HURR HURR about the world of Avatar being fictional because it is fictional! You can't set up a tremendously simple moral scenario and expect the rules to apply to a real world in which the rules are totally different (or, you know, I guess you -- meaning Cameron -- can, but then I'll be all, "Cameron, you idiot" on the internet). My biggest pet peeve of the movie is that in all situations aside from the introduction of Homo sapiens, it seems to be completely rad to be Na'vi. Cameron has created a native race that has every reason to shun the humans; their lives are in perfect harmonius Edenic balance, devoid of strife. So none of the Na'vi choose to betray their way of life for cheap food or medicine, none of the Na'vi seem pissed off at the social structure they live in, none of the Na'vi are dissatisfied with the religion they practice. Again, there's no sense of sacrifice. It is ABSOLUTELY appropriate to talk about the fact that the Na'vi are fictional. They have been created, by Cameron, as a sort of Mary Sue of what pre-technological society might be. They do not have any relevance outside the limited three-hour story of the film. This is not a portrayal of psyches that I can really invest any emotional energy in.

Furthermore, it would kill Cameron's action scenes in the finale if we sympathized with the people who were being killed. We need a black-and-white villain to justify wide-scale carnage. And I know it offends our sensibilities, but James Cameron is all about the wide-scale carnage. He will write a script that lets him have wide-scale carnage without regrets.

You know, I would like to agree with you here, particularly as someone who hoots wildly whenever I see wide-scale carnage done up right. Certainly, I'll watch Ong Bak: The Thai Warrior without giving much of a shit about the characters and plot. But I guess the problem for me in Avatar was that the carnage didn't really feel hoot-worthy; I don't know if it's due to the unreality of the CGI, or the lack of rounded personality in Giovanni Ribisi's character, but I never felt any moment during the movie that was carnagetastic enough to justify the paper-thin characters. To take an opposite example from a well-beloved movie: you know in Die Hard, when the protagonist is surrendering, and he suddenly seems helpless, but then you realize that he's got a gun strapped to his back, and you're like, "OH FUCK THERE IS SOME PWNAGE ABOUT TO HAPPEN"? I didn't feel any bits like that in Avatar, I think largely because of the lack of consequentiality. The action scenes felt almost picaresque to me; Thing 1 happens, then thing 2 explodes, then thing 3 shoots thing 4.

Have you never heard of the phrase "economize storytelling?" It means: When you're not saying something important, don't drag it out for hours and hours. It's not saying not to have a fucking story, it's saying not to waste time on details. So we don't get an hour-long scene of Charles Foster Kane's childbirth, we just assume the guy was born. We don't have long, detailed scenes explaining how Ridley Scott fucked up the Earth, we get that opening shot of the Earth.

But the details are important; they lend the sense that something is, in fact, at stake in the narrative. I should note, following your Blade Runner example above, that I would have LOVED to see a simple shot of the Earth of Avatar to show us how grim it was, and a brief explanation of how unobtainium will make it better. All that would have taken maybe five minutes, tops. But none of that was there; apparently, Cameron thought unobtainium's status as the McGuffin would have been enough to sustain interest. I'm saying that it mos def did not sustain my interest.

What Pastabagel was saying is, if the audience knows something, then you can afford to be subtle. We don't need a half hour explaining why human beings like unobtanium. Right, Greg? When you saw the movie, you got why they liked it.

I didn't! I didn't get that at all! It was like, "Oh ho, this rock makes us CASH MONEY!" and that was it! The choice between mining for (some unspecified amount of) CASH MONEY and committing a genocide is way too easy to be interesting! If we saw some suffering humans on earth, I mighta been like, "Well shit, I do see where they're coming from, that unobtainium could feed a hell of a lot of poor children", but it was just introduced as a random Rock I Guess Bad Guys Like.

Cameron has figured out how to interest audiences more than any other director on the planet, and he does it without sacrificing his directorial integrity — he doesn't make pointless shots, his visuals all are easily understood, even in the middle of a throbbing action scene, and, while we can argue the merits of this script further (I'm critical of it myself), within that script he doesn't pull a Michael Bay and create lots of quick comedic joke characters that steal attention from the main plot. He does much of his own character/creature design, and he's pretty brilliant at it. He's capable of managing a $300 million project without losing focus, which I'd imagine is a lot harder than it sounds (and it sounds really hard).

I'm critical of the guy, I wouldn't ever call him a favorite director, I hope to make movies that are essentially the opposite of what he makes, but I have a problem with people sneering every time somebody gets a compliment, especially in cases like this, when I think the claim of brilliance is utterly deserved. Perhaps he's not a genius in the way I like my geniuses, but genius is still present.


I agree that he's hard-working and capable, but that's a far way from "brilliant".
posted by Greg Nog at 11:03 AM on January 11, 2010 [16 favorites]


I'm really not sure what you're saying here. Isn't all carnage in film simulated?

I could have said that better, but the scene where their home tree was destroyed with the resultant mourning was supposed to be this huge emotional shock. If it was something even remotely akin to reality here I would allow the waves of empathy to settle, but since it's complete fabrication I didn't. I suppose the same should be done for all fictional movies, but when it's a cartoon the need to be emotionally stingy just seems more pronounced to me. It's probably entirely subjective, but it works against the moral direction of the film for me. But, hey, explosions!
posted by Burhanistan at 11:03 AM on January 11, 2010


WTF
posted by naju at 12:45 PM on January 11 [+] [!]
I like that the managed to get a shot of everyone frowning. Except the fat guy eating pizza in the second row.
Touchy, touchy. Don't spill your Mountain Dew just because some of us found flaws with the script. What is particularly sad is that this could have been a truly amazing movie with a bit more backstory, more complex characters, more logical drama - all of which were apparently in the original script and sadly excised.
Yes, and the resulting move was 2.5h long. How long would it have been to get all that in. A lot of the stuff you're asking for was taking place on earth, and would have been kind of boring to look at. Of course the script has "flaws". Every script is going to have flaws. Like I said, if you have a story where everyone is behaving rationally, people will just sit down and work out their problems.
I'm of the belief that films like this have to be interpreted only in the context of what the director chooses to show us on screen. I don't know what Project 880 is or if there is additional backstory on Avatar's official website. To me, it doesn't count. The work of art in question is the film. So I'm "reading" the film and the film alone.
It was the name of the project that made the movie, like a working title. The draft script is the subject of the post.
posted by delmoi at 11:25 AM on January 11, 2010


All I ahve to say about this film is that the credits should have read "And starring Wes Studi as himself."
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:28 AM on January 11, 2010


What if Unobtanium is a delicious snack-food topping which is worth twenty million pesos a kilo-ton. Adjusted for another 144 years inflation, that puts it (if I am doing the math correctly*) at about $2.93 per pound in contemporary, American measurements. About the same as a decent ganache. How then would we feel about the movie? How then, indeed.

(*I did not do any math.)
posted by Cookiebastard at 11:32 AM on January 11, 2010


At least the chick gets to kill the villain this time. And I like how they set it up so obviously for Avatar II by foreshadowing the earthlings' return: Jake: "You don't understand; they'll be back," and by leaving the Giovanni Ribisi character alive at the end.
posted by jfwlucy at 11:41 AM on January 11, 2010


Blade Runner was a black-and-white scifi film that lacked all of the moral ambiguity of the novel. It's exactly the same sort of movie that Avatar is: Good special effects, terrible story.

Having not read the novel, I can't comment on the difference between BR & DADoES?, but ... BR lacking moral ambiguity? Are you freaking kidding me?


I will say this regarding Avatar: I thought it was boring. And I agree with Greg: the slickness of the imagery made me not give a flying shit about any of the characters, human or GunganNa'Vi.
posted by Saxon Kane at 11:50 AM on January 11, 2010


"absolutely nothing goes wrong for the guy"

...because he is the Kwisatz Haderach!
posted by Tenuki at 11:54 AM on January 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


> TTHHEE SSOOUUNNDD OOFF DDRRUUMMSS,, ffrroomm aa ggrreeaatt ddiissttaannccee,, ggrroowwiinngg lloouuddeerr..
FFAADDEE IINN::
WWEE AARREE FFLLYYIINNGG tthhrroouugghh mmiisstt,, aa ddiimmllyy gglliimmppsseedd ffoorreesstt bbeellooww..


I arrived at the movie ten minutes after it began, and so was seated in the very first row of an IMAX theatre. Consequently WWEE AARREE FFLLYYIINNGG tthhrroouugghh mmiisstt, complete with multiple superimposed layers of large heads with enormously broad chins but tiny tapered foreheads, was my experience of the life-forms on Pandora.

I really, really wanted to like it (and my tastes are simple enough to have enjoyed the first Michael BayTransformers movie)... but it really didn't grab me. I mainly just thought Oh pretty; huh, that's pretty; yeah, that's pretty too; I've been sitting here a long time; but that's pretty; wait they've got one of those chopper things, so they should just ram that into either the transport holding the bombs or the big command ship; well, whatever, that's pretty; that was all very pretty

I'll probably see it again, but from the beginning, and not from the front row, to give it a fairer shot.


