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Sci-Fi Movies The Almighty Buck Entertainment

Avatar Soars Into $1-Billion Territory 782

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the but-what-did-he-do-to-that-dragon dept.
Suki I writes " Avatar soars into $1-billion territory. 'Strong foreign ticket sales help make the science-fiction movie the fifth in history to pass the watermark. ... One of the riskiest movies of all times is now officially one of the most successful at the box office. When Avatar opened, its solid but far from stellar results left 20th Century Fox uncertain about whether the $430 million that it and two financing partners had invested to produce and market the 3-D film would pay off.'" Given that the big alternatives were Sherlock Holmes or Alvin & the Chipmunks, I think the winner was clear.
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Avatar Soars Into $1-Billion Territory

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  • Science Fiction? (Score:2, Informative)

    I just saw it last weekend, and I gotta say.. Science Fiction? Not much. Science Fantasy is more like it.

    Just a few things threw me off. I loved most of the movie. And for a while I believed the blue people were spiritual in the same way humans were.. in ritual and what not...

    But instead it turned out to be a magical spiritual world, and a collective thought borg of trees and animals.. and those that .. died?

    A fantastic adventure, but really just lost me as a caring viewer. I prefer things to be more r
    • by iamapizza (1312801) on Monday January 04, 2010 @10:45AM (#30640490)
      Saw it in 3D at the Imax. I think that this movie is visually appealing, and that's what it was made for. You're not supposed to actually pay attention to the story; it's a mix of Dances with Wolves and Fern Gully (and potentially about 30 other movies in which this concept of gung-ho-soldier-meets-and-loves-the-natives has been done to death), although it does strike chords with a few present day "situations". The main appeal is the graphics, the atmosphere, surroundings and facial expressions of the macrosmurfs.

      Part of the hype was that Cameron spent 8 bazillion years working on this movie and that's another thing that spoils it, you expect something great and wonderful and almost Star Wars like, but you get another popcorn movie, albeit an expensive one. With blue people.
      • by Wonko the Sane (25252) * on Monday January 04, 2010 @10:49AM (#30640542) Journal

        Saw it in 3D at the Imax.

        The 3D aspect and the CG effects were worth every penny that I spent on a ticket.

        The plot is just a barely acceptable excuse for the effects, but since it was so well executed I don't really mind.

        Watch this film in 3D Imax or not at all IMHO.

      • by JerryLove (1158461) on Monday January 04, 2010 @11:27AM (#30641112)

        Part of the hype was that Cameron spent 8 bazillion years working on this movie and that's another thing that spoils it, you expect something great and wonderful and almost Star Wars like, but you get another popcorn movie, albeit an expensive one.

        Funny true story. StarWars is not original.

        Lucas wanted to make a swashbuckling movie, he just put it in space. He hired as a consultant the man who wrote "the Hero with a Thousand Faces", about the commonality of archtypes in stories around the world and throughout history: and Star Wars follows this pattern very rigidly (and repeates it in Empire). Add some scene-for-scene WWII air combat scenes and you have a movie.

        Don't get me wrong: I *love* Star Wars. But this complaint that Avatar is not original ignores that noting is original.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by gblackwo (1087063)
      While not shoved in your face, there were a lot of subtle touches of science- like did you notice that the cave to the tree of souls appeared to form along magnetic field lines? See: http://www.flickr.com/photos/officialavatarmovie/4054882634/sizes/l/ [flickr.com]
      • Why in the fuck were those mountains floating? Nobody seems to give a shit, but I want to know why those goddamn mountains were floating. You can't just toss in FUCKING FLOATING MOUNTAINS with no goddamn explanation in a "science fiction" movie. Unless you're calling it straight-up fantasy, you get no FLOATING MOUNTAINS.

        Floating. The fucking mountains were floating, and there was never even a hand-wavey explanation. Nothing. Just, meh, the fucking mountains float, they're legendary, who gives a shit?

        Fuck you. I want to know why those goddamn mountains are FUCKING FLOATING FUUUUUUUUCK WHYYYYYYYYYY ARE THEY FLOATING?

        • by pjt33 (739471) on Monday January 04, 2010 @11:59AM (#30641570)

          Did you see the floating unobtanium chunk that Parker (the manager) had on his desk? Same principle scaled up. The background material explains it by saying that unobtanium is a room-temperature superconductor and the mountains float due to the Meissner effect.

          • by pwfffff (1517213) on Monday January 04, 2010 @01:26PM (#30643006)

            The first time I heard 'unobtanium' I had to resist the urge to punch the first person I saw in the groin.

