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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

Avatar (review)

Biological Diplomacy

I think if there’s one thing that’s true fans of science fiction might all agree on, it’s that we long for another world. I don’t mean an “if only things were different” other world — though that’s sometimes certainly true — but a literal ’nother world: another planet to visit, another ground to walk on, another gravity to experience, another sky to see. And that is what James Cameron has given us in Avatar: this movie is a gift to anyone who takes science fiction seriously. I really do feel as if I’ve visited the planet Pandora… and I didn’t even see the movie in IMAX, just in regular ol’ 3D. (I hope to remedy that next weekend.) It was a little bit of a letdown to come to the end of the movie and take off my 3D glasses and discover that I was still on Earth. Avatar is the closest I will ever come to visiting another planet, and it was an exhilarating trip.
No, really: I’ve been wondering whether any movie could possibly justify the eight gazillion dollars rumored to have been lavished on Avatar, but damn if every single penny isn’t up in there on the screen. And I don’t mean just in visual effects, though they are beyond stunning. This is a real world, so fully realized that surely geologists and biologists and cognitive scientists and other conceptual specialists had to have been onboard. Because all the many creatures, for instance, who populate this lush world are clearly products of their own separate evolution, evolved together and related to one another and specialized for all the available ecological niches beautifully. Because even the mindblowing physical aspects of the planet — the impossibly tall trees (impossible to our Earth-attuned eyes, at least), the gravitational anomalies — are the result of the solidly realistic facts of Pandora: its gravity is lower than ours; it orbits in the shadow of a massive gas giant (which would make things gravitationally and magnetically different). That might sound like unnecessary detail to have been heaped on, but even to minds of nonscientific bent, it lends it all a plausibility that, you’d think, couldn’t be faked. Our brains just know when things feel right, even if we don’t always understand why we feel that way. Pandora feels real.

It’s all so awesome — as in the old-fashioned sense of the word: inspiring awe — that I, at least, found it easy to forgive the fact that the story, also by Cameron (Aliens of the Deep, Ghosts of the Abyss), takes few risks: it’s a straightforward narrative the likes of which we’ve seen many times before, though it is pulled off extremely well, with just a few moments that are cheesy or obvious… and a damn few more that are absolutely stunning in how they play out here on Pandora despite their familiarity. It’s Dances with Wolves, basically — and I don’t mean that as an insult; if you’re gonna steal, steal from the best. Jake Sully (Sam Worthington: Terminator Salvation) is the soldier going native on Pandora, a Marine who’s been paralyzed from the waist down and subsequently given the opportunity to take over a job his identical twin brother, a scientist, started, and cannot finish because of his untimely death: Inhabit a body, an avatar, cloned from the DNA of both humans and the natives, the Na’vi, and go amongst the Na’vi and learn from them. The avatar bodies are keyed to particular researchers, so Jake is the only one who can fill in for his brother.

We humans are on Pandora for all the reasons we’ve ever gone anywhere, it seems: to take what we want from this place, in spite of what the people who are already there may have to say about that. I wish that weren’t so tediously familiar, but it’s hard to imagine, unfortunately, a human future that doesn’t unfold along these lines, especially not only a century and a half into the future: if human nature can change, it’s not likely to change that quickly. So, if there’s a Na’vi village right atop a hella big cache of the, ahem, “unobtainium” the humans are keen to get their hands on, well, the natives — “savages” and “blue monkeys,” as the mining company twerp (Giovanni Ribisi: Public Enemies, Perfect Stranger) in charge likes to call them — will have to go.

Jake is exuberantly enjoying the freedom of his new Na’vi body — 11 feet tall, blue-skinned, and at least as athletic as Jake himself would have been — and learning about life among the Na’vi from a sort of warrior princess, Neytiri (Zoe Saldana: Star Trek, Vantage Point), who initially sees him as an ignorant child. And much that’s new in Avatar is concerned with the idea of how inculcated we all are to our ways of thinking. The scientists on the planet, led by Dr. Grace Augustine (Sigourney Weaver [The Tale of Despereaux, Wall-E], inhabiting another kickass Cameron heroine), are initially skeptical of Jake, since he hadn’t been trained in using the avatar or in the Na’vi culture, both of which his brother had studied for years; the military protecting the mining colony, led by Col. Miles Quaritch (Stephen Lang: The Men Who Stare at Goats, Public Enemies), assume that Jake, as one of their own, will work as a double agent, gathering the intelligence that the humans need in order to undermine the natives… which Jake readily agrees to. All the many assumptions at work — including on the part of the Na’vi — are so taken for granted that no one can see past them. As Moat (CCH Pounder: Warehouse 13, Orphan), the Na’vi shaman and Neytiri’s mother, explains to Jake, “We have tried to teach Sky People [that is, the humans, of course]. It’s hard to fill a cup which is already full.”

Jake’s cup will be emptied, and refilled, and by the time the inevitable showdown between human and Na’vi occurs, yours may be, too. For the Na’vi are entirely sympathetic — Cameron created them via motion-capture-assisted CGI, with human actors supplying the performances, and they are as completely realistic as their environment; Cameron has solved the problems that had rendered organic CGI characters dead-eyed and unwatchable. Not that the Na’vi are perfect or their world a paradise; Pandora may be beautiful, but it is rife with dangers. It’s just that they’re… different, and different in ways that humans cannot even begin to conceive of until we — through Jake — become part of them.


MPAA: rated PG-13 for intense epic battle sequences and warfare, sensuality, language and some smoking

viewed at a private screening with an audience of critics

official site | IMDb | trailer
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine
  • Orangutan

    Oh, you have no idea how relieved I am to see you give this movie a green light. I’ve been torn over this movie ever since I first saw the trailer. I WANT it to be incredible and beautiful, and I was really afraid I was getting my hopes up impossibly high.

    There was never any question in my mind that I was going to see it, but to see you review it so positively is very reassuring.

  • doa766

    MaryAnn, after you see the movie on IMAX 3D could you write an update on the review or another article saying if it makes that much of a difference?

    I read a couple of comments that said that it’s too much to take in and to appreciate it better it’s preferable to see it on 2D

    I have a multiplex 2 blocks from my apartment but I have to drive 40 miles for the IMAX

  • There’s a minor brouhaha over “unobtanium” which truthfully is an actual term used by scientists. But, it does beg the question, even if it is an actual term, could it sound enough like a joke to warrant changing the name to something else more convincing, yet more false?

    Like maybe Cameron got a little too sci and it’s fucking up our fi. :)

  • Ben

    Its interesting to see you talk about everything being so evolution base after seeing this quote from Cameron about the female Na’vi:

    “Right from the beginning I said, “She’s got to have tits,” even though that makes no sense because her race, the Na’vi, aren’t placental mammals.”

    (http://gawker.com/5403302/james-cameron-reveals-his-quest-to-build-more-perfect-cgi-boobs)

    Also do they explain why predators in green jungles are bright non-camoflagued blue?

    Because as a scientist it seems a bit strange…

    Glad to see you gave it a good review though, the trailers left me very unimpressed, but now I will probably see it.

  • MaryAnn

    MaryAnn, after you see the movie on IMAX 3D could you write an update on the review or another article saying if it makes that much of a difference?

    Yeah, sure. But I won’t see it till next Sunday — so you won’t know till Monday.

    the trailers left me very unimpressed

    Me too. They did not do justice to the film.

    “Right from the beginning I said, “She’s got to have tits,” even though that makes no sense because her race, the Na’vi, aren’t placental mammals.”

    Well, there’s no indication in the film how they reproduce, but even so, they’re still remarkable convergent with humans. So I guess tits aren’t any weirder than two forward-facing eyes or four limbs.

    Also do they explain why predators in green jungles are bright non-camoflagued blue?

    The jungles aren’t quite green, actually — the Na’vi blend in pretty well.

  • Nathan

    I’m sort of glad the trailers don’t do justice for the film. I want to leave the best parts for when I actually see it.

  • Mathias

    Glad to hear it MaryAnn.

    Can’t wait to see this in 7 days!

  • JoshDM

    This is a ripoff of “Dances with Smurfs”

  • JoshB

    Well, there’s no indication in the film how they reproduce, but even so, they’re still remarkable convergent with humans. So I guess tits aren’t any weirder than two forward-facing eyes or four limbs.

    “District 9” had aliens that displayed convergent evolution: bipedal tetrapods. That’s relatively believable. But here? They’re blue, and a bit gangly, but apart from that their skeleton and musculature is exactly human. Their whole design is embarrassingly Star Trek: throw some paint and forehead ridges on them and call them aliens.

  • Paul

    If any of you feel like going to the Nov. 2009 issue of Scientific American, Michael Shermer relates his argument with Richard Dawkins about the probability of humaniod aliens. Shermer, publisher of Skeptic magazine, believes the probability to be essentially zero, while Dawkins believes it to be merely improbable, going on to remind us that given a large enough number of worlds that a low statistical number would still result in a high absolute number.

    Thus while Star Trek is not realistic in its protrayal of interstellar biological diversity, when a stand alone movie happens to have humaniod aliens it is not committing some sort of sin. It is committing artistic liscence to make it easier for us to feel empathy for them.

    I personally believe that certain biological shapes would be more conducive to intelligence, just as certian shapes would be more conducive to life in water. Unfortunately there is no way to test this theory until humanity gets off its military spending addiction and gets us into outer space – way out in space, way, way, way out. But give me half of the Pentagon’s budget and I’d have us colonizing the Moon by 2020.

  • Ben

    Well, there’s no indication in the film how they reproduce, but even so, they’re still remarkable convergent with humans. So I guess tits aren’t any weirder than two forward-facing eyes or four limbs.

    Well tits are actually extremely weird on a non-pacental mammal… much more than forward facing eyes (a predator or tree living trait) and four limbs (a very generalized body shape). It just concerned me in terms of how much influence science actually had in the design of the aliens to see the Director acknowledging (and even doing interviews in playboy about it) that the Aliens gots to have the boobies. Even though within the science based structure they seem to have come up with for the aliens it makes no sense.

    But as I say, glad it works out – and since as you say, there is no mention of how they reproduce in the movies nobody will notice.

  • Gasp. Did Zuko and Katara finally hook up?

    Oh wait. Wrong Avatar.

  • Bluejay

    Cameron created them via motion-capture-assisted CGI, with human actors supplying the performances, and they are as completely realistic as their environment; Cameron has solved the problems that had rendered organic CGI characters dead-eyed and unwatchable.

    I’m sure the effects are fantastic, and I can’t wait to see the film–but is Cameron really the first person to achieve this? As described, this seems to be the same process used to CGI-ify Bill Nighy’s Davy Jones in Pirates of the Caribbean, and he seemed pretty watchable to me.

  • Alli

    I know it’s fun for many people to pick apart the actual science of a science fiction film, tv show, book, etc. For many of you, biology and evolution are extremely important for you. Maybe you work in the field. Maybe you just need it to be realistic for you to enjoy it. I know I even giggled at the rogue neutrinos in 2012.

    Still, the whole point of science fiction and fantasy (you could argue Avatar is more of a fantasy film than Sci-fi if you wish) is to examine what it means to be “human.” So who cares if the aliens are blue with mammary glands if the main character learns something about his own morality, or if the audience walks away feeling something similar.

  • Bluejay

    @Alli: True, but I guess it depends on the story and what it needs to work. I’m perfectly happy to forgive Star Wars all of its scientific inaccuracies. But some SF stories really do benefit from being grounded in science, or at least in what’s hypothetically plausible; if it seems like it could happen, then it makes whatever moral questions it’s exploring even more meaningful. I think that’s what gives films like 2001 and Contact a lot of their power.

    Having said that, I don’t think any scientific errors in Avatar is going to make it any less fun for me.

  • Bluejay

    P.S. There’s an amusing story about the astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson complaining about bad science in movies, particularly how the night sky in Titanic was inaccurate, and his long debate with Cameron about it. Tyson tells it best:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CAD25s53wmE#t=26m12s

  • markyd

    After reading your review, and several others, I am back to being excited to see this. I wonder if I can take my 8-year old, though. He would freaking love this, but I need to know if there is anything “inappropriate” for a boy his age. He’s loved the Star Wars movies, Jurassic park, even Fellowship(I have yet to show him the other 2 due to the war scenes…and my wife’s concerns. Ok, more my wife’s concerns. lol)

  • Dr Rocketscience

    Cameron has solved the problems that had rendered organic CGI characters dead-eyed and unwatchable.

    OK, I know you’ve seen the movie and I haven’t, but I still think you’re overstating the case here. In all the dozens of screen images and clips we’ve seen, it looks like Cameron has “solved” the dead-eyes problem the same way animators have “solved” it forever: they’ve made he eyes impossibly big, and thus both more sympathetic and easier to animate. He’s avoided the Uncanny Valley, sure, but by moving the Na’vi to the left of the graph, not past the valley to the right. We’ve seen that done convincingly since Gollum, and he was done 8 years ago.

