Project 880
December 13, 2015 7:53 PM   Subscribe

 
I feel like Rabin really underestimates the visual allure of the film. He alludes to it, but dismisses it. When ones watches the movie in the middle of an IMAX theater with maybe a little bit of ingested amplification to enhance the experience, one doesn't concern oneself with clumsy dialogue and a retreaded script. It's about the colors and the 3D and the spectacle, and the story is incidental.
posted by ORthey at 7:59 PM on December 13, 2015 [13 favorites]


What ORthey said. Plot????
posted by triage_lazarus at 8:10 PM on December 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


This is my Pauline Kael moment: I seriously don't feel like I know anyone who's seen Avatar.
posted by escabeche at 8:14 PM on December 13, 2015 [14 favorites]


hi escabeche!
posted by the man of twists and turns at 8:17 PM on December 13, 2015 [5 favorites]


For a split second I thought The Dissolve was back.

YOU HAVE GIVEN ME FALSE HOPE!
posted by FJT at 8:17 PM on December 13, 2015 [19 favorites]


Avatar in 3D was the best experience I've had in a movie theater.

The movie isn't very good, but it's wonderfully immersive.
posted by graventy at 8:18 PM on December 13, 2015 [11 favorites]


The question isn't whether the film is appealing, it's what happened to it culturally. Is there a single line of dialogue people refer to, even mockingly? Any characters used in clumsy analogies? Does anyone dress as Na'vi at cons or for Halloween? It seems like it's left zero residue in the collective consciousness, which is super weird considering it made $2.7 billion.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:19 PM on December 13, 2015 [117 favorites]


It seems like it's left zero residue in the collective consciousness

Let's not forget this great bit from Robot Chicken.
posted by dhens at 8:21 PM on December 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


escabeche: "This is my Pauline Kael moment: I seriously don't feel like I know anyone who's seen Avatar."

Howdy.

You know, I still argue that all the Pandorans are unashamed zoophiles.

When the leads make sweet sweet love? They connect their dreadlocks.

When they "ride" their "mounts"? Same thing.

It's this kind of oversight, as well as neglecting the necessary "Aliens are alien" plot points that made it pretty but forgettable.
posted by Samizdata at 8:22 PM on December 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


Is there a single line of dialogue people refer to, even mockingly?

"I see you?"
posted by lumensimus at 8:22 PM on December 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


The revenue figure is surely inflated by people like me who never watch films in theatres, but went "Hey, this is meant to be fancy and IMAX 3d and that, I can sit quietly in a room with a bunch of strangers like I'd normally hate", and went and saw it, and then went "Meh, lucky it had all that 3d to save it from the script", and never thought of it again.

That cost more than I'd spent on films in the previous decade.
posted by pompomtom at 8:23 PM on December 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


I saw Avatar. I think I even saw it in 3D, despite my overall dislike of 3D. Then I remembered seeing Fern Gully, and how much better Fern Gully was. (Betterness of Fern Gully might be a result of having seen Fern Gully when I was, like, 11 or something. I'm not sure. Was it good?) I have had literally no desire to think any thoughts about Avatar since that time.

It is interesting how little pop culture traction is has given its box office gross. I think a lot of people saw it because of the hype on the visuals, even people who don't normally see movies. That and the IMAX prices pushed up the box office to record levels. But there wasn't nearly as much of the hard core 'saw it 12 times' fan base as Titanic or Star Wars had.

I think for something to really enter pop culture consciousness, a fair number of people need to see it, but more importantly, some of them need to see it more than once and really absorb the movie and start putting stuff out there. Having a zillion people see your movie and then not care much about having seen it doesn't really enter the zeitgeist. Whereas Mean Girls grossed 1/20th of what Avatar grossed, but I know people who can damn near recite the whole thing. And I know people who've never even seen it who can hit just the right syllables on 'She doesn't even go here' and know better than to try to make fetch happen.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:23 PM on December 13, 2015 [31 favorites]


I guess what I mean (upon further reflection) is that since it was purely a visual spectacle, there wasn't much to latch onto in the long-term. No one was invested in the characters or the narratives because they didn't really matter. It was eye candy, and some of the most delicious eye candy ever made. But it didn't go beyond that, and so its cultural impact was minimal.
posted by ORthey at 8:23 PM on December 13, 2015 [9 favorites]


But there wasn't nearly as much of the hard core 'saw it 12 times' fan base as Titanic or Star Wars had.

Oh, there were many, many, people who saw it large numbers of times in the cinema - there's a reason it made a crazy amount of money. ORthey is absolutely right.

I'd say in some ways its cultural impact is higher than you might think - at least in terms of its effect on cultural institutions, which cinema the art form and cinemas the locations both are. It was a huge driver for the take up of 3D filming and 3D projection systems, and was basically 3D's first must-see movie.

But as a film...yeah. Not much there, there.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 8:31 PM on December 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


I don't think I've heard an Avatar called an Avatar since the movie came out. That's a cultural impact.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 8:31 PM on December 13, 2015 [4 favorites]


I didn't even buy it as as visual splendor. It looked like a flat black light poster.

Triumph of marketing in the larger global global market, billed as a one time must see event. everyone bought one ticket and it ended there.
posted by The Whelk at 8:32 PM on December 13, 2015 [20 favorites]


One of my friends told me "I hated that movie! All those stupid marines killing those blue guys for no reason!" I think she had fallen asleep 20 minutes in.
posted by miyabo at 8:34 PM on December 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


Confess, Fletch: "I don't think I've heard an Avatar called an Avatar since the movie came out. That's a cultural impact."

I say "Avvie". Does that count?

The Whelk: "I didn't even buy it as as visual splendor. It looked like a flat black light poster.

Triumph of marketing in the larger global global market, billed as a one time must see event. everyone bought one ticket and it ended there.
"

It was awfully pretty, but I found it ironic as all get out that a movie billed for it's amazing 3D had such a 2D plot and characterizations.
posted by Samizdata at 8:35 PM on December 13, 2015


I still don't understand how the entire point of your billion-dollar movie can be its visual appeal and then you use Papyrus for all your subtitles.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:37 PM on December 13, 2015 [88 favorites]


I read the article and I have no idea what the intended answer to the question is.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 8:39 PM on December 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


There was definitely a hype train / fad thing going on, where it was like a huge deal and you said okay I give up I'll go watch it. Plus the 3D prices were absurdly inflated, like 18 dollars or something.

I remember being impressed with the visual effects, but even as a purely visual spectacle it somehow doesn't really resonate after the fact. Visual spectacle in and of itself is, I guess, not enough to really make an impression on the popular consciousness. (Although Koyaanisqatsi is still one of my favorites.)
posted by Vic Morrow's Personal Vietnam at 8:39 PM on December 13, 2015


I saw it a couple years after it came out... Someone insisted that I see it, saying it was an important movie or something.

So I saw it. Maybe it was about 20 minutes in I figured out how the entire story arc was going to go. And yup, it went there. Exactly there. There literally wasn't a single surprise in the movie.

So yeah, they did a fine job in execution, and it looked good. But it wasn't a good movie.
posted by el io at 8:40 PM on December 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


I watched a pirated, dubbed-in-Spanish version in the Amazon, and I feel like that was really the optimal viewing experience. Otherwise, it was an offensive/forgettable story without any particularly quoteable lines.
posted by ChuraChura at 8:42 PM on December 13, 2015 [4 favorites]


Five years after its release, it still represents a high-water mark for 3-D.

I couldn't agree more. In fact, it's the only 3d movie I've seen where I wasn't actually retrospectively annoyed to have paid extra for 3d. I saw it at the movies twice, once by myself, and once with the wife to persuade her that the 3D was amazing (she was duly amazed). I enjoyed it both times.

I'm pleased to see Rabin pick on Worthington; the story is as corny as all get out (nothing really wrong with corn, though), but his acting is - and always is - terrible. I have no idea how his career is a thing. He's terrible, truly terrible.

I do think Rabin has forgotten the sense of frustration, disappointment, anger etc people felt with the Bush/Blair governments and specifically the Iraq War. Avatar had no zeitgeist because it was part of the zeitgeist. As the world has tries to forget Iraq so it can bomb Syria faster, so too have we forgotten the intensity of emotion around those governments and their actions.

Also, I think more broadly, box-office receipts are not a very reliable indicator of cultural zeitgeist, at all. So I question the premise, really. Was Jurassic Park part of the zeitgeist? No one really quotes it, except maybe the glass of water thing. It was at the movies for literally 7/8 months here in Australia when it came out.
posted by smoke at 8:44 PM on December 13, 2015 [4 favorites]


Is there a single line of dialogue people refer to, even mockingly?

Unobtanium, not unobtainium.
And Fern Gully was the snarky joke among my friends at the time.
On Preview: The Whelk beat me to framing what Cameron did by promoting a global premiere-- Cameron was the first? to abandon the convention of staged releases and dvd regions. And I think that's something. And the morality tale, 2-D, Fern Gully criticisms (that I made myself at the time) are dismissive of what kind of story one could simultaneously tell to the entire planet-- at the center of the story are what costs and priorities are involved in development (by carrot AND stick) and I think that's easy to dismiss and difficult to do.
And then there is Cameron referencing his own prior conventions/inventions, like strong female characters and those robotic suits. There's plenty to dismiss about Avatar, but I think I have to ignore a lot of contexts to do it.
posted by lazycomputerkids at 8:46 PM on December 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


The thing that gets me about Avatar was that some of Cameron's work has very quotable lines. Bring up Aliens on the the Blue and you'll have people quoting lines and applauding characters for days. But man, Avatar had nothing.

I really did love the visuals and while I've happened across the movie many times while channel surfing I never stop and view it. That said, I will carry forever the very physical thoughts I have about Sigourney Weaver's avatar.
posted by Ber at 8:49 PM on December 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


I can't speak for anyone else, but I've actively tried to forget having seen the film. It's such a blatant example of the white savior trope that I felt a sort of low-grade nausea just reading the Dissolve piece. Rabin is too charitable in his criticism of the plot.

The aesthetics were terrible even as I was seeing them in IMAX 3D. This screenshot reminds me of a CGI cutscene from Playstation 1-era Final Fantasy.
posted by naju at 8:51 PM on December 13, 2015 [20 favorites]


Plot -- noble white guy goes native and saves said natives had just been done. Nothing new to get excited about.

But also -- it was on the wrong side of the transition of the critical dialog to focus on elite niche things. There's 10x the conversation about "The Leftovers" than "Blindspot" with 10x the viewers. 100x more per capita attention. I probably saw 10 big stories and saw a dozen podcast log lines roll by about Sleater-Kinney's reunion album and I think maybe two about Adelle?