            • by Chris Burke (6130) on Monday January 04, 2010 @01:49PM (#30643302) Homepage

              Why?

              The unobtanium is the movie's MacGuffin -- the thing that makes the plot happen, but whose nature is ultimately irrelevant other than that people want it. "Unobtanium" is an engineer's humorous way of referring to a material with desirable properties that either simply doesn't exist, or is so expensive/difficult to obtain that it's infeasible to actually use for what you want.

              So when the slimy corporate drone -- who I couldn't help but equate with Paul Riser's character Burke from Aliens, only with more power and the military on his side -- says they're trying to find the "unobtanium" with zero explanation of what it is, and knowing that there's no way they're going to succeed in getting it, well, I saw it as an obvious joke between the director and the audience. And I laughed. What better name for the unobtainable MacGuffin?

              I don't understand why geeks are getting their panties in a bunch over a geek joke.

              Though while on the one hand not describing its properties enhances its unobtanium-ness, on the other hand it would have been nice to have a throw-away line about it being a superconductor in the movie. It would have made various things in the movie, like the floating mountains, the "vortex" with its problematic "flux", the reference to the moon's powerful magnetic field, and the field-line like formations near the spirit tree come together. Instead it was only after seeing the movie and hearing someone mention that part of the back-story that it all clicked.

              • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                by Mr2001 (90979)

                "Unobtanium" is an engineer's humorous way of referring to a material with desirable properties that either simply doesn't exist, or is so expensive/difficult to obtain that it's infeasible to actually use for what you want.

                My pet theory is that at some point in Avatar's past (our future), "unobtainium" entered the public lexicon as a potential solution to some kind of crisis: some prominent scientist said "sure, we could [desalinate the ocean/filter the atmosphere/whatever], but to build the reactors, we'd need a mineral with properties we've never seen... let me know when you find that unobtainium!", and headlines followed like "Desperate Senators Propose Searching Space For 'Unobtainium'". Then once a mineral with those pro

        • Oh yeah, and where the fuck did the water come from? Are there glaciers on top of these goddamn floating mountains?

          I thought of the possibility that these FLOATING FUCKING MOUNTAINS THE GODDAMN MOUNTAINS ARE FLOATING HOLY FUCK have a ton of unobtanium in them, but if that's the case why do the bad guys have such a fucking boner over the space smurf's home when they could just stick a tow-strap on the mountains that have so much of it that THEY CREATE FLOATING FUCKING MOUNTAINS. The smurf's home doesn't floa

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by HybridJeff (717521)
            Have you never seen a mountain stream in real life? We have this thing called rain that falls over large areas, getting collected into streams that flow downhill. What would be strange is if there wasn't any water flowing off of those mountains. I'm not sure about the volume of water that you would really see, but then I don't know what the average rainfall is like on Pandora either.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by kirkb (158552)

          It was midichlorians. Happy now?

    • Re:Science Fiction? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by epiphani (254981) <epiphani&dal,net> on Monday January 04, 2010 @11:04AM (#30640768)

      I watched it twice.

      The "science" part of the science fiction was actually a subplot running throughout the movie. The biologists were studying electrochemical links between trees from the beginning of the movie. I picked up more on that the second time through.

      It's a direct rip off from Asimov's Foundation series. The Gaia concept presented in the latter part of that series shares an enormous similarities with this movie.

      But I wouldn't consider it fantasy in any sense. They try to root it in the scientifically plausible, yet unlikely, ideas.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by JerryLove (1158461)

        They try to root it in the scientifically plausible, yet unlikely, ideas.

        Watch how fast I can make is plausable.

        What if the biosphere of Pandora was deliberately manipulated at some point in the past? What if the planetary network is a designed thing, as is the ability of Pandorian life to interface with it?

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Anonymusing (1450747)

          What if the biosphere of Pandora was deliberately manipulated at some point in the past? What if the planetary network is a designed thing, as is the ability of Pandorian life to interface with it?

          This is exactly what I was thinking -- and I suspect it will play a role in the Avatar sequel. You think the humans are just going to run away and never come back?

          • by Maxo-Texas (864189) on Monday January 04, 2010 @12:42PM (#30642274)

            The sequel to Avatar,

            The earth, royally pissed off at the evil, treacherous natives and especially at the traitorous humans who betrayed humanity, sends a follow up mission.

