James Cameron's AVATAR

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Comments

  • RyanMMRyanMM Ferndale, MI
    edited December 2009
    Lincoln wrote:
    Everything else you said, meaning I disagreed with your 2D comment. There was no uncanny valley.

    Interesting. Even the world looked real, despite being all glowing and fake? I just can't imagine that part looking as actualized without the 3D to make it pop.
  • LincLinc Bard Detroit
    edited December 2009
    I have nothing to compare it to. All I know is that it successfully suspended disbelief.
  • LincLinc Bard Detroit
    edited December 2009
    UPSLynx wrote:
    TRON was the first real usage of computer generated visual effects on a grand scale. It changed everything regarding VFX.
    Sure, and then it became hopelessly dated and a running gag. Star Wars, Kane, and Jaws raised the bar and achieved timelessness. I'm dubious as to whether Avatar will rise to their level, but it may.
  • UPSLynxUPSLynx :KAPPA: Redwood City, CA
    edited December 2009
    Linc, I made mention of those films for their groundbreaking nature, not necessarily longevity. TRON is ridiculously cheesy, it has aged horribly, but it did something HUGE for computer graphics in films.

    AVATAR will have a similar effect. Regardless of its longevity as a film, it has changed the face of computer graphics, motion capture, and 3D cinema presentation in film.

    Dave, though most will disagree with me, I did have a connection to the characters. It wasn't as intense as more dramatic films, but there was a connect. I didn't want the movie to end, and I loved the immersion into the world of Pandora. I did not, however, percieve a 'meaning' if you will, from this film. I don't go to movies to buy into deeper meanings or messages behind the presentation. I go to listen to a story and be entertained. I don't like hidden agendas, and I choose not to roll with them in movies. The reality of such is a tragedy, that people must oppress others to progress their own interests. It's the sad history of mankind, really. But I don't think Avatar represents that in particular - it is a storytelling device afterall.
  • edited December 2009
    Heh... Hijinks Ensue had an amusing comic about avatar (in relation to the two Star Wars Trilogies). Make sure to read the blog post that goes with it. It's quite amusing.

    http://hijinksensue.com/2009/12/21/triumph-of-the-usurper/
  • BuddyJBuddyJ Dept. of Propaganda OKC
    edited December 2009
    What has Avatar done that's so different? It sounds like the production techniques behind it are just natural progressions of well-established technologies. Is it standing on the shoulders of giants, or did it break new ground?
  • GrimnocGrimnoc Marion, IN
    edited December 2009
    Lincoln wrote:
    Sure, and then it became hopelessly dated and a running gag. Star Wars, Kane, and Jaws raised the bar and achieved timelessness. I'm dubious as to whether Avatar will rise to their level, but it may.

    And this is one of my main points. Avatar may well be remembered for what it contributed to the effects industry, but it will never be remembered as a timeless film because none of the elements of what helps make a film 'timeless' are there. Guaran-friggin'-teed.
  • SnarkasmSnarkasm Madison, WI
    edited December 2009
    And what, pray tell, makes a film timeless?

    Just wondering what your criteria are.
  • ThraxThrax Professional Shill, Watch Slut, Mumble Hivemind Drone Austin, TX
    edited December 2009
    My opinion on the movie is better than your opinion on the movie.
  • BuddyJBuddyJ Dept. of Propaganda OKC
    edited December 2009
    My troll is better than your troll.
  • UPSLynxUPSLynx :KAPPA: Redwood City, CA
    edited December 2009
    Buddy J wrote:
    What has Avatar done that's so different? It sounds like the production techniques behind it are just natural progressions of well-established technologies. Is it standing on the shoulders of giants, or did it break new ground?


    The natrual progression of technologies can be branded to all of those past films we've been talking about as well. The fact that people can't tell what makes it so special is why they were COMPLETELY successful is progressing the art. These films are important simply because they advance the techniques. I never made an argument that AVATAR will go down as a timeless classic - though I also do not suggest that it won't - the discussion from the start has been about how important a release this film is for the future of VFX and 3D techniques in filmmaking. The technology can now stop being the focus of films due to the uncanny valley, or the 'gimmicky' values that some films use it for. The tech can assist the story and finally find it's right place in films.

    The 3D presentation alone marks this revolutionary. Film studios years into the future will shoot live action with the methods developed in AVATAR. Cameras that capture depth in 3D. That is a massive leap forward to assist the technology. 3D already is the next big frontier in film presentation. AVATAR is the standardization of that technology in application. So many have been trying it, and so many have failed. Until now.