No one would care about Star Wars if it didn't predate the era educated people were too cool for such things.
posted by MattD at 8:51 PM on December 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


When I saw Avatar we made it a double feature with The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus and for all its flaws that movie has stuck with me way more than Avatar.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:53 PM on December 13, 2015 [4 favorites]


Is there any reason to watch Avatar twice? No, so it's just a blur.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:55 PM on December 13, 2015


My wife and I really enjoyed seeing it at the theater, and have absolutely no interest in seeing it on DVD. It was an experience, not a film. Like seeing your first laser show at a planetarium -- you walk out saying "that was awesome!" but that doesn't translate into wanting to watch a VHS tape of a laser show at home.

lazycomputerkids: "The Whelk beat me to framing what Cameron did by promoting a global premiere-- Cameron was the first? to abandon the convention of staged releases and dvd regions."

Nope. I don't know what the first film to do that was, but it wasn't Avatar. The third Matrix movie, for example, came out six years before Avatar, and had a simultaneous worldwide release.

(Yes, yes, I know, "What are you talking about, there was only one Matrix movie", etc.)
posted by Bugbread at 8:58 PM on December 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


I have a theory that a lot more people would have seen it but they sold exclusive Blu-Ray 3D rights to a small number of crappy TV's and Blu-Ray players. Basically, they traded long term cultural impact for dumb money.
posted by effugas at 9:06 PM on December 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


I saw avatar on an airplane in-seat screen. If you want to ensure that you are unimpressed by the movie, I highly recommend it.
posted by advil at 9:08 PM on December 13, 2015 [13 favorites]


i would love for somebody to do some serious research on how watching a 3D movie affects your attention span. anecdotally, i know multiple people who cannot retain the plot information from movies they've seen in 3D, like their brain is so focused on processing the picture it can't pay as much attention to plot, characters, and dialogue. the last 3D movie i saw was Up, and the last third of that movie is pretty fuzzy for me, fuzzier than the other (2D) movies i saw that summer.

again, this is all anecdotal, but i can't help but wonder if everyone who saw avatar is experiencing a minor version of this effect, compounded by the fact that the movie was so terrible. not entirely sold on this, but again: would love to see some research done.
posted by JimBennett at 9:10 PM on December 13, 2015 [12 favorites]


I have no idea how his career is a thing. He's terrible, truly terrible.

He is the brown-haired-early-30's video-game-main-character-man made flesh. It is eerie.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 9:12 PM on December 13, 2015 [9 favorites]


advil, I only saw it at home on a 32-inch TV playing a DVD. I hated it.
posted by yhbc at 9:13 PM on December 13, 2015


advil: "I saw avatar on an airplane in-seat screen. If you want to ensure that you are unimpressed by the movie, I highly recommend it."

I saw Pacific Rim that way. I made myself sit through the whole film because MeFi had been all abuzz about what a great movie it was, but, man, that was a painful chunk of time. Then we get off the plane and my wife tells me that she saw the worst movie on the plane, some movie called "Pacific Rim".
posted by Bugbread at 9:15 PM on December 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


Our Corporate Masters are ensuring the cultural cache of Avatar will be duly boosted in 2016, in preparation of Avatar 2 and PandoraLand.
posted by persona at 9:15 PM on December 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


I saw Pacific Rim that way. I made myself sit through the whole film because MeFi had been all abuzz about what a great movie it was, but, man, that was a painful chunk of time. Then we get off the plane and my wife tells me that she saw the worst movie on the plane, some movie called "Pacific Rim".

that's interesting, i watched pacific rim in what must have been like a 240p rip, stretched to fit something like a 50" tv, and possibly playing at the wrong framerate. the action sequences were basically incomprehensible and i still adored that film.
posted by JimBennett at 9:18 PM on December 13, 2015 [6 favorites]


Was Jurassic Park part of the zeitgeist? No one really quotes it, except maybe the glass of water thing

Granted - I am fairly often surrounded by mid-30s nerds, but I hear "Clever Girl", "We spared no expense", "It's a unix system, I know this", and "Dino-saww-aarrs" crowbarred with varying levels of expertise into conversation at least a few times a year.

I can't think of a single line from Avatar, though, apart from "I see you", which, actually, really is rather sweet.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 9:21 PM on December 13, 2015 [20 favorites]


There's that one guy whose back is covered in Na'vi tattoos. That's all I got.

Then again, I have heard rumors of people getting BB-8 tattooed on themselves, and that movie ain't even out yet. So maybe not the best barometer of culture.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 9:24 PM on December 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


The only thing I remember about this movie is that at one point, dandelion seeds come out of the screen and waft down over the audience, and that was really cool.
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:24 PM on December 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'm pretty critical about movies - especially science fiction movies which are my preferred genre. I thought Avatar was a wonderful movie, a true science fiction movie of epic proportions. So why does it not have the appeal of, say, Star Wars?

I think it is because it hits too close to home. Our culture has traditionally been and frankly continues to be one that exploits indigenous peoples all over the world for profit. I don't think people want to be reminded of that. I don't think people want to be reminded that there is something that they could actually do about that. We want our designer handbags, iStuff and cheap oil and we don't want to be reminded about how we actually get those things - or that strong willed moral people could help put an end to it. Avatar is a story that Western culture people do not really want to hear.

Anyhow that's my theory du jour.
posted by AGameOfMoans at 9:27 PM on December 13, 2015 [12 favorites]


Nobody going to talk about Billy Mack then? IMO a much more enjoyable movie.
posted by Tad Naff at 9:28 PM on December 13, 2015


I never saw the film, but I remember that one nickname it got was "Dances with Smurfs".
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 9:36 PM on December 13, 2015 [17 favorites]


Don't forget about how the depiction of the Na'vi is crazy orientalist
posted by shakespeherian at 9:37 PM on December 13, 2015 [5 favorites]


AGameOfMoans: "I think it is because it hits too close to home."

I enjoyed Avatar, but have no desire to watch it again. None of that has to do with its political content. The actual story just didn't interest me. I liked the visuals, thought it was a nice use of 3D, and that's it.

Compare it with, say, Fight Club (the movie, not its fans). The movie itself "hits close to home". It's a repudiation of consumerism and capitalism that ends with destroying the financial system by blowing up credit card company headquarters. It's like "Occupy: The Action Movie". Yet it has a lot of fans, and people to this day use "The first rule of X is not to talk about X". The reason it's popular, and Avatar isn't, isn't because the politics are more or less comfortable, but somewhere else.
posted by Bugbread at 9:38 PM on December 13, 2015 [8 favorites]


shakespeherian: "Don't forget about how the depiction of the Na'vi is crazy orientalist"

Really? I don't remember that at all. My impression was tribes-living-in-the-Amazon-basin-ist.
posted by Bugbread at 9:39 PM on December 13, 2015


such a blatant example of the white savior trope

Plot -- noble white guy goes native and saves said natives had just been done. Nothing new to get excited about.

And Fern Gully was the snarky joke among my friends at the time.

one nickname it got was "Dances with Smurfs".


I am disappointed to hear these tedious casual dismissals of the movie here when the blue was the source of one of the best defenses ever written of it, in the thread Greg Nog links to. Avatar is the quintessential ambitious and interesting failure, which to me will always be more interesting than the focus-group-tested/McKee-script-algorithm-driven/blockbuster product/tentpole franchise movie that I see far too much of.

That said, I fully agree that it was far more about spectacle than ideas. I saw it once and once only, in IMAX. It seemed supremely pointless to watch it on home video -- it would be like watching Lawrence of Arabia on your iPod.

And ye gods, Worthington. This was six months after Terminator:Salvation and five months before Clash of the Titans; presumably a month or so after that whatever dream team squadron of publicists who decided they could manufacture a movie star finally gave up.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 9:42 PM on December 13, 2015 [9 favorites]


smoke: " Was Jurassic Park part of the zeitgeist? No one really quotes it, except maybe the glass of water thing."

A few come to mind:

God help us, we're in the hands of engineers.

When you gotta go, you gotta go.

I'm simply saying that life, uh... finds a way.

You think they'll have that on the tour?

Must go faster.

Pretty much anything that Malcolm says.

Besides which I think Jurassic Park is the only movie to ever get how to turn on a High Voltage/High Amperage correct. An amazing bit of accuracy in such a fanciful movie.
posted by Mitheral at 9:42 PM on December 13, 2015 [8 favorites]


The question isn't whether the film is appealing, it's what happened to it culturally. Is there a single line of dialogue people refer to, even mockingly? Any characters used in clumsy analogies? Does anyone dress as Na'vi at cons or for Halloween? It seems like it's left zero residue in the collective consciousness, which is super weird considering it made $2.7 billion.

Sorry for linking to dailyfail, but has everyone forgotten about this whole situation where people became like seriously depressed and super anguished about... not being able to go back to their "home planet" or whatever? Like
this thread
or even that whole messageboard in general?

At least for a little while, like six months to a year, there were people SUPER obsessed over that universe. To the point that it was sort of a meme online to make fun of those people. That may-may had enough staying power to even get an honorable mention in the 2013 video by lil dicky for his track "too high".

What i remember at least being a connoisseur of dank memes was that whole thread of avatar-obsessed-sort-of-weeaboo and making fun of them.

Are there other movies that have no real cultural staying power as references and such, but had a HUGE weird reaction at the time like that which faded relatively quickly in a cultural sense? I feel like there have been.
posted by emptythought at 9:42 PM on December 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


Orientalist in the Edward Said sense of depicting foreign people in simplistic terms, as less-complex than Westerners, etc. One recurring trope of orientalism is of Native peoples as more spiritually pure, uncomplicated people living in an Edenic paradise, at one with nature & innocent.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:47 PM on December 13, 2015 [11 favorites]


Was Jurassic Park part of the zeitgeist? No one really quotes it, except maybe the glass of water thing

Thinking about it for a minute, my wife and I regularly quote the following:

"He left us!"
"Hold onto your butts."
"Dodgson, Dodgson, we've got Dodgson here!"
"Must go faster."
"SHOOT HER!"

"I don't think I've heard an Avatar called an Avatar since the movie came out. That's a cultural impact."

Among my circle of friends, when one refers to an Avatar, it is understood as a reference to the air-bending variety.
posted by davejh at 9:47 PM on December 13, 2015 [17 favorites]


Something something something Captain EO.
posted by newdaddy at 9:48 PM on December 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm not normally a cynical guy, but back in the day when I read about that "people depressed about Pandora being fake" thing I just assumed it was clickbait. The internet is big, and you can find posts about any topic, and get some newspaper inches if it relates to a current topic. That doesn't indicate the topic is actually a big deal or societal phenomenon.
posted by Bugbread at 9:49 PM on December 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


I am disappointed to hear these tedious casual dismissals of the movie here when the blue was the source of one of the best defenses ever written of it

This is because it seemed like it had to have been a meaningful thing because of how big of a deal it was at the time. It just had to be!

