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Avatar - a less technical thread


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#1 Jonathan Bowerbank

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Posted 22 December 2009 - 06:34 AM

Saw it this weekend and was blown away. Of course, it was in the IMAX theatre, in 3D. In regards to the 3D, it was pretty amazing and not as gimmicky as I expected. With all the high flying action, it did well at giving me those feelings of flight, vertigo and sometimes a fear of heights! It was pretty pointless in most interior scenes with the humans, but the cutting back and forth between the alien civilization and the humans was so quick, I suppose Cameron had to stay consistent.

Story wise, I really liked it, sure it borrows from 100's of sources and similar stories, but I enjoyed how he managed to insert a political message of some sort while balancing it with a love story and a spiritual aspect coupled with a touch of science.

And the animation and effects were simply astounding. They took the realism of Gollum from "LOTR" and took it to the next level, really impressive work from the effects teams. And I'm glad they used a relatively unknown actor as the main character, had he been more popular, looking at his "Avatar" version of himself would have been too weird. I was even a little weirded out by Sigourney Weaver's avatar.

All in all, it's just an awesome cinematic experience, and that's what it's meant to be. Don't expect anything more profound than Cameron's other films...there are plenty of chicks with machine guns in this one.
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#2 Mike Lary

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Posted 22 December 2009 - 08:35 AM

I was entertained watching it in 2D, mainly because it was very well paced and the CG was so good (though there were a few cut-and-paste faces that didn't work well). Aside from all the usual grievances of others that I also share, I'll add that the shots were clearly designed for audience reaction (when watched in 3D) and not designed to serve the story. This is the problem I have with all 3D films. 3D isn't used to make a more effective or better film. It's used to make an enhanced viewing experience. If people understand that 'Avatar' was made for said experience and not to be a great film that can be rewatched, dissected, and enjoyed in other viewing environments, I think it's an easy film to enjoy.
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#3 Saul Pincus

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Posted 22 December 2009 - 09:28 AM

It made me believe in 3D being very useful for intimate situations too. Jake's various sleep beds are downright claustrophobic. I would love to have seen the Kill Bill Vol. 2. coffin sequence done this way.
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#4 georg lamshöft

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Posted 23 December 2009 - 05:51 AM

Just saw it in IMAX 3D (70mm) but I'll focus on the movie itself here (having existing critics in mind), not the technical aspects:

It's James Cameron, period. Besides the amazing CGI it's a real adventure with characters you care about, with a strong subtext and not just an endless CGI-show strung together. He wanted to tell this story, he wanted to show us Pandora and he used technology for this reason - not vice versa.

People complain about story or dialogue, a friend of mine didn't like the "typical American Army-Stuff" in the showdown - the story attacks exactly this military-stuff, it's like complaining about Nazis in Schindlers List.... The end was action, it was good vs. evil and you shouldn't expect striking revelations or character development at this point after the first two hours (!). It isn't screwball comedy, there are no "fights with words". I think it's strange that people expect such a thing in an action-adventure, it's like complaining about a missing showdown in "Citizen Kane" or too little humor in "Apocalypse Now" - these two movies are masterpieces but they're not able (and willing) to shine on every aspect of storytelling/cinematic experience, they're still genre pieces...
There was no single scene where I felt treated as stupid, no kitschy dialogue in the false moment (Titanic: "this is were we first met" while the ship is sinking).

I've hoped for a little bit more character development, showing bad aspects of the native-philosophy (
Spoiler
) or a glimpse of hope and reason within the bad guys (Abyss: Coffey apologizes for his behaviour when the audience already thought he is just the bad guy). But maybe Mr. Ribisis character with his inability to act (while regretting some decisions afterwards -
Spoiler
) outside of his shareholder-thinking (he is just a marionette) is closer to reality than we want to admit. Or what about a non-linear storytelling?