  • Jolly

    Still, the whole point of science fiction and fantasy (you could argue Avatar is more of a fantasy film than Sci-fi if you wish) is to examine what it means to be “human.”

    Oh please! Any literary genre can do this. A lot of science fiction is pure escapism. Though I’m sure some scholars (or at least fanboys) have tried to make the case, I doubt that the Star Wars movies were intended to function as a deep meditation into what it means to be “human.”

    The potential problem with putting bad science into a story is that it can be *distracting*. The thermodynamic poppycock in The Matrix diminished my original enjoyment of the movie (I’ve since gotten over it).

  • JoshB

    I know it’s fun for many people to pick apart the actual science of a science fiction film, tv show, book, etc. For many of you, biology and evolution are extremely important for you.

    That’s part of it, but a small part. The really annoying thing is the artistic laziness of it. Cameron had the talent at his disposal to design something anatomically believable and yet still fully alien, and he chose this.

    As I said, it’s not merely that they’ve got a torso, two arms, two legs, and a head. Take a look at how their arms connect to their torsos. If you’ve got a good grasp of human anatomy you’ll notice that they’ve got scapulae, clavicles, pectorals, deltoids, trapezius, latissimus dorsi. Look at their necks, you’ll notice that flanking their gullets are a pair of SCM muscles. From their human ribs to their human pubis runs their rectus abdominis. Their spines bend in exactly the way ours do.

    It goes on and on. Apart from some stylization of the proportions there is a 1:1 anatomical relationship. It’s not just a failure of scientific believability, it’s a failure of imagination.

  • Dr Rocketscience

    Oi, what is it about the build up to this flick that makes me want to rant so…

    The unironic use of the term “unobtanium” grates on me. For any who don’t know, unobtanium is used by engineers, typically of the aerospace variety, to describe any material that would solve of their design problems. Unobtanium isn’t difficult to find, it’s impossible to find because it specifically doesn’t exist. It’s an idiotic term, because it describes an idiotic solution:

    Engineer A: How do we rebuild these struts so thay’ll hold up to the stresses?
    Engineer B: Oh, easy. We machine them out of unobtanium.

    Before anyone mentions it, The Core got away with using the term for two reasons. First, it was used by Delroy Lindo’s character (and the writers) ironically, as evidenced by his embarrassed expression, and the chuckles from the other characters who get the joke. And second, because in The Core, the unobtanium was a plot enabling device, not the MacGuffin.

  • MaryAnn

    I need to know if there is anything “inappropriate” for a boy his age.

    Only you can say what you think is inappropriate for your child. Lots of people think violence is inappropriate for children — I would. On the other hand, many people would prefer their children watch extreme violence rather than loving sex — I wouldn’t.

    That said, there is no sex in this film. There is a lot of violence.

  • MaryAnn

    Oh please! Any literary genre can do this.

    No, that’s not true. Genres other than science fiction cannot compare what it means to be human to what it means to be something other than human while still also intelligent, sentient, conscious, part of a larger culture, etc. That doesn’t mean that *all* SF is an experiment in what it means to be human. I do think that only SF can be about taking away elements of what we do consider to define humanity — like, perhaps, a biological body — and see what happens. (For instance: Is Robocop still human, even though he’s mostly machine?)

    The unironic use of the term “unobtanium” grates on me.

    Think of it as similar to a character named Macguffin. It really doesn’t matter *what* the mineral is here that the humans want: all that matters, to the plot and theme, is that the humans want it. Cameron could well have called it macguffanium.

  • Jolly

    No, that’s not true. Genres other than science fiction cannot compare what it means to be human to what it means to be something other than human while still also intelligent, sentient, conscious, part of a larger culture, etc.

    But all the things that we are being compared to are human, in that they are products of the human imagination. In Star Trek, it’s pretty obvious the alien races are all just humans in which certain traits are exaggerated.

    I’m doubtful that the majority of science fiction is about the role our physical form plays in defining us. Culture and technology are also given prominent roles and both can explored in other genres. Even certain aspects of our physical reality, such as gender and race, can be explored outside of the realms of Science Fiction. And in any case, what does Robocop’s status as a human really tell us about ourselves? Some ideas in science fiction may be fun, but I suspect they are also often of a trivial nature.

  • Paul

    But SF does allow for coming at issues at an angle that the literary genre does not. For example, the original Star Trek attempted to show the foolishness of racism by having two groups of people fighting because one group was black on the right side and white on the left and the other group was reversed. Humans look at them and say, so what, but the aliens thought it was incredibly important. In the same way, an alien biologist might come to Earth and take gene samples, and notice that there is far less difference genetically between blacks and whites than there is between men and women. But by looking at the alien racism, we can think about racism without assuming all the old arguments about blacks and whites on Earth; it’s a dodge around our preconceptions.

    SF also has the advantage of being set in the future, so writers can, say, put a woman in command of a space ship, or have a black man as a highly respected expert on artifical intelligence (original ST again). Even without ever addressing sexism or racism, the fact of having those characters is a statement against sexism or racism.

    In the case of this movie, Americans can go to a movie about the immorality of capitalist imperialism and feel sorry for the Vietnamese . . . opps, I mean aliens. I haven’t seen the movie yet, so I don’t know the best reality to compare to this metaphor yet.

  • Bluejay

    Though I’m sure some scholars (or at least fanboys) have tried to make the case, I doubt that the Star Wars movies were intended to function as a deep meditation into what it means to be “human.”

    Well, the entire six-film arc of Star Wars pretty much traces how Darth Vader loses and then regains his humanity. And Lucas has acknowledged that the films were influenced by Joseph Campbell’s exploration of mythical archetypes and how he thinks they inform human culture and experience. Whether the films treated those themes successfully or not is a separate issue; but it seems pretty clear that Lucas consciously intended the films to explore “what it means to be human.”

  • Knightgee

    Oh please! Any literary genre can do this.

    The most effective means of doing this often come by way of relying on the kinds of story ideas and tropes that are more readily explored by science fiction and fantasy. Take for instance the exploration of what it means to have a soul in many robot stories or what it means for something to be “alive” or “human”.All concepts that are more easily parsed out by sci-fi and to a certain degree fantasy.

    A lot of science fiction is pure escapism.

    A lot of fiction in general is pure escapism. That has no bearing on the few pieces of fiction that aren’t.

  • Bluejay

    And in any case, what does Robocop’s status as a human really tell us about ourselves?

    You could use that question as a springboard to other interesting questions. Here’s a try:

    – If we consider Robocop human even when he mostly lacks a human body, does that mean “humanity” resides entirely in the intellect and the emotions?

    – If “humanity” is entirely separate from biological features, then isn’t that a powerful argument against racism, sexism, and other forms of prejudice that seek to deny certain groups of people their full humanity?

    – And if and when Artificial Intelligence is achieved, and if and when we recognize it, at what point do we grant AI entities human status with full rights?

    So it seems to me that SF scenarios can provide the starting point for conversations about humanity that, beyond being fun, have the potential to have real-world implications.

  • Jolly

    But SF does allow for coming at issues at an angle that the literary genre does not.

    Good old Star Trek had all the subtlety of a wack in the back of the head with a shovel. Everything is constructed, often clumsily, to champion a particular set of human values. Some people have this strange idea that putting the words of a screenwriter into the speaking orifice of an extraterrestrial (or whatever pure energy beings speak from) gives them extra weight. Or into the mouth of a real historical Indian Chief, as the Chief Seattle/Ted Perry incident reveals.

    I’m not disputing that well-crafted science fiction is literature. My point was simply that literature in general explores “what it means to be human.” To me, the point of saying that SF does this is to defend SF as a legitimate literary form (which it is), rather than claiming that it is somehow unique in this regard.

    Based on what I’ve read/seen so far, Avatar strikes me as having thematic similarities to movies like Dances with Wolves.

  • Jolly

    – If “humanity” is entirely separate from biological features, then isn’t that a powerful argument against racism, sexism, and other forms of prejudice that seek to deny certain groups of people their full humanity?

    But I can easily twist this in directions I suspect you wouldn’t like…if the realization of “full” humanity requires a concentration of resources, shouldn’t we all seek to define humanity in a way that’s most favorable to our own circumstances? I am of the view that the project of “civilization” has historically involved the concentration of power. Of course, in a fictional world, such relationships are no longer conjectures but laws of motion.

  • Alli

    Oh please! Any literary genre can do this. A lot of science fiction is pure escapism. Though I’m sure some scholars (or at least fanboys) have tried to make the case, I doubt that the Star Wars movies were intended to function as a deep meditation into what it means to be “human.”

    Of course any literary genre can do this, because that’s what literature and art is: it’s a glimpse into the human mind and spirit. That’s why we’re all so passionate about it, and why every person has a different opinion on it. But as Maryann suggested, Sci-fi allows us to compare humanity with the otherwordly, which you can’t always do in other genres.

    And in any case, what does Robocop’s status as a human really tell us about ourselves?

    How can a man who is mostly machine still hold on to his humanity? It’s his choices. His morality. What makes him human isn’t what he looks like but how he thinks, sees the world, relates to others, etc. That is what Robocop and almost every Sci-Fi film or novel tells us about ourselves.

    You want to talk Star Wars? Unlike Robocop, There are times is Sci-Fi when making a character look less human or more machine, reflects how he or she has distanced himself from his humanity. Stars Wars for example: Anikan Skywalker becomes Darth Vader, a machine, after joining the dark side. Anikan’s drive for power and conquering death made him a monster. Yet, he was able to redeem himself at the end of Jedi, when we see his soul intact. He’s the classic Greek tragic hero. Moral of the story: Lust for power destroys your compassion for others and your ability to relate to them, and those two characteristics are part of what makes you human.

    Was Lucas’s main point to make us think deeply about humanity? No, he wanted to make a successful film that made a shit ton of money. But he still made a series about the duality of man and choice.

  • markyd

    Wow. I didn’t expect such a conversation to spring up. To be honest, I find this humanity debate rather boring, and skipped over most of your posts. I’m just looking for a fun movie here. If it gets me thinking afterwards, then all the better.
    Carry on, I guess.

  • Bluejay

    But I can easily twist this in directions I suspect you wouldn’t like..

    Oh, absolutely. My point was that SF scenarios such as those in Robocop can spark conversations (such as the one we’re starting to have right here) about the nature of humanity and its implications. You’re right that SF is as legitimate a literary form as others, and that SF, like all literature, can explore what it means to be human–which makes me wonder why you then go on to ridicule Robocop and Star Wars as being unable to do exactly that.

  • Dr Rocketscience

    Cameron could well have called it macguffanium.

    Sure. He could also have called it pandorite, or Element 121. Unobtanium is a stupid word, deliberately so, but it has a specific meaning. Maybe he supplies contextual clues to the joke in some scene other than the one on the web (with Giovani Ribisi and Sigourney Weaver arguing about “jarheads”). If not, then a part of his core audience is going to find the term misused, while the rest of he audience thinks its a dumb name. Macguffinium would grate on me for the same reason. It’s too meta to toss aroud like that, particularly in a film the director thinks will become a division point between eras of filmmaking.

  • Jolly

    All kinds of events can spark interesting conversations. I don’t really consider something to be a literary achievement unless it also adds something new to the conversation. Star Wars may well be intended as an update to a particular myth, but as far as I can tell, it’s new sheen on an old story (I actually do value the first three movies, based on release date, but not as literary accomplishments. They were technical accomplishments and have stood the test of time as entertainment). People may have talked about racism after seeing Crash, but in my opinion, the movie itself didn’t offer any compelling new insights into the nature of racial relations. I think that the defining feature of great literature is that our engagement with the work itself has somehow made us wiser.

  • Paul

    @Jolly: I know Star Trek isn’t SF at its finest. In many ways, Star Trek and Star Wars have more in common with old pulp, pre WWII SF than they do with modern SF. But since this is a movie review site and I can more safely assume people have seen Star Trek than read “Left Hand of Darkness,” it makes sense to me to use Star Trek examples. I’m not saying that to be snobbish, BTW; ten times as many books are published each year than movies are made, so even book lovers are more likely to have seen the same movies or TV shows than read the same books.