But, it was the cultural equivalent of a failed startup with a gazillion dollar valuation that promised to build space elevators.
posted by emptythought at 9:50 PM on December 13, 2015 [5 favorites]


i liked avatar because it was pretty but the real best part is how much everyone i know hates it and likes to talk (hiss) about that hate at length

it's so heartwarming
posted by poffin boffin at 9:50 PM on December 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


It was a huge driver for the take up of 3D filming and 3D projection systems, and was basically 3D's first must-see movie.

Well, now I know who I have to destroy as payback for all my pain.

(3-D movies are a thing Strabismatics hate. When your eyes don't line up, it's irritating at best, and I have had to run out and throw up a couple of times.)
posted by mephron at 9:55 PM on December 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


Heaven help this poor awful movie if that's one of its best defenses.

It is by no means good, and acts principally as Exhibit B for the case that art thrives on limits both of time and dollars (Exhibit A being The Phantom Menace). As I say, I have seen it once and feel no need to go back a second time. It is mostly that the usual criticism is "why dont they build the whole airplane out of the black box material lol" that gets me down.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 9:55 PM on December 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


I think there's a lot to be said for the argument that it's had little enduring cultural impact because there's no reason to rewatch it at home. Things stay top-of-mind because there are people still watching them and keeping them there. This was a movie that had a huge cultural moment at the time of its theatrical release, but I think even people who really liked it would readily concede that they didn't want the DVD - it needed to be big and 3D and loud to have any impact whatsoever. The plot was thin, the script was bad, and the characters were cardboard cutouts. This is a movie where if you're sitting at home on a Sunday afternoon in your underwear and it comes on HBO you'd change the channel. It has nothing going for it outside of the IMAX experience.

Ultimately a movie like that can't compete in the marketplace of movie memes in this day and age. Nobody's going to memorize the lines and quote them at you because it cost $20+ to see it in the theater when it came out, and you can't even do that anymore. If there's no reason to watch it again at home people aren't going to remember it.

Uh, all that said, though, this is still happening. I imagine Disney Parks brass are ruing the day they made a big bet on this one, but the existence of a major Avatar area in a Disney World theme park ensures that this movie won't be entirely lost to history.
posted by town of cats at 9:57 PM on December 13, 2015 [3 favorites]




This was an interesting thread about Avatar from roughly six years ago.

Oh, wow, that thread has references to HAMBURGER. I thought that was like three, maybe four years ago.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 10:07 PM on December 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


Can we talk about how i'm actually incredibly excited to rewatch the Phantom Menace again because of the Binks Sith Theory

Binks Theory is dumb. It's all about the Padme Theory.

(Yes, the point of the article is kind of that revisionist theories can't actually fix the stuff that sucked about Phantom Menace. But I like the Padme Theory anyway.)
posted by tobascodagama at 10:10 PM on December 13, 2015 [6 favorites]


GREG LET'S WATCH THE PHANTOM MENACE TOGETHER
posted by shakespeherian at 10:13 PM on December 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


It's the number one film of all time in terms of worldwide gross revenue. How come we haven't seen more of it?

Before clicking into the story, I found myself momentarily baffled as to the identity of the film mentioned in the summary. Some long-legged Bollywood production? One of those overwhelming Chinese extravaganzas? A ubiquitous corporate training video? Huh? Avatar?! Oh. I had somehow forgotten about that, despite following box office charts fairly regularly.

In fact, if you'd asked me when Avatar came out, I probably would've guessed more like 10 years ago. Despite my eagerly seeing it on one of those bootleg IMAXes right when it was released, as well as buying the Blu-Ray (unwatched) as soon as it came out of that weird exclusivity contract, it's as though the film had instantly self-redacted from my memory like some cheesy Doctor Who villain.

Basically it was influential because it was first in the modern 3D era. Except I'm lying because not even that. Along with a bunch of minor films, it was also predated by two Harry Potters and the great Coraline. And CG has continued to grow more detailed and realistic in the intervening years. It's like a time capsule of a very particular era in film, essentially Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within of 3D.

And time capsules suck.

I forget, were we talking about a movie just now?
posted by xigxag at 10:18 PM on December 13, 2015 [6 favorites]


Avatar in 3D was the best experience I've had in a movie theater.

The movie isn't very good, but it's wonderfully immersive.


too bad Yes didn't do the soundtrack
posted by philip-random at 10:19 PM on December 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


town of cats: "Uh, all that said, though, this is still happening. I imagine Disney Parks brass are ruing the day they made a big bet on this one, but the existence of a major Avatar area in a Disney World theme park ensures that this movie won't be entirely lost to history."

This is the first I heard of that. And my first reaction was "Oh, no, Disney. Oh no."

But a few minutes later my head changed "Avatar Land" to "Roger Dean Land", and my whole opinion swiveled 180 degrees.

Honestly, that aesthetic is perfect for Disneyland. It's rich, bright colors. Ornate, super-detailed. Lots of natural scenery with sunlight, and dark scenery with blacklighty glow. People enjoyed Avatar because it was visual and an experience, but didn't care about the story. People enjoy Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean and Star Tours and all that stuff because of the visuals and the experience, but not the story. It's actually a really good fit.
posted by Bugbread at 10:20 PM on December 13, 2015 [5 favorites]


You people do know there are three sequels on the way right?
posted by PenDevil at 10:20 PM on December 13, 2015


MetaFilter: the results of the fevered coupling between Smurfs and werewolves.
posted by kirkaracha at 10:22 PM on December 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


Yeah, Bugbread, I agree. It seems really really bad like let's fire the guy whose idea this was bad when you first read about it and then you're like, well, how many Disney attractions have I enjoyed that were based on shows or movies I've never seen (exhibit A: Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse)? It doesn't actually matter, what matters is that there's a world there that you can picture yourself exploring. But all I'm saying is, for good or ill, Avatar isn't going anywhere. Nothing that has a whole land to itself at Disney World is going anywhere anytime soon.
posted by town of cats at 10:29 PM on December 13, 2015


I'm a little shocked that a large number of people here seem to buy the premise that what matters more about a movie is its "cultural impact", that if it's got quotable lines and/or provides grist for endless GIFs and memes that that somehow supercedes whether or not the movie was an enjoyable experience. By that standard, The Room and Manos, the Hands of Fate were unqualified successes. (If it wasn't an enjoyable experience, sorry to hear it and hope you weren't conned into paying IMAX prices.)
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:32 PM on December 13, 2015 [5 favorites]


I think the reason it hasn't penetrated the popular consciousness is that it's absolutely awful, with a very simplistic storyline and very forgettable characters. Perhaps it made money because it was a James Cameron film and was heavy on the special effects. But a film needs more than that to enter the popular consciousness.

Personally I thought it was not a good film, I hated it. Funnily enough, what I hated most was probably the visuals. It's not a nice-looking film, it's disgusting. The colours are hideously garish. Just look at this:

http://vignette3.wikia.nocookie.net/jamescameronsavatar/images/7/72/Jaketoruk.png

The colours don't look nice at all. And the designs on the creatures skins are terrible too. Avatar is a visually disgusting film. The planet of Pandora also looks overly garish, overly lush, and revolting. Also the film is horribly sentimental and childish. The scene where all the aliens are sitting cross-legged around the tree of life, singing, is so uncool, worse than the most saccharine, cloying Disney moment ever.
posted by rubber duck at 10:35 PM on December 13, 2015 [9 favorites]


The movie isn't very good, but it's wonderfully immersive.

So immersive that I had to flee the theater due to motion sickness. :(
posted by Jacqueline at 10:37 PM on December 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


rubber duck: "It's not a nice-looking film, it's disgusting. The colours are hideously garish. The colours don't look nice at all. And the designs on the creatures skins are terrible too. Avatar is a visually disgusting film. The planet of Pandora also looks overly garish, overly lush, and revolting."

That's a lot of objective terms for a subjective experience. I mean, I know that's a popular shorthand way of communicating "I didn't like it", but it's been a while since I've seen subjective experience stated as objective fact so forcefully.

Personally, I really liked the bright, lush, rich look.
posted by Bugbread at 10:42 PM on December 13, 2015 [11 favorites]


I'm a little shocked that a large number of people here seem to buy the premise that what matters more about a movie is its "cultural impact"

I don't think anyone put forward that that's what matters more, but it's the question presented in the article, and an interesting one.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:52 PM on December 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


> 3-D movies are a thing Strabismatics hate. When your eyes don't line up, it's irritating at best, and I have had to run out and throw up a couple of times.

If you have this problem, or are otherwise not a fan of the 3D glasses experience but are going along to a screening for social reasons, you can mitigate it by getting yourself two pairs of glasses and some tape and crafting a special set of "2D glasses" with two left lenses or two rights. This will present the same image to each eye and filter out the unwanted second stereo image.

(Looks like you can also buy them readymade)
posted by contraption at 11:08 PM on December 13, 2015 [6 favorites]


I remember someone asking James Cameron why the designs for the human tanks and planes and such looked so much like Halo and he responded that Halo was cribbing from him. And while he isn't wrong, it seemed incredibly myopic. It reminds me of another big budget ego project (which floped but I still liked it) John Carter.

Sure the John Cater novels were influential on early sci-fi and a lot of movies borrowed from those books, but just because you're drawing on the source material of culturally important works doesn't mean you can have a set piece where you make your chained up heroes use their super powers to battle monsters in a sandy arena and expect people not to raise an eyebrow.

In both cases, arrogant directors assumed they had nothing to prove and simply drew on earlier work as if the rest of the world hadn't moved on an inch.
posted by Reyturner at 11:23 PM on December 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


shakespherian > Does anyone dress as Na'vi at cons or for Halloween?

There's this one guy I see at the West Coast furry conventions. He is oldish and a little dumpy, and he can be found running around in a blue bodysuit with Na'vi markings. No head or anything, just a couple of fangs added to his teeth. When he's on the dance floor at the cons, he's often got a pair of big feathery fans.

I have never talked to him but I respect the fuck out of him for sticking with his passion for being a blue space cat. The last time I saw him was at Rainfurrest 2015; he's clearly pretty dedicated to this thing.
posted by egypturnash at 11:34 PM on December 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


My guess is, in 100 years time, people may look upon "Avatar" as being predictive in terms of the way that alien planets are explored. For an example of this thinking listen to physicist Michio Kaku discuss "Are Robots Better than Astronauts?" - the cost of putting actual people on another planet is always going to be high. Avatars offer much the same experience without all the life support costs or risks.
posted by rongorongo at 11:38 PM on December 13, 2015


Whereas Mean Girls grossed 1/20th of what Avatar grossed, but I know people who can damn near recite the whole thing.