On another level, yes, it was intended for a global audience, and intended to fascinate seven to twelve-year olds... yet I'm convinced that making the dialogue a little sharper, the characters a little richer, and the choices a bit tougher would not have put off younger viewers to any degree beyond that which could be effectively counterweighted by big rampaging six-legged silky 3D super panthers.
posted by darth_tedious at 12:05 PM on January 11, 2010


On another level, yes, it was intended for a global audience, and intended to fascinate seven to twelve-year olds... yet I'm convinced that making the dialogue a little sharper, the characters a little richer, and the choices a bit tougher would not have put off younger viewers to any degree beyond that which could be effectively counterweighted by big rampaging six-legged silky 3D super panthers.

QFT. Pixar movies fascinate seven to twelve-year olds and they don't sound like they were written by one of them.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:08 PM on January 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


Isn't all carnage in film simulated?

Technically not. There's plenty of documentary and journalistic footage of real people being actually killed out there, and some of it even ends up used as stock footage in fiction-movies.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:25 PM on January 11, 2010


Watching Avatar (in 3D) made me feel a lot like when I was a kid and I saw Star Wars in the theater for the first time. I was immersed, logic didn't matter too much, and man was it all exciting and beautiful. For 2.5 hours, I was in George Lucas's James Cameron's universe.

Wish fulfillment? Sure! Fantasy? Absolutely. An underdog? you bet. It also had, and this may sound silly considering it was a 2.5 hr movie, a real economy of storytelling. The movie moved along, ever forward, with few if any clumsy scenes. Every word and image mattered.

OK, there was one scene that broke the illusion for me, the one where Jake's in the jungle and, as the narrator, says something hyper-cliched like "it was time to take it to the next level."
posted by zippy at 12:28 PM on January 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Cookiebastard: "What if Unobtanium is a delicious snack-food topping which is worth twenty million pesos a kilo-ton."

Holy shit. What if Unobtanium is The Stuff?


Astro Zombie: "All I ahve to say about this film is that the credits should have read "And starring Wes Studi as himself.""

After watching the movie, I imagined Studi meeting with his agent...

Studi: "I'm tired of being so typecast. I'd like to stretch a little bit. Try something new."

Agent: "I hear you, Wes. I hear you. Listen up. Jim Cameron's working on a new project, and he wants you on board."

Studi: "Cameron? Seriously? That's great! What kind of project is it?"

Agent: "Huge science fiction epic. You'd be playing an alien using performance capture."

Studi: "Wow! I've always wanted to do that. What kind of alien is it?"

Agent: "Well, he's a tribal elder, and he..."

Studi: *primes shotgun*
posted by brundlefly at 12:37 PM on January 11, 2010 [7 favorites]


I should note, following your Blade Runner example above, that I would have LOVED to see a simple shot of the Earth of Avatar to show us how grim it was, and a brief explanation of how unobtainium will make it better.

Why do you want to see this? Why do you need the actions of the mining corporation and its hired guns justified by some pressing need on earth? If the movie was about the moral grey area, he wouldn't have needed $300 million of special effects. He could have made a documentary about how absolutely everything in our lives is made of or with oil. Cut to Iraq.

More to the point, let's say, hypothetically that he showed what a massively overdeveloped industrial hellhole the earth had become now that it was starved for resources. Why would you take from that image a justification for the characters in the story to go ruin another planet, instead of taking from that image the message that maybe we should stop--now in real life--exploiting the shit out of our planet for no other reason than quarterly profits because otherwise we'll end up like this version of earth.

there's talk of a sequel (since so much of the work was computer modeling, plus hardware, research, etc a sequel wouldn't cost nearly as much money, supposedly)

Of course there's going to be a sequel. This film made zillion dollars, they'd be stupid not to go back to the well. And from a storytelling standpoint, Cameron can now make in the second film the morally ambiguous movie a lot of you here wanted to see this time. Avatar ended when Jake Skywalker blew up Death Star Mining Corp. But that doesn't mean the Empire is gone. In the second movie, Cameron can show us an Earth that needs unobtanum to save it. He can make his morally ambiguous Empire Strikes Back in the Avatar universe.

Wouldn't it be cool if there was a society that was still in an eden-esque union with nature, but had the internet, and planes, and cool toys, or things like them? The na'vi are perfect, saintly, innocent, live somewhere beautiful, have everything we do, and win.

Well, it's that last part that's really new. All of our 20th century stories are about our civilization winning. Sure, during the conquest we come to acknowledge the beauty or the truth in the primitive's ways, and in the breach our warriors come to respect theirs as equals (Dances With Wolves, The Last Samurai), but our civilization has to win, and that winning has to be A Good Thing(TM), because we live in the product of it.

In Avatar, a movie made by and for Americans, the good guys win, but they don't look us. Maybe that's why the international box office is so strong for this film, and why the right-wing in the US is beside itself hating it.

Some cleanup - Selfridge (Ribisi) isn't a cartoonish bad guy. He seems to seriously consider Jake's warning that he (Selfridge) doesn't want the blood of babies on his hands. In response to this, Selfridge gives him another chance to persuade them to move. It's only when this fails that Selfridge recedes as the antagonist and Qauritch emerges as the real enemy. It's Quaritch who tongue-in-cheek declares "I'd say diplomacy has failed."

I know a lot of people don't agree with me. But I still contend that once you start paying attention to who says and does what when, it becomes more clear how carefully and thoughtfully constructed this story is.

Maybe a better way to say it is that Avatar has, at least for a generation, closed the book on the genre of "going-native"/civilization vs. primitives films. Cameron has cast in stark relief the lines that earlier films of this genre blurred (the moral imperative or necessity to conquer, or to bring civilization to primitives), but at the same time he blurred the lines that used to be clear (civilization is dying, the primitives are thriving, technology is a mixed blessing, etc.).
posted by Pastabagel at 12:51 PM on January 11, 2010 [8 favorites]


Also, seeing Avatar, especially the flying sequences, has convinced me we have the technology to bring the Dragonriders of Pern to the big screen. (I've never actually read any of it. I'm judging its fitness for the epic film CGI treatment based solely on the books covers by Michael Whelan.)
posted by Pastabagel at 12:56 PM on January 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


If I recall correctly, the good guys won in Fern Gully, too.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:05 PM on January 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Why do you want to see this? Why do you need the actions of the mining corporation and its hired guns justified by some pressing need on earth? If the movie was about the moral grey area, he wouldn't have needed $300 million of special effects.

He wouldn't have needed $300 million of special effects if it only just "corporations hiss boo greedy bastards!" either. He could have just put a picture of AIG's corporate headquarters up on the screen and issued us all rotten fruit to fling at it for an hour.

If all he wanted to do was show off $300 million in special effects, it could have been nothing but "Jakes Travel Slides of Pandora" and nothing more.

Since he didn't do that, he clearly wanted to tell some kind of a story. That's just a weak part of the story, is all. Even if it was a McGuffin, you need some other reason for WHY people want the McGuffin other than "it'll make us rich!" ANYTHING -- have him bitch about his wife's shopping, and that's why he needs to increase his profits, have him drop one little comment about how he took over the business from his father-in-law who's had it for 15 generations, something. Or hell, even talk about what unobtanium does -- fuel source, snack food, SOMETHING.

As it is, it looks like all he does with the money is put it all in a big room and swim around in it like he's Scrooge McDuck, and all they do with unobtainium is huddle in corners with chunks in their hands like Gollum saying "my preciousssss!"
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:09 PM on January 11, 2010 [3 favorites]


Even if it was a McGuffin, you need some other reason for WHY people want the McGuffin other than "it'll make us rich!" ANYTHING

It did something useful and could make people a lot of money. That's pretty much been the sole reason for humans justifying doing shitty things to others. It works great as a reminder of that, though I think the film mentioned that it was a superconductor.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:15 PM on January 11, 2010


Brandon Blatcher: "It works great as a reminder of that, though I think the film mentioned that it was a superconductor."

I've read this a few times on the web, but I saw the film twice (clearly, I enjoyed it) and don't recall this at all.
posted by brundlefly at 1:20 PM on January 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


It did something useful and could make people a lot of money. That's pretty much been the sole reason for humans justifying doing shitty things to others.

No, the short-sightedness of those humans in finding their own way of life morally and culturally superior is what did it. SOME kind of philosophy, even if it was a batshit one, was behind it.

Hell, even if Selvidge had quoted THE FOUNTAINHEAD at one point I would have been happy. Something to explain where the greedy/nasty came from. Because it always comes from SOMEPLACE.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:23 PM on January 11, 2010


Unless they're nihilists.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:28 PM on January 11, 2010


Unless they're nihilists.

Even THAT is an explanation.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:40 PM on January 11, 2010


pastabagel: I don't remember any of this from the movie.

