Posted on 30. Dec, 2009 by The Gimcracker in Beratings, Movies
Have you ever been so immersed in a story or character that you forget it is not real? Avatar does that to you. After seeing the film, it’s hard to remember that the blue-skinned alien race called the Na’vi doesn’t actually exist. It’s hard to imagine that Biff from Back To The Future isn’t a jerk in real life. Or that Middle Earth isn’t a real place. It’s because of good film-making that those things are so convincing. If I could sum up Avatar in a single phrase, it wouldn’t be “master storytelling”, “heart-wrenching drama”, “superb characters”, or even “ground-breaking”, it would simply be “superb film-making”. James Cameron knows how to make a film into an event that you can’t miss. Audiences were greatly affected by movies like The Terminator, Aliens, and Titanic. Well we can definitely add Avatar to the ever-growing list of must-sees in the theater.
I can’t remember a more magical world or desirable setting I’ve wanted to live in than the one created in Avatar. Not even Dazed & Confused. James Cameron thought let’s take Earth, make everything huge and photo-luminescent, and give everyone epic flying mounts so they can ride through floating mountains. Then he took all these natural elements and infused machinery and industry by added a futuristic drilling company, complete with monstrous mining equipment, mech-warrior-esque bots, and flying battleships.
The culmination of this dichotomy happens when the drilling company decides to take out the Na’vi tribe’s home. I especially loved that scene because it pits the might of nature against the cunning of man. Hundreds of missiles are launched in an all-out aerial assault on the largest living organism in the galaxy – a half-mile high, football field-thick tree that is home to the entire tribe. It is a pretty epic and moving scene when the tree is finally felled, and it is a good example of the conflict Avatar presents.
This is the next generation of CGI. The Na’vi were so meticulously created that they seem like a real species. The hardest part about doing CGI is human faces. You could say it is the last element that remains un-perfected, and certainly unrefined. The reason is that humans have a special area of the brain that is dedicated to recognizing human facial structures and facial expressions. That is why we can meet thousands of people in our lives with pretty much the same overall facial structure (2 eyes, 1 nose, about the same size head, etc.), all of which are capable of making thousands of facial expressions, and you and I instantly know who is who and what they’re feeling inside based solely on their face. So, imagine how hard it would be to create convincing CGI involving human faces. Avatar has gotten closer than ever before, and it is worth seeing the film just for this point.
As Jake Sulley discovers the world of Pandora, the audience discovers it with him. There are so many original and interesting things that we come across, everything from the flying mount rite of passage to the suspended hammocks they sleep in. It is so depressing each time Jake actually wakes back up and leaves his Avatar on standby somewhere out there in the jungle – for him and for the audience. Imagine having to leave Neverland or Narnia, and add in the fact that you are not only leaving such a magical world, but the person you have fallen in love with as well. Blast you James Cameron! How do you make love stories so appealing to a regular dude like me?!
Yes, there is a love story. And it is pretty good, although not on the level of Titanic. What takes precedence to the specific love story between Jake and his woman is the love story between Jake and the world of the Na’vi. And the reason we are able to fall in love along with Jake is because of the caliber of film-making. The sequence of events, the emotional highs and lows, the genuineness of the characters, the camera work, the effects – they all had a lot of time and effort put into them.
With the exception of Michelle Rodriguez. Why does she ever get put in a movie? Which leads us to…
Michelle Rodriguez is the most worthless actor in Hollywood. Please find me a movie where she has any sort of genuine or natural dialogue. That is a direct challenge to you. You won’t find it in Avatar, that’s for sure. She has maybe 20 lines in the movie. Guess how many of them are not one-liners? None. “I didn’t sign up for this shit.” “You got what it takes, Marine?” “You should see your faces.” And 17 others that you will have to endure if you see Avatar. Michelle, on behalf of everyone who pays $11 for a movie ticket, please go work at a body shop or join the actual Marines.