Stop trying to make Avatar happen! It's not going to happen!
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 11:39 PM on December 13, 2015 [18 favorites]


watching a 3D movie affects your attention span. anecdotally, i know multiple people who cannot retain the plot information from movies they've seen in 3D, like their brain is so focused on processing the picture it can't pay as much attention to plot, characters, and dialogue.

I posit that this is not due to the fact that it is 3-d, but rather it is due to the plot, characters and dialogue in most 3-d films being forgettable. Okay, yeah, you say you saw UP in 3-d, but most of the time 3-d is either the thing that is meant to prop up mediocre storytelling, or it becomes the thing that pulls the director's focus away from all the other elements.

basically I just hate the whole 3-d gimmick thing but I hated AVATAR even more
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:39 PM on December 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


I saw UP in 2D. I watched it twice, in fact, just two weeks apart. Loved it.

I literally cannot remember anything about the story beyond the tear-jerking start scene. I remember a few characters (there was a boy scout sidekick, talking dogs, an ostrich-looking thing, and a bad guy explorer, right?), but I can't remember what any of these people actually did for the remaining hour and a half of the movie.
posted by Bugbread at 11:48 PM on December 13, 2015 [4 favorites]


Nothing could live up to the first five minutes of UP.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 11:50 PM on December 13, 2015 [8 favorites]


Especially not the remainder of UP, which is crap.
posted by nom de poop at 11:52 PM on December 13, 2015 [6 favorites]


That's weird, I didn't realize there were two movies called UP. The one I saw was really fun and great.
posted by teponaztli at 11:55 PM on December 13, 2015 [11 favorites]


I saw James Cameron when he gave a talk at a software conference in 2010. What struck me was that he seemed to be every bit as much the wide-eyed technophile as his audience. It was Cameron's interest in computer graphics that brought "The Abyss", it was his love of submersibles that led to "Titanic" - and "Avatar" was all about the challenge of trying to re-interpret 3D for the age of CGI and digital projection (he also talked breathlessly about the details of the special digital assets management system that had to be developed for the production). The plot woven around these showcases of technology was pretty much like the plot woven around a porn film - not the main issue at all.

Avatar has died out fast in popular memory because it is a fairground ride that requires an IMAX cinema to appreciate. We don't have those in our living room.
posted by rongorongo at 11:56 PM on December 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


I've seen Avatar three (3) times. First time, iMax, loved it. Second time, director's cut, didn't get why I liked it the first time. THIRD time I loved it again. It's not a *good* movie, but the plot and the script are dumb in an enjoyable way if you can allow it — on the level of Pacific Rim, or a better Fast and Furious movie. The characters are broad and the plot is blunt but it works well in service of the adventure and the spectacle.

I'm a fan and am super looking forward to the sequels.
posted by wemayfreeze at 11:59 PM on December 13, 2015


I have one memory of seeing Avatar in IMAX 3-D: It was blue.

I like blue but I can't remember the plot or the romantic relationship or even the conflict. Boring movie but very blue.
posted by bendy at 12:01 AM on December 14, 2015 [4 favorites]


The "problem" with movies like Avatar is that they pale grossly when seen on the small screen (or, even worse, on a movile device). I'm totally content to watch something like My Dinner with Andre (or even Mean Girls) on an iPod, but Avatar? Without the "immersive" effects, there's no there there.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 12:03 AM on December 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm one of the few people who never saw Avatar (3D stuff makes me queasy). It's weird, because I've always gotten the sense that I missed out on some sort of pop culture moment - the 3D movie event where even the subtitles were implemented in really interesting ways. It's not like people talk about it now, but there is this weird sense I have of having missed something, whatever it was. But it wasn't the movie, it was the whole experience. It's like everyone went to the same theme park ride just to go, and even if the show wasn't that memorable, it's still something they all did for the sake of it.

Maybe that's kind of a legacy on its own?

Or maybe that's what Rabin's talking about and I missed the point. Either way, I guess it's not worth seeing in 2D at this point, huh?
posted by teponaztli at 12:22 AM on December 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


Bugbread: (Yes, yes, I know, "What are you talking about, there was only one Matrix movie", etc.)"

You know me tooooo well.

Who the hell are you?
posted by Samizdata at 12:52 AM on December 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm in the camp of never having seen Avatar (and this thread probably seals the deal that I never will) but the description of it as an absolutely beautiful world with wooden story/characters in the foreground perfectly describes Crimson Peak, which I did see last night. Swing and a miss, del Toro.
When I saw Avatar we made it a double feature with The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus and for all its flaws that movie has stuck with me way more than Avatar.
heh, I remember standing outside a theater around this time 2009 with a bunch of people debating what to see, half arguing for Avatar and half arguing against Avatar, not suggesting anything else, just not wanting to watch Avatar, and I pitched Parnassus with a soft "You guys like Monte Python?". Win.
posted by mannequito at 12:56 AM on December 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


In gamer lingo we might call Avatar a work with "low replay value". Not puzzling at all.
posted by polymodus at 12:58 AM on December 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


We tend to forget how manufactured popular consciousness actually is. The Screencrush article (it's cited in the FPP article) answers the question as follows:
‘Avatar’ isn’t a brand; it’s a movie, perhaps one of the last that will ever be made of its scale and scope. In the five years since ‘Avatar’’s release, the five biggest hits at the box office have been sequels (‘Toy Story 3,’ ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2,’ ‘The Hunger Games: Catching Fire’) or Marvel movies (‘The Avengers,’ ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’), and Hollywood has become almost entirely focused on building, subdividing, and perpetually extending movie series as long as they possibly can. Those films haven’t been forgotten because we have not been allowed to forget them—because they have been sold to us over and over as books and shirts and Halloween costumes and breakfast cereals and Blu-ray box sets and a million other branded products.
To be fair, Fox did have an extensive merchandising strategy for Avatar but it clearly didn't work.
posted by elgilito at 12:59 AM on December 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


It's absolutely true that processes like franchising enable media to infiltrate the popular culture "commons", but aren't there other examples, like The Matrix, where it took only a single movie, to generate memes and icons and quotes?
posted by polymodus at 1:05 AM on December 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


Either way, I guess it's not worth seeing in 2D at this point, huh?

It's okay as a regular 2D movie, but not a classic. Kind of middle of the road as an adventure movie, but with great worldbuilding. Worth seeing if you like getting lost in exotic places.
posted by Kevin Street at 1:23 AM on December 14, 2015


Y'all hate it, but y'all saw it, man.

Avatar was in the unenviable place where people compelled to perform Left politics had to make noises about how they didn't *really* like it because it was problematic (like guys, methinks you doth protest too much) while on the Right it was a total non-starter to begin with. After that, and after seeing a movie that also happened to singlehandedly make 3D interesting again (and is one of the rare movies that does) and have cool robots and Wayne Barlowe aliens I think we were all pretty embarrassed at having to talk about it and admit we wanted and saw cool blue forests even though Slavoj Zizek was right about it.

This was in 2009 though. It would take a while for fandom to develop the political-cognitive dissonance required for, say, Game of Thrones.
posted by mobunited at 1:27 AM on December 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


It was - not bad, even if it did re-hash familiar Cameron 'a few good military guys and the space hippies versus the big bad military' themes. I also think the CGI wasn't as jaw-dropping as the hype however that field moves so fast that maybe the delay between starting and releasing the project was a factor there.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 1:28 AM on December 14, 2015


the 3D movie event where even the subtitles were implemented in really interesting ways.

You mean, in Papyrus?
posted by Gordafarin at 1:44 AM on December 14, 2015 [8 favorites]


No one really quotes it, except maybe the glass of water thing."
Actually my abiding memory of the film is the flora rather than the dialogue. Here is an interesting talk by Jodie Holt - the botanist (and real life analogue to Sigourney Weaver's character) who was consulted on Avatar. Her work is one of the highlights, IMHO. She talks about "plant blindness" - the tendency of people to ignore plants in our environment because we have to struggle to see them properly - her aim was to get around that with tricks like bio-luminescence. She starts talking about the film about 15 minutes in.

The plants (and animals) in the film use real word phenomena like Signal Transaction and Thigmonasty.
posted by rongorongo at 2:10 AM on December 14, 2015 [5 favorites]


I see your I skipped Avatar and I raise you an I skipped Titanic. Beat that, posers.
posted by Dr Dracator at 2:33 AM on December 14, 2015 [8 favorites]


I have found it strange how Avatar has fallen off the zeitgeist radar, namely in how no one really seems to be clamoring for Avatar 2, which after six years is practically a hundred in Hollywood years.

I have such conflicting feelings about Avatar. I think it's a milestone film for a few reasons: one, it is most certainly the best 3D film because its entire DNA was geared from inception to be a completely immersive experience. For me, the 3D blew me away, and my jaw literally dropped from the first few scenes. Cameron has an amazing eye and is his own best DP. The 3D is a grandslam homerun.

Another reason it's groundbreaking is the CGI. At least half the film, the shots not set indoors are basically a CGI animated film ala Pixar, and the seamless blending of live actors with CGI is mind-blowingly good. Pandora looks like a real place, and the audience easily buys into the illusion.

In the theater was the place to see Avatar, and sure enough, when I saw it again on my TV, in 2D, it wasn't nearly as good. Sorry 3D haters, it wasn't as good. And btw before and after Avatar I would include myself as a hater of 3D. But when the spectacle is dimmed the script and the story become more prominent and wow did I ever have some issues with the script. If for nothing else I really don't like fantasy stories dressed up in sci-fi clothes; this is a fantasy movie, not science fiction, unless the sequels can explain how humanity just happened to find a planet that just happened to have humanoid creatures that just happened to be able to speak (English, of course) and they just happened to be almost perfect analogues of American Indians...no character seems to know enough American history to say "Hey, you know it's a funny coincidence..." Aliens-as-only-slightly-different-from-humans is a lazy trope I can do without.

But I can go on and on with gripes about the script. I wouldn't watch the film again on my TV at home--which is no slouch of TV--but I would consider seeing it if it were somehow re-released in the theaters. And I will be there for Avatar 2, no question. I just hope Cameron gives scriptwriting duties to someone else, anyone else.
posted by zardoz at 2:47 AM on December 14, 2015 [4 favorites]


I'm totally content to watch something like My Dinner with Andre (or even Mean Girls) on an iPod, but Avatar?