You're right that the uses of Unobtainium do not get explained in the movie. But the critical state of Earths biosphere is mentioned on two occasions in the film:

Rot13:
Jura Wnxr vf gnyxvat gb Rljn gb nfx sbe uryc, ur zragvbaf gung gurer vf ab 'terra' ba Rnegu nal zber

Ng gur raq bs gur svyz, Wnxr aneengrf: 'Naq fb gur nyvraf jrer frag onpx gb gurve qlvat jbeyq'

If you spot those clues, it doesn't take a huge conceptual leap to assume that humans are using unobtainium to do something vital, like generate energy or facilitate space travel or preserve the biosphere or something. As ROU_Xenophobe said, the movie only hints that Unobtainium is vital to the survival of the humans.

Presumably the Earth-based scenes that didn't make the final edit of the film would have explained this a bit more.
posted by memebake at 1:54 PM on January 11, 2010


Even THAT is an explanation.

But it's not an ethos, is my point.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:55 PM on January 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


But it's not an ethos, is my point.

Then I used poor word choice. What I meant was that from a dramaturgical standpoint, having someone be evil and then fail to explain even briefly why that person IS evil is deeply unsatisfying. Even a one-sentence "oh, he's a nihilist" would work.

Otherwise, it looks like the only reason you have for "this character is evil" is "I, the writer, needed a bad guy, or else there would be no plot. Ta-da!"
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:02 PM on January 11, 2010


No, I know, I was really just referencing a little indie film I saw recently.

would it help if i used iambic pentameter
posted by shakespeherian at 2:06 PM on January 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


having someone be evil and then fail to explain even briefly why that person IS evil is deeply unsatisfying. Even a one-sentence "oh, he's a nihilist" would work.

I'm confused by this. The suit wanted to to get the metal 'cause it could make the company a lot of money. That's pretty straightforward and common reason in the real world, simple greed, no special philosophy needed.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:14 PM on January 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


And can we not do the ROT 13 crap? There's hardly anything in Avatar that could be spoiled and anyone who's read 125 comments into this thread shouldn't be surprised about details being revealed.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:16 PM on January 11, 2010 [3 favorites]


If you spot those clues, it doesn't take a huge conceptual leap to assume that humans are using unobtainium to do something vital, like generate energy or facilitate space travel or preserve the biosphere or something. As ROU_Xenophobe said, the movie only hints that Unobtainium is vital to the survival of the humans.

I can't undo the Rot13 thing you did, but I think I know the lines you are talking about. The "no more green" and the line at the end? To me they sounded more like our current relationship to oil--yes we need it, but we are grossly inefficient and wasteful about how we use it. Also, the line about the dying world seems more about the fact that green/nature is the source of life to the Navi, where we would think dying = people dying off. Maybe that's the case in Cameron's universe, but it isn't explained here. Again, maybe the second film addresses this in the context of "We really need this unobtanium, we can't take it by force, maybe we can try something else."

And remember that Hometree is the "richest source" of unobtanium on Pandora, it is not by any stretch the only source. It's a question of exploiting the easiest to obtain oil in the world first, much like how we are fighting over mideast oil because it is cheaper to extract while not exploiting Canada's tar sands to the fullest because it is much more expensive.
posted by Pastabagel at 2:22 PM on January 11, 2010


The suit wanted to to get the metal 'cause it could make the company a lot of money. That's pretty straightforward and common reason in the real world, simple greed, no special philosophy needed.

But the real world rarely goes to such lengths TO exercise their greed...

Sorry, I know I'm kind of getting flail-y here. This may not be something I can pinpoint as to why I was unsatisfied by how one-dimensional he was, or anything I can point ot as evidence that "see? One dimension!" All I know is, even though I'll grant you NONE of the characters was all that nuanced, Selvidge was cartoony to a damned fault, and that bugged the hell out of me. I could overlook everyone else not being a terribly nuanced character, but he just felt like too much of a parody for me to be able to do so.

And I'm just shrugging my shoulders here because I've been in conversations like this before when I'm in the judging for the playwriting contest I run every year, and this is usually the point at which two of us on the judges' panel decides we've had enough back-and-forth and decides to chalk it up to a difference of opinion and decides to move on to discussing the next contestant, and let's handle it in the voting at the end of the meeting.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:23 PM on January 11, 2010


I love big old popcorn movies as much as anyone, but this movie was just boring. TERMINATOR: SALVATION is a crappy movie, sure, but I never felt bored. I realize that not everything could be explained, but I think I would have been able to care about what was going on if only I'd known what the Na'vi knew or believed about the Avatars - because it was really muddy. Sigourney Weaver had been interacting with the Na'vi long enough to learn their language and teach loads of them pretty fluent English - but everybody freaked out about demons when they saw an Avatar fall over - aren't they used to that? And when Jake gives everyone the heads up about evacuating hometree - The Girl (I never caught her name) got all teary to learn that he's "with them" or whatever, but what did she think he was? What did she think he was doing there? What WAS he doing there? Why were they spending so much money on the Avatar program, what were its goals, and why were the goals of the program suddenly unimportant? I just never understood what was happening or why and it was impossible to engage with characters whose motivations were a mystery.
posted by moxiedoll at 2:27 PM on January 11, 2010


Jura Wnxr vf gnyxvat gb Rljn gb nfx sbe uryc, ur zragvbaf gung gurer vf ab 'terra' ba Rnegu nal zber

Ng gur raq bs gur svyz, Wnxr aneengrf: 'Naq fb gur nyvraf jrer frag onpx gb gurve qlvat jbeyq'
Neither of those two thing actually specify that the Unobtainium is actually needed.
posted by delmoi at 2:32 PM on January 11, 2010


The link to the differences from the original script posted by Phlogiston lists some significant items.

Notably:

- Pandora is a living entity and it sees the humans as a virus; it has been mobilizing the plants and animals to attack all along because it wanted to force the humans out

- There is no unobtainium beneath Hometree.

If the originsal story had been followed ...

1.) the Na'vi would not have been "warriors" (a human-colonist construct) and the ending would have not involved exploding weaponry. Better story; horrible for major box office target (video wargames enthusiasts).

2.) the story might have used an opportunity to explore the US conscience over finding no WMDs in Iraq. Better story; horrible for box office target (binary logic americans).

3.) Two thirds of the comments on Metafilter would not exist

-------------------------------------------

Yes, we need to "respect" Cameron for his box office triumph. It proves he is a genius -- equal to his Villainous Corporate character, in fact. Hey JC, hey JC, won't you smile at me ...
posted by Surfurrus at 2:33 PM on January 11, 2010


but everybody freaked out about demons when they saw an Avatar fall over - aren't they used to that?

That probably happens pretty rarely, where someone is woken up violently that way.
posted by delmoi at 2:35 PM on January 11, 2010


Oel ngati kameie.

Oh wait... you guys aren't speaking Na'vi? In that case, oeru txoa livu.
posted by yeti at 2:37 PM on January 11, 2010


I've mentioned this before, but it felt like watching someone play a really, really good computer game, rather than watching a movie; but played by the sort of person who couldn't be bothered actually reading the tomes left around to put in your codex, or talking to minor NPCs, or even doing many of the side quests. They got all the main-plot action, and won the pitched battle and the boss fight at the end, but heard less than half the story.

The friend I saw it with and I were talking about it after in that context - supposing it was a game (and I realize that it is, and that game isn't any good) - how would you design it? We were thinking it would be good to have the choice to play as Sully, the physically adept combat-type character, who would have a more action-oriented storyline, or Spellman, the scientist, who would investigate more into the Pandoran USB Port and associated networks, and learn to unlock the powers of the various creatures. We decided that the power of the helicopter lizards should be vomiting up acidic goo to degrade enemy armor, for example.

Assuming you can choose your Sully/Spellman's gender and sexuality, the obvious romance quest options are Neytiri or Tsu'Tey (the prince; she and he have interchangeable roles), and Chacon the pilot. Gaining favor with Quaritch (the "evil game") should lose you favor with Augustine and vice versa. Selfridge would work well as an on-the-fence conflicted neutral, able to be swayed by Quaritch (or you as Quaritch's agent) into attacking Home Tree, or by Augustine into scientific exploration and trade with the Na'vi who, let's face it, are just big humans with blue skin and could/should be interacted with as such, offered membership in the Federation, whatever. To get the big battle with a "good option" Selfridge you just have Quaritch kill him and declare martial law.

I'd play that game. Two or three times, even.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 2:40 PM on January 11, 2010 [3 favorites]


However, if James Cameron wanted to make it as a better movie, IMO he could have done well if he's just made it as "Alien - Avatar". Reprise Sigourney Weaver as Ripley and put her in the Quaritch role, use the xenomorphs as the aliens, let Sully learn the real truth and transcendant love the aliens experience in the warm and beautiful Hive, doing the will of the Queen ... Facehugging is an act of love! The soul goes to the angel! THE SOUL GOES TO THE ANGEL!
posted by aeschenkarnos at 2:44 PM on January 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Sorry, I know I'm kind of getting flail-y here.