There were plenty of unbelievable events in Avatar. Pretty much from the time Jake takes down the corporal’s ship to when Jake’s love Neytiri figures out how to put the mask on him, there is not one believable event. Here’s a quick list of things I noticed:
- Jake’s avatar falls hundreds of feet to the ground and gets up running without a scratch
- The Corporal in his mech suit falls hundreds of feet and slams onto the ground, and neither the corporal nor the mechanical suit are injured or broken in any way
- Jake takes on the mech suit in hand-to-hand combat and appears to be just as strong as the mech suit
- Again in the same combat sequence, the mech suit appears to be just as agile as Jake
- The mech suit loses its gun and unsheaths a knife. Is this thing a robot or a human?
- Neytiri somehow gains all knowledge on the human technology of the avatar program and knows where Jake’s real body is, that it needs oxygen (which she’s never heard of), and how to put the mask on him to save his life.
This all happens in the same 10 minute sequence at the climax of the movie. Cameron really could have sealed the deal with a climax the likes of The Matrix or Return of the Jedi, but instead he regresses into a series of classic action movie cliches.
If you read between the lines, it could be apparent that James Cameron is trying to preach environmentalism, Buddhism, and that the US should have left the Native Americans alone. I would slightly disagree with those ideas. I think Avatar is a commentary on humanity overall, not just on current events in America. Since humankind began, superpowers have expanded and gained power over others, because that is human nature. It is also human nature to sacrifice the natural world for the advancement of technology and civilization. Just because we find a new planet doesn’t mean we’re not going to let our humanity show through. In Avatar, humanity loses the battle against the indigenous population. What I take away from this movie is that maybe we were not meant to be on Pandora.
The film does tend to glorify the oneness with nature that the Na’vi have, and it gets a little old after a while. However Pandora is different than Earth because the beings that inhabit it can literally plug in to the network of nature via a very physical communication system. We can’t employ mind control on horses simply by plugging into them, but on Pandora you can create an instant, eternal bond with the same type of animal via the natural communication jack that every living being has. There are completely new and unique lifeforms in a world we have never been to or seen before, so I wouldn’t be too quick to compare every element in Pandora to an Earthly equivalent.
The bottom line is, yes James Cameron has certain political ideas that he could be expressing through his film, but no they don’t ruin the movie. You can easily accept this film as what it is, and enjoy it. That is, unless you come in with a prior agenda of your own.
Acting – No Beratings. Any lack of acting by Michelle Rodriguez is more than compensated for by Giovanni Ribisi. Sam Worthington also creates a very likable and relatable protagonist.
Plot – No Beratings. Wasn’t The Matrix, but it was good enough to keep me enthralled for almost 3 hours.
Inconsistencies – 1 Berating. We spend 45 minutes watching the development of how agile the Na’vi are, and then we see one of them fight a bulky mech warrior and he can’t even get behind it. Despite being undeniably chosen by the Na’vi deity as their savior, Jake is cast out of the tribe without any sign of betrayal on his part. Then accepted back in immediately when he arrives on a bigger dragon.
Unbelievable Events – 1 Berating. See bulleted list in “The Bad” section above. Also, the “Flux Vortex” didn’t make any sense. How can there be floating mountains? Gravity? Magnetism? I looked up the term “flux vortex” and couldn’t find a thing about it.
Semantics – No Beratings. Great soundtrack, CGI, originality, etc.
2/10 Beratings = See it at full price
0/10 Stand in line for the very first showing
1/10 See it the first weekend
» 2/10 See it at full price
3/10 See it at the Five-Buck-Club
4/10 See it at the dollar-fifty
5/10 See it OnDemand
6/10 Rent it from Blockbuster
7/10 Watch it on TV
8/10 Watch it purely for spousal points
9/10 Never watch it
10/10 Buy it and publicly destroy it
1.Most of the vertebrate species on Pandora and the na’vi particularly have carbon-fiber skeleton – that’s why they are much stronger than humans (4 times, precisely). The “mech suit” is an exo-skeleton, NOT a robot – its agileness must match or exceed that of a human but its abilities are limited to the abilities of the human inside it. It is logical for it to have a full set of all the equipment that a warrior can hold and use – the knife being a standard and most basic of all weapons. The exo-skeleton is actually a mechanical/antagonist version of the avatars. It’s evident that in the future 2 series of the saga there will be more close-combat scenes of this kind.