  • ALEC GUINNESS IN, ‘THE CARD’

    You know I can’t believe all the people with so obviously bitter and twisted views on life in general not only on films. Those with such negative, back-biting attitude I doubt have the mental state to enjoy any film on the level it was meant to be seen and when, ‘nauseating 3D’ is thrown in on top I’m sure it must be a big problem for them. I’ve not seen the full film, only the long trailer. Anyone who watches this film on anything other than full IMAX GT giant-screen would be better giving the ticket price to charity. If true IMAX GT upsets your eyes/brain go and get both checked out by a specialist – don’t moan to everyone on the internet about it. I can tell everyone here that if you sit down in front of full-size IMAX and let yourself go you will be blown away. I’m still laughing my head off at all the, ‘expert gamers’ that decry the film after only having seen a 1080p version of their 24″ LCD home monitor – My advice to them is to stay in your bedroom get some beers in, call for a pizza and relax, AVATAR is really not for you.

  • SaintAndy

    Anyone who watches this film on anything other than full IMAX GT giant-screen would be better giving the ticket price to charity. If true IMAX GT upsets your eyes/brain go and get both checked out by a specialist – don’t moan to everyone on the internet about it. I can tell everyone here that if you sit down in front of full-size IMAX and let yourself go you will be blown away. I’m still laughing my head off at all the, ‘expert gamers’ that decry the film after only having seen a 1080p version of their 24″ LCD home monitor – My advice to them is to stay in your bedroom get some beers in, call for a pizza and relax, AVATAR is really not for you.

    First of all, it’s really rude to suggest people should see a doctor just because they cannot stomach imax..there is such a thing as too much of a good thing..and some people find it impossible to get used to the ginormous screen.

    Second of all, a good film should stand on its own, not some technological gimmick. If a films such as Avatar has good plot, good character development, memorable action scenes, then it will be a good experience for the viewer, regardless of what sort of cinema they see it in.
    MaryAnn seemed to have thoroughly appreciated all of the films virtues, even if she hasn’t (yet) seen it in 3D/Imax…technological wizardry cannot supplant a good story and believable characters.

    So ..please..give us all a break about seeing it in Imax ..or whatever..in order to do the film justice…it is a matter of personal choice..and some people are simply not into the whole 3D/imax thing…

  • Bluejay

    I don’t really consider something to be a literary achievement unless it also adds something new to the conversation…I think that the defining feature of great literature is that our engagement with the work itself has somehow made us wiser.

    I agree that engaging with great literature can make us wiser. (Is there a better word than “literature” when talking about film?) I wasn’t arguing that Robocop or Star Wars are great literature, only that they say something about what it means to be human–not necessarily something new, or better-said than anything that has gone before.

    In any case, isn’t “new” a problematic standard? We all experience books and films by ourselves, on our own, and what’s new for one person may be old hat for another. If Star Wars is what gets a young child thinking for the first time about the idea of losing one’s innocence, and the danger of being consumed by anger or fear, and if the child grows a little wiser as a result, then the films have performed a valuable service, I think.

    Anyway–Avatar! I’m looking forward to seeing it and maybe coming back here with more on-topic comments. :-)

  • Jolly

    In any case, isn’t “new” a problematic standard? We all experience books and films by ourselves, on our own, and what’s new for one person may be old hat for another.

    I agree. This is why I get annoyed when people argue that film critics should be “objective.” When we go to a movie or read a book, we’re carrying with us everything that we’ve experienced to that point in our life. Of course it influences how we react to the work we are experiencing. I saw Chinatown, which some have claimed is a defining moment in film noir, a few years ago and wasn’t really impressed. It occurred to me that part of the reason is that I had already seen so many movies that were influenced by it.

  • Jolly

    Is there a better word than “literature” when talking about film?

    I suppose only the screenplay itself is technically literature. Is “performing arts” the right term? Or is film something else again?

    With regards to comments by both Paul and Bluejay, I think that “pulp” can and does enrich our lives.

    Unfortunately I suspect that by the time I actually get around to seeing Avatar this particular thread will have been long abandoned…

  • I was not really looking forward to Avatar, given I found Titanic a great-looking but over-long exercise.

    As much as I dislike movies that look like big video games, there seems to be a little more going on in Avatar. So we plan to go see it Saturday morning.

    Generally, I dislike cross-marketing, but the Avatar promotion as part of Bones last week was very funny.

  • Pete

    drt rocketscience, i totally agree with you on that point about the name of the material. he could have thought up a “cooler” name that wouldnt sound silly when spoken aloud.

  • Badestkty

    Already, I am reading negative feedback from people who have not seen the movie. How miserable can individuals be? I would love to see the naysayers go out and do something that is 1/10 of what Cameron has done. Until then, SHUT UP!

  • CB

    Well tits are actually extremely weird on a non-pacental mammal… much more than forward facing eyes (a predator or tree living trait) and four limbs (a very generalized body shape). It just concerned me in terms of how much influence science actually had in the design of the aliens to see the Director acknowledging (and even doing interviews in playboy about it) that the Aliens gots to have the boobies. Even though within the science based structure they seem to have come up with for the aliens it makes no sense.

    Science could have had an extreme influence on the design of everything in the film, yet still not trumped boobs (and the overall human-like design). I have to give Cameron a nod here for a very practical decision — let science dictate the design, up to the point where it conflicts with Cameron’s goals.

    I think it’s worth comparing with District 9. As JoshB mentioned, that’s a movie where the aliens exhibit convergent evolution, but yet are still distinctly and very non-human. Now, is this a question of how much science was allowed to influence the design? Or is it a question of wanting different things from the result? In District 9, the prawns were supposed to look hideous and utterly non-human. The whole point is that at the beginning, you’re supposed to understand the racists’ point of view: These things are weird, ugly, seemingly dumb, violent, and uncivilized. Boy I can’t blame the people of Johannesburg for wanting them to be walled off! And then you slowly come to sympathize with them.

    Cameron is obviously going for ‘aliens’ who are more sympathetic from the get-go. You’re supposed to automatically assume they are capable of human thought and emotion, and the easiest way to do that is to make them look roughly human.

    Unless there’s a strong scientific reason I’m unaware of as to why milk glands couldn’t evolve in anything other than an earth mammal, then this decision is ultimately just as arbitrary as all the other “evolution” that informed creature designs. Just instead of it being “a hammer-head on a big quadruped dinosaur-thing looks awesome”, it’s “boobs are awesome”.

  • cb

    Unobtanium isn’t difficult to find, it’s impossible to find because it specifically doesn’t exist. It’s an idiotic term, because it describes an idiotic solution:

    Engineer A: How do we rebuild these struts so thay’ll hold up to the stresses?
    Engineer B: Oh, easy. We machine them out of unobtanium.

    More to the point, “Unobtanium” is a mythical material that has the properties you require, when no such material is known to exist.

    People talk about how having a Space Elevator Climber Challenge is silly because we don’t have the “Unobtanium” to make an elevator. A valid point, but on the other hand, at some point we may develop a way to synthesize nanotubes of sufficient strength and length to make it feasible. At that point, the “unobtanium” will actually exist.

    And the engineers may keep calling it unobtanium for a while, as a joke. And upper management may pick up on it, and think that’s what it’s called. And they’ll keep asking when they’re going to be getting enough Unobtanium to finish the project. I can see a prospector returning from Pandora telling their superiors: “Uh, sir? We’ve found the Unobtanium”.

    I realize I’m adding backstory to a movie I haven’t even seen, but frankly “unobtanium” strikes me as an in-joke, especially if they play it straight.

    Before anyone mentions it, The Core got away with using the term for two reasons.

    The Core got away with it because it was an exceedingly dumb movie, and the usage of a word like “unobtanium” would be 1000th on the list of complaints of any scientist no matter how egregiously they abused it. ;)

  • MaryAnn

    As much as I dislike movies that look like big video games

    This doesn’t look like a big video game. It really doesn’t.

    frankly “unobtanium” strikes me as an in-joke, especially if they play it straight.

    They do play it straight, and I do think it’s meant to be an in-joke, particularly because there is *no explanation whatsoever* what this mineral is, why it’s valuable, or why the humans want it. Which is fine: it doesn’t matter. We want it, and we will find a way to take it. That’s the only point that matters.

  • Lucy Gillam

    Science could have had an extreme influence on the design of everything in the film, yet still not trumped boobs (and the overall human-like design). I have to give Cameron a nod here for a very practical decision — let science dictate the design, up to the point where it conflicts with Cameron’s goals.

    The fact that it is a “practical decision,” let alone an apparent first thought, that a female alien must have “tits,” makes me inutterably sad.

    Moot point, since I can’t see the movie anyway (wearing 3D glasses over my regular ones for even 20 minutes gives me headaches), but between Cameron’s quote and the “What These People Really Need Is A Honky” storyline, I can’t muster too much sorrow.

  • Mel

    the “What These People Really Need Is A Honky” storyline

    This is what I want to know: how bad is the “Noble Savages rescued by white guy” aspect? (And the “disability is so very very awful that naturally he would want to pretend to be another species” aspect?). Visually it looks kind of intriguing, but I don’t want to throw money at it if it’s as racist as the previews looked.

  • Nathan

    A couple of months ago I thought this looked like a tremendous waste of time and money, but having now seen it in 3D, I can’t think of another movie I’ve seen that is more visually stunning.

    But I’m fairly fantasy-prone, so I can easily forgive the common story-telling devices and lack of authentic character development.

    Anyone so sensitive as to be worried about accurate science or racism in this movie should probably stay home — in general.

  • MaryAnn

    This is what I want to know: how bad is the “Noble Savages rescued by white guy” aspect?

    It’s not bad. It’s more a “walk a mile in someone else’s shoes” parable than a “white guy to the rescue” story.

    (And the “disability is so very very awful that naturally he would want to pretend to be another species” aspect?).

    It’s really not like that, either. The movie makes the point of noting that it’s not that the technology doesn’t exist to fix Jake, it’s that he doesn’t have the money it takes to make it happen. And with Jake, it’s more a matter of taking on a unique new challenge (in driving the avatar body without any of the training that his twin brother had taken three years to do) than it is about disability being so awful.

    In fact, very early in the film we get indications that life and work in zero-gee is pretty ordinary, where, of course, not having the use of your legs is barely a hindrance at all. So Jake might have had other options apart from the avatar thing, too.

  • Boingo

    Just sharin’ my brand of movie experience trivia:
    Just saw Avatar 3D. Loved it.Yeah, it involved suspension of disbelief (less so in this fantasy
    imagery).My favorite effect was the “termites or
    bugs,” flying around-almost makes you want to swat them. Old plot didn’t bug me. Last 10 min.
    of the climax, a guy in front starts texting-gads. I couldn’t stand it, tapped ’em
    and said,”Do you mind,brah?” Don’t try this-
    too many drug dealers pass time at the flicks.
    All that on screen technology (make believe) and we still haven’t got the mass cell zapper for theaters.Com’on MIT!

    Yup- Cameron is still the CGI king.

  • I saw it today in a normal non-IMAX theatre and not only did I enjoy it–if that’s the right word to use for such a violent movie–but my conservative Republican mother and my two conservative brothers also liked it as well.

    Of course, they drew the same parallels between the aliens in this movie and the American Indians that MaryAnn did and I must admit to being surprised that none of them seemed to have any problems watching a movie that basically asked them to root for an American Marine rebelling against his own former comrades-in-arms. For that matter, they didn’t seem bothered by any of the parallels between the final attack and the Iraqi War that the screenwriter seemed to be intending.

    Of course, in the discussion afterward–see, even conservative movie-goers can get all flick filosophical at times–the word “Custer” kept coming up over and over again but apart from that, they seemed to like it as much as last summer’s Star Trek.

    However, I must admit to being embarrassed that my middle brother recognized Michelle Rodriguez more easily than I did. (And she wasn’t even wearing makeup.)

  • MBI

    I can only give the special effects of Avatar the highest compliment I can: They were so good that I didn’t notice them. It is a rare movie that can do that; the only one that comes to mind is the original Star Wars trilogy. It invents an entire world so seamless that you don’t even want to comment on it.

    And I say that because of the fact that I was so utterly convinced of the special effects that I can only focus on how fucking awful the plotting and dialogue were. This is an insulting movie. I am so sick of movies where the natives/Indians/native Indian aliens are so in touch with Mother Gaia that they are utterly perfect in every freaking way. There’s nothing ALIEN about these aliens; no culture clash, no off-putting customs, they just exist to be perfect. They paint with all the colors of the wind, and meanwhile, the Evil Upon Evil humans, led by Yuppie McScumbag and Captain Killsalot, are so beyond evil that they make no sense. It’s a juvenile movie.

    The fact that they didn’t deal with the crippled Jake Sully’s attraction to a humanoid, perfectly abled alien avatar also grates on me. “Surrogates” was not a great movie by any means, but it dealt with the issue of how fucking weird it would be if you could invent a whole new body for yourself based on your own whims. Avatar isn’t interested in exploring that. It isn’t interested in exploring any issue of any depth whatsoever.