            Three ships show up in orbit, undetected by the planet bound organic techology primitive society, set up and then shell the planet with high-velocity, non nuclear kinetic missiles killing 99% of all life on the planet.
            They then take the damned unobtanium which is their birthright and leave an empty husk to the surviving tribes 115 years later. At that point, they allow themselves to feel guilty (a little) and set up a museum honoring the lost Navi culture.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by joh (27088)

            There's more to that -- did you notice that *all* the animals have six limbs and only the Na'vi have four? Looks to me as if they didn't originate there at all. They came from elsewhere and if you want to have a nice plot, they probably destroyed their home planet, got to Pandora and, having learned their lesson all too well, engineered themselves and the life there to get along perfectly without any visible technology needed anymore.

            In the sequel Sully will then discover the old Na'vi spacecraft hidden awa

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I just saw it last weekend, and I gotta say.. Science Fiction? Not much. Science Fantasy is more like it. Just a few things threw me off. I loved most of the movie. And for a while I believed the blue people were spiritual in the same way humans were.. in ritual and what not... But instead it turned out to be a magical spiritual world, and a collective thought borg of trees and animals.. and those that .. died? A fantastic adventure, but really just lost me as a caring viewer. I prefer things to be more rational.

      Hard Sci-Fi is rare and rarely marketable.

    • by thesandtiger (819476) on Monday January 04, 2010 @11:16AM (#30640928)

      I think you're being a bit short on your thinking. Where you saw some kind of magical ritual and spirit living on, I saw a high-speed universal neural interface that allowed a user to take control of local resources as necessary, and also was capable of downloading memories from an organic platform into something a little more permanent/distributed when that organic platform wasn't viable.

      Just because the basis for their technology wasn't the same as ours is not a reason to dismiss it as fantasy - I don't think there was anything in that movie (except, perhaps, ironically, for the near light-speed travel the humans used) that wasn't feasible, or, even, on the near edge of coming to exist, through bio technology.

      Right now we have people getting electrodes implanted into their brains that are allowing them to take control of various external devices (robotic limbs, keyboards, etc.) - why is it so hard for you to imagine something a bit more robust and universal, on the organic side? Right now we have researchers working on understanding how human memories and cognition work, and some basic ideas around how to read or store memories - why does it seem unreasonable to you that there might be a way to read out and store memories when an elder dies, so that they might continue to be available (in a limited way) for their people to continue to learn from? Right now we have a massive distributed network that spans the planet and contains pretty much everything that humans know - why does it seem unreasonable to you that an "intelligent" version of this might not be used by a sociaty to help guide them in difficult times, drawing on more information than any one individual could have?

      Some pretty bright guy once said that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic... And if you don't think that was technology, or advanced, just ask yourself who won the war in the movie...

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        Where you saw some kind of magical ritual and spirit living on, I saw a high-speed universal neural interface

        And it's a good thing they remembered their A-to-B USB cable to allow the transfer. Kind of like how Jeff Goldblum hacked the alien ships in Independence Day with his Macintosh over a coax connection.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Nicolay77 (258497)

      Please read Heinlein and MOPI and then come back to try to define what Science Fiction is. It can even be argued that Avatar is Hard Science Fiction.

      Now, about the movie, to me the problem was that it was so full of clichés, so predictable, that only the beautiful images and the 3D-ness of them were appealing.

    • by JerryLove (1158461) on Monday January 04, 2010 @11:31AM (#30641164)

      I just saw it last weekend, and I gotta say.. Science Fiction? Not much. Science Fantasy is more like it.

      Compared to 2001 or 2010 perhaps. Otherwise, Avatar is the most realistic (from the standpoint of physics) SciFi movie I can think of.

      They actually made a ship that was mostly fuel and heat radiator, actually had it radiating heat, actually put the crew compartment far from the reactor, and actually travelled slower than light.

      They aknowledged a different gravity, and adjusted several scenes accordingly, had the first plant I can remember in a long time with air you can't breathe, and (though they seem to have forgotten the effect in daytime) made creatures that are well camoflogued at night (which is likely the majority of the time since you have both rotational night and "blocked by the parent planet" night).

    • Everything else on that planet had extra arms and unusual breathing apparatus and so forth. But the humanoids used the human bodyplan down to the toenails, just stretched out. Convergent evolution is one thing... but aliens should actually be, y'know, alien.

      It's possible to make sympathetic characters that don't look at all like a human. See, e.g., District 9. But apparently they didn't feel like it here.

      I enjoyed the movie well enough. But scientifically, it was just bonkers.