    The virtual camera capture system for the CGI sequences is enough to change the game for films that are done entirely in computers. The camera can make or break the believability of a film. Look at Wall-E, for instance. Rather than a virtual camera, they programmed their rendering and animation software to simulate the most minute of details of a real film camera. The result is the most convincing camera work in an animated film we've ever seen. That kind of effort needs to be applied to VFX in film as well, and AVATAR certainly dished the goods there.

    These progressions are subtle. But they're important in that they finally pull all the pieces together, and pave the way for studios to achieve these results using the right techniques. It's the benchmark to future films, and everyone will certainly be doing their best to catch up.
  • edited December 2009
    Lincoln wrote:
    Sure, and then it became hopelessly dated and a running gag. Star Wars, Kane, and Jaws raised the bar and achieved timelessness. I'm dubious as to whether Avatar will rise to their level, but it may.

    When you look at Star Wars and Jaws specifically, (and when I say Star Wars I obviously mean the original trilogy), what elevates them to timelessness is the human drama. Jaws as a technical achievement is cool and all, but everyone knows the best scene is under the deck with all the guys drinking together, and the reveal about the USS Indianapolis. If you don't care about the man being eaten by the giant mechanical shark, it really does not matter what the visual effect delivers, its all in the set up, the human drama.

    In Star Wars you really feel invested in those characters, sure, the visuals were astounding, but unless you care about Luke, Leia, Han, Chewie, even the droids you don't go back to that film just to watch things blow up. You can lop someones hand off and destroy his perception of the world two seconds later, or freeze a guy alive, but none of it matters unless the audience is invested, unless they care about the characters, and at one time, Lucas understood this and thats why I whip out one of the original trilogy DVD's every few months to watch them again and again.

    On the opposite end of the spectrum, take the transformers, do you really give a damn about Sam and his tramp? Nope, things go bang, they look impressive as hell, and I would even say you got your nine bucks worth at the theater, but ultimately, its not a film your going to pop in thirty years from now and marvel at it as an achievement just for its technical aspects, because frankly, the only compelling characters in the whole story are the non human ones, and perhaps the Mom and Dad added for comic relief. Watching a film to see things go bang works for the first playback, but unless there is a compelling story, you can't call it timeless.

    I have not seen Avatar, but I know Cameron is a filmmaker that "gets it". Take Terminator 2, a film decorated for its technical achievement in visual effects at the time, now about 20 years later T2 is still, every bit as good as the first time you watched it because you care about the Connor's. You want them to survive, its even sad when the smelt Arnold at the end. In other words, visual effects are one thing, but they alone can't make a film "timeless", a great story with human drama and characters that you actually care about is what you return for.
  • GrimnocGrimnoc Marion, IN
    edited December 2009
    Well I'm not sure about what definitely will make a film timeless, but there are certainly elements of film that timeless films have more often than not...which I would argue Avatar certainly does not have.

    Not all of the following are necessarily needed for a timeless/classic film, but some of them certainly are.

    1. Well developed characters.
    These would be characters that without which the movie would significantly change either for the better or worse. Avatar's characters are so completely generic that you could replace them with any other soldier/scientist/general/techie/space indian/evil corporate guy and it would matter jackdiddly.

    2. A story which adds something to the film, hopefully one that is also unique at least in some ways. This one is a little tougher to explain on a forum because there are so many things that mark a good story, as well as mark a bad story. I'd say though that when one can easily rip out or change entire sections of the plot without it having much effect on the prime story (like you can with Avatar) then you have a problem with you story being unessential.

    3. Writing, writing, writing.
    There is no way the importance of good writing can be overstressed in regard to film. Take Pulp Fiction for example. While it has lots of other things going for it (on which I won't go into detail), the writing is easily what makes it a movie that will (and does) continue to stick around. John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson's characters would be utterly forgetable if it weren't for the writing. Avatar completely fails in this regard. First, the characters aren't even well developed (scratch that, developed at all) as mentioned above, but more importantly what they say is totally unimportant because all it serves to do is tell you what's happening onscreen. Avatar could have half as much talking and once again it would change diddly. Someone could rewrite the script having all the characters say the same damn things but in slightly different ways and nothing would be missing, no one would care.