    And that wouldn’t be a problem if it were exciting or interesting in its own right, but it’s not. Star Wars isn’t a particularly heady, intellectual head piece, but it’s fun, it’s dynamic. And it was itself a technological marvel in its time, but it isn’t now. People don’t talk about its special effects, they talk about Luke and Han and Leia and Chewie and Vader and the characters and the plot. Ten years from now, when everyone’s able to do the shit that James Cameron does technologically, is anyone going to be talking about Jake and Neyriti and Corporal Whoever? Really?

    The fact that the mineral is called unobtanium is in-fucking-excusable. That is repellent. That is James Cameron rubbing your face in how little effort he put into making this film not a horrible cliche storm.

  • Drave

    MBI: Actually, the fact that he called the material unobtanium makes perfect sense, given the world as it is presented. We know that Earth’s resources are totally used up. We know that this material is damned-near priceless. From this, we can infer that, whatever properties this material contains, it solves a major problem, if not more than one. Unobtanium is a word with historical weight. It’s a 50+ year old term for any mythical alloy or substance that has exactly the properties required to solve all your problems. It is very easy to imagine scientists discovering this precious material, figuring out how valuable and useful it is, and then running excitedly to tell their superiors. “Sir! We’ve discovered unobtanium!” I guarantee a material like this, discovered today, would be referred to by the scientists as unobtanium, at least around the lab, until a proper name was chosen. Why is it weird that a name like that would stick? Sure, calling it that is a little meta, but it’s not outside the realm of conceivability.

    I’m not saying the story of this movie is Oscar-worthy, but it is by no means as bad as you make it out to be, at least in my opinion. A movie with a very average plot and mind-blowing visuals is still ahead of the curve, and worth seeing.

    I disagree that the movie doesn’t explore Jake’s attraction/addiction to his avatar excursions. It just doesn’t explore it verbally. To me, he sells it every time we see him pulling himself out of his pod at the end of the night. It is clearly harder and harder for him every time, not to mention the journal entry where he talks about how his waking world feels less real to him day by day. The further he sinks into his avatar, the more alive its eyes get, and the deader his human eyes go.

  • MBI

    “It’s a 50+ year old term for any mythical alloy or substance that has exactly the properties required to solve all your problems.”

    I know that, but it’s also a term for lazy sci-fi writing, and that’s the usage that immediately comes to mind. It’s a meta-term in a movie whose writing is otherwise as plain and hokey as humanly possible — if this were a Tarantino movie or something, maybe I could find a way to groove to it, but in a movie which mostly just struck me as preachy and juvenile, the term strikes as painfully lazy — they might have well have called Jamescameronhasstoppedgivingashitium.

    “I disagree that the movie doesn’t explore Jake’s attraction/addiction to his avatar excursions. It just doesn’t explore it verbally.”

    I know what you mean, but what I’m trying to say is that the movie doesn’t explore this theme in a way that makes Jake’s allegiances and feelings complicated, and I feel like it should have. Maybe they did try and make some feigns in that direction, but if they didn’t, would it change the movie at all? It bothers me that it’s basically just a simple wish fulfillment fantasy. It sucks that he doesn’t have legs, but now he has legs, the end. [i]Surrogates[/i] made the point that the implications of such a device are really fucking odd, man, but [i]Avatar[/i] doesn’t deal with any of that. Jake literally changes his species, and you know what, the movie doesn’t see anything weird about that whatsoever. Identity issues? What identity issues? Obviously a movie can’t deal with every permutation of every issue that arises in its plot, but this still seems like a major omission to me.

    However, that complaint runs a distant second to how racially condescending it is. The Na’vi’s main purpose is to be unbearably perfect, in every way. They love Mother Earth and they have no flaws. I hate the “noble savage” archetype a lot, like you have no idea how much. There’s no real ALIEN element to the Na’vi, and there’s no real HUMAN element to them either. Also, the dialogue is quite bad.

  • Mel

    Thanks for taking my question seriously, MaryAnn, instead of dismissing concerns as oversensitivity. :) I’m feeling more interested in the movie right now, although I imagine I will still get a lot of mileage out of giggling at pseudoscience. It does look quite pretty.

    (I’ve been thinking for a quite a while that SF about zero-g and the implications for people who don’t have (use of) legs would be really interesting and cool.)

  • Boingo

    Warning: semi weird post
    Okay, so after watching the Na’vi babe for a while, then moving into the implied sex scene,
    I felt, “Yeah, she’s hot (in an alien way)and I’d hook up with her sans beer.” Later, the tail
    started to hamper my fantasy.Then,realizing she’d be a giant by human standard, I came back to earth(no pun intended).

  • Avatar is basically special effects porn. If you like special effects, it’s worth seeing on a big screen. If you want more plot, don’t go. I like special effects enough that I’m glad I saw it in 3-D on a big screen. The main freaky thing about the movie – the CGI characters were better actors than some of the live actors.

  • MaryAnn

    [i]Avatar[/i] doesn’t deal with any of that. Jake literally changes his species, and you know what, the movie doesn’t see anything weird about that whatsoever.

    I think this could be an issue for a sequel to explore. You know, after Jake has some time to really think about the situation he’s in, how he’s stuck in this semi-alien body forever (did you notice how Jake’s avatar has human hands and feet, which aren’t like the true Na’vi’s, who have only four digits?). I think it might be a while after he gets over having legs and mobility back before it finally sinks in…

    The Na’vi’s main purpose is to be unbearably perfect, in every way. They love Mother Earth and they have no flaws.

    Really? The Na’vi have no flaws? Aren’t they as closed to the humans as the humans are to the Na’vi? (Of course, they’ve been treated unfairly, and are more justified, perhaps, in believing that they cannot trusts humans, and that humans cannot be taught the things that the Na’vi find important.) We see some Na’vi behaving with jealousy, with anger, with childish pouting when they’re told to do something they don’t want to do.

    I’m not saying this is a deeply nuanced portrayal of an alien intelligence — I’d love to learn more about the “bond” and how it makes them alien in ways we probably couldn’t find it easy to understand — and it might have been nice, perhaps, if there were a nod toward difference among the different tribes of the Na’vi that they put aside for the moment in order to fight the humans. But if they’re “perfect,” isn’t that really just us seeing ourselves reflected poorly in them? (ie, we destroyed our planet while they respect theirs).

    Or is there some other kind of flaw you would want to see?

  • amanohyo

    MA wrote in her review that this movie is “a gift to anyone who takes science fiction seriously.” I enjoyed this movie overall, but felt just the opposite. If you truly take science fiction seriously, this is a difficult movie to praise. In fact, if I hadn’t seen it in 3D, I would rate it as just a hair above average.

    First the good: as most have already said, the 3D effects are done better here than in any other movie I’ve seen and easily make the movie worth watching all on their own. The effects are seamless, and most importantly, the physics in the CGI feels “right” in a satisfying way. At no time was I thrown out of the movie by a “that looks so fake” moment, and Cameron covers his ass by tossing out some carbon fiber hand-waving near the beginning just in case your credibility is ever strained by the stunts.

    Unfortunately, aside from the wonderfully subtle use of 3D and seamless melding of live and CG actors, there is one, lonely moment of genuine imagination in the movie, when a small lizard takes flight in an unexpected way. Everything else is on autopilot. Everything. Every line of dialogue, every character, setting, vehicle, and creature design, every element of the plot, every action scene, every love scene (Caaan you feeeel the looove, tonight?) every single thing. Sadly, the average Harry Potter movie has more imagination than Avatar, and serious fans of science fiction (or fiction in general) can’t help but be a bit disappointed by how derivative and simplistic it all feels.

    A couple days ago, I said that Cameron explored the ideas in his movies more deeply than the average Hollywood director. That is not the case here. There are no shades of gray in the movie, none, not even popcorn movie shades of gray. I also praised Cameron for knowing how to film an action scene. He still does, but ends up using the “something big chases something small” template about three times too many. I kind of expected the bland writing, including my pet peeve, transparent infodumping, but even in the action scenes, Cameron’s supposed forte, his imagination falls short.

    *SPOILERS*

    The “final fight” in particular is simply a halfhearted rehash of his earlier work in Aliens with the good-guy and bad-guy roles reversed. Although I, and no doubt everyone in the theater knew what the outcome of the fight would be, I didn’t care who killed whom and in what way because the only marginally compelling character in the movie is Sigourney Weaver’s character, whose name I cannot even remember. In fact, I don’t even remember the name of the main character in the movie (Sam? Jim?) despite having just walked out of the theater an hour ago. The entire movie is a stew of cliches, but the plot can be boiled down to five essential tropes:

    Human Aliens
    Magical “Native American” (or Noble Savage, as MBI pointed out)
    Call a Rabbit a Smeerp
    Mega Corp/Evil Army
    Mighty Whitey (or Mighty Human if you prefer)

    Of course it’s impossible to avoid tropes completely and execution is the most important thing, but Cameron adds nothing other than eye-candy. If you are familiar with these tropes and you are a fan of science fiction, nothing besides the quality of the visuals in this movie will surprise you. In all seriousness, Fern Gully is a deeper exploration of most of the major themes that are ever so lightly brushed by this “science fiction” movie. How does Pocahontas feel about John’s “real body”? What would she do if his Avatar Body was destroyed? This movie doesn’t care. Anytime anything the slightest bit interesting approaches, the script literally turns tail and runs,

    *END SPOILERS*

    Although I admit that the pacing is handled very well, for the most part Avatar succeeds despite its screenplay, rather than being aided by it. It wastes the talents of every single actor and actress involved, most notably Michelle Rodriguez who has some of the limpest line delivery I’ve ever seen. I don’t need Vasquez’s stereotypical “fiery latino spirit” either, just a sense of genuine urgency would be nice. I’ll say it again, when some of these characters died, I felt nothing. This is coming from a guy who cried at the Rhino the Hamster’s stirring monologue in Bolt.

    So, awe-inspiring? Yes. Full of beautiful eye candy? Yes (I got some awesome Panzer Dragoon Saga flashbacks too, so Sega Saturn fans will enjoy that extra little morsel of pleasure… all three of you). Worth watching at the theater? In 3D, definitely yes. But is Pandora a gift to anyone who takes science fiction seriously? No, it isn’t, at least not for all of us. People who take science fiction seriously have imaginations. Not only have we been introduced to worlds like Pandora and “aliens” like the Na’vi dozens of times before, we’ve imagined and read about worlds and beings far more wonderful, strange, and moving.

  • t6

    Hm. After reading this discussion of the politics of race in Avatar, I decided to skip the film. I really respect your views MAJ, but watching those trailers really triggered a lot of my “here are some creepy racial politics” alarms…what to do, what to do?

    http://io9.com/5422666/when-will-white-people-stop-making-movies-like-avatar?skyline=true&s=i

  • amanohyo

    t6, Avatar doesn’t engage the ideas behind it’s Mighty Whitey foundation enough to be seriously offensive. I can’t believe I’m resorting to the dreaded “it’s just a movie” defense, but in this case, it might actually apply. Trust me, this script is too lazy and lightweight to have the power to offend (or inspire). It makes the laughable The Last Samurai look like a nuanced, thoughtful meditation on colonialism and race relations in comparison. The visuals, on the other hand, are pretty sweet. If you feel guilty about paying money, you should consider at least trying to sneak in for a quick glance at some of the 3D. I’m not susceptible to eye-candy, and even I have to admit that the quality of the 3D images was jaw dropping at times.

  • Nathan

    People get upset about Avatar, but this outrageous racism started back with Beowulf… I mean, why do the Danes need some Geat to bail them out and save their butts? What are they, peninsular savages waiting for some big blond Swede to cross the sea and rescue them? Reprehensible!

    I’m going to stay home and watch all the episodes of Antiques Roadshow I have DVR’d until we get some socially responsible art.

  • ceti

    Saw it tonight, and while some of the issues with the film were obviously cringeworthy on the racial politics level, it was more than made up for by the fact that Cameron was NOT subtle and did NOT flinch in unapologetically taking down the RDA mercenary forces and siding with the Na’vi. It’s as if our usual colonial assumptions were given the hardest shake of any recent film on the topic of imperialist war.

    My wife was wildly expressive in these scenes (cheering when the humans got their comeuppance) and gushed about the film afterwards, and she doesn’t usually like action films or is impressed by special effects. Then again, the film tapped into a lot of suppressed feelings of rage against the evils that are destroying this world as we speak. Indeed, coming hot on the heels of the historic failure in Copenhagen, the film coincidentally reflected our current historic trajectory (corporate-government merger, resource wars, desperate search for energy sources, a dying planet) scary as it is.

    The film also reflects contemporary struggles such as in Peru where a Free Trade Agreement with the US has led the government to take more forceful action against indigenous protestors, leading to massacres earlier this year. http://www.newint.org/features/special/2009/06/09/battle-lines/

    I think Cameron was trying to mix an old storyline with some very sharp political points as if to reach those who might desire redemption on the way to revolution. How well this awkward fusion will work beyond the more sophisticated segment of the viewing public remains to be seen.