  • Didn't see Avatar... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by anss123 (985305) on Monday January 04, 2010 @10:38AM (#30640414)
    Am I the only one?
  • And yet... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 04, 2010 @10:39AM (#30640422)

    And yet Sherlock Holmes and the Chipmunks are both more original than Avatar. Its just a very old story with a few pretty visuals.

    Instead of spending $430million making one bloated FX crap-test they could have made 10 regular films. Even if only one of those was
    really good it would beat a poor film that has been hidden by obscene overspending on visuals.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by click2005 (921437) *

      It probably only really cost $50 million to make. The special effects cost five times as much because they used a newer version of some software
      and made a CGI film in 3D which is has never been done before. The more capitals you have in the promotional crap the more expensive a film is.
      The rest was Hollywood Accounting (tm). oh and they spent almost 47 dollars on the script. Thats a lot these days.

      I cant wait for Avatar 2: Revenge of the Smurfs in 8D. Then we'll see a sequal to Spinal Tap in 11D.

  • While it may be innovative in the technology, I cannot imagine anyone wanting to keep this movie as something you'd want to go back to because it's such a great movie. You'd think if they were going to spend that kind of money on production they'd have at least gotten a script that took your breath away. But then again, it is Cameron and Jackson...
  • by lwap0 (866326) on Monday January 04, 2010 @10:42AM (#30640466)
    I'd like to see a director's cut when this goes to DVD. I know Cameron had an extremely rich back story, and most of it didn't make the cut to get into the movie, since it weighed in at 2 hours 40 minutes long. I also think it would help flesh out a story that was somewhat bland. Ah, who am I kidding? I wanna see more bad-ass CGI explosions. Screw the plot, bring on the blue alien sex.
    • BluRay Won't Cut It (Score:4, Interesting)

      by TheNinjaroach (878876) on Monday January 04, 2010 @11:07AM (#30640800)
      I don't go see movies very often but this is one film that I was very happy to see in theaters. I realized about 20 minutes into the alien world that it was well worth the money to see it now - I don't think even the nicest BluRay player and HDTV can faithfully reproduce all of the computer generated detail they packed into this film.
  • Multiple viewings (Score:5, Insightful)

    by lammy (1557325) on Monday January 04, 2010 @10:44AM (#30640480)
    I'd be interested to see what proportion of this film's takings were from repeat viewings, and how this figure compares with other blockbusters. Avatar is one of very few films that I have paid to see more than once at the cinema, and it's the first time that I'm doing this simply because I wanted to see the film again (as opposed to being asked to go with someone else who wanted to see it). In 3D IMAX, it really is an impressive spectacle.
  • by Anita Coney (648748) on Monday January 04, 2010 @10:45AM (#30640488) Homepage

    Why are adults so critical of kids movies? Of course they're simple and stupid, but such movies were not made for you. Unless you are under the age of 8. Alvin & the Chipmunks was a movie for young kids... and to even analogize it with an adult movie such as the Avatar is moronic.

    A more analogous slam would have been The Blind Side. I can't for the life of me figure out why people consistently pay to see Sandra Bullock movies. Sure, she's hot. But her movies are also consistently crap. Look at her list of movies here [wikipedia.org]. There's not even one worth watching. But yet they always make money.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      A more analogous slam would have been The Blind Side. I can't for the life of me figure out why people consistently pay to see Sandra Bullock movies. Sure, she's hot. But her movies are also consistently crap. Look at her list of movies here [wikipedia.org]. There's not even one worth watching. But yet they always make money.

      Well Demolition Man is on that list, and I love that movie. It's just about the only Stallone movie I enjoy, heck the only one I can even sit through. The cheese, fights, one-liners; it's a decent flick. And her role in it was decent.

      Beyond that, some of her chick flicks are alright. They're the kind of chick flicks I can sit through and enjoy, instead of struggling to appear interested.

      Out of the wiki list, I can find a handful of films that I enjoy (or enjoy well enough).

    • by Hatta (162192) on Monday January 04, 2010 @11:11AM (#30640840) Journal

      Why are adults so critical of kids movies? Of course they're simple and stupid

      Because they don't have to be. Up was an amazing movie. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs was very good. That's proof enough that you can make a kids movie that's not a pile of crap. So it's plenty fair to criticize a kids movie that is a pile of crap.