But I think Mr. Cameron was fully aware of these options and we have to keep in mind that while this movie really compressed (only suggesting many aspects:
Spoiler
) many scenes (avoiding any redundancy) still had a run time of nearly 3 hours! Maybe a non-linear story, more characters struggling with their decisions would have caused too much distraction!? This movie never felt tiring, constantly staring at the screen enjoying an entirely new world! I think we would only be able to appreciate Mr. Camerons effort if we would have seen this combination of adventure, romance, sci-fi by anybody else, I think he made some very clever desicisions which became barely noticeable because it was done right. It was very "Cameronistic", always having the "storytelling flow" in mind - not a "edgy" movie you have to endure in cinema to appreciate it's social/historic/humnistic efforts later...
But when you think about it and look closely you see many philosophical aspects (
Spoiler


bottom line:
Open your mind, it's an adventure! The storytelling is carefully crafted and it really brings you to another world while staring at silver screen! Isn't this what movies are about? If you expect thrill ("will he make it?" "who was it?") or a christmas comedy, you're watching the wrong film - don't blame it.

Was it perfect? I'm not sure. But I think it was a major breakthrough in storytelling (due to properly used technology) we wouldn't have seen from a simple studio-blockbuster (I'm sure many "Avatar-bashers" will learn to appreciate it when seeing the coming 3D-blockbusters :blink: ) - it is one memorable movie experience! Let's wait ten years, I'm sure it fits in well to his other great movies.

See it in 3D (70mm if you can), frontal and quite close (6th to 8th row in IMAX to fill your view) to the screen - I will watch it again, because this isn't an experience you can recreate with buying the blu-ray a few years later!

10/10
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#5 George Ebersole

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Posted 31 December 2009 - 10:44 PM

I was entertained watching it in 2D, mainly because it was very well paced and the CG was so good (though there were a few cut-and-paste faces that didn't work well). Aside from all the usual grievances of others that I also share, I'll add that the shots were clearly designed for audience reaction (when watched in 3D) and not designed to serve the story. This is the problem I have with all 3D films. 3D isn't used to make a more effective or better film. It's used to make an enhanced viewing experience. If people understand that 'Avatar' was made for said experience and not to be a great film that can be rewatched, dissected, and enjoyed in other viewing environments, I think it's an easy film to enjoy.

Those are pretty much my thoughts on it. Like John said the film borrows from lots of other sci-fi sources, but to me that lends to a kind of organic trait. You can point to where "Avatar" borrowed from movies A, B, C, D, but it was still entertaining.

The more I think about it, the more I think that 3D would seem to be a genre unto itself. Just like a mystery, action film, drama or plain vanilla flavored science fiction, I think 3D does add to the visual experience, but it seems to be a niche genre. Kind of like film noire.
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#6 Morgan Peline

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Posted 08 January 2010 - 11:54 PM

Dances With Smurfs!
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#7 Keith Walters

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Posted 27 January 2010 - 09:17 PM

Am I the only person in the world who thought it was a really ugly looking movie and that the 3D didn't really work?

Oh well, I'm sure they're sobbing hysterically and unconsolably all the way to the bank

I thought it was visually stunning, and I was particularly impressed by the fact they're weren't afraid to let occasional bits of scientific plausibility creep into the story. Like the fact that Pandora could have such a rich and triving ecosystem despite having an atmosphere that humans couldn't breathe, or that there was a plausible explanation for why the Aliens could speak English.

I agree that the Colonel came across as implausibly hostile. It would have been better if the story revealed he had some deep-seated history that he was trying to keep under control.

All this to the side, I strongly suspect James Cameron or other people involved with the production have been reading John Varley's classic Science Fiction Gaea Trilogy: Titan, Wizard, and Demon , since many of the most visually stunning sequences seem to have counterparts in those three novels.

Needless to say I would Love to see those three novels made into 3D movies. It's only taken 30-40 years, but now it's just about technologically possible.

Unlike Avatar, these novels have very strong and original story lines, uncontaminated by Political Correctness or unsolicited "messages" to the audience :lol:
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#8 Richard Boddington

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Posted 28 January 2010 - 09:06 PM

Have you guys seen this?:

http://ca.movies.yah...ffice-king.html

Really a great making of piece.