  • FK

    Ho hum… evil humans, angelic aliens… ho hum. Nice 3-D though. More craft than art IMHO. Tarzan kicks butt again. Ho hum.

  • I thought Dances with Dragons (erm, Avatar) was great but I agree that the script was pretty poor. It was probably on the same level of writing as Titanic, actually.

    That being said, if THIS was taken as the quintessential popcorn movie, then I’d be quite happy. Forget Fantastic Four or 2012 or Armageddon or Spider-Man 3 – if this was as shallow as movies got then we’d be pretty well off.

  • MaryAnn

    It makes the laughable The Last Samurai look like a nuanced, thoughtful meditation on colonialism and race relations in comparison.

    I’m not sure I’d go that far: *Last Samurai* is a terrible, terrible film.

    I’m sensitive to the white-guilt argument, but I do think there’s value for some audiences in the “walk a mile in someone else’s shoes” story. It seems like, in this case, that there’s just no winning. An acquaintance of mine tried to insist that this movie was all about how white guys are bad and everyone else is good. And I had to admit that yes, all the humans who revolt against the evil white guys who run the evil corporation and the evil military here are either female or nonwhite or both… except for, ahem, the white guy who’s the star of the movie. (And there’s another white guy among the rebels, too.)

    I am sure, too, though, that there are other ways to tell this story that aren’t about “everyone white is evil, everyone else is angelic.”

    I do find it interesting, however, that some people feel compelled to charaterize the Na’vi as “angelic.” What’s that all about?

  • Actually, I’m surprised that a movie that involves a white soldier rebelling against his own comrades-in-arms in a scenario that seems reminiscent of the San Patricios revolt during the Mexican War of 1848–oops, there I go playing the history buff again–wasn’t considered more controversial, considering that it appears in an American movie being released during wartime. Somehow I doubt that angle is being overlooked on the Big Hollywood site or in any of Michael Medved’s columns.

    Granted, there are some obvious differences between the Na’vi and the Iraqis. (For one thing, I really doubt that the Iraqis are anywhere close to being that tall–except in their dreams. And I’m pretty sure that their skins aren’t blue.) But still, it seemed obvious from some lines of dialogue that a parallel between the fictional war and certain modern-day conflicts was implied.

    For that matter, I couldn’t help being reminded of Braveheart. Though thankfully, Cameron didn’t think to have Michelle Rodriguez to ask Sam Worthington if she would be able to kill Englishmen if she joined his side.

  • I am sure, too, though, that there are other ways to tell this story that aren’t about “everyone white is evil, everyone else is angelic.”

    I could have sworn there were more than a few nonwhite soldiers on the side of the Terrestrial Invaders but unfortunately, they didn’t get many lines so I’m guessing that in the eyes of this film’s critics, they don’t really count.

  • iakobos

    I saw “Dances with Giant Smurfs” tonight. Talk about a ripoff from “Dances with Wolves”. I guess if you don’t mind or even like the anti-capitalist, anti-military, Gaea-pantheistic-earth worshiping themes this movie should really float your boat. Maybe I should simply be satisfied that it still takes a white, heterosexual, American male to save the day.

    I did enjoy Worthington’s performance as Jake Sully. Sigourney Weaver’s performance was probably the best in the movie. She’s a pretty tough actress to beat. Stephen Lang’s evil general was just ridiculously unbelievable and Ribissi’s CEO portrayal was likewise unbelievable. I know both these men are talented actors so I will blame the director for their performances. And since Cameron is a talented director, I have no doubts that these were exactly the kind of lame, over the top performances he wanted.

    I mostly appreciated the visual extravaganza that was Pandora. It’s a beautiful world, intricately woven together. I saw it in 3D which is my first ever movie in 3D. It certainly adds to the experience. However, since things closer to you pop out in 3D, you occasionally want to focus on it as you would in real life but you can’t. You are forced to only focus on what the camera is focused on which I found to be annoying at times.

  • MaryAnn

    I guess if you don’t mind or even like the anti-capitalist, anti-military, Gaea-pantheistic-earth worshiping themes this movie should really float your boat.

    Ah. So. It’s “anticapitalist” to think it’s wrong to steal from someone, and it’s “antimilitary” to think it’s wrong to use military force to do the stealing.

    How dare those savage blue monkeys be on our planet before we got there! And they don’t even have the decency to be Christian!

  • iakobos

    Ah. So. It’s “anticapitalist” to think it’s wrong to steal from someone, and it’s “antimilitary” to think it’s wrong to use military force to do the stealing.

    How dare those savage blue monkeys be on our planet before we got there! And they don’t even have the decency to be Christian!

    MaryAnn, that’s not the point. Of course it’s wrong to steal from someone and of course it’s wrong to use the military force to do the stealing. What irritates me about the movie is it’s intentional reflection on current events and the broad strokes it paints in condemning those events. When a character says “We’re going to show them some shock and aww”, it’s obvious who is being slammed and which war is being slammed. Furthermore, headline after headline today is about how capitalism is destroying the planet. Now we have a movie showing us this evil and destructive capitalism that didn’t stop at our planet but moved on to other planets and kept right on with the planetary destruction! So yes, the movie has a blatant anti-military and anti-capitalist bias.

    Let’s put it another way. In real life are there any redeeming qualities to the military or capitalism? If there are, none of those qualities were present in Avatar. That’s what bugs me about the movie. It simply wasn’t true to life. The military and capitalism presented in the movie were gross caricatures.

    In continuing to reflect on Avatar’s message, today I wondered about another aspect of the movie. The atheist humans were evil and the religious natives were righteous. And curiously, it wasn’t until the non-religious hero became a believer that he became righteous. Now that could be another interesting angle to talk about with respect to Cameron’s message.

  • MaryAnn

    The humans are atheists? What makes you say that? What support for that contention is there in the film?

    In real life are there any redeeming qualities to the military or capitalism? If there are, none of those qualities were present in Avatar.

    Perhaps Cameron wants to make the point that, on the whole, whatever good aspects there may be to capitalism and the military, they are not outweighed by the bad. After all, if capitalism destroys Earth, nothing else really matters, in the long run, does it?

    You don’t have to agree with that point, of course. (I certainly rail against movies that I disagree with philosophically.) That doesn’t mean it isn’t Cameron’s right to make it. And it doesn’t mean that he must present a “balanced” argument, either. Makers of fiction frame their stories with their own desired slants — that’s inherent in what they do.

    What irritates me about the movie is it’s intentional reflection on current events and the broad strokes it paints in condemning those events.

    But that’s pretty much the point of the film: to condemn certain current events, and the mindset that ensures that history keeps repeating itself. You might as well complain that devil’s food cake is too chocolatey, or that the ocean is too wet.

  • MaryAnn

    Or maybe Cameron’s point is: Whatever other good the military or capitalism may do, they’re doing nothing but bad on Pandora… or in Iraq.

    Maybe a point we can take from how Cameron frames his story is that no amount of good can outweigh an evil done by the same entity.

    Again, you don’t have to agree with that…

  • Jim Mann

    Let’s put it another way. In real life are there any redeeming qualities to the military or capitalism? If there are, none of those qualities were present in Avatar. That’s what bugs me about the movie. It simply wasn’t true to life. The military and capitalism presented in the movie were gross caricatures.

    I think you are over-generalizing. Based on this argument, you can make the same case regarding capitalism and Alien or Aliens. The company in both of those cases is bad. But in those cases — and in Avatar — all we see is that one particular company is doing bad things. (And I’m ignoring the issue that the actions of an unscrupulous company really say nothing at all about capitalism as a whole. Unscrupulous companies can act this way under any system.)

  • amanohyo

    The basic message of the movie was that large corporations that have influence over the military are evil because they dehumanize and exploit other cultures and the environment. That message was poorly delivered in a script full of straw men and noble savages, but I’m 99.9% sure that’s the message Cameron was delivering.

    Anyone who takes home the message “white people are evil” was not paying attention. Not only is… Jake? white, so are both of the main scientist characters. In addition, one of the painfully familiar tropes in the movie is Mighty Whitey; the main character, a white man (or a white man’s mind, if you prefer), just happens to be really good at things that the Na’vi have been doing their entire lives (except for “horses”…which makes me think even Cameron realized the Mighty Whitey corner he had written himself into), the chief’s daughter falls in love with him, he just happens to be the chosen one who unites the clans, etc.

    This is not an anticapitalist or antimilitary movie either. Capitalism is what produced the equipment and technology for the Avatar project, and in typical Cameron fashion, the way the movie is shot makes it clear that the military tech on display is “cool,” no matter how many trees or living creatures get destroyed. The film is hamfistedly pro-environment (although one might question the way the Na’vi force their mental bond onto other creatures, essentially turning them into temporary slaves) and vaguely pro-violence. But as I said, any serious themes are dealt with in such a childish way that it ends up just being a popcorny adventure movie. Geeks are free to expound on the philosophical underpinnings of movies like this (or Star Wars… or The Matrix), but they are mostly discussing what’s already in their minds, the mental baggage they have brought with them to the screening, rather than the featherweight content of the script itself.

    There’s nothing wrong with that; my generation frequently engages in “deep” thoughts about children’s cartoons, toys, games, and comics, but the fact that you are able to have a serious discussion about a work has no bearing on whether or not it is trivial. This movie is not a great work of art. It is entertaining and technologically significant, but artistically trivial – a very pretty movie with an adequate, dull, lifeless script. It’s simple message is transparent and delivered poorly in a cliche-ridden plot by shallow characters, and no one other than young children should expect to be moved or enlightened. Alrght, that’s all. I promise. I’m shooting my argument in the foot by thinking so much about this fluffy bit of eyecandy.

  • MaryAnn

    The film is hamfistedly pro-environment

    Wait, are there people who are *anti* environment? Wouldn’t that be like pro-burning down your house?

    /snark

    (although one might question the way the Na’vi force their mental bond onto other creatures, essentially turning them into temporary slaves)

    Ah, but is that just your humanocentricism showing? If — SPOILER!!! — all creatures on Pandora are joined through Eywa, then isn’t that like saying that your brain enslaves your legs when you tell yourself to walk? :->

    Maybe it is. Maybe it isn’t. There’s a lot of what it means to be Pandoran that Cameron left unexplored for — perhaps — other movies.

  • Orangutan

    @amanohyo: I just want to start this off by saying that I have a good deal of respect for you as a commenter here. Your opinions are normally in line with my own, and you’re far more eloquent than I am, like quite a few other commenters here (which is why I rarely post). But this…

    and no one other than young children should expect to be moved or enlightened.

    I feel this is very condescending. Enlightened, yes, I’ll agree with you on that part, but just because you weren’t moved by anything doesn’t mean that someone else isn’t going to be. And I resent the implication that if you are, you’re a child.

    Perhaps it’s just my own emotional baggage, but I found the ceremony where Jake is accepted fully into the clan moving. Perhaps touching is a better word. It struck a chord with me.

  • tomservo

    In this current polarised society, think how It’s a Wonderful Life would be seen by some. An anti-capitalist screed made for touchy-feely liberal do-gooders. How about what John Ford was trying to say in The Searchers?

  • amanohyo

    *gaaah* I keep typing it’s instead of its. That’s bush-league. I apologize for the condescending “young children” remark. There are many adults who were very moved by parts of the movie at my showing. Perhaps they were children at heart or the movie managed to bring out their inner child as it did for A.O. Scott. I shouldn’t judge – I’ve cried at dozens of manipulative, corny “emotional” scenes in kids’ movies. I’m just angry because there’s no meat on this script and somewhat jealous of Cameron’s work ethic… and vast financial resources… and I usually like Michelle Rodriguez and am pissed off that Cameron didn’t do more with her character.

    As for the human-centric perspective regarding the psychic bond with nature.. wait a second, you can’t trick me into thinking any more about this movie. I said I’m done and I’m done. Anyone looking for a fairly decent take on this basic plot should consider reading A Door into Ocean by Joan Slonczewski if they haven’t already. It’s got plenty of flaws, but is a much more nuanced take (although to be fair, it’s a lot easier to delve more deeply into ideas in a novel) on the whole military vs. alien culture theme.

  • Max

    I have no idea who the people were who funded this movie (maybe entirely the elitist James Cameron himself with his own money. One thing it does show is how utterly confused and contradictory Cameron’s world view truly is). All the way through the story and acting frothed and mockingly pushed this totally pathetic, elitist, hypocritical pacifist, new age/earth worship cliches.

    Then add to that this concept that all American Military and even mankind in general are all demented psychotic murders who need to be destroyed or change their ways so they can become like the hypocritical new age aliens who have a confused and contradictory worldview like James Cameron!!