      • by EricWright (16803) on Monday January 04, 2010 @12:36PM (#30642194) Journal

        Almost all Pixar movies and most Dreamworks movies are additional proof. However, I think Up was the best movie Pixar has done to date. The beginning was damned emotional... need to get the DVD so I can watch it again.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by penguinchris (1020961)

        I heartily agree. There are great kids movies from the past, and there are still some getting made (like your examples, though I didn't see Meatballs - well, I did see Meatballs, but that's not a kids movie ;)

        Problem is that film studios realized it's easier to pump out cheap crap, because kids are dumb and will want to watch it anyway because it's got talking dogs (or whatever). These are not films that kids are going to watch multiple times growing up, and then watch again when they're adults and still en

    • by DrEasy (559739) on Monday January 04, 2010 @12:49PM (#30642404) Journal

      You think Avatar is an adult movie?

  • by xzvf (924443) on Monday January 04, 2010 @10:45AM (#30640494)
    Sherlock Holmes is a solid movie with good acting and an interesting take on the Holmes story line. It'll probably evolve into an interesting series of movies. Alvin and the Chipmunks is well made mindless children's fare. For the 4-8 age group love it and it is doing extremely well in the box office. Avatar on the other hand is a visually stunning movie, but the noble savage storyline is strait from the 70's. It is not a bad movie by any stretch, but without the special effect advancement, would this movie garner any attention? Will Avatar's real legacy be laying the groundwork for better integrated CGI rather than the story told?
  • by Thanshin (1188877) on Monday January 04, 2010 @10:45AM (#30640498)

    It's the same story all over again and yet it succeds.

    Well. It'd be worse if the story that succeded and most people enjoyed was about evil prevailing, wouldn't it?

  • by gestalt_n_pepper (991155) on Monday January 04, 2010 @10:49AM (#30640548)

    The "plot." Pretty much the same: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0104254/ [imdb.com]

    • by mpe (36238) on Monday January 04, 2010 @11:03AM (#30640760)
      The "plot." Pretty much the same: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0104254/ [imdb.com]

      Alternativly you could think of it as the offspring of "Fern Gully" and "Dances with Wolves".
    • My wife called it "dances with wolves" meets "fern gully" in 200 years. I thought some of the plant & animal life was really clever. I was also really glad they didn't try to make all the novel things logical - they never attempted an explanation of the flying rocks, which I think is good. The planetary neural network idea has been done an awful lot, but I think it worked just fine. The word unobtainium is still utterly ridiculous (seriously guys?), but it wasn't featured too prominently.

      The aliens are still too stiff, their faces are too uniform, their movements are too smooth - they need pores, facial hair, creases, loose skin, etc - but it is still the best I've seen. Some of the new humaniod features were imaginative, like the neural connection in the pony tail, but overall the alients were pretty standard - "good" aliens must look human for us to identify with them, they must have the same mannerisms (e.g. identical emotions), and other real differences must be superficial. For example, the aliens were more like humans than the Indians in "Dances with Wolves" were like Costner, a movie which shares a number of connections with Avatar. I suppose if I want imaginative, I should just go watch La planète sauvage.

      Overall though, I think this movie marks the latest in the "spectacle over plot" shift in filmmaking. Cameron has always been at the forefront of this change, right there with Michael Bay, so I should've expected it, but so it goes. Avatar did have a lot more plot than Transformers, GI Joe, and some other recently popular films, but it was still simpler than the Cat in the Hat - subtle & not-so-subtle political statements notwithstanding. Between visual effect and good writing, I'll take the latter, but why can't we have both?
  • by Saint (12232) * on Monday January 04, 2010 @10:51AM (#30640576) Homepage

    I feel as though I am the only one not drinking from the cool-aid on this one. The story line, apart from the apparently necessary political message, is nothing more than a rehash of a million other stories. From the noble savage to the walking armor suit so reminiscent of the suit that worn in the Aliens finale by Sigourney Weaver, this story was a soup of elements found in many other stories and movies. Were this story presented as a book, without James Cameron's name, it would have been rejected outright.

    The only creative elements that exist in this movie were the special effects and associated artistry, which made the movie worth watching. They were outstanding.

    Finally, why do entertainers continue to feel that they have to present their beliefs within a movie. If I want to be preached at or listen to political messages, I will go to church or read a newspaper/book. I do not want to see it in movies or hear it at concerts.

    • by fulldecent (598482) on Monday January 04, 2010 @11:11AM (#30640852) Homepage

      I feel as though I am the only one not drinking from the cool-aid on this one. The story line, apart from the apparently necessary political message, is nothing more than a rehash of a million other stories. From the noble savage to the walking armor suit so reminiscent of the suit that worn in the Aliens finale by Sigourney Weaver, this story was a soup of elements found in many other stories and movies. Were this story presented as a book, without James Cameron's name, it would have been rejected outright.