"It's such a sadness that you think you've seen a film on your... fucking telephone."
posted by davejh at 3:23 AM on December 14, 2015 [4 favorites]


Boring movie but very blue.

That's mostly what I remember about it, really, is that it was boring, blue, and insulting (x2 for the colonial fantasy stuff + terrible dialogue. Actually, the dialogue I most sharply recall is my own, when I was talking over it - "come on", "you're kidding", "please stop", "so long" etc.)
posted by cotton dress sock at 3:33 AM on December 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


Then again, I have heard rumors of people getting BB-8 tattooed on themselves, and that movie ain't even out yet. So maybe not the best barometer of culture.

It would be awesome if BB-8 turned out to have a major coke habit or something

Guys getting their star wars tattoo altered so they can keep their job
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 3:33 AM on December 14, 2015


At least it was better than Jurassic World. Jurassic World made, what, like a snillion dollars, and I couldn't see a single character, scene, or aspect of the film that was interesting in any way whatsoever.

-oh no we made killer dinoaur oh no its killing people-
posted by ELF Radio at 3:36 AM on December 14, 2015 [6 favorites]


Ah, this helps explain why Cameron recently said he wants to prove the first movie "wasn't just some big fluke." I couldn't figure why he sounded so oddly defensive about it.
posted by mediareport at 4:11 AM on December 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


I completely agree with the bizarre lack of lasting impact this movie has had.

I never saw it in the cinema - I was never into the 3D idea (still not) and the story seemed kind of dumb. When I later confessed to a friend that I had never seen, they actually bought the DVD for me. It collected dust for another 2 years maybe?

When I finally got around to watching it (less than a year ago) I was absolutely amazed to find out that Sigourney Weaver was in it. I had no idea. None. And it's not like she's a small character! She has plenty of screentime in her normal persona so it's not like she's just a voice character. Speaking of Titanic, it's like not knowing Leonardo Dicaprio was in Titanic. Even if you never saw the movie, "everyone" knows Leo was in it.

You know what else is telling? I never see any memes about Avatar.
posted by like_neon at 4:13 AM on December 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


That's weird, I didn't realize there were two movies called UP. The one I saw was really fun and great.

Actually, there is. It's about ballon-shaped things, too. It's by Russ Meyer.
posted by ojemine at 4:37 AM on December 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


I saw someone make note of a comment I made in an earlier thread about Avatar, and I reread it - and was somewhat surprised and dismayed to see that I actually said some of the characters were "nuanced". I was trying to describe how much I hated Giovanni Ribisi's character in comparison to the others, and yeah he was seriously more clicheed than the others, but come on.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:45 AM on December 14, 2015


I've only seen Avatar once but there's a long list of those types of films that I only see in the theater and then basically don't think about again because there's not much to think about. Pacific Rim and the recent Godzilla are the same for me. Big dumb movies with wooden lead actors but enough immersive visuals to keep you watching on a big screen in a theater but absolutely zero re-watchability.

The dialog thing is sad, Cameron was never exactly a subtle writer but his early films were tight as hell and ridiculously quotable. I groaned out loud when I heard the "It's not Kansas anymore" line. When you're stealing Wizard of Oz references from The Matrix, you know that you're out of ideas. I wish that he'd hired his old Corman Studios colleague, John Sayles to fix the screenplay.
posted by octothorpe at 4:46 AM on December 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


>> Pretty much anything that Malcolm says.

I'm simply saying that color, uh...finds a way.
posted by AndrewInDC at 4:49 AM on December 14, 2015


The one thing about Avatar that stuck with me was the navel placement. I can't remember if it was all the blue guys or just the Zoe Saldana blue guy, but her belly button was in the wrong place. Weirdly, distractingly, uncanny-vallily low. Hundreds of people were involved in making this film look as beautiful and absorbing and plausible as possible, and not one of them knew where a woman's belly button goes. It was worse than the Papyrus subtitles.
posted by Metroid Baby at 5:30 AM on December 14, 2015


The world is full of board people. People are board because they don't DO anything. Because they don't do anything they think they can fill their life with experience by seeing things then talking about them as if they were experiences.
posted by any major dude at 5:32 AM on December 14, 2015 [1 favorite]



Honestly, that aesthetic is perfect for Disneyland. It's rich, bright colors. Ornate, super-detailed.

Note that the attraction is called "Pandora: The World of Avatar." The focus is the visuals, the environment and the creatures. Animal Kingdom was always supposed to feature "Animals of the present, the past and fantasy" which is why the three animal heads over the main gate are an elephant, a triceratops, and a dragon. The area of the park it is being built on was supposed to be "The Beastly Kingdom", the area dedicated to fantasy creatures. That got cut in the face of first Micheal Eisner having to fight off yet another attempt by Carl Ichan to buy and gut Disney, then the 2001 recession.

It really is a perfect fit. It's taking forever to build. First, Univeral did Harry Potter (with the help of a bunch of imagineers laid off in the Reign of Error) and that required a complete rethink, because the original plans would have flopped hard. This required much larger structures, and Disney World? Well, Disney World is built in a swamp. They started construction in 2013 and the first two years was simply driving enough pilings to support the foundation and then building that foundation. As of right now, the first mountains are going up and the main show building appears to have sealed up. It is looking impressive.

This is all part of the "Make AK a full day park" effort, along with Worlds of Color Rivers of Light, the in construction nighttime closing show. The normal answer to that is fireworks, but AK has lots of animals that would not appreciate explosions every day.

The current imagineering team is very hyped up on Pandora. "yes, floating mountains. Got that. Glowing flowers, got that. Wait until you see this at night!"

We're about a year away -- building is slow when your trying not to disturb a running theme park, when you had to move a couple of things, and Disney, for whatever reason, simply never builds anything fast when expanding a theme park.

posted by eriko at 5:37 AM on December 14, 2015 [4 favorites]


Amusing thing. The movie is pure fantasy, but the tech behind the starship is absolutely 100% plausible near future tech, and doesn't even come close to vilolating any physical laws. It's 100% hard SF.
posted by eriko at 5:41 AM on December 14, 2015 [5 favorites]


> "How come we haven't seen more of it?"

Because it was terrible?

More seriously, though, its cultural legacy has been the 3-D revival. That's at least as big an impact as, say, The Blair Witch Project had.
posted by kyrademon at 5:47 AM on December 14, 2015


Yeah, without Avatar the current round of 3D would have died two or three years ago, instead of shambling along until 2017 or so before it's buried and forgotten 'til the 2030s.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 5:50 AM on December 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


I saw Avatar. I think I even saw it in 3D, despite my overall dislike of 3D. Then I remembered seeing Fern Gully, and how much better Fern Gully was. (Betterness of Fern Gully might be a result of having seen Fern Gully when I was, like, 11 or something. I'm not sure. Was it good?) I have had literally no desire to think any thoughts about Avatar since that time.

FernGulley is totally underrated - Ton Loc cameo, Robin Williams improving, Tim Curry as the villain whose voice becomes deeper as it gets bigger - I was 16, and thought I just watching because my friend's little brothers liked it, but it's stuck with me for decades. I can still sing parts of it. I totally need to rewatch.

Also: "Oh! Gravity works!"
posted by jb at 5:55 AM on December 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


"Also, I think more broadly, box-office receipts are not a very reliable indicator of cultural zeitgeist, at all. So I question the premise, really. Was Jurassic Park part of the zeitgeist? No one really quotes it, except maybe the glass of water thing. It was at the movies for literally 7/8 months here in Australia when it came out."
Even if its impact on meme level culture has faded over time, in a lot of ways Jurassic Park shaped and then defined the public relationship to scientific advancement in general, and particularly molecular genetics, well past the 90s. When the Flavr Savr tomato, the first genetically modified plant explicitly approved for human consumption by the FDA, was being reviewed between '92 and '94 it was pretty much universally welcomed by the general public. Imagine being able to buy tomatoes that actually fucking taste like something in the store. What changed was the development of a cultish die-hard movement dedicated to selling fear uncertainty and doubt relating to genetic modification that was philosophically premised on opposing Jurassic Park's central theme of the hubris of man. Never mind that in the story there was nothing actually wrong with Hammond's respect for nature or whatever, and it only really functions as a morality play demonstrating the value of respecting the efforts of your IT division, the narrative has stuck.

The trope of the Mad Scientist who doesn't care about the implications of their work dates back to before Mary Shelly and is as old as science itself, but the connection to public policy and science denialism as a coherent movement are new and were at least in part sunk into our collective consciousness through the scientifically illiterate moralizing in Jurassic Park.
posted by Blasdelb at 6:05 AM on December 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


The film is due for a critical reappraisal, and is worth it. Because it was the start of another big trend, and one that we've only started to develop the language for: the smart movie that seems dumb. Pacific Rim is another example of this, but had the benefit of a million Tumblr critics who were ready to take apart the film's visual language and reveal how dense with meaning and subversive the film actually is.

People are getting caught up on plot and character, but Cameron's use of both has always been pretty blunt. He's a popular filmmaker, and so relies heavily on characterizations and plotting that feel intuitively recognizable, and this fact is no more a knock on the film than pop music on knocked for using the same three chords.

There are a lot of filmmakers working nowadays to embed challenging content into pop films, and Cameron has always been at the forefront of this -- look at how much regarding class he included in Titanic, a film that probably did more to convince the world's 13-year-olds that the rich will build the world in a way that is actually murderous for the poor.

While del Toro's genius is in visuals, Cameron's is in action, and so instead of looking for a film's meaning in its plot or characters, we must instead investigate Cameron's use of action. And I haven't watched the film is quite a while, but I recall that the film's action repeatedly challenges its white savior plotting (much as Pacific Rim constantly challenges its male lead by making the female character the actual star of the movie). Sully is endlessly rescued by women, scientists, the planet's native population, and, eventually, the planet's own fauna and flora. All he really brings to the table is that he understands just how dangerous and invasive the earth people are, and he understands that militarily. But the action of the film is about the collaboration between that knowledge and the skills and resources indigenous to the planet. As much as the superficial structure of the film seems to be about a white savior, the action of the film is about a man who is rather helpless except in partnership, and constantly needs rescuing.

I'd like to see it properly picked apart by some of the new breed of critics, the ones who came up valuing visual language over superficial plotting and character. Avatar is a much denser film than it seems to be at first blush, and is such a careful and detailed work of worldbuilding. It deserves engagement, rather than dismissal.
posted by maxsparber at 6:09 AM on December 14, 2015 [15 favorites]


Me and my film-critic wife got into one of our worst fights, ever, over this movie, basically because she couldn't believe I liked it. I think she still hasn't gotten back some of the respect she lost for me over it.
posted by signal at 6:22 AM on December 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


As much as the superficial structure of the film seems to be about a white savior, the action of the film is about a man who is rather helpless except in partnership, and constantly needs rescuing.