    The story line and cliches was such pathetic hypocritical, contradictory, reverse psychology, globalist, Marxist new age propaganda it was unreal.

    Don’t go to pay to see this movie unless you enjoy funding hypocritical, nihilistic, globalist earth worship propaganda indoctrination, and story lines which shamelessly mock everything good and honorable about military men and women who give their lives every day for honorable causes.

  • Paul

    Thing is, every day we live among the benefits of capitalism. It has given us many wonderful things, including the ability to chat here.

    So I do think we need movies like this to remind us that other people paid a price for our highest standard of living in world history. The 300,000 Latin Americans, the 90,000 Indonesians, and thousands of Iranians, who all died during the Cold War at the hands of dictators installed by the CIA or during civil wars the CIA started. Whether it was for oil, rubber, or in one case bananas, it is worth remembering.

    This does not include the unknown numbers of Vietnamese during our whatever that was, nor the million Muslims who died during the Iran-Iraq War (the CIA and KGB helped fund and arm the Iraqis).

    And the irony of it all is that all those deaths weren’t even “necessary” for capitalism. The loss of Vietnam did not lead to a dominio effect, which was the political justification, nor did it lead to the Commies cutting off our supplies of oil or rubber, which was the classified reason until about three years ago.

    So frankly, I don’t think Americans watch enough movies like Avatar, even if some are better written than others.

  • tomservo

    Hey, Max. Stick to Fox nation and the other Glenn Beck loving maniacs who worship at the altar of ideological purity. I remember when liberals were the annoying know-it-alls, but you people have raised the bar.

  • Der Bruno Stroszek

    If you keep spraying words like “elitist” and “hypocritical” across your posts like spittle on your monitor, incredibly gullible people might fail to notice that you’ve offered absolutely nothing to support these judgements.

  • Paul

    Calling conservative talking heads know it alls is being generous, considering how proud they are of their anti-intellectualism.

    And it case it has not been noticed, military personal are at the disposal of politicians – who may or may not place honor at the forefront of their considerations. So disputing the actions of the military is not disputing the military in of itself, but rather the people who give them orders, which would be politicians. In the same way, disputing the military-industrial complex can be disputing the pork barrel of Congress and weapons manufacturers. One of the ways the stealth bomber program keeps afloat is because the factories that make its parts are scattered over more than 100 Congressional districts, which means over 100 Congress men and women have a vested interest in keeping the program alive. This was not a mistake nor a coincidence, but rather an example of business as usual.

  • stryker1121

    It’s easy to slough off Max’s opinions w/ cheap jokes about Fox News, etc., but as someone who considers himself left of center poltically, I was also put off by Cameron’s subtle-as-an-atom bomb parallels between Pandora and the struggles in Iraq/Afghanistan, and his black and white characterizations that had you ostensibly rooting for ordinary American soldiers to get their “comeuppance,” to quote a poster upthread.

    How about some shades of gray, Cameron? Yes, some of the Na’vi exhibit jealousy and anger, but forget about anything deeper. The big bad of the piece, meanwhile, is basically Dick Cheney with a buzzcut. I’m surprised Cameron didn’t include a scene of him snacking on Na’vi babies.

  • Paul

    I’m all in favor of making fun of Dick Cheney. The fact that you recognize Dick Cheney in a character justifies that character as a villian for me. Half the Bush Administration probably belongs in prisons, but instead they will get pensions. As far as I’m concerned the only Republican President who wasn’t a mistake was Ike, and I’m not too keen on JFK either.

    Not that it matters, but Presidents who I think did more harm than good: JFK, RWR, GWB, Harding, Nixon, Ford (for pardoning Nixon).

    Basically good presidents: Ike, FDR, Truman

    As for the rest, how does one judge Johnson, who did well in some areas and screwed up in others? Or Coolidge, who was proud of twiddling his thumbs and slept 16 hours a day? (Reagan holds the #2 spot at 12 hours) Or Carter, who had the right idea but couldn’t get it done?

  • MBI

    “I’m all in favor of making fun of Dick Cheney. The fact that you recognize Dick Cheney in a character justifies that character as a villian for me. ”

    If this had come out during the actual Bush administration, I might have been more impressed, but an anti-Cheney film released in 2009 comes across as a little stale.

    And you know, we could argue back and forth about the themes, motifs, and James Cameron’s ideology back and forth, but I’ve discovered that the root reason I didn’t care for this film isn’t any of that; it’s that it’s just NOT A VERY GOOD POPCORN FILM. Where were the great scenes, the great dialogue, the great characters? Yes, yes, the world looks lovely, but what was it about the actual movie that made me you jump out of your seat and go HELL YEAH! Where was Arnie going “I’ll be back,” Ripley shouting “Let go of her you bitch!”, or even Leo on the bow of the ship screaming “I’m king of the world!” I guess you guys had that moment, but I just… didn’t. This film had too many wall-banging moments and just not enough… GOOD scenes.

  • Knightgee

    It’s easy to slough off Max’s opinions w/ cheap jokes about Fox News, etc., but as someone who considers himself left of center poltically, I was also put off by Cameron’s subtle-as-an-atom bomb parallels between Pandora and the struggles in Iraq/Afghanistan, and his black and white characterizations that had you ostensibly rooting for ordinary American soldiers to get their “comeuppance,” to quote a poster upthread.

    It’s explicitly stated that these military men are former military who are now nothing more than mercenaries helping a single corporate entity milk this land for profit while screwing over it’s native inhabitants, so if you drew the Iraq/Afghanistan parallels, that’s on you, not the director, because I more immediately thought of imperialism and colonization and didn’t even think of Afghanistan.

  • MBI

    Yeah, this is a corporate security force, not a military, although the difference between a nation and a corporation are frustratingly unclear in the Avatarverse.

    Weirdly enough, I’ve come across something I felt was genuinely thought-provoking in an otherwise painfully retro movie: A lot of people who have sought to knock this movie down a few pegs have noted that it’s a hippy-dippy pro-environment movie that was made with only the most stunningly high-tech and expensive technology, and that struck them as hypocritical. But that’s how it works in-universe too: To commune with nature, Jake needs the aid of a super high-tech avatar system. Science is a vehicle to appreciate nature in this world, and that strikes me as interesting, and even perhaps a surprisingly evolved worldview on Cameron’s part.

  • Paul

    @MBI: As liberal as I am, I sometimes end up feeling lonely in the crowd when I try to argue that higher technology is a better answer to saving the environment than less technology. For years I’ve been reading about cleaner technology in science magazines, but we’ve lacked the political and economic will to use them. Frak, if we’d gone with Carter’s plans, nuclear power would have weaned us off fossil fuels by now. But we elected Reagan instead.

    But labs in California recently invented the laser technology that is the next step towards fusion technology; that would be a game changer. Almost free energy, little waste, and no more air pollution.

  • markyd

    Finally saw the movie a few hours ago…
    Wow. Holy shit, wow. I managed to love this movie, despite all the hype. That’s saying something. Visually above and beyond anything I’ve ever seen at the movies. The 3D was not in your face obvious like other crappy 3D movies. I would say it allowed for more immersion, bringing you into Pandora. The story has been told numerous times before, with the same cliche villains, but the way it’s told here, in this setting, makes it feel different. The best character in the whole movie was Neytiri(sp?). Zoe did a great job with the voice, and the animation was amazing.
    Sam Worthington seems to have a hard time suppressing his Aussie accent. He’s really not all that great, so I’m not sure why they couldn’t have picked someone without an accent. He must have a hell of an agent, considering all that he’s showing up in.
    Regardless, the movie is well worth a trip(or trips) to the theater for the visuals alone.
    I’ll admit to being the choir that this movie is preaching to with it’s message. Take care of the earth, and she takes care of you. A few scenes genuinely got to me (I’m a tree hugger, so take a guess). You really fall in line with the navi, and want them to kick some sky people ass.
    Great movie!

  • CB

    So I finally saw Dances with Space Smurfs, and I have to say I loved it. Now the trailers don’t lie, that’s what it is and the story arc was completely predictable before walking into the theater. It’s the same story we’ve heard many times before, which is okay as long as it’s told well. And aside from mostly thin to outright silly dialogue I think it was.

    One new thing in this retelling, and one of my favorite parts, is Sigourney Weaver’s character. In these culture-swap tales you usually don’t see a character who respects and understands the alien culture while still keeping their own culture/beliefs. It’s always the one character who goes over to “the other side” completely, and everyone else who is now that person’s enemy.

    As far as I’m concerned, Grace’s character puts to pasture the idea that there’s any anti-technology, anti-science or hippie pro-earth-worship message. Grace’s love of nature on Pandora is that of a biologist. Her understanding and respect for the Na’vi culture is that of an anthropologist/sociologist. She ends up on the Na’vi side without actually sacrificing any of her own beliefs. She doesn’t believe in the Na’vi religion other than the part she could verify as real with her own instruments. In an anti-technology movie, the lead scientist or at least the science itself would be an antagonist. Instead, her science team and the advanced technology they use is instrumental in creating a connection between human and Na’vi in the first place, and in stopping the violence.

    Which by the way is also part of why I can’t see how the Na’vi are portrayed as perfect “Noble Savages”. Cus they kinda weren’t. Since the scientists were obviously interested in learning from the Na’vi, the only explanation for why the Avatar program exists is because the Na’vi were too racist to talk to anyone who wasn’t biologically like them. And after humans crossed even that bridge, they wouldn’t trust the ones who wouldn’t fully embrace their warrior culture. The end of the arc of Zoe’s character (short as it was) was when she was able to “see” JakeSully in his human body. They were also tribal and warlike. So hardly portrayed as saints. That they still were shown to be better than the greedy humans who valued money over sentient life was hardly surprising. But those weren’t the only two choices in the movie.

    So the final message is anti-corporate, anti-private army. As if greed has proven itself to be a virtue lately, or ever. Sure it may seem to relate to recent politics, but frankly I think “shock and awe” is going to be in our lexicon long after it refers specifically to Iraq II, and it’s not like freaking mercenaries only picked up amoral connotations thanks to Blackwater.

    Anyway, yeah, great flick.

  • FK

    ‘Avatar’… second reading. OK, sometimes you have a bad day… and everything you do just plain sucks. Budget cuts… forcing me to lay people off… you know the drill. And if you see a film when that garbage is running through your head then there’s no chance you’re going to like it… none… because your mood colors everything.

    On the odd shot that I saw ‘Avatar’ under that cloud I went again. And I must say that I completely enjoyed myself. A better me… a better experience. This time I rolled with the flow… allowed the film to wash over me. No grumpy Scrooge routine. No resistance.

    Oh sure… it has some flaws. The first time Neytiri opened her mouth I was hit with a severe Jar Jar Binks flashback. Fear not. It passed quickly and never resurfaced. And yes, the plot is obvious. It’s not a deep film. There are no story twists… no surprises. Real ‘white hat/black hat’ stuff. But it is a techno-marvel. Well paced. Few groans. OK, maybe ‘unobtainium’. The guy who made that up needs to be flogged. But I’m picking nits. It’s a visual masterpiece.

    Go see it… on a good day…

  • dgrhm

    Overall, I would say there was more that interested and intrigued me about the film than repelled me.

    What I liked best was how the all the living things are intricately connected and can communicate with each other via their neural bonding. The Na’Vi really are in touch with their environment.

    Here on Earth, we’re drastically removed from our impact on the local and global environment. It’s not really surprising to see people argue that global warming is a hoax, when most Americans are plugged into television or the internet, and live in cities of glass, concrete, and steel.

    Our obliviousness about our impact on the environment is what is going to doom us as a species.

    The parts of the film I didn’t like was how familiar, cliche, and obvious plot points were.

    Despite all that, I’ll watch the sequel. I hope Cameron really instills how vital it is for people to be in touch with their environment and their impact on it.

    I think the sequel will involve the other tribes of Na’Vi.

  • CB

    “Unobtainium” was a clever joke name for the MacGuffin. It’s only ever used in real life *as* a joke, so the corpo-geek saying it with a straight face meant it was a joke for the geeky elements of the audience.

    I hope there isn’t a sequel, frankly. It would have to be about the other tribes. If the humans come back, and still want the stuff, they’re going to start with orbital bombardment. But the other altrernative sounds boring. Let it stand on its own, I say. Who knows what will actually happen, but Cameron can probably resist pressure from the suits if he wants to.

    He has other things on his plate, anyway. I’m definitely looking forward to his Battle Angel Alita adaptation.