      The only creative elements that exist in this movie were the special effects and associated artistry, which made the movie worth watching. They were outstanding.

      Finally, why do entertainers continue to feel that they have to present their beliefs within a movie. If I want to be preached at or listen to political messages, I will go to church or read a newspaper/book. I do not want to see it in movies or hear it at concerts.

      I don't see why everyone is raving about "special effects". Just watch any other movie, and turn up the hue setting on your TV, you'll get the same effect.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jez9999 (618189)

      The story line, apart from the apparently necessary political message, is nothing more than a rehash of a million other stories.

      I've heard this criticism of the plot many times from many people - but in this day and age, with so many movies having been released, when was the last movie that wasn't basically a rehash of something that came before it? Seriously, I can't think of anything genuinely novel (at least from Hollywood) for years. Maybe The Truman Show is the last unique storyline I can think of.

    • You know what I saw when that walking suit of armour appears repeatedly in the movie? A Hollywood blockbuster that doesn't glorify violence.

      That suit is the epitome of good action movies. The villain at the end of the movie is the hero of so many 80's movies all wrapped up into one hollow marine, and he's reviled rather than regaled.

      I'm not sure which movie you saw, but I saw a fun touching love story with some really nice action sequences mixed in.

      If you only watch movies for their literary value, please discover books.

    • Finally, why do entertainers continue to feel that they have to present their beliefs within a movie.

      Because movies are a valid and welcomed medium for getting these messages across. I think you're letting Avatar influence your blanket statement above. I've seen this go horribly wrong two ways. You can belabor a belief or political idea in a movie to a point where nobody will be able to stomach it and you can also use such a tired message that most people are sick of hearing it. I haven't seen Avatar mostly because I feared the Fern Gully message so many other posters have mentioned. While the political message is valid, I'm sick of hearing it. Not because I don't care but because I read enough of it in the news.

      This isn't true of all people, some people are going to love Avatar. And for a younger viewer it might be new to them. Fine. In Hollywood, the price for unoriginality is very very small. Too small in my opinion but ... okay, I don't have to watch this movie. A shame that Cameron didn't take a more original story and risk it like Star Wars. Or even to tell a similar message about mankind's follies with a more complicated story like District 9 did. But he's James Cameron and the monetary risk was huge so of course we got some Grade F gruel that has been slammed into our gullets fifty times or more. This plot was sure to be labeled 'acceptable' by the public committee on what people will swallow.

      If I want to be preached at or listen to political messages, I will go to church or read a newspaper/book. I do not want to see it in movies or hear it at concerts.

      Please, I implore you, watch Brazil or Dr. Strangelove. Listen to Bob Dylan or Pete Seeger. Now tell me that those movies and songs wouldn't be the same without those messages. There's an example of people using an artistic medium to get a message across that -- while not always original -- was not tired and was done tastefully. That message actually comprised much of what made them who they are. There's an appropriate way to do it but the artist always risks losing people by baking in a message that is contrary to what some people believe. James Cameron lost very few viewers with his message because it was a safe one. But if it had been more original it would have been brilliant and more timeless.

      • by jonhainer (188206) on Monday January 04, 2010 @01:56PM (#30643394)

        A shame that Cameron didn't take a more original story and risk it like Star Wars.

        I find it interesting that you should mention this, because I found the parallel between Avatar and Star Wars to be striking. Unlike you, I don't find the plot of the 1977 Star Wars movie to be original at all. It was simply that a farm-boy found a message from a princess who was captured by an evil knight and imprisoned in a dark fortress. With the help of a good knight and a pirate, he frees the princess and destroys the fortress before the dark knight can destroy the village.

        That's about the most unoriginal story ever. It's been done over and over again since the middle ages. That's not why I loved Star Wars, however. I loved it because the visual spectacle at the time it was created was unlike anything that I had seen before. (I was only 9 years old in 1977, but still ...) Fighting with laser swords is cool! Fast moving spaceships with rapid fire lasers are cool! It had never been done before. The feeling was electric.

        As I was watching Avatar at age 41, I got that same feeling. I felt like I was 9 years old again and seeing something absolutely amazing for the first time. The 3D effects were awkward for about the first 15 minutes of the movie, and then I stopped noticing them. The simply became the experience. The computer animation sequences were ridiculously good -- fantastically detailed. I think you can tell, I loved the movie.

        Movies don't always have to be story-telling masterpieces. Sometimes they can just take you out of life for a while and put you on a visual roller-coaster ride. This movie did that more successfully than anything that I've seen in a long, long time.