Are you forgetting how the Na'vi ride the scary deathbird things and Sully tames the scariest one of all, the one that the Na'vi say no Na'vi could ever tame or ride, so he comes along and after five minutes is better at being a Na'vi than all the Na'vi in history?
posted by shakespeherian at 6:28 AM on December 14, 2015 [5 favorites]


I'd say Avatar's most significant cultural contribution was turning Zoe Saldana into a star.
posted by ultraviolet catastrophe at 6:33 AM on December 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


The Star Wars prequels were generally worse movies, but at least when they were bad, they were memorably bad. Jar Jar Binks is awful, but we're never gonna forget that guy. Mention him to me when I'm 80, and I'll describe him exactly. I know who that guy is. I've never met a character quite like that before. I care about him, in a way.

Whereas, even the good parts of Avatar just weren't that memorable. The best shot of the movie is of the villain drinking coffee.
posted by Sticherbeast at 6:33 AM on December 14, 2015 [6 favorites]


The Navi'i have tamed it before -- they partially live in the skeleton of one tamed by a previous leader.

But ultimately, if the film's action relied on Sully being Turok Mak'to, or whatever he was called, it would have ended sooner. Because he loses that dragon pretty early on in the fight, much of which he spends helpless and suffocating while the Navi'i try to rescue him and the planet's own animals trample the invaders. It's another example of the action of the film contradicting it's superficial plotting.
posted by maxsparber at 6:36 AM on December 14, 2015


That coffee shot, by the way, is genuinely great: it's a small, human moment that actually says more about the story's message than just about anything else in the movie. Here's our villain, mowing down the planet, because it's his job. His sincere belief is that he's doing this for humanity's sake. His sincere belief is that the protag is a dangerous traitor. He's at work, using the best machinery in the biz. Slurrrrrrp.
posted by Sticherbeast at 6:37 AM on December 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


I feel bad for all the people saying it was the best 3D experience they've ever had, y'all should've seen Life of Pi or Cave of Forgotten Dreams. Those are two movies that put their 3D to work, and they're actually not completely forgettable!

(Alternate version of this post:
I feel bad for all the people saying it was the best 3D experience they've ever had, your whole life is 3D and Avatar was the best part?!)
posted by mokin at 6:40 AM on December 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


If beingculturally important and being memorable dialogue is important, does anybody remember that one film about the two guys on motorcycles? I think it was supposed to be a big deal, but does anybody remember the character names? Or have cool quotes from it?

Maybe being stuck in the cultural consciousness isn't as important as people are saying it is.Because it's transient, and 99% of All movies will miss that anyway.
posted by happyroach at 6:55 AM on December 14, 2015


I actually could pretty much recite the entirety of Easy Rider to you. But I agree with your larger point.
posted by maxsparber at 7:04 AM on December 14, 2015


but the connection to public policy and science denialism as a coherent movement are new and were at least in part sunk into our collective consciousness through the scientifically illiterate moralizing in Jurassic Park.

You are talking about a country where people rejected an array of solar panels being constructed in their town because they were afraid it would suck up too much of the sun.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:05 AM on December 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


On the other hand, you may be referring to Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man, which I suspect is also due for a critical reevaluation.
posted by maxsparber at 7:05 AM on December 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


I don't think Avatar is responsible for Zoe Saldana - Star Trek came out the same year. However, to me, she will always be Eva Rodriguez. After no one.
posted by ChuraChura at 7:05 AM on December 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


Are you forgetting how the Na'vi ride the scary deathbird things and Sully tames the scariest one of all, the one that the Na'vi say no Na'vi could ever tame or ride, so he comes along and after five minutes is better at being a Na'vi than all the Na'vi in history?

Oorah!

They say a Toruk Makto comes around when The People need it most. And at that point in the story The People needed one. I believe Neytiri's great-grandfather was one (they're have been five in the history of that cutlure). Anyway, I said that just to say that this trained Marine completed this daunting physical task by relying on his plain old human ingenuity (attacking the Great Leonopteryx from above).

I keep my Metafilter skin Blue because I love Avatar. For everyone discontented with the flick, I'd like to point out that 95% of movies aren't great, they're merely good and had that actress you liked. Why this huge spectacle of a movie has to adhere to a different standard perplexes me. Though I definitely agree the plot is a mix of Dances With Wolves and Ferngully, I think there are touches of Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, too.
posted by GrapeApiary at 7:07 AM on December 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


Like The Phantom Menace...
'buff said.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 7:09 AM on December 14, 2015


Avatar is a White Savior movie, but my vague memory was that on a scene-by-scene basis it was barely one / ambivalently one. There would be some White Savior moment where I would groan and get annoyed, and then there would be some scene that flipped it on its head, so I thought "oh, it's overturning the White Savior trope", and then it would go back to full White Savior, and then it would overturn White Savior, etc. etc. It felt like the main script writer wrote a White Savior script, his editor rewrote it as an anti-White Savior script, and what we saw was the result of a big edit battle where the main script writer got his way but lots of the editor's changes were kept.

Sticherbeast: "The Star Wars prequels were generally worse movies, but at least when they were bad, they were memorably bad. Jar Jar Binks is awful, but we're never gonna forget that guy."

That guy down the street? He may have been an asshole, but in 10 years nobody's even gonna remember him. At least Genghis Khan was memorable.

You thought I was gonna Godwin it, didn't you?
posted by Bugbread at 7:16 AM on December 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


Are you forgetting how the Na'vi ride the scary deathbird things and Sully tames the scariest one of all, the one that the Na'vi say no Na'vi could ever tame or ride, so he comes along and after five minutes is better at being a Na'vi than all the Na'vi in history?

I think there was only one other Na'vi that actually tried (in this generation). I got the impression that most Na'vi were intimidated by their own stories about it; the outsider didn't have a lifetime of these stories to psych themselves out of trying. We have no idea whether other Na'vi would have been successful if they tried.

When I was fairly young I formed the (possibly spurious) impression that sometimes a culture has preconceptions about the nature of fighting that limit their effectiveness. This makes them vulnerable to someone who lacks those preconceptions, even if that person wouldn't otherwise be that good. I saw Worthington's character's attempt to tame the bird as slotting right into that idea.
posted by Jpfed at 7:34 AM on December 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


I think the reason we don't hear more about Avatar is because it's un-copyable. No one will spend that much to make those kinds of visuals, and no one will remake that kind of retread story without those visuals.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 7:45 AM on December 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


GrapeApiary: "I keep my Metafilter skin Blue because I love Avatar."

Wait, really?
posted by Rock Steady at 7:56 AM on December 14, 2015


I mean, no, not really. But I do love a good Avatar geek-out.
posted by GrapeApiary at 7:59 AM on December 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


Are you forgetting how the Na'vi ride the scary deathbird things and Sully tames the scariest one of all, the one that the Na'vi say no Na'vi could ever tame or ride, so he comes along and after five minutes is better at being a Na'vi than all the Na'vi in history?

Which simply means that Sully was Na'vi all along and his complete disregarding of white capitalist culture is a stinging indictment of the world. It's one thing to be a white savior. It's another to be the white savior who it turns out was never white, but simply brainwashed and has finally found himself.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:03 AM on December 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


I got the impression that most Na'vi were intimidated by their own stories about it

I think there is a criticism of the film to be made that it's a bit noble savage, but this element complicates it. There is only one lesson that Pandora has to offer, and that is one of collaboration. The Na'vi survive because of their symbiotic relationship with the planet -- without that, as the marines first tell him and Sully soon learns, the planet is exceptionally deadly.

And yet the Na'vi actually sort of suck at collaboration. There are some shitty court politics going on, the various Na'vi tribes have separated and apparently don't have much to do with each other, and they are enormously suspicious of outsiders. I mean, against the backdrop of genocide, the Na'vi simply won't collaborate with Sully, even though he is absolutely explicit about what is coming. On a planet filled with deadly creatures, the Na'vi just refuse to take seriously that humans may be yet another deadly creature that they need to learn how to address and work with, and instead waste a lot of time with small jealousies and blinkered xenophobia.

The whole Toruk business is a last ditch attempt by Sully to do something that will make the Na'vi take him seriously. He's not a white savior -- they never take him seriously as a white man or as a Na'vi, until he suicidally engages in a desperate act of claiming status that the Na'vi already respect -- an explicitly Na'vi status, rather than one in which he is respected for his whiteness. And he's not all that great at it -- it unites the various tribes, but the real turning point in the battle comes from the planet itself, which is the only thing in the film to have taken Sully's warnings of genocide seriously.
posted by maxsparber at 8:21 AM on December 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


I guess I'm in the "forgot most of it" camp. I remember two things about it:

1) The 3D gave me and my wife headaches, and 2) I was super annoyed by the fact that their bomb had to be dropped by a SPACESHIP that was flying low and slow, instead of, y'know, dropping it from SPACE.

Or at least a really high altitude.
posted by Fleebnork at 8:27 AM on December 14, 2015


It felt like the main script writer wrote a White Savior script, his editor rewrote it as an anti-White Savior script, and what we saw was the result of a big edit battle where the main script writer got his way but lots of the editor's changes were kept.

Those are the same person.

I get that the zeitgeist can turn against things, so fine, but to me the movie isn't obviously worse than Star Wars. The plot isn't more thin and hackneyed, the dialog isn't more terrible, the characters aren't more paper-thin. Worthington isn't even *that* much worse than baby Mark Hamill's incessant whining.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:55 AM on December 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


Am I the only one who saw the film Battle for Terra which came out before Avatar and is basically the identical story?
I went to see Avatar and spent 2+ hrs thinking I had already seen it. It's glorious in 3-d, but the story just isn't original enough to make it worth the slog.
posted by OHenryPacey at 9:05 AM on December 14, 2015


I was super annoyed by the fact that their bomb had to be dropped by a SPACESHIP that was flying low and slow, instead of, y'know, dropping it from SPACE.

so you're saying, why didn't they just nuke it from orbit?
posted by Vic Morrow's Personal Vietnam at 9:22 AM on December 14, 2015 [5 favorites]


so you're saying, why didn't they just nuke it from orbit?

Damn it, now I'm kicking myself for not writing that first.
posted by Fleebnork at 9:25 AM on December 14, 2015


I haven't seen Avatar, Titanic, or Pirhana 2; you ain't getting a dime outta me, Cameron!