    4. Directing...this Avatar actually does decent enough, but once again it doesn't really rise above any other decent/mediocre film out there. The fighting may look prettier, but it doesn't mean that it is actually directed better. And now I'm tired of writing so if someone wants more elaboration on this point I'll give it...but I need to get back to working.
  • SnarkasmSnarkasm Madison, WI
    edited December 2009
    Grimnoc wrote:
    I'd say though that when one can easily rip out or change entire sections of the plot without it having much effect on the prime story (like you can with Avatar) then you have a problem with you story being unessential.

    Examples?

    Storyline (grossly simplified, and spoilered for those who care):
    Guy's twin brother dies
    Guy takes brother's place because he has the genetic capability to do so (for reason above)
    Guy gets wrangled by superior into spying on indigenous race
    Guy meets race, tries to be accepted into it (for reason above)
    Guy learns race's ways and customs (for reason above)
    Guy has change of heart (for reason above)
    Guy is accepted into race (for reasons above)
    Guy falls in love with his teacher (hell, that's only natural)
    Guy tries to fight back against superiors (for reasons above)
    Superiors try to pull the plug (for reason above)
    Sidekicks help break everybody out (for reasons above)
    Guy asks help from race's goddess (for reasons above)
    Superiors are, well, superior, and start wiping people out
    Goddess helps (for reasons above)
    Humans get kicked out (for reason above)
    Guy becomes full-time Na'vi (for reasons above)

    What part of the story do you imagine could be ripped out with inconsequential effects on the rest of the story?
  • BuddyJBuddyJ Dept. of Propaganda OKC
    edited December 2009
    Snark, you forgot the part about the tatonka. John Dunbar. Tatonka.
    <object width="425" height="344"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/zMOQORiWn80&hl=en_US&fs=1&"></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/zMOQORiWn80&hl=en_US&fs=1&"; type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true" width="425" height="344"></embed></object>

    UPSLynx wrote:
    The natural progression of technologies can be branded to all of those past films we've been talking about as well...

    Yeah, I guess to some extent that could be said. Citizen Kane builds on Battleship Potemkin. Jaws came about from animatronics... TRON, imho, is probably the most groundbreaking in that regard. They did something so advanced A) nobody understood wtf they were seeing, and B) was considered to be "cheating" at the time by the industry making it ineligible for any awards.

    If you're suggesting that AVATAR has perfected the medium (3D CGI cinematography) or at least set a new standard, I can't argue. I'm left wondering if it'll really catch on given the expensive production costs.
  • JasonJason PDX
    edited December 2009
    Here's my half-assed review from last week:
    Last night, I went with a group of people to see James Cameron's new film, Avatar. My initial thoughts: only James Cameron can take Pocahontas, throw in a dash of FernGully and a pinch of Dances with Wolves, and turn it into a wicked 3 hour anti-imperialist, pro-environmentalist sci-fi epic.

    That's not to say the film's great — Cameron's formula is tired to say the least — but it's still pretty damn good despite its unremarkable plot. Make no mistake, the movie's a visual masterpiece. Cameron takes CG filmmaking to an entirely new level with his revolutionary VFX, which are nothing short of stunning. And believe me, the 3D helps a WHOLE lot.

    But sadly, the film falls flat in almost every other area. Don't get me wrong, I love a good old-fashioned action/romance once in a while, but a film as visually groundbreaking as this deserves an equally groundbreaking script. Instead, Cameron appears to have played it safe with cliche after predictable cliche, presumably to make it appealing to as wide of an audience as possible.

    And while I appreciate its centre-left politics, I feel Cameron does them a bit of a disservice by disseminating them through simplistic stereotypes that almost ridicule themselves, e.g., idealized natives with, as a my friend once quipped, "a utopic level of peace and harmony with nature and each other," over-the-top American-style imperialism, a greedy corporate exec who cares more about his company's quarterly earnings than his conscience, etc.

    Nevertheless, the movie as a whole has such an incredible impact that it mostly makes up for its unoriginal storyline and one-dimensional characters, as does the solid performances by Zoe Saldana, Sam Worthington and the rest of the cast. As many faults as this film has, they didn't stop stop me from enjoying it, and that's what I think makes it worth seeing in the theatre.
  • JasonJason PDX
    edited December 2009
    I'm only going to saw this here once, well, maybe twice. This is a tech blog/forum, I would expect there be talk about the CG and 3D experience being ground breaking, blah blah blah.

    But what I really wonder if what percentage you feel the audience will take home and realize the "we are all one and connected" message.