  • by GlennC (96879) on Monday January 04, 2010 @10:57AM (#30640666)

    And that was to just not go to the movies. This was the option I chose.

  • Great movie (Score:5, Interesting)

    by oh2 (520684) on Monday January 04, 2010 @11:00AM (#30640722) Homepage Journal

    I just came home from seeing Avatar in 3D and I must say it rivals Watchmen in sheer visual splendor. The story is a bit predictable, but I didnt really think about that until afterwards because I was so immersed in this beautiful world Cameron has created. It could have used a better soundtrack but then it would have been a completely different movie. Definetly worth the money, and well worth seeing again on the big screen.

    I disagree with the "not science fiction" thing, the fact that they didnt combobulate the parallell deflectors and set phasers to stun but instead treated technology as an everyday occurence makes it more believable. The idea of the planet as a network is neat as well, one can imagine the whole thing as a Post-Singularity society, with a sentient network of biological entities as the collective conciousness of the planet.

  • by NotSoHeavyD3 (1400425) on Monday January 04, 2010 @11:12AM (#30640866)
    Haven't seen Avatar but the over all "Looks great but what's underneath kind of sucks" sounds like Donkey Kong Country. (I mean would anybody have cared about DKC if it looked like Super Mario World?)
  • by assertation (1255714) on Monday January 04, 2010 @11:17AM (#30640944)

    I've been hearing a lot of people making comments that the story in Avatar is not a new story

    Any literature teacher will tell you there are no new stories and haven't been for centuries.

    A great work is a great great work by virtue of how well the story is told.
    ( Good writing, good acting, good script, etc )

    Shakespeare is often given as an example. None of his plots were original but his works are still valued centuries later.

    That being said Avatar is not Shakespeare. It is showcase for next generation special effects like Star Wars or Jurassic Park. Movies like that are rarely enjoyable once you are no longer impressed by the effects......they don't have anything else.

    I don't see the message of the film as a problem. You can't have a story without a message. People don't like political messages in their entertainment if they disagree with the politics. Doesn't matter if you are a conservative or a liberal. Everybody reacts like that, few are honest about it.

    I think the message in Avatar is a good message to be repeated. Too much of the world operates on the ideas of justice being the will of the stronger and history being written by the victor. I believe that embedding messages like Avatar's in entertainment will encourage respect for all people, whether or not they can bomb the hell out of you.

    That can only lead to good things.

    • by Abcd1234 (188840) on Monday January 04, 2010 @12:07PM (#30641736) Homepage

      I've been hearing a lot of people making comments that the story in Avatar is not a new story

      Any literature teacher will tell you there are no new stories and haven't been for centuries.

      Bah, that's a bullshit excuse. While there are "no new stories", people seem to have no trouble taking a story and creating a new spin, investigating new ideas, or otherwise adding their own unique twist. Not so for Avatar. Avatar isn't just "not a new story". It's a completely fucking ripoff of Dune, Dances with Wolves, and any other "noble savage" tale you've ever come across. As for the message, Cameron just took the Gaia concept and dressed it up with a little science fiction technobabble. It's utterly derivative. The only thing unique about it is the visual effects. That's it.

      No, Avatar is an incredibly average-to-below-average story that's been dressed up so it's nice and pretty. That's it, that's all.

    • by khallow (566160) on Monday January 04, 2010 @12:46PM (#30642354)

      It is showcase for next generation special effects like Star Wars or Jurassic Park.

      Except that Star Wars and Jurassic Park will probably be watched centuries from now. They have value beyond merely the special effects.

      I think the message in Avatar is a good message to be repeated. Too much of the world operates on the ideas of justice being the will of the stronger and history being written by the victor. I believe that embedding messages like Avatar's in entertainment will encourage respect for all people, whether or not they can bomb the hell out of you.

      For the people gullible enough to take their beliefs from a movie with cartoonish, childlike morality, you might be right. For the people who use the gullible, this movie is a joke.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by penguinchris (1020961)

      I agree with your post, but I have to point out - Star Wars and Jurassic Park are your examples? Both showcased next-generation special effects, yes, but those *are* the rare cases that are still enjoyable to watch, even though the effects are dated now!

  • by ThreeGigs (239452) on Monday January 04, 2010 @11:22AM (#30641022)

    The scenery was cool, but not all that impressive. If you've ever played the Myst series of games, you'll know that striking visuals and landscapes like that have been done before. In fact, my first reaction on seeing Pandora was that it looked just like something I'd expect to see in Riven, and that's nearly a decade old.