Now that I think about it, the yucky True Lies is only Cameron movie I've seen in its entirety. Hmm.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:29 AM on December 14, 2015


I think most early teens will get its dick message.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 9:39 AM on December 14, 2015


Now that I think about it, the yucky True Lies is only Cameron movie I've seen in its entirety. Hmm.

You will absolutely not regret watching Terminator 1 or 2.
posted by Jpfed at 9:39 AM on December 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


Does anyone dress as Na'vi at cons or for Halloween?

I've seen this a few times over the years. Also, the Na'vi dress-up thing has some currency within the Burning Man subculture.
posted by snottydick at 9:52 AM on December 14, 2015


I'm going to go against conventional wisdom and say that Avatar's writing, characters, and acting aren't THAT bad. That is, there are worse films that embed themselves into pop culture like Transformers, Man of Steel, Emmerich movies (like ID4), and anything with Adam Sandler.

The truly bizarre thing is that Avatar doesn't have core community to hang around doing fanart, fan fiction, and cosplay. Typical fan stuff that sustains a universe. There's a lot of movies and shows that are arguably about as good in terms of story and character as Avatar and had a lot less eyeballs watching it, but still end up having a pretty resilient community. My own speculation is that it became hard to aim for a long tail core fan community because there's no one at the top to do the slow-IV drip for new content or at least new information on the sequels. And also, there's no one at the bottom talking about it because Avatar spread too far too fast. Since everyone saw it, there's nobody really to introduce it to. Basically Avatar burned up all the oxygen in the room.

Now, I don't think this means Avatar 2 will be an automatic failure. IMDB saying it's going to to be released December 25th, 2017. So they still have a year to plan and layout the marketing and hype train for it.
posted by FJT at 9:53 AM on December 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


I haven't seen Avatar. I liked Billy Jack. Whenever I try to describe it to younger people I know, they look at me incredulously.
posted by jonmc at 10:11 AM on December 14, 2015


I stand by what I said almost six years ago:

I have a prediction about this film. It will be followed by a sequel in a few years, and, by then, critical evaluation will have simmered down to "It was pretty cool if a little shallow." And I think Cameron tends to be spectacularly good at sequels, as he demonstrated with both Terminator 2 and Aliens, and I suspect the sequel to Avatar will likewise make the story richer and more complex, and will cause a critical reevalutation of the first film.

Additionally, between the first film and the second, there will be quite a lot of additional media, including videogames that are primarily about exploring the planet, and you'll start seeing a lot of people showing up at sci fi conventions colored blue and wearing feathers, and places will start offering lessons in Navi, and people will start identifying with the religion, and this will bulk out what Cameron has created, with his permission and under his influence, as, after all, this is a massive act of worldbuilding on his part.

Years from now, this will be considered classic science fiction. It seems weird now, but, truthfully, Avatar is no dumber than Star Wars, while likewise benefited from one terrific sequel and a huge amount of participatory worldbuilding.

Go ahead and bookmark this and check back ten years from now. I'm so right about this I can't even stand it.


By the way, there really is no lack for Na'vi fan art, cosplay, fan fiction, and the like.
posted by maxsparber at 10:12 AM on December 14, 2015 [5 favorites]


By the way, there really is no lack for Na'vi fan art, cosplay, fan fiction, and the like.

Rule 34 is urging me to keep those links super unclicked.
posted by xigxag at 10:20 AM on December 14, 2015 [4 favorites]


I'm kind of a James Cameron fan without liking his movies much. I admire the way he is so ferociously dedicated to realizing a vision, to the point of inventing entire new technologies to carry it out, and I enjoy in a schadenfreude way how this leads to a period late in the production where the common wisdom is that the movie will tank... and then twice now, it's made more money than any other movie had in the history of the world.

Yeah, I know he's kind of a dick personally, but I'm not sure he could have done what he's done without being crazy in peculiar ways.
posted by tavella at 10:27 AM on December 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


By the way, there really is no lack for Na'vi fan art, cosplay, fan fiction, and the like.

Rule 34 is urging me to keep those links super unclicked.


Actually I'd point to the relative lack of Na'vi porn as the surest indicator of its lack of societal impact.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 10:45 AM on December 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


The only thing I remember about this movie is that at one point, dandelion seeds come out of the screen and waft down over the audience, and that was really cool.

That's actually the part that broke 3D the most for me, because I kept trying to focus on them and it just wouldn't happen.
posted by ckape at 11:10 AM on December 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


Also, I like to pretend that they need all of that unobtanium to restart the Earth's core and save the planet and who are the real monsters now
posted by ckape at 11:25 AM on December 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


The fact that they actually said unobtanium really made the script seem like it hadn't gotten past the first draft. That's a like a placeholder name for the actual substance that they'd come up with later.
posted by octothorpe at 11:32 AM on December 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


It's an aerospace engineering joke dating back to the 1950s. As placeholders go, it's a pretty great one, another mark of Cameron's obsession with the in-language of the various professions of his characters.
posted by maxsparber at 11:36 AM on December 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


I think the problem with "unobtanium" is that it's an in-joke but anybody who gets the joke will see it as lazy rather than clever.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 11:44 AM on December 14, 2015 [6 favorites]


Actually I'd point to the relative lack of Na'vi porn as the surest indicator of its lack of societal impact.

There's a blue "Alien" model Fleshlight that was marketed with a copy of the Hustler porn parody of Avatar. Honestly, per maxsparber's comment above, not only is evidence of the movie's cultural impact very easy to find, but I think that people here are embracing Nathan Rabin's thesis without examining it very closely. (I've thought that Rabin's writing has been a very mixed bag for a while, and my breaking point in his article was this: "it took Billy Jack four decades to go from pop-culture phenomenon and top-grossing independent film of all time to half-forgotten kitsch 1970s reference". Nope--it took more like five years, if that; the last movie in the series, Billy Jack Goes to Washington (1977), was a failure. Rabin suffers from the same myopia as a lot of people who write about movies, particularly obscure ones, do; they forget that cult movies aren't long-lasting simply because there are people still willing to dig them up decades later.)
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:47 AM on December 14, 2015


I think the problem with "unobtanium" is that it's an in-joke but anybody who gets the joke will see it as lazy rather than clever.

For year I thought Ferro in Aliens was saying "We're in the butt, five by five." That doesn't mean it was bad writing.
posted by maxsparber at 12:10 PM on December 14, 2015


maxsparber: "It's an aerospace engineering joke dating back to the 1950s. As placeholders go, it's a pretty great one, another mark of Cameron's obsession with the in-language of the various professions of his characters."

I knew that but I still hated in the movie.
posted by octothorpe at 12:42 PM on December 14, 2015


There's a blue "Alien" model Fleshlight that was marketed with a copy of the Hustler porn parody of Avatar.

With all due respect - I wouldn't take the existence of a Fleshlight model as any kind of proof that something has attained Pop Culture Longevity; they make sex toy versions of everything. Shit, there are probably sex toy spinoffs for Mac And Me.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:54 PM on December 14, 2015


If there are, I'm blaming Paul Rudd.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 1:01 PM on December 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


For year I thought Ferro in Aliens was saying "We're in the butt, five by five." That doesn't mean it was bad writing.

Nah, Cameron's writing in Aliens is bad for totally different reasons.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:36 PM on December 14, 2015


Best 3D experience? Probably Gravity, for me.

As someone with a tumblr and as a reader of fanfiction (so, ya know, I'm all up on what the cool kids are fangeeking out over), yeah, there's a dearth of Avatar material. It's just not a thing. I haven't even thought about this movie in years, to be honest. All I really remember about it was some cool 3D graphics, weird sex, and embarrassment-by-proxy squirming at some of the more sentimental cheese.
posted by Windigo at 1:46 PM on December 14, 2015


Was Jurassic Park part of the zeitgeist? No one really quotes it, except maybe the glass of water thing

I quote this much more often than my wife would like.
posted by duffell at 1:47 PM on December 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


At least it was better than Jurassic World. Jurassic World made, what, like a snillion dollars, and I couldn't see a single character, scene, or aspect of the film that was interesting in any way whatsoever.

Wasn't most of the money this movie made overseas? Like wasn't it a GIGANTIC hit in asia? Yep. Over a billion internationally, 600mil in the US.

Which simply means that Sully was Na'vi all along and his complete disregarding of white capitalist culture is a stinging indictment of the world. It's one thing to be a white savior. It's another to be the white savior who it turns out was never white, but simply brainwashed and has finally found himself.

This sounds weirdly, and exactly, like the argument those tiresome "transethnic" people make. I know you're probably not going there... But it pushed that button for me. Just, wtf?
posted by emptythought at 1:52 PM on December 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


So Avatar... yeah. Man, I hate that movie. The funny thing is, I liked it well enough as I watched it in the theatres, even though the 3D made me so physically nauseous that I had to step out for 20 minutes for some fresh air. But as the days passed by, and I had the chance to think about it, I grew to dislike it more and more.

The problem with Avatar is that it's not bad or campy enough to be a guilty pleasure, but it's not really well acted or well plotted at all. "Unobtainium"! Bangable blue smurfy cats! Captain Planet style moralizing! And the more you think about it, the grosser it gets, especially the whole "hey, I'm the outsider in the puppet suit who can save the native tribe and bang the princess." And then... HE BECOMES THE PUPPET SUIT. That's really disgusting on so many levels.

I cannot express how creepy and awful that idea is. It's a celebration of...appropriation and inauthenticity. No, thank you.
posted by suburbanbeatnik at 2:06 PM on December 14, 2015 [4 favorites]


I literally cannot remember anything about the story beyond the tear-jerking start scene. I remember a few characters (there was a boy scout sidekick, talking dogs, an ostrich-looking thing, and a bad guy explorer, right?), but I can't remember what any of these people actually did for the remaining hour and a half of the movie.

I was just thinking about this, because I re-watched Up with my kids the other day. It's not a movie I would ever think, "I'd really like to see Up again!" on my own. But it made both "squirrel!" and "cone of shame" happen, so it has that element of cultural impact.
posted by not that girl at 2:14 PM on December 14, 2015


I just want to say, I saw Finding Nemo in 3D a few years ago and was blown away at how wonderful the experience was. Of all the 3D films I've seen (including the ones with blue/red lenses in the cardboard glasses), Nemo was the most memorable for me.

I don't have much else to say about Avatar, except that Cameron likes to reuse his tech. Ripley and the loader, as well as the propeller craft...not a lot of subtle design differences, if you ask me.
posted by Chuffy at 3:16 PM on December 14, 2015


Weirdly, there is now an ad on my Facebook for a new Cirque du Soleil show based on Avatar. So apparently it has somewhat more cultural cachet than I think.
posted by jacquilynne at 6:09 PM on December 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


TFA can be seen as advance marketing. Now we're talking about Avatar for fuck's sake.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 6:22 PM on December 14, 2015


I quote this much more often than my wife would like.