    I'm not soft, but the film's presentation broke my heart that effing idiot military leaders still exist in our society fighting for crap like greed. That a simple cancer cell is a microcosm of the war we see in front of us. Or a pesky computer virus is some hacker's attempt to make a name for him/herself (or the virus companies keeping job security). Either way...

    Technology aside (is this a life forum post?) --- Is this film about survival of the fittest or survival of the most adaptive?

    That's a really interesting question, Dave. Personally, I think the film's message is a bit of both.
    On the one hand, the film has a very kumbaya feel to it. The Na'vi can bond with other lifeforms and each other in a way that's more intimate than anything we're capable of experiencing. They can actual become one with another sentient being in a spiritual yet tangible way. Not only that, but they're perfectly adapted to their environment, and are able to bond with nature, as well as their ancestors, in the same spiritual yet tangible way via the Tree of Souls.

    On the other hand, life on Pandora is still very harsh. The Na'vi are warriors, and only the bravest, strongest and most agile survive. Their main rite of passage, for example, bonding with a banshee, is an extremely dangerous ordeal that requires some mad skillz. And as fierce as the Na'vi are, they must hunt even as they are hunted by other, fiercer creatures such as the leonopteryx and the thanator. In this case, the most adaptive appear to also be the strongest, thus in the Na'vi, the ideas of both Darwin (most adaptable to change) and Spencer (survival of the fittest) seem to meet.

    As for the rest, I doubt that many people will take home the "we are all one and connected" message in any meaningful way. In general, I suspect that the more left-leaning, environmentalist, optimistic, socially conscious crowds, etc. will have their views reaffirmed, while the more right-leaning, environmentally skeptical, pessimistic, less socially conscious crowds, etc. will have a field day criticizing the film's politically simplistic stereotypes. And the average, indifferent moviegoer will probably still not give a shit.

    And to be honest, I think that's a shame. I found a lot to be critical of myself, but I still appreciate the attempt to expose a broader audience to more centre-left, anti-imperialistic and environmentally friendly politics in a way that's not too preachy. The problem is, doing so in a 3 hour sci-fi epic basically requires them to be presented in extremes that are easy to understand (since it can't be assumed that the audience will be familiar with the necessary subtleties), but also easy to ridicule due to their exaggerated nature.

    Then again, the film has sparked a lot of debate already, and considering the historical backdrop in which it's been released, it might have more of a social impact than I suspect it will. I guess only time will tell.

    Jason
  • SnarkasmSnarkasm Madison, WI
    edited December 2009
    FWIW, the corporate head showed more remorse than I expected out of him. Every time he sent them in toward the end of the movie, he looked regretful about it.
  • UPSLynxUPSLynx :KAPPA: Redwood City, CA
    edited December 2009
    Buddy J wrote:
    If you're suggesting that AVATAR has perfected the medium (3D CGI cinematography) or at least set a new standard, I can't argue. I'm left wondering if it'll really catch on given the expensive production costs.

    That's what I've been trying to get at. I can't suggest that the story of AVATAR will go down in history as an all time classic. There's no way I could argue that. But the technology and techniques cannot be denied, and they will pave the way for future cinema. Not immediately, of course. This level cost almost 500 million dollars. But the tech will become cheaper, and the methods refined. Within maybe a year or two, this kind of stuff will be approachable by other studios, and before long, this is what the medium will ascend to.

    Grimnoc, I was thinking last night about your continued pursuit of the 'lack of imagination' point. I've made clear that I think the decision by Cameron to make the Na'vi and Pandora the way it is as to make it easier for the audience to relate to all of it, and to side with th Na'vi. I thought of something else last night.

    The experience of AVATAR is something completely new. The 3D, the visuals, the entire spectacle is completely new to the viewers. That's not an easy task, to introduce an audience that is so used to a system to something this bold. I stated originally that I appreciated the simple story as it let me focus and be sucked into the world. Perhaps that also accounts for this 'lack of imagination.' This completely new experience, coupled with mind bending unique creatures and species may have become overwhelming to viewers. From that perspective, Cameron's approach totally makes sense.

    Jim wants AVATAR to be a trilogy, we know this. He wants this to be his Star Wars, if you will. He's established whats going on - both in technology and canon - with this first film. People are used to it now. That could leave him open to completely knock the next story out of the park. He could take some new risks, and really do something unique.
  • SnarkasmSnarkasm Madison, WI
    edited December 2009
    I'm seeing it again, in IMAX 3D this time, on Saturday in Amsterdam. This day will be magnificent.
  • chrisWhitechrisWhite Littleton, CO
    edited December 2009
    I need to make it back out and see it again, I so want to get another chance at it while it's still in 3D at the IMAX.