Hee, it's cool, District 9 drives me nuts in the same way.

but everybody freaked out about demons when they saw an Avatar fall over - aren't they used to that?

I can't imagine why they would be. As a researcher, it would the last thing you want to do is freak out the natives, so Grace probably went off to sleep or some such, so it's reasonable, IMO, that the Navi haven't seen an Avatar just fall over.

And when Jake gives everyone the heads up about evacuating hometree - The Girl (I never caught her name) got all teary to learn that he's "with them" or whatever, but what did she think he was? What did she think he was doing there?

Like most native tribes, the Navi felt they were teaching Jake, so probably didn't worry too much about the details of why he was there. Keep in mind, they resisted listening to him about the destruction of Home Tree, they probably couldn't even conceive of it.

What WAS he doing there? Why were they spending so much money on the Avatar program, what were its goals, and why were the goals of the program suddenly unimportant?

In Grace's mind, he was helping learn more about the culture, under the guise of getting the Navi to move.

For the suit, he was supposed to be figuring out a peaceful way of getting the Navi to move and quickly.

For the military dude, he was learning all their secrets, so the attack would go well.

The goals were not longer important because there was a big hunk of money burning a hole in the ground. Remember, humans had been their long enough to establish a school and get familiar with the natives, but they never really managed to get super close to them. Jake managed to do so by surviving the night (mostly) and earning their respect (and seemingly 'cause Pandora picked him).
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:46 PM on January 11, 2010


Why were they spending so much money on the Avatar program, what were its goals, and why were the goals of the program suddenly unimportant?

I was nearly rolling in the aisles with laughter over the premise (which took up the first 15min or so of the movie to explain) that an organisation would spend years & millions of dollars training up a person to control their own super-expensive & genetically personalised avatar, only to have that person die, whereupon they'd just go "Hey - let's just slot in his boofhead identical twin instead!"

Especially considering the outright hostility from the program director towards said boofhead.

If these avatars cost so much money & took so much effort to produce, SURELY the number one selection criterion for joining the program would be "Identical twins only need apply" to mitigate against the contingency of the fucking avatar-pilot dying.

Plus, one twin could pilot the avatar while the other one slept! See, that took all of ten seconds for me to instantly design a far more robust program. I should be paid more.
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:03 PM on January 11, 2010 [8 favorites]


I'm a little surprised that given the script, no one here mentioned the deleted sex scene.
posted by twoleftfeet at 4:56 PM on January 11, 2010


The soul goes to the angel! THE SOUL GOES TO THE ANGEL!

Every time you implant a false memory in a replicant, an angel gets its wings.
posted by zippy at 5:01 PM on January 11, 2010


Oo, it's a word cloud!
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 5:10 PM on January 11, 2010


Just announced... The Writers Guild of America has nominated Avatar for best screenplay.
posted by twoleftfeet at 5:15 PM on January 11, 2010


To hell with all y'all. Avatar was freaking awesome, in part *because* the well-worn but universally and instantly relatable tropes of its narrative arc. Best movie I've seen in a long time.

And what Pastabagel has said as to why I don't think this story is a repeat of past films, but quite a new take on classic story themes.

And I'm with zippy too, this movie immersed me.

I am not big on animated films, saw Avatar without benefit of 3D glasses, and generally dislike movies with simplistic plots about good versus evil, but was surprised by this film's power to pull me in completely. Despite being a jaded cinema goer, I found it hard to remember I was watching a movie, and for me, the destruction of Home Tree was almost unbearable to witness. I wasn't really able to detach much until the war sequences, and even then seeing each Nav'i death distressed me. I don't think I've ever before been to a movie involving conquest/exploitation before in which I felt so connected with the native characters.

So, if anyone reading this far actually hasn't seen this movie, I'd suggest you give it a whirl, because I think Cameron has again shown us why he is an exceptional film maker, (if not much a of a human being.)

As for Selfridge, I actually thought he was a much more credible villain than most, because he clearly felt sorry for himself at having to make his "difficult" decision to murder and destroy for gain.

I also liked the naming in this flick. Quarritch . . . some word play on the idea of a character who prefers to be rich in quarries? Loved the name Selfridge and its reference to selfish, particularly given the self-pitying, self-regarding, self-indulging nature of the selfish person portrayed. Love the unobtainium/uranium reference too.

Anyway, I haven't been 15 for a while, but count me in with the minority on this thread who think Avatar is pretty damn great. (And, as a gigantic animated blockbuster hit, very unlikely to see much outside of technical Academy Awards.)
posted by bearwife at 6:10 PM on January 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm a little surprised that given the script, no one here mentioned the deleted sex scene.

Ungh.

I wonder if there's a deleted gambling scene in which someone wagers three quatloos on the new one.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:49 PM on January 11, 2010


I got the whole game thing too. It felt a lot like he was logging in/out of an mmo and everything in Na'avi-land felt fake. I couldn't wait to get back to the real Jake because blue Jake was just a game, 20kms away and totally inconsequential.
posted by Submiqent at 7:27 PM on January 11, 2010


Since we've got an open Avatar thread, I just wanted to post this:

James Cameron's completely immersive spectacle "Avatar" may have been a little too real for some fans who say they have experienced depression and suicidal thoughts after seeing the film because they long to enjoy the beauty of the alien world Pandora.

I don't think it's a double.

That's about the same way I felt after seeing Princess Mononoke. Of course I was 14 and not an adult. Also, now that Navi cosplay/furry/otherkin play is inevetable. What are the fat cosplayers going to do? You can't have a fat Navi.
posted by Telf at 7:40 PM on January 11, 2010


I disliked Avatar because there was spectacle but no surprise -- literally no surprise. No one did anything surprising and no one said anything surprising. No character deviated from their Type, the plot didn't deviate from its archetypal Form, and the result was two and a half hours of airless tedium. I went in thinking the visuals would compensate for a tired plot but they really didn't.

Okay, I'm stretching the truth slightly: I was surprised when the giant robot at the end lost his machine gun and whipped out a back-up knife. I wasn't expecting that. Consequently whenever anyone wants to talk about Avatar, the only thing I want to talk about is what they thought of that robot with the giant knife.
posted by brookedel at 8:11 PM on January 11, 2010 [3 favorites]


What are the fat cosplayers going to do? You can't have a fat Navi.

Clearly, you haven't seen much cosplay.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:55 PM on January 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


The world of Pandora?
Want to go there.

The visual aspect of the movie?
Simply transcendent.

The storyline?
Hackneyed as hell.

Jake Sully as a 9-foot, mostly naked Na'vi?
It gives me some sense of what the furries are always on about.

Overall?
I enjoyed it.
posted by darkstar at 10:02 PM on January 11, 2010


From Doktor Zed's What These People Need Is a Honky link, written before Avatar came out:

White guy flees from his own culture for personal reasons (to set him up as different from those with white privilege). White guy meets natives. Natives educate white guy. White guy learns the way of natives, possibly also converting a native person who was originally doubtful of him, thereby proving white guy's worthiness. White guy fights for naties. White guy makes dramatic escape while the native guy dies, possibly trying to help the white guy. The movie then ends with a dramatic coda and captions that inform the audience that despite white guy's triumph, the Situation Remains Dire.

The key to all this is that the entire movie is about the white guy's personal growth and realization and that people of color serve only to further the white guy's epiphanies.

"And don't forget, the white guy always gets the sexy native girl! Or a white girl who has been raised native," said one of the panelists.
posted by eye of newt at 10:34 PM on January 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


I was surprised when the giant robot at the end lost his machine gun and whipped out a back-up knife. I wasn't expecting that. Consequently whenever anyone wants to talk about Avatar, the only thing I want to talk about is what they thought of that robot with the giant knife.

Holy shit, yes! The other day I spent about twenty minutes crapping on this movie seven ways from Sunday about how stupid the storyline is. I had about five people, all who had seen it (because I don't like ruining stories for people and would rather them see it and decide for themselves) wide-eyed and mouth a gaping. At one point a friend said "that robot knife fight was pretty cool" and then I stopped and said "oh yeah, that was pretty cool".

Later on another friend of mine with a smirk on his face looked at me and said "So you didn't like it?" I shrugged "It's alright. If you see it, you should see it in 3D. I just think it's over hyped."

I guess the thing that annoys me most is that we're elevating something of such obvious mediocrity to the top of the heap, but that's nothing new.

And for everyone who keeps saying "it's made over a bajillion dollars, so it must be great" I agree that's a fantastic amount of money but let's keep in mind the bill to make it was over 500 million. AND the profit a movie makes is usually correlated to the amount spent in marketing.
posted by P.o.B. at 11:56 PM on January 11, 2010


I'm equipping all my robots with backup knives. Badass.