I will add that to my mental Weird polysyllabic laugh collection.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 8:03 PM on December 14, 2015


Jurrasic Park has a good dozen or so quotable lines, including (seemingly missed here):

"It's a unix system! I know this!" and "Clever girl..."

As for Avatar, I saw it once, in the theater, in 3D. The 3D effects were amazing, down to the ashes from the tree seemingly falling in the theater (which was just so immersive, I was actually stunned by it), but it was ultimately a shiny, glowing, nothing new. I was bored, actually bored less than halfway through the film. By the end, all that I could think about was wanting to take off the glasses, since wearing those on top of my regular glasses got really tiresome.

For me, though, Pacific Rim hit every button for me. It wasn't incredibly deep or world changing, but it is the absolute, perfect movie that I had been longing to see since I was a child, and was enjoyable at that level (giant monsters, giant robots, giant robots hitting giant monsters with oil tankers, giant robots having jet engines in their elbows to help punch giant monsters harder, I mean, what more do you need? A giant robot with a sword? They had that too!!!) But the crowning glory of it was that Pacific Rim took 3D and used it exactly like Avatar did. It wasn't jump scares or serial killers throwing axes at the audience, it was immersing the theater in the film, with the ocean in the fight scenes flowing out over the seats. That's the sort of thing, that sense of actually being in the film, rather than silly startles when the film intrudes into the theater. The latter pulls you out of the film, reminding you you're in the theater, while the former removes the idea of the theater, and has a "you are there" quality to it.

Also, people who dislike Pacific Rim are people who never wanted to see giant monsters fight giant robots in a live action movie. These are people who probably dislike fun itself.
posted by Ghidorah at 12:31 AM on December 15, 2015 [3 favorites]


Ghidorah: "Also, people who dislike Pacific Rim are people who never wanted to see giant monsters fight giant robots in a live action movie. These are people who probably dislike fun itself."

While I wasn't opposed to the idea, it wasn't something that made me go "I am so there!" either. More like, "Okay, sure, I'll give it a shot". Just different tastes in movies, not different positions on fun.

(Does Mad Max: Fury Road count as a fun movie? Because I had a ton of fun watching it.)
posted by Bugbread at 2:12 AM on December 15, 2015


Bugbread, I kid, mostly. From the first trailer for Pacific Rim, though, I was utterly sold. It's not a perfect film, and it could be argued that it's not even all that good, but it was literally everything I've ever wanted to see for a giant robot live action movie.

Mad Max, that's an entirely different beast. In the theater, after the opening scene finished and the title hit the screen, I turned to me friend and said "if that was the whole movie, and it ended right now, I'd still consider that ¥1800 well spent." Mad Max manages to be a fantastic action film as well as a solidly good movie. It's probably the best, most perfectly put together action film I've seen since Die Hard. The absolute refusal to explain the world to the viewer, to just present the world as is, myths, religions, cultures and all was masterful.

Although it probably could've used an elbow rocket assisted punch. Just saying.
posted by Ghidorah at 4:06 AM on December 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


Many are the times in my daily life when I wish for a Sword button.
posted by tobascodagama at 6:59 AM on December 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


Ghidorah: "Although it probably could've used an elbow rocket assisted punch. Just saying."

Well, what isn't, except maybe a pacifist group meeting?
posted by Samizdata at 7:52 AM on December 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


It's probably the best, most perfectly put together action film I've seen since Die Hard.

Have you seen Dredd (pron. "Duh-reh-duh-duh") with Karl Urban? Because damn.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:27 AM on December 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


Avatar? Isn't that the Cameron movie where Sigourney Weaver argues with some smarmy corporate guy in a sterile futuristic room about how to deal with aliens?
posted by straight at 10:17 AM on December 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


You people saying Avatar is as good as Star Wars are crazy. Star Wars has all kinds of memorable scenes and characters, fantastic visual design (Avatar is pretty, but I challenge you to draw from memory a single thing from the film), a snappy plot, and dialogue that is bad but entertaining and sometimes funny. Were kids acting out scenes from Avatar after seeing it?
posted by straight at 10:48 AM on December 15, 2015


Avatar is pretty, but I challenge you to draw from memory a single thing from the film

My drawing skills are nonexistent but, yeah, lots of visual stuff from Avatar has stuck in my head. The design of the starship as it passes by with the big radiator panels and propellant tanks and little centrifuge, the spaceplane blasting down through the atmosphere, the rotorcraft dropping over a cliff, that first big closeup of Neytiri screaming at the dogthings, the rotorcraft and gunship blowing up the big tree while Quaritch enjoys his coffee, Quaritch's amp-suit pulling out the comically huge k-bar knife... oddly one of the visuals that sticks with me is just Sully picking dirt out of his mouth after he falls off a horse-oid.

Star Wars seems to have reached kids in a way that Avatar doesn't seem to have (though I don't see kids that age very much so I could be wrong) -- I think the comment above about Avatar having enough swearing and nookie to be a little too uncomfortable for many parents to take their 6-8 year olds to over and over again but not grown-up enough to get 25 year olds to go to again and again was probably right.

I wouldn't say it was "as good as Star Wars," I'd only say it's not any crappier in the ways that Star Wars is crappy. Star Wars has a paper-thin plot that it lifted wholesale from other sources; it has terrible, one-dimensional characters; it has awful, leaden dialogue; it has horrible, broad comic relief in C3PO; and a lot of the acting is at best serviceable.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:10 AM on December 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


Ghidorah: " Pacific Rim are people who never wanted to see giant monsters fight giant robots in a live action movie. These are people who probably dislike fun itself."

Pacific Rim suffered heavily from a ridiculous engineering/procurement sequence where ancient technology was somehow vastly superior to current technology. Really ruined suspension of disbelief for me.
posted by Mitheral at 11:35 AM on December 15, 2015


Avatar was a feat of advertising. It had some pretty good visuals and 3D, but unsurprisingly fomulaic and forgettable. If someone asks me about 3D, I talk about Dredd. If someone wants fastastic visuals then I would talk about Enter the Void. Avatar entertained me for about as long as the popcorn lasted.
The White Savior and Going Native tropes. Ugh. All a prop for the rampant exoticism. I mean, talk about cultural apporpiation
posted by P.o.B. at 7:00 PM on December 15, 2015


I keep my Metafilter skin Blue because . . .

The greatest Metafilter marketing campaign ever. “Because I’m a bitter 40-something memepool refugee who dislikes change.”
posted by mubba at 8:16 PM on December 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


I have seen Dredd, and I very much liked it, and would love to see a sequel. It was a Dredd movie done right (no, Dredd doesn't take his helmet off in the first five minutes and never put it back on, Sylvester), and was a good, simple, yet small story. That difference in scale is one thing that sets Mad Max apart from a lot of other, very well done films. Fury Road is just a huge film, with a massive, preexisting world, and absolutely outlandish action that seems absurd divorced from the world it's set in (the war boys, the guys on the booms, all of that very bold express exlcamation that the war boys were not only expendable, but actively wanted to die in service) that propels it so far past other films.

Mad Max is a movie that, having talked about it just now, makes me want to go watch it again. Dredd is an awesome film that, if it's on TV, I will watch all the way through to the end.

the packfist meeting would also benefit from the elbow rocket. They wouldn't use it, and they're decision to abstain from using the rocket to assist the punch they wouldn't throw would help to reinforce their pacifist beliefs.

And then the monster would step on them.

posted by Ghidorah at 9:32 PM on December 15, 2015


I need someone to explain the Dredd love to me because I keep coming across it from people who seem reasonable and I do not get it
posted by shakespeherian at 9:37 PM on December 15, 2015


I think part of love for Dredd is that the newer movie actually captured the spirit and feel of the original material much, much better than the Rob Schneider infected first film. If Stallone hadn't botched the first one, I don't know that we would appreciate Urban's Dredd as much as we do.

That, and it's a pretty solid action movie.
posted by Ghidorah at 1:10 AM on December 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


These are people who probably dislike fun itself."

Pacific Rim suffered heavily from a ridiculous engineering/procurement sequence where ancient technology was somehow vastly superior to current technology. Really ruined suspension of disbelief for me.


I think either my original definition (not liking fun) is either perfect, or should be expanded to people who think about engineering and procurement processes in a movie where an oil tanker is wielded like a baseball bat.
posted by Ghidorah at 1:13 AM on December 16, 2015 [6 favorites]


Avatar was a 2-hour animated black-light poster. It allowed nothing to get in the way of the visuals--not even bad dialogue; the conversations were bland and forgettable so's not to interfere with the important part of the movie: the flying jellyfish scene.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 10:22 AM on December 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


So to come at it from another angle: what's the deal with Star Wars?
posted by the man of twists and turns at 3:38 PM on December 16, 2015


Pacific Rim suffered heavily from a ridiculous engineering/procurement sequence where ancient technology was somehow vastly superior to current technology. Really ruined suspension of disbelief for me.

I feel compelled to come to the movie's defence here.

1) The "ancient" technology in this case is like ten years old.

2) The Rangers recovered Gipsy Danger not because it was superior but because they were literally running out of jaegers, and the Mysterious X-COM Council Guys stopped construction of new ones.

3) Gipsy succeeded where the newer jaegers failed not because of superior technology but because the kaiju overlords learned important details about the designs of Cherno Alpha, Crimson Typhoon, and Striker Eureka when Newt drifted with the kaiju brain. So the kaiju in that wave were tailored specifically to counter the strengths of those jaegers and attack their weaknesses, which is why they were defeated so easily. Gipsy Danger was not operational when Newt drifted with the kaiju, so the kaiju overlords didn't take it into account.

4) The actually real reason why Gipsy Danger was able to kick so much ass anyway was the strength of the drift connection between Raleigh and Mako, not any inherent advantages of Gipsy Danger over the other jaegers. (Though they certainly used the heck out of that chest reactor.) Because ultimately the movie is about people from diverse backgrounds bonding over shared trauma and working together in the face of impossible odds to fight an opponent that threatens the whole world.

Listen, I'm not saying this is a perfect movie. But I think you're missed some important stuff if you think it was a movie about ancient technology being vastly superior to modern technology.
posted by tobascodagama at 6:17 PM on December 17, 2015 [4 favorites]


Avatar was a 2-hour animated black-light poster.

Yes was the movie for the people who really wanted to see a cgi movie version of the old Yes album covers.
posted by happyroach at 12:26 AM on December 18, 2015


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