    Also, I'm with Lynx on just about everything he's said :)
    But what I really wonder if what percentage you feel the audience will take home and realize the "we are all one and connected" message.

    I'm not soft, but the film's presentation broke my heart that effing idiot military leaders still exist in our society fighting for crap like greed. That a simple cancer cell is a microcosm of the war we see in front of us. Or a pesky computer virus is some hacker's attempt to make a name for him/herself (or the virus companies keeping job security). Either way...

    I don't feel like it was that effective of a movie on this level, but I find very few movies that are, I'm just too cynical at this point.
  • DogDragonDogDragon Jacksonville, Fl
    edited December 2009
    OK just saw AVATAR, I didn't read all the good or bad in this thread.
    I wanted to see the movie without second guessing what I think of it
    cause what people post.
    All I want to say is AVATAR is one of the best movie I saw this year.
    It had action (i liked)and a story that my wife enjoyed. So we both
    enjoyed seeing it. When it come to movies me and my wife don't really
    see eye to eye, But this one was a hit to both of us and I plan to to
    get it to add to my other videos. DAMN GOOD movie is all I can say.
  • UPSLynxUPSLynx :KAPPA: Redwood City, CA
    edited December 2009
    DogDragon wrote:
    So we both
    enjoyed seeing it.


    and that, ultimately, is what it's all about.

    Just got back from a second viewing. The movie is a visual spectacle even after a second time. I still left the theater feeling stunned, and having known the story, I was able to pay closer attention to the visuals this time.

    The muscles, particularly. I couldn't believe the definition in the muscles of the Na'vi, how they moved under the skin, how they reacted to touch, fear, and sense. I felt like the realism in the muscle played a HUGE roll in bridging over the uncanny valley. A good example of where to see this:
    In the scene right after the home tree is blown over, they start pulling the plugs on the drivers. When Grace's avatar falls unconcious, she crumples to the ground in slow motion. If you look at her legs, you can see the relaxed muscle moving freely, as it does on your own body. That subtle detail did enormous work for believability.

    Norms avatar was certainly standing beside him at the end... that really is odd.

    Man, the camera work in this film. The zoom ins/outs, the rack focuses. Geez. It is unmatched.
  • KoreishKoreish I'm a penguin, deal with it. KCMO
    edited December 2009
    Norm and his avatar bugged me but not as much as what is Dr. Patel is going to do on Pandora without an avatar and few to no humans for him to interact with.
  • SnarkasmSnarkasm Madison, WI
    edited December 2009
    I enjoyed when they focused on racks as well. Good highlight, Lynx. :p

    I'm going to see it again tomorrow! :D
  • CharshieCharshie Hollywood, California
    edited December 2009
    First off...warning...spoilers...no idea how to tag this shit to hide it.
    Ok...ok.....agree with a lot of what was said in terms of the technology. The whole thing was a visual marvel, a completely enveloping spectacle. Very very pretty. BUT WHAT THE FUCK DUDES, it WAS Fern Gully! It just WAS! I mean, that was my favorite movie as a kid. There were scenes that were visual plagiarisms of Fern Gully!!!!!!!! The way things glowed when stepped on? The scene where they are swimming together doing the breaststroke? The scene where the bulldozers are there and dude is all STOOPPPPP!!! FEERRNNNN GULLY! *flaps* /endrant

    So, since I have no idea how to spoiler tag things, if this is too spoiler-y someone feel free to edit me. :D
  • primesuspectprimesuspect Beepin n' Boopin Detroit, MI
    edited December 2009
    the spoiler tag:

    [ SPOILER ] at the beginning and then [ / SPOILER ] at the end.

    All with no spaces
  • CharshieCharshie Hollywood, California
    edited December 2009
    Thanks and sorry Prime :) But amirite or amirite? Sheesh!!
  • primesuspectprimesuspect Beepin n' Boopin Detroit, MI
    edited December 2009
    Having seen neither movie, I cannot say :p
  • CharshieCharshie Hollywood, California
    edited December 2009
    Oh *HELL* no. LOL. That needs to be remedied, and soon. Good god, someone get this man a torrent, stat.
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