I didn't feel that Quaritch was a completely evil character. He hooked up Sully with an opportunity to get new legs just like he promised. He didn't really go out of his way to be evil; most of the stuff that he did was reactive, and smart from the perspective of humans surviving on the planet. The only thing that broke the character for me were the tactical errors he made in the final fight. But really, if he'd been doing his thing in a more human context, an outpost in Afghanistan, say, his character would have been the heroic one. And I think that's interesting, that the context changed the tone of the character.
posted by breath at 1:46 AM on January 12, 2010


The key to all this is that the entire movie is about the white guy's personal growth and realization and that people of color serve only to further the white guy's epiphanies.

Is it still racist if the epiphany is that white culture sucks and the title character should go completely native?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:05 AM on January 12, 2010


Is it still racist if the epiphany is that white culture sucks and the title character should go completely native?

If "going native" means joining the culture of the wise, enlightened, noble savages/magical negros, then yes. Still racist.
posted by EarBucket at 5:45 AM on January 12, 2010


And the oscar for most trying-too-hard'inest comments thread goes to this thread
posted by tehloki at 6:12 AM on January 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


i think i _identified_ most with jonah lehrer's assessment :P
At its core, movies are about dissolution: we forget about ourselves and become one with the giant projected characters on the screen. In other words, they become our temporary avatars, so that we're inseparable from their story. (This is one of the reasons why the Avatar plot is so effective: it's really a metaphor for the act of movie-watching.*) And for a mind that's so relentlessly self-aware, I'd argue that 100 minutes of self-forgetting (as indicated by a quieting of the prefrontal cortex) is a pretty nice cognitive vacation. And Avatar, through a variety of technical mechanisms - from the astonishing special effects to the straightforward story to the use of 3-D imagery - manages to induce those "synchronized spatiotemporal patterns" to an unprecedented degree. That is what the movies are all about, and that is what Avatar delivers.
like when the merc/marines were destroying the one tree or home tree or whatever it felt like how it might be to cut down the last tree on easter island or kill the last whale or something.

---
*And just because I've already gone off the deep end of pretentiousness, I thought I though should mention the parable that Avatar made me think of. I found the quote via Borges, but it's from the Chinese philosopher Zhuangzi:
Once Zhuangzi dreamt he was a butterfly, a butterfly flitting and fluttering around, happy with himself and doing as he pleased. He didn't know he was Zhuangzi. Suddenly he woke up and there he was, solid and unmistakable Zhuangzi. But he didn't know if he was Zhuangzi who had dreamt he was a butterfly, or a butterfly dreaming he was Zhuangzi...
posted by kliuless at 7:00 AM on January 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


Is it still racist if the epiphany is that white culture sucks and the title character should go completely native?

If "going native" means joining the culture of the wise, enlightened, noble savages/magical negros, then yes. Still racist.


So, then. Now I'm curious. Under what circumstances can we have a movie where character A from culture Y goes and learns about culture Z from a group of characters B, and upon realizing that culture Y may not in fact be the proper match for him / way of life / beneficial for the planet, etc, decides to leave culture Y and join culture Z? Is EVERY SINGLE INSTANCE of this storyline somehow racist?

Under the same umbrella... given that it was told in a different time and undoubtedly has some tropes which are today considered un-PC and must be overlooked... is the basic storyline of Lawrence Of Arabia racist?

Not snark. Genuinely curious. Because we ARE talking movies here, not novels, and movies by their very nature contain a more simplified narrative structure and cannot always carry the complexity forward which may be necessary for you to feel that they haven't somehow portrayed Culture Z as somehow noble and enlightened. PLUS, if the central conceit of a movie is that Culture Y is negative and Culture Z is better, it's difficult to show much nuance in that message and not having it coming across as still that same message.
posted by hippybear at 8:38 AM on January 12, 2010


Under what circumstances can we have a movie where character A from culture Y goes and learns about culture Z from a group of characters B, and upon realizing that culture Y may not in fact be the proper match for him / way of life / beneficial for the planet, etc, decides to leave culture Y and join culture Z? Is EVERY SINGLE INSTANCE of this storyline somehow racist?

1) Avoid portraying culture Z as an aggregate of Hollywood ethnic stereotypes. (In this instance, the noble savage and Magical Native American tropes were especially prevalent)

2) After character A chooses to join culture Z, avoid a narrative in which he then becomes the de facto leader and most powerful, heroic member of culture Z. (The Mighty Whitey)
posted by naju at 8:49 AM on January 12, 2010 [9 favorites]


What naju said. A character deciding to join another culture or one culture being portrayed as somehow superior to another isn't necessarily racist. If said culture is portrayed with the same level of complexity as the natives in the original King Kong, that makes it racist. The Na'vi are nothing but a greatest hits collection of hoary Hollywood stereotypes about noble savages, from the Wise Chief to the Suspicious Warrior to the Mystical Matron to the Dusky Maiden. The fact that they need a White Messiah to come in, take over the tribe, sleep with the chief's hot daughter, and show them all the way to salvation is just icing on the cake.

It utterly blows my mind that this movie was nominated for a best screenplay award and Paul Blart: Mall Cop got snubbed.
posted by EarBucket at 9:26 AM on January 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


(Which isn't to say that the movie isn't an impressive technical achievement. It is, and I hope that someday soon someone takes this technology and tells a real story with it. Avatar deserves every technical award that can be thrown at it. As far as the story goes, I could have outlined every single beat without seeing a second of the film. The idea that it's even a competent example of storytelling is laughable.)
posted by EarBucket at 9:43 AM on January 12, 2010


So, basically, Lawrence Of Arabia IS a racist movie then.
posted by hippybear at 9:55 AM on January 12, 2010


The idea that it's even a competent example of storytelling is laughable.

Well, just because it isn't nuanced, original, or lacking subtlety doesn't mean it wasn't competent. As Pastabagel mentioned upthread, all of the elements of the story were clearly boiled down and served the narrative. It was indeed very successful conveying what was intended. Whether or not you appreciated it is another story.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:57 AM on January 12, 2010


At its core, movies are about dissolution: we forget about ourselves and become one with the giant projected characters on the screen.

Well, yeah, the Willing Suspension of Disbelief is in theater as well.

Where the disconnect may come in here and there is that sometimes, we have personal prejudices or reactions that can puncture that suspension and bring us crashing to earth, and it takes a LOT to overcome that. Which is why you get into the "but how could you believe such a cartoony character?"/"Why do you NEED to know why he wants the stuff though?" conversations.

But it is all so, so subjective. Me, I had a problem with the cartoonishness of Ribisi's character. But that is in a great part because of me, because I have always been that way to some extent. I have always been very weirdly caught up in whether or not a story "felt" real -- I remember once raising my hand during Story Time in 2nd Grade at the library to ask, "But why did the story say that the birds told the little girl about the Prince? Birds can't talk!" Not that I was all hard-core realist about fairy tales as a rule -- I had no problem the week before with stories about talking lions or whatever. But this story wasn't very well done, and so I didn't quite buy the talking birds part.

But that's as much a function of me as it is the artwork. I can buy Metamorphosis because the way Kafka writes about Gregor Samsa's family, I buy that yeah, that's how a family WOULD react if I turned into a roach. On the other hand, I can't quite get into Lovecraft, because he doesn't quite seem to write in the tone I'd expect from people who've encountered the horrors he describes -- as an old roommate of mine put it, "If the big, scary avatar is flying through the air at you, you don't just stand there and write about it, you start running and don't stop until you get to Mexico!"

So what does this all mean in terms of Avatar? Only that for some of us, some little detail -- the writing, the plot, something -- hit us the wrong way, and the rest of the film didn't counter that. For others of us, it did. And there's nothing inherantly wrong with that, and it's not a sign that anyone is devoid of wanting to escape or too easily swayed or anything.

It's like we were all standing at the bottom of a ski slope and waiting for the lift. Some of us knew how to catch the chair and get on that ride up to the top; others of us, well, this particular chair we can't figure out how to catch it, and we can't catch up, so we just have t miss out on this slope is all.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:06 AM on January 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Well, just because it isn't nuanced, original, or lacking subtlety doesn't mean it wasn't competent.

You're right; "competent" was a bad word for me to use, and it wasn't fair. Avatar's story is certainly competent in a way that a confusing mess like Transformers 2 isn't. It has a narrative that you can follow that gets you from point A to point B and so on, right on past the Braveheart speech to the point where it looks like the hero has lost until the day is saved at the last moment and all the Ewoks have a happy dance.

Movies, though, ought to be more than competent. Avatar is competent the way a burger from McDonald's is compentent; all the condiments are put on in the right order, the beef is between two buns, and there aren't any particularly unpleasant surprises. But it's exactly like every other burger you've ever eaten from McDonald's, and exactly like every other burger you'll ever eat at McDonald's. Where I said "competent" upthread, I should have substituted "intelligent, original, or interesting."
posted by EarBucket at 10:11 AM on January 12, 2010


There's actually a really good article, "Going Na'vi," up on The Onion's AV Club site that talks a lot about what pastabagel was saying and suggests that the racial themes go further than the typical "white guilt" of films like Dances with Wolves into balls out anti-Americanism. I'm not sure I completely with the author's take on it, but it's an interesting read.
posted by infinitywaltz at 10:56 AM on January 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think the "Avatar is racist" stuff is a little over the top. It's not Birth of a Nation people. The movie isn't actually saying that there is any group of "natives" out there who are like this -- if you want to argue that those other films are "racist" because they say "Group X is like Y", that's one thing. But in this case "Group X" isn't real. No humans are being negatively portrayed.