The part that floored me starts at 12:52, "Virtual Camera." It shows James Cameron looking at the actors on the mo-cap set but seeing them in the world of Pandora where ever he points the camera.

That is freaking un-real, holy cow, how did they do that?????? Amazing.

R,
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#9 Frank Barrera

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Posted 29 January 2010 - 10:47 AM

its insane.
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#10 Richard Boddington

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Posted 29 January 2010 - 11:48 AM

BTW, what is up with the post by georg lamshöft, it looks like gov't agencies blacked out a lot of it, it has black marks over some of the text.

Is it just my browser, or does every one see that?

R,
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#11 Fred Neilsen

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Posted 30 January 2010 - 04:43 AM

BTW, what is up with the post by georg lamshöft, it looks like gov't agencies blacked out a lot of it, it has black marks over some of the text.

Is it just my browser, or does every one see that?

R,


It's sort of a spoiler alert, you can read it when it's highlighted.
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#12 Richard Boddington

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Posted 30 January 2010 - 02:25 PM

It's sort of a spoiler alert, you can read it when it's highlighted.


Oh that's cool, it's like having a secret decoder ring.

R,
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#13 Leo Anthony Vale

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Posted 31 January 2010 - 04:38 AM

All this to the side, I strongly suspect James Cameron or other people involved with the production have been reading John Varley's classic Science Fiction Gaea Trilogy: Titan, Wizard, and Demon , since many of the most visually stunning sequences seem to have counterparts in those three novels.


Here's a quote from Stephan Lang at a press conference:

"Lang, who plays Col. Quaritch, said, "It owes a tremendous amount to Edgar Rice Burroughs, for example; it's got that same sense of epic adventure of new worlds being discovered," while Saldana said it's really par for Cameron's cinematic course.

Read more: http://www.post-gaze...m#ixzz0eBFgdn60

Whodda thunk Stephan Lang read Edgar Rice Burroughs.

But it's a good way of looking at Cameron.
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#14 Jon Rosenbloom

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Posted 03 February 2010 - 11:08 AM

Well, lots of people made a lot of money sitting at a lot of computers drawing a lot of stuff for this movie, and I'm sure it was very hard to do, and I'm sure I couldn't do it. But the script sucks, the color scheme seems to be inspired by 1980's ski-wear. It just shows how far small minds can pursue trivial ideas.
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#15 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 03 February 2010 - 11:18 AM

Am I the only one who is a bit confused why avatar got a best cinematography nod as it seems to me most of the cinematography is CGI? Not that one can't be beautiful with CGI, just think it doesn't fit the category.
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#16 georg lamshöft

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Posted 03 February 2010 - 12:59 PM

"the script sucks"

I've read this statement various times in the forums and I'm not convinced by it. It's not a masterpiece in character development or full of witty and wise dialogues (although it was more than just appropriate for an adventure-movie) and therefore "not even" nominated for a script-Oscar. But it pushes the envelope: it mixes several traditional elements with present and timeless topics and projects them on a fantastic sci-fi adventure with weird CGI-aliens that feel more "human" and closer to our emotions at the end of the journey than our very own world. It's sci-fi, action, romance, fairy-tale, drama at once. I'm not sure if anybody but JC could have pulled something similar off - most storytellers already struggle with the very basic elements. He risked much and gained a lot. Best script? No. Best story? No. Best (memorable, unique, important...) overall experience this year? I think so. Others might disagree, but it's not just another CGI-demo, that's too simple.
"Up in the air" is my favourite adapted-script-movie this year and I'm still fascinated that it also doesn't take the easy way (not another war/social/biopic-drama) but I think it's unfair to compare these two movies in one category like "best picture" - they're just too different, they even function differently.

@Adrian Sierkowski
We discussed that in the other Avatar-thread. It was "cinematographed", even the CGI (simul-cam, virtual cam) - but I doubt that Mauro Fiore did all that (Vince Pace, JC?).
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#17 K Borowski

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Posted 03 February 2010 - 01:04 PM

Don't you think, though, with a FOUR HUNDRED MILLION DOLLAR budget, Cameron could've hired some better co-writers?