2.The gravity of Pandora, which is a moon, is substantially lower than the Earth’s. That’s why all the species have evolved much bigger/taller in size and that’s why it is possible to fall from high without much damage; moreover that it was far from free falling. The “corporal in his mech suit” jumps from the board of his disintegrating but still slowly descending transporter and falls from about 50-100 feet. Being able to amplify the muscle strength several times, and probably made from carbon-fiber or even carbon-nanotubes, the exo-skeleton takes the impact.
3.According to http://www.Pandorapedia.com, the so-called Hometrees are 500 ft high and 100 ft wide. This makes them just a bit taller than the highest trees on Earth – 379.1 ft redwood – and is in no sense “the largest living organism in the galaxy”. In fact, Pandora itself IS
4.Contrary to your argument, “flux-vortex” IS a legitimate term in quantum and low-temperature physics (http://www.springerlink.com/content/n3304780w57142t3/fulltext.pdf). It’s a phenomenon occurring in the super-conductors, causing them to flow freely in the air when put in magnetic field (so called “magnetic levitation”). In fact, the ore that was shown in the movie (floating over a magnet) is the VERY REASON for the floating mountains phenomena on Pandora. These rocks contain enough amount of this super-conducting ore to flow freely in the air, the roots and lianas of the trees being the only their connection with the ground. Because they are so big, they have their own eco-systems, including caves and waterfalls. The ring-like rocks beneath them are evidence of the enormous magnetic forces which were present at the time of their solidification from a melted lava and which formed them in the shape of the magnetic flux at this moment – a vortex, ring-like shape.
5.It’s obvious that for 3 months of training, Neytiri has been told the difference between a human and an avatar and what is the connection between them. She doesn’t know where Jake’s real body is; she just HAPPENS to be NEAR it! She HEARS his last breaths and rushes to help him. She sees the mask hanging and his arm pointing towards it. How many brain folds you think are needed to make the connection? She is NOT aware how to use the mask. She only puts it on him, knowing that he needs it for some reason. As a result, he begins to suffocate which, paradoxically, brings him in conscious and he HIMSELF switches on the mask.
The only ones I still have a problem with are the free-falling and the end where Neytiri puts on Jake's mask. Yes the gravity is less than Earth's, and yes the mechanical suit is far advanced in technology, but no the corporal wouldn't have survived that fall. In the film you clearly see his body decelerate to 0 mph when he hits the ground in a sudden impact. I don't know quite how fast he was going when he hit the ground, but it looks very fast on film – as fast as a serious car accident. In a car that doesn't have any crumple zones. That would definitely cause some internal organ damage, 1x gravity or .25x gravity – either way. Why don't the mech suits have rocket boosters? That would have explained it better.
And the end is unbelievable for so many reasons. There's no way Neytiri would be able to deduce that Jake's actual body was in a trailer right next to the battle they just had, and that it was in need of oxygen, and how to give him the oxygen. That would require too much knowledge of human technology, and Neytiri does not have ANY knowledge of this sort. It was too far a plot stretch, and was sort of an easy way out at the end. In fact, the entire 10 minutes of film up until and including that part felt hastily done. Your defense of this part felt like a biased attempt of a fanboy stretching to connect some things in the spirit of defending a film. No matter how you slice it, it was unrealistic and a bit unbelievable, but more importantly, took away from the integrity of the film overall.
Also, your rebuttal with the exact dimensions of the tree was confusing. What does this matter? This was not a scientific analysis of Avatar, it was a film review. When I spoke of the tree being ginormous, it was for effect, not to prove any sort of point. Interesting that you would choose to focus on that point…
Your info about "flux vortex" was useful and interesting. Thanks.
Heh, it might be just a film review but that's not just a film! The author had 12 years to tune-up and perfect the screenplay. Moreover that he is also the director and co-producer, making him the "dictator" of this production. I just strongly believe in his reasons to make something exactly that way and I'm trying to find his logic, as if this is a puzzle.
I mentioned HomeTree and the floating mountains with this reason – to illustrate there might be common reason behind every unbelievable-ness or childish oversimplification.