Is Starwars racist because of the portrayal of the Jawas?

If you want to say the Na'vi are literal stand-ins for Native Americans, I would argue that's not quite the case and beyond that the Na'vi aren't shown to have any negative traits.

In my view, for a movie to be racist it should portray a specific ethnic group as having some bad traits.
posted by delmoi at 11:18 AM on January 12, 2010


If you want to say the Na'vi are literal stand-ins for Native Americans, I would argue that's not quite the case and beyond that the Na'vi aren't shown to have any negative traits.

The stereotype that Native Americans are wiser and more spiritual and purer and better than European Americans is still a harmful stereotype, even though it's not negative-- it's othering, and, IMO at least, making an alien race that culturally very much resembles stereotypical native peoples still goes into troubling waters. Imagine if the Na'vi all wore paddy hats, pronounced Ls as Rs, practiced occult medicine, and were all amazing at martial arts.
posted by shakespeherian at 11:47 AM on January 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Imagine if the Na'vi all wore paddy hats, pronounced Ls as Rs, practiced occult medicine, and were all amazing at martial arts.

Hey, now! No sequel spoilers!
posted by hippybear at 12:04 PM on January 12, 2010


If "going native" means joining the culture of the wise, enlightened, noble savages/magical negros, then yes. Still racist.

To me, that's a really narrow view, considering that the film is an implicit rejection of of the dominant culture that Cameron from and has privileged status in. Especially considering that the planet and supreme life force of Pandora ultimately ignores the prejudice of the Navi and chooses Jake, despite his outsider status.

Only that for some of us, some little detail -- the writing, the plot, something -- hit us the wrong way, and the rest of the film didn't counter that. For others of us, it did.

Never mind that, WHICH ONE OF US IS RIGHT?!?!?!?!?!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:08 PM on January 12, 2010


I think the "Avatar is racist" stuff is a little over the top. It's not Birth of a Nation people. The movie isn't actually saying that there is any group of "natives" out there who are like this -- if you want to argue that those other films are "racist" because they say "Group X is like Y", that's one thing. But in this case "Group X" isn't real. No humans are being negatively portrayed.

It's a bit subtler than that. The "racist" argument isn't saying it's "racist" in the terms of "this specific race is worse than that one." It's more a thing about the "noble savage" stereotype -- how there are these "primitive" people that are somehow more "spiritual" because they shun technology and are "closer to nature" or something like that. Lurking behind all of that is the whole subtext that "of course, WE know better, but aren't they happy in their ignorance, bless 'em."

And into the midst of all these "noble savages" comes this White Dude who then goes on to Learn An Important Lesson from the noble savages and then becomes even better than them, because now he has all the benefits of the spiritual mindset but he's also White, which makes it even better! Yay!

All of which is poppycock. Fetishizing a culture that Isn't Like Ours is just as much of an offense as belittling it, because you're still treating it like this exotic fantastical magic thing rather than just a difference of opinion.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:10 PM on January 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


pronounced Ls as Rs

Oh, like a major science fiction movie would ever have aliens who did that.
posted by EarBucket at 12:11 PM on January 12, 2010


It's a bit subtler than that. The "racist" argument isn't saying it's "racist" in the terms of "this specific race is worse than that one." It's more a thing about the "noble savage" stereotype -- how there are these "primitive" people that are somehow more "spiritual" because they shun technology and are "closer to nature" or something like that. Lurking behind all of that is the whole subtext that "of course, WE know better, but aren't they happy in their ignorance, bless 'em."
Right but in Avatar the subtext is gone. They really are presented as being better then the humans. Which is why the "Avatar is racist" argument breaks down. My understanding of the argument is that Avatar superficially resembles movies with "Noble Savage" archetypes, and those movies are ultimately racist. But that doesn't mean that Avatar itself is racist because the "lurking under" subtext is gone.
posted by delmoi at 12:21 PM on January 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


To me, that's a really narrow view, considering that the film is an implicit rejection of of the dominant culture that Cameron from and has privileged status in. Especially considering that the planet and supreme life force of Pandora ultimately ignores the prejudice of the Navi and chooses Jake, despite his outsider status.

I don't think anyone has criticized Cameron for his critique of military-industrial Western capitalism (although it seems a little facile); the complaint is w/r/t his romanticizing and Orientalism towards Native cultures.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:22 PM on January 12, 2010


If you want to say the Na'vi are literal stand-ins for Native Americans, I would argue that's not quite the case and beyond that the Na'vi aren't shown to have any negative traits.

That most definitely is the case. I don't think Cameron was subtle in that regard.
And having the natives attuned to or possessing supernatural powers *is* a negative trait, as it turns them into something to fear.
posted by rocket88 at 12:25 PM on January 12, 2010


My understanding of the argument is that Avatar superficially resembles movies with "Noble Savage" archetypes, and those movies are ultimately racist.

Okay, but Avatar is specifically a critique of Western imperialism and militarism, and it addresses this theme by creating a parallel story to historical instances of Western imperialism and militarism. Unless you think the whole loincloth/nature worship/bows and arrows/etc. thing was accidental.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:25 PM on January 12, 2010


Right but in Avatar the subtext is gone. They really are presented as being better then the humans. Which is why the "Avatar is racist" argument breaks down.

If the Na'vi were better than the humans, then why did it take a human to lead them to victory?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:32 PM on January 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


EmpressCallipygos: "If the Na'vi were better than the humans, then why did it take a human to lead them to victory?"

True, although it was a human selected by the native world mind. And I would assume that the five previous "Toruk Makto" were native-born Na'vi.
posted by brundlefly at 12:44 PM on January 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


True, although it was a human selected by the native world mind.

that's no different from the trope that "our scriptures have foretold that one day a great white god would come down from the sky/across the great ocean/on a horse from the east, and lead our people out of darkness." Just because it's "the native world mind" rather than "in accordance with the prophecy", it's still the cliche that "the White Dude was endorsed by magic".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:49 PM on January 12, 2010


If the Na'vi were better than the humans, then why did it take a human to lead them to victory?

Failure of imagination and inability to fully grok an invading alien force do not mean the Na'vi were inferior. What is the maxim: you cannot accuse someone of doing something you cannot conceive of doing yourself? When confronted with something they had never encountered before, they were supposed to somehow understand motivations and tactics completely foreign to their entire planet?

I totally understand that you think this movie was a racist ball of shit, but I think you're really taking your own views of it too far into the realm of allegory and not confronting the story as the SF adventure that it is. Reading deeply into media one encounters is definitely a blessing, but it is not always appropriate to take it to extremes.
posted by hippybear at 12:52 PM on January 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't think the story was racist so much as it was completely unoriginal and boring. As others have said.
posted by billysumday at 12:53 PM on January 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


I totally understand that you think this movie was a racist ball of shit, but I think you're really taking your own views of it too far into the realm of allegory and not confronting the story as the SF adventure that it is.

Actually, I personally don't think the movie was "a racist ball of shit." I'm just trying to be helpful and clarify a point because it looked like you didn't quite get what others were trying to say.

My objection was rather that Ribisi's character was the Bastard Love Child Of Gordon Gekko And Snidely Whiplash, but we've been over that already.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:58 PM on January 12, 2010


forgot to add:

...And, I'm also gently trying to point out to you that just because some other people think it's "racist" that they're not totally out of line, here. Disagree with them if you like, but writing them off as "taking it too far into the realm of allegory" is not quite fair.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:59 PM on January 12, 2010


I certainly hope that when you say "point out to you" you are meaning more than just me, because there are certainly more than me making comments in response to yours.

If you really think I, personally, require schooling about this, we'll have to arrange tutoring sessions outside of this thread.
posted by hippybear at 1:03 PM on January 12, 2010


To me, that's a really narrow view, considering that the film is an implicit rejection of of the dominant culture that Cameron from and has privileged status in.

I don't know why people keep bringing that up as if Cameron pulled some kind of awesome twist/switcheroo. It wasn't a revelatory new idea, It's a fantasy story based on a common narrative. Instead of we won "America, Fuck-Yeah!" (which would have made a weird ass ending), you got the predictable happy (handjob) ending.

The Navi were not bad or prejudiced at all, they just didn't want aliens to come and dig up their home and steal their land, and that's a fairly easy position to understand. Also, that doesn't change the least bit, discounting the Rashomon effect, if you switched storytellers as someone suggested above that it would. The bad guys were obviously bad and the good guys saved the day. But beyond all that, case in point, a deus ex machina ending is the height of lazy storytelling.
posted by P.o.B. at 1:05 PM on January 12, 2010


...Huh.

