Avatar movie poster

Ambitious merger of live action and computer animation, with at least one groundbreaking 3-D effect: English subtitles for the language spoken on the celestial body of Pandora inserted on a plane in the middle distance between a foreground figure and an upstage figure, as if the foreground one could look down and read the subtitle himself. This effect is silly, is pretentious, is pointless, and nonetheless is fun. Much the same could be said of the movie as a whole. Silly, pretentious, pointless, and fun is surely less than writer and director James Cameron had in mind for his first feature film since Titanic twelve years before, a two hour and forty-five minute “visionary” science-fiction epic that dishes up an allegory on globalism, a warm-over of the old science-versus-military debate, a dose of Noble Savage romanticism, a Capt. Smith and Pocahontas culture-clash romance, an ecological message, and a tree-felling that insistently recalls the toppling of the World Trade Center. There appears little doubt that Cameron drew upon all his mental powers, yet happily those powers prove too feeble, too reliant on convention and stereotype, or if you wish to make it sound better, on tradition and archetype, to ruin the fun. The powers themselves, with their rumble of self-importance and their straining for significance, are part and parcel of the kitschy fun. Sam Worthington, Sigourney Weaver, Stephen Lang, Giovanni Ribisi, Michelle Rodriguez. 2009.

Duncan Shepherd

This movie is not currently in theaters.

Comments

Jay Allen Sanford Feb. 11, 2010 @ 11:20 a.m.

I was prepared to not like Avatar, since most CGI characters leave me cold - but the pro-ecology POV and excellent blend of animations and live action won me over. Mr. Shepherd compares the story and execution to Pocahontas, but really it's more like an adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs' John Carter of Mars series. Guy goes to live in another world while asleep, falls for and mates with beautiful and kick-ass tough native lady, wins the respect of huge colored-skin alien dude (green on Mars, blue on Pandora), learns to lead the "savages" to victory over planetside military aggression - some to think of it, Cameron owes the Burroughs estate a bunch of money for this story ----

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antigeekess Feb. 12, 2010 @ 10:43 a.m.

Same here, Jay. I didn't expect to like it, but I loved Avatar even more for the messages it conveys than for the elaborate visual orgy that it is. (For the few remaining Avatar virgins reading this, spend the extra few bucks and see it in 3D.) Cameron's bringing some critical wisdom to a mass audience in a format that grabs and holds their ADDled attention, without coming off as didactic and preachy. It's a very important film that could prove to be a real shaping influence on the psyches of young people who are sorely missing the type of life instruction that fairy tales used to provide. I'll stop myself from running amok on the topic of fairy tales here, since Bruno Bettelheim's already written that classic.

http://www.alibris.com/booksearch?qwork=6969212&matches=44&wquery=%22Uses+of+Enchantment%22+Bruno+Bettelheim&cm_sp=workslistingtitle

Avatar is, of course, a fairy tale. There's certainly nothing original about the story, and even Cameron will never have enough money to pay royalties to all those who could stake a legitimate claim. With regard to screen epics in which our hero "goes native," it reminds me of "Dances with Wolves" more than anything else.

I also felt that the general worldview common to native aboriginal peoples was very well represented, either because Cameron really "gets it" himself, or due to some savvy consultants. In fact, the most moving moment of the film for me was early on, when Neytiri kills an animal in order to save the blundering, clueless Jake. Her deep sense of regret, her concern and respect for the animal were right on. I don't recall seeing that given attention in a film before, and Cameron got it exactly right. I was stunned.

Even more easily recognizable were some distinctly Asian themes. For example saw the "empty cup" of Zen, with Neytiri as teacher, Jake as student. http://www.prairiewindzen.org/emptying_your_cup.html

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clockerbob Feb. 12, 2010 @ 11:15 a.m.

Art from the book 'atlas shrugged' by russian writer rand ... nothing original from start to finish.

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Jay Allen Sanford Feb. 14, 2010 @ 9:20 a.m.

Now that I'm noting John Carter swipes, I see many more, right down to both main characters being formerly military men who have become privateers, just before finding themselves on another world, mixing with the alien natives.

There IS a Carter movie finally being made, I understand, tho the casting is a bit wonky – hard to picture Thomas Hayden Church as Hajus, let alone Willem “Green Goblin” DaFoe as Tars Tarkus, but I’ll checkitout anyway. The state of CGI tech would seem to give it a fair shot, with even the 15 foot tall Martians now fully possible to do. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Carter_of_Mars_(film)

John Ratzenberger’s role hasn’t been specified yet, but I’m betting he’ll voice one of those ambulatory brain thingys….