    The graphics were...ok. Sorry, but I really expected better. The cgi rendered reflections in the soldiers' face masks was a nice detail touch, but it made them look artificial. No stray strands of hair, 'flat' skin (just texture, not topographically modeled), and odd lighting effects looked unnatural.

    The physics weren't all that great either. Turn your hand around quickly and you'll notice it 'jiggles' for a moment after you stop it. Not in the movie.. flesh didn't behave as I expected. Watch closely in the background when they are climbing up to choose their flying mounts, you'll notice their movements look like insects. We're introduced to scarface while he's lifting weights so he can keep in shape in the 'low gravity', and yet I saw no low gravity effects.

    The sounds were the killer though. Whoever did the sound effects needs to be fired (upon). All of the flying craft used ducted fans for propulsion, and yet they all made the sounds of a helicopter. That, to me was the most distracting element, especially because there were so many scenes with flying craft.

    It was good, yes. But not great. It was't realistic enough for me to believe... I kept getting jarred back to reality by the incongruities. You notice something isn't quite right, and maybe you can't put you finger on it, but it still nags at the back of your mind to remind you it's fake. And all of that could be forgiven if the story were compelling enough, but I've read too many similar 'persecuted aliens' stories to be impressed. It was, at least, worth the price of admission, which is something I find is all too rare these days.

  • by Qbertino (265505) on Monday January 04, 2010 @11:27AM (#30641110)

    While James Cameron isn't in my top list of directors by a long shot, having seen most (all?) of his movies and now Avatar I have to admit he is a good director. He does the movies he likes and he puts loads of personal effort and risk into them. And he knows how to get the plot, visuals *and* the screenplay right. I said *right* not original or superb. Given, the Avatar plot isn't anything new. Cameron boldfacidly admitted in an interview that it was 'Dances with Wolves' (..Pocahontas/Ferngully/etc. ...) in SF and I, as everyone else, was prepared to see a generic plotline unfold.

    But:
    I was suprised that the didn't flog a dead horse in terms of stale american cornyness in dialouge. There was a bit to much of that in Abyss and I was surprised that he'd improved on that in leaps and bounds. The play and dialog where simply textbook, no more and no less, but they avoided pressing any issue. It was as if Cameron almost expected one to know the story. And Avatars pacing is excellent, imho. No strange Abyss-like 'Submarine drama turned ET' plot-turns or mood-swings. Just the right amount of action, tension, poetry and subplot you can expect and not to much avantgarde experimenting as not to confuse the target audience, i.e. the masses. The FX are first class and lack the significant botches that disturbed the visual experience in 'Attack of the Clones'. I was prepared for something like that in the 95% CGI movie that Avatar is, and was glad they didn't screw up.

    Bottom line: Camerons movies are certainly not top-of-the-line in terms of avantgarde and arthouse, but they are allways a sure bet for a few hours of popcorn-movie fun. Which, as I understand, is his intention. And thus makes him a good director, in my book.

    My 2 cents.

  • Clear? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Xacid (560407) on Monday January 04, 2010 @11:41AM (#30641330) Journal

    "Given that the big alternatives were Sherlock Holmes or Alvin & the Chipmunks, I think the winner was clear."

    What the heck - Sherlock Holmes was infinitely better. Avatar was nice and all but nowhere near as entertaining, IMO. That comment is damned near trolling! *shakes fist* And get off my lawn!

  • by RogueWarrior65 (678876) on Monday January 04, 2010 @11:51AM (#30641458)

    I read that after Titanic, Cameron said he had his "f*ck you" money. Now it looks like he's got his "f*ck you and the horse you rode in on" money. So, what's next? Piranha 3 - Sushi from Hell?

  • by Seth Kriticos (1227934) on Monday January 04, 2010 @12:36PM (#30642176)

    Seriously, there is not that much good SciFi coming from the studios, so every time there comes _something_ resembling a very good movie, it gets excellent ROI. Who would have guessed? Seriously, the interval for stuff you ought to watch in the genre is stretching to half a year by now (last was star trek - spring, now avatar, next is Iron Man 2 - spring again).. if competition would be like 10-7 years ago, this numbers would not be achievable.

    It's actually a sign of very smart marketing, though I don't like that little detail about it: WE ARE ALL SCREWED!

    (sorry, I get a little emotional at times when someone approaches me from behind)..

C'est magnifique, mais ce n'est pas l'Informatique. -- Bosquet [on seeing the IBM 4341]

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