Well, I'm just going to say that I'm sorry I've offended you (although, I'll admit I don't know quite how), but you look really upset by what I've said, and I can assure you any offense wasn't intentional. Have a good rest of the day.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:07 PM on January 12, 2010


(that last was to hippybear, by the way.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:07 PM on January 12, 2010


So, basically, Lawrence Of Arabia IS a racist movie then.

To the extent that Dune was a direct plagiarism of Lawrence's story, yes (whitey sides with & leads the sand people who control the crucial transport-enabling resource against the whitey empires fighting over it, who are very thinly-veiled symbols of the Brits & the Germans).

But Lawrence of Arabia was a real historical figure, so the racism entrenched in the time was a necessary part of the story - like the way it required a whitey to argue on behalf of arab nationhood before the allied powers. And even then, he was shot down by institutionalised British classism - part and parcel of the whole superior ruling in-group v marginalised inferior out-group zeitgeist that also enabled & informed the racism of the time.
posted by UbuRoivas at 1:12 PM on January 12, 2010


EmpressCallipygos: "that's no different from the trope that "our scriptures have foretold that one day a great white god would come down from the sky/across the great ocean/on a horse from the east, and lead our people out of darkness." Just because it's "the native world mind" rather than "in accordance with the prophecy", it's still the cliche that "the White Dude was endorsed by magic"."

I viewed that as the planet's immune system appropriating part of the infection in order to fight it. Yes it parallels traditional "prophecy" story-lines, but I think that's it: they're parallels.

I do understand the objections people have to this aspect of the movie, but I think Cameron was consciously working with that traditional magic-white-dude framework, and having some science fictional fun with it.
posted by brundlefly at 1:21 PM on January 12, 2010


I viewed that as the planet's immune system appropriating part of the infection in order to fight it.

Aha - hidden homeopathic propaganda!
posted by UbuRoivas at 1:30 PM on January 12, 2010


UbuRoivas: "Aha - hidden homeopathic propaganda!"

Yikes! Hadn't thought of that interpretation!
posted by brundlefly at 1:36 PM on January 12, 2010


Know what else just hit me?

Na'vi is an anagram of "naive"

(the apostrophe stands for the missing e)
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:13 PM on January 12, 2010


If the Na'vi were better than the humans, then why did it take a human to lead them to victory?

It take a human in a Navi body. The message I got from that was that neither was better, but combination of the two would be best.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:17 PM on January 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


Na'vi is an anagram of "naive"

Na'vi is cleary an anagram for Enviable (the apostrophe is for the missing eble).
posted by shakespeherian at 2:31 PM on January 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Or maybe Navigator. Did you see any 'gators on Pandora? No, I didn't think so. Hello, megafauna extinction.
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:54 PM on January 12, 2010


Brandon Blatcher: "It take a human in a Navi body. The message I got from that was that neither was better, but combination of the two would be best."

Interesting. That ties in with the use of both Na'vi (Banshees, arrows) and human (big-ass machine guns, radios) technologies in the final battle. Not to mention the intervention of the world mind, which I think is uncharitable to call a deus ex machina in anything other than a strictly literal sense.
posted by brundlefly at 2:57 PM on January 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Speaking of the world mind, how stupid was it, to send the indestructible rhinostegasauruses in after the far more vulnerable Na'vi? (who would've been more effective sniping from the trees instead of mounting an old-fashioned cavalry charge into machine guns)
posted by UbuRoivas at 3:10 PM on January 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Have you tried getting rhinostegasauruses organized? It's like herding cats. Giant, bullet impervious cats.
posted by brundlefly at 3:14 PM on January 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


And into the midst of all these "noble savages" comes this White Dude who then goes on to Learn An Important Lesson from the noble savages and then becomes even better than them, because now he has all the benefits of the spiritual mindset but he's also White, which makes it even better! Yay!

Whoa. That's a stretch. Do I think the Na'vi are portrayed as stereotypical "noble savages"? Yes. I do have a problem with that, and it was one of the features that jumped out at me that made the movie less than what it could have been.

But I didn't at all feel that the Dude was all that because he was the white dude. In fact, I wish the lead had been a black, indian, asian or what have you, because then the ending would have been more about "bringing the best of both cultures into synthesis." Which is what I think really was the intention Cameron had, that comes out more in the screenplay than the movie.

One of the things I disliked about the Ewoks defeating the Empire's minions in the Star Wars series was that it was so improbable. As a kid, yes, the furry loveable guys should win with their arrows and their tree-slinging catapults, but as an adult it just doesn't work that way. Thankfully, the rebels knew the Empire's secrets or the Ewoks would be extinct.

Which is to say: you need to understand the way the enemy thinks to defeat them. So the Na'vi do need the Dream Walkers' help, not because white dude is superior to native dude, but because when it comes to our culture, the Na'vi are still the "babies" that Jake once was before the natives educated him about ours.

I wish more had come from Sigourney Weaver's character, because I would have liked to have seen empathy between the two cultures win out, but of course we need a big fight scene these days at the end of EVERY movie or the terrorists have won or something.
posted by misha at 3:45 PM on January 12, 2010


ugh. natives educated him about THEIRS.
posted by misha at 3:46 PM on January 12, 2010


The message I got from that was that neither was better, but combination of the two would be best

Which is to say: you need to understand the way the enemy thinks to defeat them.


Yeah, wasn't it useful the way they had a freaking *Marine* to lead them, and - knowing the humans' weaponry & tactics - they attacked with a frontal cavalry charge, a tactic that was last successfully used in the early days of WW1, and rendered completely pointless & suicidal by the widespread deployment of machine guns.

You can see why Jake wasn't an officer.
posted by UbuRoivas at 3:54 PM on January 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


Another (possibly better) potential resolution to the "culture issue": the whole planet screams "intelligent design". Let that be true. The Na'vi themselves don't look like a real native culture, and they probably aren't. They're a roleplayer's idea of a native culture. They're elf recreationalists. Furries, even, with the technological power to make a world in which they could "go native", really become fantasy creatures, and live the fantasy lives they've always dreamed of. Or the descendants of such, some dozens of generations removed.

Like the world of Charles Stross's "Glasshouse". Beyond a certain technological point, intelligent beings could do that, reshape a world entirely. Which means that out there, there's a post-singularity culture whose kiddy pool was just pissed in.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 4:32 PM on January 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


UbuRoivas Yeah, wasn't it useful the way they had a freaking *Marine* to lead them, and - knowing the humans' weaponry & tactics - they attacked with a frontal cavalry charge, a tactic that was last successfully used in the early days of WW1, and rendered completely pointless & suicidal by the widespread deployment of machine guns.

I thought that too, until the battle actually started and we were reminded that the dragons are at least the size of the dropships, faster and more maneuverable; and the Na'vi themselves are nearly twice the height and about five times the weight of a human, as well as being faster and more agile. Their weapons only look like bows and arrows; they're portable ballistas that fire armor-piercing spears. A Na'vi is approximately as powerful as a battlesuit-wearing human. Granted, a bunch of Na'vi died in the battle but they seemed to be inflicting about 5:1 casualties on the humans.

Furthermore it was a flanking charge from overhead, not a frontal assault.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 4:38 PM on January 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Do I think the Na'vi are portrayed as stereotypical "noble savages"? Yes. I do have a problem with that, and it was one of the features that jumped out at me that made the movie less than what it could have been. But I didn't at all feel that the Dude was all that because he was the white dude.

Misha: for the record, I was explaining the "noble savage" trope in general, as opposed to specifically pointing out Avatar in the specific.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:49 PM on January 12, 2010


Not to mention the intervention of the world mind, which I think is uncharitable to call a deus ex machina in anything other than a strictly literal sense.

*shrug* We've already established that Cameron reduced everything to the lowest common denominator, so yeah it was almost literal (according to The Science Lady's explanation), but I would still call it a perfect example of deus ex machina.

I thought that too, until the battle actually started and we were reminded that the dragons are at least the size of the dropships, faster and more maneuverable; and the Na'vi themselves are nearly twice the height and about five times the weight of a human, as well as being faster and more agile. Their weapons only look like bows and arrows; they're portable ballistas that fire armor-piercing spears. A Na'vi is approximately as powerful as a battlesuit-wearing human. Granted, a bunch of Na'vi died in the battle but they seemed to be inflicting about 5:1 casualties on the humans.

The battle scene really was the climax of stupidity in that movie. When it first started and the radar blips popped up I thought "Oh, okay they got the hammerhead rhinos corralled and charging at the troops!" I mean they have empathic USB Ports right? Don't they? If not, I'm sure someone could have physically corralled them, but whatevs. They didn't do that, they ran face first into gunfire and I don't think 5:1 is even close to the correct ratios, more like maybe 10:1. But it really wasn't to much of a *yawn* surprise ending when the hammerheads did finally come into the picture.
posted by P.o.B. at 6:51 PM on January 12, 2010


Deus Ex Rhinocera
posted by minifigs at 11:55 PM on January 12, 2010


P.o.B.: "We've already established that Cameron reduced everything to the lowest common denominator, so yeah it was almost literal (according to The Science Lady's explanation), but I would still call it a perfect example of deus ex machina."