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Milanola1 Feb. 16, 2010 @ 7:58 a.m.

I took my son to see it and was prepared to not like the movie, but aside from all the kooky paganism-mother-earth-like themes, I found it to be a fun and enjoyable movie.

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Rocket_J_Squirrel March 6, 2010 @ 9:30 p.m.

The best "Special Effect" in the entire Avatar movie? Michelle Rodriguez, the helicopter-thingy pilot. She's a Goddess. * performance.

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SDaniels March 7, 2010 @ 3:11 a.m.

I guess this is the theme of the week. Rocket_J, all I gotta say (to you) is:

"You're a God. * performance."

;)

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SDaniels March 7, 2010 @ 3:14 a.m.

4: "Willem “Green Goblin” DaFoe"

Perhaps he deserved this moniker at some point or another, jayallen, but seriously, check out his body of work aside from film before you pigeonhole the man so grievously--i.e., on the STAGE, man...!

Not THAT "body," J_Squirrel! Get your nuts outta the gutter!

Wait now--not THOSE nuts--never mind. Sigh.

;)

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Jay Allen Sanford March 7, 2010 @ 4:15 p.m.

True - I forgot about DaFoe's appearance under a bed in Family Guy...

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SDaniels March 7, 2010 @ 8:50 p.m.

I said STAGE, Jayallen. C'mon! Snort! :)

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Rocket_J_Squirrel March 7, 2010 @ 11:11 p.m.

SDaniels and magicsfive - Goddesses both. **** performance. GOLLY!

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magicsfive March 8, 2010 @ 12:42 p.m.

you should see SD in person, Rocket ;) (drools) 11:11 i love it

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Rocket_J_Squirrel March 8, 2010 @ 2:51 p.m.

you should see SD in person, Rocket ;) (drools) 11:11 i love it By magicsfive

Soooooooooo, you like girls too? Does this mean you're.......Lebanese?...........GOLLY! (I won't tell Bullwinkle)

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Rocket_J_Squirrel March 8, 2010 @ 2:53 p.m.

Just so you know - I voted NO on Prop.8.........

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magicsfive March 8, 2010 @ 2:57 p.m.

sorry to disappoint you rocket, but i am bi... x

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Rocket_J_Squirrel March 8, 2010 @ 3:18 p.m.

Disappointed? Are you kidding me? -XOXOXO!

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Rocket_J_Squirrel March 8, 2010 @ 3:20 p.m.

SO THAT explains how Bullwinkle got bent into that "origami swan" shape....

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magicsfive March 8, 2010 @ 3:58 p.m.

LMAO...rocket, rocket...what to do with you.

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Rocket_J_Squirrel March 8, 2010 @ 9:33 p.m.

"rocket, rocket...what to do with you." Well like they always say:

"Once you've had a squirrel in the sack......you'll never go back!"

Of course Bullwinkle would counter with:

"Once you've had a moose.....you'll feel REAL LOOSE!"

Just throwing that out there.

Now I'll promptly end up like PistolPete.

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antigeekess March 8, 2010 @ 9:51 p.m.

"Once you've had a squirrel in the sack......you'll never go back!"

Good Lord. shakes head

I'm kinda skeered of those teeth, personally.

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magicsfive March 8, 2010 @ 10:06 p.m.

that alleged encounter with Bullwinkle...that is all heresay ;)

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Rocket_J_Squirrel March 8, 2010 @ 10:09 p.m.

The teeth are covered by my tongue. Your safety and happiness are my #1 and #2 priorities. Rocky will protect you!

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Rocket_J_Squirrel March 8, 2010 @ 10:11 p.m.

As long as it's NOT..."horsey". You know - neigh - neigh...... Oops. sorry. Goodnight.

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Rocket_J_Squirrel March 8, 2010 @ 10:26 p.m.

Yes....I admit.....Magicsfive's alleged tryst with the moose NEVER HAPPENED!

I THINK I was just hallucinating again after having flown into a tree trunk head - first for the umpteenth time. I guess it's time to fly over to the nearest Petco and shop for a more modern flying helmet.

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magicsfive March 9, 2010 @ 7:12 a.m.

are you SURE it never happened?? just sayin ;)

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SDaniels March 9, 2010 @ 12:32 p.m.

"Once you've had a squirrel in the sack......you'll never go back!"

I've heard this is a solid truth on the drag queen circuit, tho the nuts are often taped under...oh snap, that's right, 'squirrelfriend!'

;)

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