  • Jolly

    I saw the movie last night, and in addition to enjoying it, appreciated the implications of the technology for future science fiction yarns. That said, I felt a dissonance that was perhaps best summarized by Nevik Moore:

    The liberal fantasy does not deny the ravages of imperialism, and can eloquently decry it; but then what? …we walk out of the multi-plex movie theater attached to the ginormous (sic) shopping mall full of goods manufactured overseas by people subsisting on less than a dollar a day; get in our cars that put CO2 in the atmosphere, warming the planet and raising sea levels that threaten to erase entire island communities that have existed for thousands of years; and marvel at the 3D special effects that cost almost half a billion dollars to produce.

    http://nevikmoore.livejournal.com/401246.html

  • Son of Dolly The Sheep

    Well after seeing AVATAR three times in full IMAX GT I have to say that it was a wasted opportunity. Most of the critics have showm themsleves up greatly by making it obvious they have never before stepped inside a 3D cinema. By not doing so they have neglected the fantastic achievements that IMAX GT has produced before this film was even released. If Cameron has done one thing it is to hype up millions out of their grumbling inertia and get into the IMAX. The fact that 95% are gobsmacked is simply beacause they have been ignorant of what IMAX has previuously achieved. Simple!

  • Boingo

    I went already reading reviews that the plot was no
    original masterpiece. I went for the touted “state of the art efx.” I wasn’t disappointed. I love a serious,
    original, mentally stimulating plot more often than not,but like occasionally needing a quick fast food hamburger(deluxe)vs. fine dining, it suited my needs,and I knew what to expect (plot-wise).Cameron’s target audience seemed broad based,meaning he’d have to simplify an emotional tug towards teens and kids.I have no doubt,part of the movie ‘s broad based intentions are to have the action figures ready to roll, simplifying good guy/ bad guy themes.It’s about the blockbuster big bucks.

  • MaryAnn

    Most of the critics have showm themsleves up greatly by making it obvious they have never before stepped inside a 3D cinema.

    Well, I have. And I’ve reviewed both 3D and IMAX movies before.

    The liberal fantasy does not deny the ravages of imperialism, and can eloquently decry it; but then what?

    Okay, but not all of us own cars. Not all of us blindly buy crap made in China by imprisoned political dissidents or made in the Third World by enslaved children. And not everyone mistakes critiques of unfettered capitalism for a call for an end to money. Come on. What’s been made plain by what’s happened to America since Reagan is that the average citizen does not understand the ravages of imperialism (even when they manifest themselves in ways that clearly impact them, such as the impending death of the middle class). If a movie like *Avatar* can open up some eyes to those facts, isn’t that a good thing?

    Or is Nevik Moore suggesting that movies like *Avatar* should not be made until we’ve righted all the wrongs it highlights?

  • doa766

    Avatar just passed The Dark Knight’s worldwide record, and it will pass pirates 2 and Return of the king before next weekend

    even if it doesn’t beat Titanic JC will own the two highest grossing movies of all time

  • Jolly

    Okay, but not all of us own cars. Not all of us blindly buy crap made in China by imprisoned political dissidents or made in the Third World by enslaved children.

    I commend you for bravely resisting imperialism through your shopping decisions. I’ll bet you even buy carbon offsets for your flights.

  • Jolly

    Or is Nevik Moore suggesting that movies like *Avatar* should not be made until we’ve righted all the wrongs it highlights?

    I don’t believe that’s her intention; I think she’s simply pointing out that the political subtexts of Avatar are largely inconsequential, no matter the warm glow you got from rooting for the Na’vi. Comments about “shock and awe” aside, no one is going to equate the Na’vi to either the Iraqis or the Afghans. The Na’vi obviously represent Native Americans. So once more we can wring our hands at crimes past and feel smug that we are much more enlightened than our ancestors. Like you I don’t own a car, but I have the self-awareness to know that my flying more than offsets that choice, in terms of pollution. (I’m also selfish enough that I haven’t changed my behaviour regarding travel.)

    I’m not sure why you’re telling me about your pre-existing consumer behaviour, which seems to be largely irrelevant to Avatar‘s potential for bringing change, either to the Empire or the environment. However, I rather suspect that a number of the companies that appear on the ad banners on this page engage in precisely the business practices you decry. I’m not suggesting that this is hypocrisy on your part…it simply illustrates the limits of individual behavior in addressing the world’s evils.

  • Bluejay

    I don’t know, Jolly–I don’t feel the need to belittle people’s attempts to respond to the world’s evils through their own small personal choices, futile though they may seem. Acts of conscience have value in and of themselves.

    Re: Avatar: I agree with those who’ve said the plot is overly familiar and the characters not particularly memorable, but the special effects really do take the film to another level and, I think, are reason enough to see it. I found the story serviceable without being distractingly insulting (but see http://www.aintitcool.com/node/43429 for another take on it), which left me plenty of time to appreciate the amount of effort and imagination that went into realizing Pandora’s flora and fauna. Normally I wouldn’t recommend a movie for its scenery rather than its story, but I’ll make an exception for this one. It’s absolutely ravishing, and unlike anything else I’ve seen onscreen.

    Only a matter of time until someone marries this technology to a truly great story. I can’t wait.

  • JasonJ

    Rather than prattle on like a pseudo-intellectual trying to make things more than they are, I’ll tell it like it was:

    I was in a packed theater. I had nothing but teenagers in front of my wife and I, and a family behind us that was too stupid to leave their 4 year old at home with the sitter. Said 4 year old not only talked through most of the two hour forty minute runtime, but it also spent that runtime kicking the back of my seat.

    All of this was as consequential to me as the background hiss found on 33 rpm vinyl records. That was how good this movie was to us. My wife, who has close to a decade of formal higher(and expensive) education and generally dismisses this sort of movie outright was thoroughly engaged the entire time. We discussed this movie the entire 30 minute drive home, and we rarely discuss movies. Revolutionary Road was the last movie we discussed, but that is another matter.

    Maybe it has enviro-tainment themes, whatever. It did exactly what I expect a movie to do, which is to make the crap going on outside the theater disappear for two hours and 40 minutes. I was unsure if anything could unseat District 9 as Most Awesome Movie I have seen in a long time, but Avatar did it.

    So if people want to make this movie into a commentary on the horrors of capitalism or racism or whatever, have at it. I have better things to do.

  • Jolly

    @Bluejay – Some of those “acts of conscience” that you refer to deserve to be ridiculed. They’re often more about self-image than any serious engagement with the problem at hand. Like those that go on long-haul flights as a reward for their recycling efforts:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2008/sep/24/ethicalliving.recycling

    I regret my comment at 7:28, as I hadn’t really understood what I now think MaryAnn was saying and ended up making a needlessly personal comment. For that, I apologize.

  • Bluejay

    But Jolly, I think you’re confusing the good that people do in some areas with their failure to do good in other areas. Sure, frequent flyers who recycle may be hypocrites, and they may be in it more for self-image, but it doesn’t mean they should stop recycling; the recycling itself is the act of conscience, and it’s a good thing, regardless of who does it or why it’s done. Of course the hard part is to convince people to do more than just recycle, but I don’t see how it helps to discount the small bit of good they already do.

    In any case, we should stop prattling on like pseudo-intellectuals trying to relate a movie to real-world issues, because we’re probably boring JasonJ and he has better things to do. ;-)

  • Paul

    I don’t.

  • Bluejay

    Thinking more about the self-image thing–I wonder if it would actually be more effective to encourage it in more areas, rather than ridicule it. How many people who recycle (frequent flyers or not) have a thorough, nuanced grasp of the issues, and how many more are doing it just because it makes them feel good about themselves? It’s a good thing either way, no? And it’s probably easier to get people to do something out of self-image than out of genuine altruism. So would it be possible for some marketing firm to popularize the idea that it’s ultra-cool NOT to fly?

  • Bluejay

    Since there was some discussion earlier about the science in Avatar, here’s a pretty detailed analysis from an astrophysics professor who posted on AICN, for anyone interested:

    http://www.aintitcool.com/node/43440

  • Orangutan

    That is a really cool article, Bluejay! Thanks for sharing it. :D

  • KLW

    I’ve seen Avatar twice now and enjoyed it even more the second time than the first. While I thought it was a marvelous movie, it falls far short of being a great movie, in my opinion. It’s something of a credit to Cameron to have moved the story along in so appealing a way, even though the story is only original in the way it pieced together so many previous plot lines and so much of the dialogue is perfunctory and cliche-ridden. [Speaking of cliches, I will not forgive the man for throwing in the ultimate action-movie cliche: no matter what the story and where it’s gone, how big the climactic battle and how much death and destruction has been part of it, the whole thing is resolved by ‘the good guy’ and ‘the bad guy’ having a fist fight. Christ!]

    I just wanted to make sure I didn’t miss something. I’ve heard this film being touted in various writings as being a ‘breakthrough film.’ Can anyone explain that to me? I can appreciate that there is more CGI and special effects here than in perhaps any previous movie, and I saw they were executed with clear brilliance. That being said, as much as I enjoyed how the film looked, I have a great hunch that I would/will enjoy it no less if I saw it in a 2-D format. And as visually lucious as the movie was, I think of a film like “What Dreams May Come” and would say that visually both films are in the same league. This was my first time seeing a 3-D film [outside the 3-D attractions at Disneyland] and I have to say I was underwhelmed, though it did nothing to hinder my enjoying the movie.

  • Brian

    Lots of people have compared Avatar to movies like Dances with Wolves and to Cameron’s other works, and the connections are undoubtedly there. The work that came most readily to my mind as a comparison, though, was the original King Kong.

    Kong is another movie whose plot, characters, and dialogue are utterly unsophisticated; which features questionable racial politics about indigenous cultures; and whose “message” is delivered in a pretty ham-fisted way. It is, however, a work of childlike curiosity, executed with such passion, joy, and sheer inventiveness, that it seldom fails to draw me in. Until I saw Avatar I could only imagine what it must have been like for a 1930s audience to see something as new and wondrous as King Kong when it represented the cutting edge of film technology. Now I know what it must have felt like.

    Maybe that’s why I feel like giving Avatar a pass on some of the thornier issues, or at least not getting quite as hung up on them as I might, were the film executed poorly. The very fabric of the story is about appreciating the wonder of what’s right in front of you. Like the military/industrial types in the movie who can’t see the beauty of the planet for what it is rather than what it contains, we’ve grown so cynical at today’s CG-driven mega-movies that we often take for granted the fact that we’re witnessing so many miracles of visual invention. It takes a lot to bust us out of our complacency there, but Cameron and company put such wonderful (and such well-thought-out!) stuff in front of us that we can’t help but wonder at it.

  • Bluejay

    [KLW said] This was my first time seeing a 3-D film [outside the 3-D attractions at Disneyland] and I have to say I was underwhelmed, though it did nothing to hinder my enjoying the movie.

    Since you haven’t seen a lot of 3D, you may not realize what a relief it is NOT to have the filmmaker poke the audience in the eyes with various flying/pointy objects, and keep calling attention to the 3D as a gimmick (the Disneyland features do this as well). Instead the 3D is just masterfully used to enhance the environment and make everything feel more real. Is it possible that you felt underwhelmed partly because Pandora and the Na’vi were so fully realized that you didn’t question their existence, and forgot that you were watching special effects? I did.

    (But as others here have mentioned, an unfortunate result of having so-good-they’re-unnoticeable effects is that you can pay more attention to the cliched story, which bothers some people more than others. Whether or not you think it’s a great film depends on how willing you are to forgive its flaws, owing to the strength of its visual imagination.)

    I think of a film like “What Dreams May Come”

    You know, I’d forgotten about What Dreams May Come. I just looked up the trailer on YouTube, and you’re right, the visuals were amazing (although I don’t think it pushed the boundaries in the same technologies as Avatar). I’ll have to see it again.

  • Janaka Weeratunge

    I just watched Avatar in 2D as there are no 3D theaters in Sri Lanka. Even in this ‘reduced’ form it was magnificient and took me back to the days when I was left a gawking, speechless teenager by the original Star Wars movie. I just wish the paltry 12 Dollars my family spent on watching Avatar will contribute to stengthen James Cameron’s hands to make more movies like this!

  • Dr Rocketscience

    Good god I wish I’d seen the Avatar MaryAnn and Bernardanelli and Ebert saw. The version I saw had nothing new to say.
    Stylized animated humans moving through stylized animated environments: check.
    Alien biology in which everything is an analog to earth biology: check.
    3D that separates images into a set of 2D planes of distance, making everything look like cardboard cutouts: check.
    James Cameron is probably right in saying he couldn’t have made this movie look like this in 1994, but in 2009 I see nothing groundbreaking. Can someone please tell me where I’m wrong?