I am a fan of pure visual eye-candy, though; cinematography (not that this is really it, as it was rendered, like animation) I feel, can make up for a marginal story.
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#18 georg lamshöft

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Posted 04 February 2010 - 06:41 AM

I've tried to find comparable movies but I always end up with other JC-projects. Aliens or T2 shared a certain structure with Avatar. When they were released there was a lot of whining (well, that's an exaggeration, most of the audience and critics liked them - just like Avatar) about special-effects as an excuse for a good story - now they're classics, even with outdated effects.

I'm not sure how he could have changed the story, fine it's pretty straight-ahead and already so packed that it takes nearly 3h (the DC which isn't limited by Imax-runtime very likely incorporates significant details from the the script: a better understanding of the earth today, Jake's current situation before the flight to Pandora, Sigourney Weaver's background with the natives and the school, the first violent conflict and Selfridge's conflict with Quaritch and his unleashed security thinking...). I'm not sure how another story element or subtext would have fit into it, without ruining the whole experience!? He could have made a pure drama about interracial conflicts and diplomacy - but that would have been another movie. I think every character had a clear motivation and the main character goes through an understandable development. No born hero, no evil "I want to rule the world" enemy, not a romance with dozen times "I love you" (once in the whole movie?) and an already strong subtext about identity.
You'll hate Avatar's story? Then you'll have to hate Star Wars (the Original) and nearly 99% of all movies which share classic dramaturgy as well.
We had a 3 1/2min trailer which exactly showed all significant story elements, I think that was a mistake. A similar teaser would have made "Dances with the wolves" equally predictable.

It 's easy accessible and exciting, but not stupid. The references to our past and current conflicts are too present. Just like Quaritch goes wild after his people are in danger and he reacts the only way he is used and trained to - he and his security company are "Blackwater". The humans are mostly greedy but they're not as evil as it seems, they don't understand the natives, they don't understand this world because they never get close to it (only the scientific team + avatars do and see it from a different perspective).

I think JC could have made a much simpler Titanic-successor or he could have used a more regular topic to discuss these topics. Ho chose a CGI-world of blue aliens and six-legged freaks to make a contemporary statement implemented into an adventure- Seriously, who could have done it better? Was it even tried before?

I'm eager to see "Inception" because it will propably exactly deliver what "Avatar" could not (but didn't intended to): a thriller (who was it? what's going on?) with various layers perfectly entangled into each other combined with a huge budget. And I also enjoy movies like "up in the air". But I think marketing, hype, effects and box-office results make it too simple to push "Avatar" into the stupid studio-blockbuster-category, which it is clearly not.



Co writers? Like in TF2 or 2012 or basically every other studio-blockbuster? Worked well...
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#19 Jon Rosenbloom

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Posted 04 February 2010 - 12:25 PM

I don't like to get too specific with my objections to the script, because it's someone else's work, and I don't like the idea of writing by committee or focus group. I will say the film does move along at a good clip, and there's not much time for fleshing out characters. Of course the bad guys are one-dimensional. What's worse is, the dialogue is one-dimensional. There's no spark or verve in the interactions between the characters. Without a hint of humor, everybody speaks their dull lines in turn, in lock step to a very predictable, very time worn plot, that knocks us over the head with a very predictable message.


As for Muaro, I keyed a short job with him about 13 years ago. He is an intense dude, and I would not begrudge him any credit. Congrats to him.

Edited by Jon Rosenbloom, 04 February 2010 - 12:26 PM.

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#20 Paul Bruening

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Posted 04 February 2010 - 02:46 PM

Hello Georg,

May I offer a useful perspective? Clearly, you are an intelligent movie consumer. Your posts make that evident.

You're not who most movies are made for. Have you ever interviewed "the average movie-goer"? I strongly feel that this script was calculatingly designed to fit the "average movie-goer". It's not that I have a snobby attitude, or a better-than-them attitude. It's just that big investments have to protect themselves by anticipating the capabilities of it's largest consuming mind-sets. Avatar does that very well, as is evident from it's box office numbers.
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