Eywa as an active force in the story is established fairly early on, and Jake actually asks for her help immediately before the battle, so it's not like her intervention was out of nowhere. I viewed it as the classic "ally belatedly arrives to lend a hand in battle" thing. If you want to say that it's cliched, I won't disagree (Henry the Red's men in Army of Darkness, a number of times in Lord of the Rings, half the battles ever put to film, etc.), but I wouldn't call it a deus ex machina.

P.o.B.: "The battle scene really was the climax of stupidity in that movie. When it first started and the radar blips popped up I thought "Oh, okay they got the hammerhead rhinos corralled and charging at the troops!" I mean they have empathic USB Ports right? Don't they? If not, I'm sure someone could have physically corralled them, but whatevs. They didn't do that, they ran face first into gunfire..."

Something that I've never been able to relate to is the idea that in order for a movie to be good, it must be devoid of plot holes and logical problems. I tend to notice those things, but I rarely care.

This reminds me of people who object to Verhoeven's Starship Troopers because there's no reason for the humans to fight a ground war with projectile weapons when they could nuke the bugs from orbit (only way to be sure). I think getting caught up on that completely misses the point and the tone of the movie. Verhoeven wanted to make a movie influenced by World War II films and westerns (not to mention Zulu), so he did -- logic be damned -- and I think it works really well.

I think Cameron has made something in the same vein,* heavily influenced by epics and westerns, so he has a big alien cavalry charge! Does it make strategic sense? Logical sense? Not really, but I don't care. I don't think it has to.

Now, I know that some people just can't let those things fly, so Avatar is not the movie for them. However, I don't require of movies a slavish devotion to logic and sound military strategy. That whole battle just works for me, on an aesthetic and emotional level, perhaps because I love those same movies that Cameron does.



*Or a neighboring vein, at least. Avatar is obviously not as comedic as Starship Troopers.
posted by brundlefly at 9:47 AM on January 13, 2010


When you ride roller coasters, it isn't really necessary nor consistent with the concept of riding roller coasters to point out that the builders really didn't need to make that turn so tight or that drop so steep.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:35 AM on January 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't think the whole Eywa thing is ever pinned down. Is it some kind of Gaia type of being? A Solaris super planet? An active storage system/computer powered by super rocks? Is it an actual floaty-above-the-clouds-god? That last one probably not, but we never get the full explanation and I think like so many other things Cameron is just fine with that as it allows the necessary hand-wavy to occur.

Re: Battle Scene - don't get me wrong, I don't need a solid story or logical consistency to enjoy a movie. To me it was just one of those points I actually said "WTF?" (quietly) out loud. Later on The Nerdy Science Avatar Dude actually says "We're getting slaughtered!" and I'm thinking "yeah, no shit! Your plan was to volunteer as cannon fodder."

So when I see someone write out six paragraphs of how fantastically layered the movie was I can't help but think it was good but not that good. Especially when you can switch out the movie they are talking about with another one and come to the same conclusions.
Cameron wrote the story in 1994. Dances with Wolves came out in 1990, Last of the Mohicans(film) came out in '92, and Fern Gully came out in '92. Apparently Pocohantas came out in '95 so he beat that one by a year, but setting aside the idea the this narrative has been around for a long time, I don't think it's out of place to say this movie is very unoriginal from start to finish. If you enjoyed it, good, but I'd rather not lose my head on how great some people think the movie is.
posted by P.o.B. at 2:36 PM on January 13, 2010


P.o.B.: "I don't think the whole Eywa thing is ever pinned down. Is it some kind of Gaia type of being? A Solaris super planet? An active storage system/computer powered by super rocks? Is it an actual floaty-above-the-clouds-god? That last one probably not, but we never get the full explanation and I think like so many other things Cameron is just fine with that as it allows the necessary hand-wavy to occur."

I thought it was pretty well nailed down that the entire biological system on the planet was a computer/brain.

Beyond that, I have no illusions about the originality of the story. It's been done tons of times before. This isn't a ground breaking movie in any non-technical way. I merely thought it was a well executed variation on a well worn narrative with some extremely beautiful SF icing, and I don't think it aspires to be more than that. It's an adventure film that wears its influences on its sleeve.
posted by brundlefly at 3:07 PM on January 13, 2010


The scientist described Eywa one way and the Navi described it another way. It was actually one of the big reasons the scientists were there but because the scientists were forbidden to go into the "special area", and we never got to find out. Actually I should say the scientist described Pandora one way and talked about Eywa another way, the Navi had an all encompassing woo-woo idea about "her"(?)
posted by P.o.B. at 3:20 PM on January 13, 2010


Never underestimate the handwavyism
posted by P.o.B. at 3:28 PM on January 13, 2010


There's a sniggering column that's been posted about Cameron's hunt for the perfect breasts to use as models within Avatar.

I just learned from a friend that an ex of his, a model with a surgically supersized chest, actually spent several days posing for Cameron's team several years ago; judging from what we see in the movie today, it looks as though studio sensibilities precluded a cameo for her body's appearance.
posted by darth_tedious at 11:59 PM on January 13, 2010


Jonah Goldberg, the Liberal Fascism guy, wrote a column complaining that the blue cat people should have been Christians.

I don't even have anything to say about that. Just throwing that out there. If you want to say dumb things about blue cat people, the sky is the limit.

Granted, that's the ultimate complaint every neocon has about the marine embracing "pantheism." Of course, they'd have the same freakout if they worshiped Polyface, the three faced God who was both three seperate things and one thing at once who was everywhere at all times, who sent one of his faces to live as a blue cat person and then be killed by the Roman-like blue cat people. A bigger freakout, actually, as they'd then say depicting Romans in a bad light is anti-Catholic. I think conservatives doth protest too much when they say liberals offend easily.
posted by mccarty.tim at 12:18 PM on January 14, 2010 [2 favorites]


If you want to say dumb things about blue cat people, the sky is the limit.

Oh, good. Because I was wondering why the source of all their food wasn't a magical blue cheeseburger tree.
posted by UbuRoivas at 1:49 PM on January 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oops, I meant to post it in the NEW avatar thread.
posted by mccarty.tim at 3:26 PM on January 14, 2010


All of the expiation in this thread just makes me less likely to see the film. Frankly, it seems to be doing pretty well without my £40 (the cost of taking the fam to see it). The more words one needs to type to defend such a univerally-panned script, the weaker it must intrinsically be. Great art speaks for itself and needs no defending. 5000 words on how BRILLIANT Cameron and his re-working of The Great White Hope merely nail the coffin shut for me.

I am aware that it is beautiful in its way... if you like long video-game cut scenes (in 3D). I think we'll leave this one to the audience for which it was intended (people who can turn their brains off for 162 minutes).
posted by chuckdarwin at 1:57 AM on January 19, 2010


When you ride roller coasters, it isn't really necessary nor consistent with the concept of riding roller coasters to point out that the builders really didn't need to make that turn so tight or that drop so steep.

Not unless you didn't LIKE the ride, and someone is asking you to explain why you didn't.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:19 AM on January 19, 2010


Not unless you didn't LIKE the ride, and someone is asking you to explain why you didn't.

Oh, come on now. Off-the-cuff metaphors are rarely instructive when you extend them more than one iteration.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:21 AM on January 19, 2010


.....I'm sorry, Burn -- I'm sincerely not trying to be obtuse; I'm a little scattered today, and honestly don't understand what you mean.

No, seriously. I'm having a serious brain-fog day.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:29 AM on January 19, 2010


(heh. Just razzin' ya)
posted by Burhanistan at 8:31 AM on January 19, 2010


(but was meaning that when a metaphor is offhandedly employed to illustrate a point, it rarely holds up when one develops a whole line of thought using that metaphor as a basis for logical extrapolation--as opposed to a conceit which often has a more holistic structure)
posted by Burhanistan at 8:35 AM on January 19, 2010


...but was meaning that when a metaphor is offhandedly employed to illustrate a point, it rarely holds up when one develops a whole line of thought using that metaphor as a basis for logical extrapolation.

....Wait, why wouldn't this particular example hold up?

(For the record, I'm purely in the realm of intellectual exercise right now.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:44 AM on January 19, 2010


Well, because I was using the roller coaster metaphor as a general response to people who complained about logical gaps in the story of Avatar. But now that I think about it after a few more sips of caffeine, you are right in your response as well. Perhaps I did come up with a conceit! (I'm conceited anyway.)
posted by Burhanistan at 8:48 AM on January 19, 2010


Thanks -- I'm similarly pre-caffinated, and wanted to make sure that I'd said what I'd intended to say clearly enough.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:57 AM on January 19, 2010


Sheesh, get a room already, you two.

hamburger
posted by misha at 10:29 AM on January 19, 2010


Nah, we'll just split a latte. (grin)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:41 AM on January 19, 2010


That's hot.

The coffee, I mean.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:15 AM on January 19, 2010


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