    As for the script, I suppose there’s nothing wrong with a simple, black-and-white morality tale, done well. But this isn’t done well, because it can’t create a universe that is, as John Scalzi calls it, Two Questions Deep. Example: Quarrtich gets Jake to agree to be his spy by offering to get Jake’s spinal cord fixed, an expensive procedure – except, the “Company” is already paying Jake a huge sum of money, implied (and never refuted) to be enough so he could pay for the procedure himself. And that’s one of the least egregious examples. MBI is right: James Cameron wrote this script when he was 15 and didn’t bother to rewrite it at 50.

  • Dr Rocketscience

    Another thought for discussion:

    Consider, in 1999 George Lucas released a highly anticipated film, with exceptional visuals but a poorly thought out script. It was largely admired by critics and made a ton of money.

    And then the backlash kicked in. It hasn’t dissipated yet.

    In 2009 James Cameron released a highly anticipated film, with exceptional visuals but a poorly thought out script. It was largely admired by critics and made a metric butt-ton of money.

    How long till the backlash kicks in? And how long will it last?

  • Anonymous

    The backlash against the Phantom Menace was primarily because the CGI characters were buffoonish and annoying. Sure the script wasn’t great, but it could’ve been a really good movie with some editing and toning down of the “performances.” Avatar presents their characters with dignity, there isn’t a Jar Jar in the lot. I don’t really think the comparisons hold up.

  • Bluejay

    I’m not sure that any backlash against Avatar will compare with the backlash against The Phantom Menace or the two other prequels. The backlash against TPM was due to its failure to satisfy years and years and years of anticipation and increasingly inflated expectations from fans, who revered the original trilogy (rightly or not) as the dominant mythology of their childhood. However high the expectations for Avatar, they weren’t Star Wars-high, and no one disappointed in Cameron’s film will claim that he “raped their childhood.”

    By the way, for a hilarious critique that absolutely destroys TPM, see Red Letter Media’s 7-part (7-part!) series: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FxKtZmQgxrI

    I could’ve done without the extraneous basement-killer parody bits, but the criticisms of TPM’s many flaws are dead on.

  • Paul

    Instead of comparing Avatar to the fourth Star Wars movie they made, you could compare Avatar to the first Star Wars movie made. I think the movies share similiar strengths and weaknesses. And while the plot did not surprise me in any big way, and plots rarely surprise me anyway, the over all effect was still WOW!

    Unfortunately, I couldn’t help but feel a little sad leaving the theater. Historically, what would happen next is the actual military shows up to stomp out the local insurection. The sequel could get ugly.

  • Dr Rocketscience

    Instead of comparing Avatar to the fourth Star Wars movie they made, you could compare Avatar to the first Star Wars movie made.

    Actually, I’m kind of surprised more isn’t being made of this. Both Star Wars and Avatar take archetypal stories (farmboy/princess/pirate vs. dark lord/evil kingdom; civilized man goes native) and give them sci-fi settings. Both movies are lauded more for their technical advancements than for their classical elements of drama. Both are admired for being rousing good times. Both made a metric butt ton of money.

    I have asked myself, had I been 36 in 1977, would I have had the same negative feelings about Star Wars that I have about Avatar. I honestly don’t know.

  • Saw it last night, and read every comment here, too. Whew!

    My thoughts? I liked it a lot. But I didn’t love it. There were lots of things that bugged me.

    *SPOILERS MAY FOLLOW*
    So, the good. It was lovely of course. Beautiful effects. Pandora makes Earth look like a boring craphole. Wonderous is a word I would use to describe it! It was emotional too. It succeeded in making me identify with the Na’vi. The scene where their tree was destroyed was pretty heartwrenching.

    And Grace? Yeah, she rules. I agree with someone upthread who said that her existence in the movie proved that Avatar was NOT anti-science/technology at all. Because of her, I didn’t see this movie as an “all humans are evil scum, as is science/technology” morality play.

    In a similar vein, I found the female characters diverse and well-written. Yes, it was still a story about a (white) man, about his journey. But, it was still good. Women kicked just as much ass and weren’t always needing saving. Oh, and the fact that it was Neytiri who delivered the killing blow to Colonel Evil was awesome.

    I liked the air thing. You know, the fact that Pandora was hostile to humans, physically. People upthread had some (valid, IMO) gripes about the Rubber Forehead Alien physiology of the Na’vi and how aliens are always portrayed as closer to humans despite that being highly unlikely in reality. But at least the planet itself was alien enough as to be deadly to humans. Too often in sci-fi, the aliens are green humans, they breathe oxygen, and they speak perfect english! So, yeah.

    THE BAD. Hoo boy.
    – My biggest one. Jakesully learns in three months what native Na’vi train their whole lives to get good at? Seriously? Look, just having the Na’vi body isn’t enough! Cripes, at least Tarzan lived with the apes since infancy and so had time to adapt. And also, the big red legendary bird. OF COURSE he masters what only a handful of Na’vi in countless years have been able to master. What. the. crap.
    – This movie was way too in love with slow motion. And the Last Minute Save. A few times, sure. But numerous times over three hours gets laughable.
    – Really, Neytiri? No shock whatsoever when you see Jakesully’s real form? No flash of surprise or disgust or anything? That whole scene where she holds his tiny, frail human form just recalled for me the scene in the beginning where she told him he was “like a baby!” And how. Little baby Jakesully.
    – Colonel Evil McMustachetwist was probably one of the most shallow, annoying villians in recent memory. God, why won’t he JUST DIE? I didn’t think it could get any worse than Clayton from Tarzan. (Yeah, I know, Tarzan again. I can’t help it.)
    – Also, Neytiri: you are next in line to be spiritual priestess. Warrior Dude is slated to be your mate and be chief. And it’s totally okay for you to forget what was implied to be very deep-seated cultural traditions and pick some alien man for your mate after knowing him some scant weeks? And her mother gets mad for like 2 minutes, then everything is fine. Warrior Dude is jealous, but whatever. Nothing about how easy it was to throw their whole natural order into chaos. If it is that easy to thumb your blue nose at tribe tradition, then what is the point of having said tradition? Oh yeah, to create conflict between Warrior Dude and Jakesully. I guess I should just be thankful it didn’t turn into a full-blown pissing contest to “win” Neytiri.
    – Predictable. That cat thing in the beginning, I knew it’d play a role later. When I saw the red bird, I knew Jakesully would end up being a “legendary tamer”. I pretty much pegged who was going to die. Warrior Dude, you shall make a noble sacrifice while dying a warrior’s death. Vasquez, you too, for you are actually too awesome to live. Grace, you won’t make it, but guess what? Your scene totally forshadowed how Jakesully could become a real boy, I mean, a Na’vi.

    I guess that’s all for now. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still glad I went.

  • Paul

    @Accounting Ninja: I bought the idea that Jake learned how to live like one of them, because he had serious survival and combat training already. They made a big deal of it at the beginning, about how he was the only soldier in the Avatar program.

    As for the predictability, frak, how many unpredictable action movies are there?

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    As for the predictability, frak, how many unpredictable action movies are there?

    In the last 10 years? YMMV, of course, but how about:
    The Dark Knight
    Iron Man
    Casino Royale
    Spider Man 2
    The Incredibles
    Pirates of the Caribbean
    Minority Report
    28 Days Later
    Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

  • Orangutan

    – Really, Neytiri? No shock whatsoever when you see Jakesully’s real form? No flash of surprise or disgust or anything? That whole scene where she holds his tiny, frail human form just recalled for me the scene in the beginning where she told him he was “like a baby!” And how. Little baby Jakesully.

    I have a pet theory about this. On the DVD and Blu-Ray Director’s Cut, one of the extended scenes is the mating scene. They do connect using their tentacle-things, sharing memories and emotions, etc. So, I figure Neytiri had already seen him in his natural form from that connection, which is why she wasn’t all shocked to see him like that.

  • Keith

    Was just thinking today, there should be an Aliens vs Avatars. It’d be like the Civil War, the Grays vs the Blues, lol. If not a movie, at least a video game. Aliens vs Predator 2 was awesome, though the recent Avatar game reviews haven’t been all that great.

  • Paul

    @Rocketscientist: I saw 9 of those movies, and while they were good movies, I was only surprised by three of their plotlines. Sometimes a joke or character would surprise me, but not the story. I guess it depends on where you draw the line for surprising. Completely, partially, at all?

  • Paul

    I don’t feel like rereading all the posts to check if someone already mentioned this, but a friend of mine told me the plot to “Fern Gully” by Disney, and it’s basically a fantasy version of “Avatar,” with cute little fairies instead of giant Pandorians. Except, “FG” came first.

    Ah, how the stories get told and told again. It should be a tvtrope.

  • Drakula

    I was very impressed by the movie even though I did not see it in 3D so next time I will see it in 3D.

    I was still stunned by the visual effects it is literally a twenty first century work of art, and should be recognised as such. Cameron did a first class job of directing.

    The story is a common theme that is happening all around the world and I see it as an important allegory to what Cheveron company is doing to the indigenous people of the Amazon district of Equador.

    This is a very important film in raising the consciousness.

  • r007

    You actually LIKED this tree-hugging propaganda turd of a movie? We. Are. Done. MaryAnn.

  • Captain Swing

    Saw this today – I enjoyed it a lot but if I were Alan Dean Foster I’d be checking that my lawyers knew how to spell plagiarism. Midworld anyone?

  • Robert P

    I’m probably the last person on the planet to see it – actually there was one couple in there besides me in the huge, vacant theater last night, and caught it on the last show of the last night of it being shown in 3D locally.

    Sort of Dances With Wolves meets Pocahontas meets Star Wars. I kept waiting to hear “…how hiiiigh does the Tree of Souls grow, if you cut it down, you’ll never knoooooowww….”

    Pretty much stock stuff plot-wise but what a ride. I agree with everything MAJ says about it being an immersive experience. I was leery about seeing it in 3D since I’ve been unimpressed by previous 3D offerings I’ve seen, but they’ve really got the technology down now. Unlike not-quite-right 3D I’ve seen in the past, eventually I was able to forget the novelty and just accept the added depth as the norm.

    The CGI humanoids still aren’t to the level of organic believability but my impression is these are the best I’ve seen to date. Along with overall fluidity of movement, it seemed they paid attention to hands, limbs and facial expressions which have typically seemed to be the weakest points to me.

    I wonder how early cinema audiences would have reacted if having seen only the herky-jerky silent B&W films they were suddenly exposed to something like this, if they would have regarded it as some kind of black magic or the like.

    Re: the configuration of the Na’vi others have mentioned

    The really annoying thing is the artistic laziness of it. Cameron had the talent at his disposal to design something anatomically believable and yet still fully alien, and he chose this.

    Some speak about what aliens are likely to look like as if it’s established fact that they’re not going to have humanoid characteristics. No matter what some PhD scientist has to say about it, they’re still engaging in speculation on the matter with -0- substantiation. If we look at our own planet, there’s a large population of critters that display a similar basic architecture – bilateral symmetry and four limbs. The creatures at the top of the evolutionary ladder walk upright, have opposable thumbs. As much as I enjoyed ET, I thought ET’s basic persona wasn’t really believable. His body wasn’t conducive to mobility, his hands clumsy. He was designed for cuteness not utility.

    What would have made these folks happier – squat creatures with telescopic eyes and organic springs for mobility? If they *had* come up with something really off the wall I wonder if they’d have bitched about that too, how they “can’t relate” or something. I’m fine with the humanoid model in this case.

    I see commentary regarding boobs. Interesting that Na’vi boobs are all pert and athletic and just happen to be minimally, strategically draped by that neck adornment.

    Accounting Ninja

    Really, Neytiri? No shock whatsoever when you see Jakesully’s real form? No flash of surprise or disgust or anything?

    My understanding is she’d seen humans before. I gather that’s how she learned English. Or had they only seem them through Avatars? Some of the dialogue indicated that they grasped the basic nature of the technology that was being used.

    Also, Neytiri: you are next in line to be spiritual priestess. Warrior Dude is slated to be your mate and be chief. And it’s totally okay for you to forget what was implied to be very deep-seated cultural traditions and pick some alien man for your mate after knowing him some scant weeks?

    That’s a chick for ‘ya…

    A bit off track:

    The backlash against TPM was due to its failure to satisfy years and years and years of anticipation and increasingly inflated expectations from fans, who revered the original trilogy (rightly or not) as the dominant mythology of their childhood.

    The dominant mythology of their childhood. Hmmm… I wonder if these folks who have so much of their psyche wrapped up in this know the history of their own real life world as well as they do the minutiae of some make-believe universe.

  • Robert P

    Forgot to subscribe…

  • Nathan F

    My understanding is she’d seen humans before. I gather that’s how she learned English. Or had they only seem them through Avatars? Some of the dialogue indicated that they grasped the basic nature of the technology that was being used.

    She saw Grace’s human body when Jake took her to the Tree of Souls, which would explain how she also knew about the oxygen masks.

  • thomskis

    Yehawww! Shit-kicking jackass.

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