Avatar was a great movie.

I think people who have complaints about Avatar’s script or story don’t realize what Cameron was trying to accomplish with his movie. It was never his intent to create a movie designed to give people a complex story to figure out or be surprised by. I’ve seen several interviews with Cameron, with the most interesting one being an interview with Charlie Rose on December 17, the day before the movie was released. In it, and in response to questions by Rose, he addresses most of what have turned out to be complaints about the movie here.

Cameron acknowledged first of all that he most definitely wanted people to take an environmental message from the movie. He also said that he felt people had enough information on the environment, having read the stats on AGW and seen An Inconvienent Truth and forth and that they didn’t need more in the way of information, they needed a way to relate to environmental concerns on an emotional level. So he set out to connect with them in such a way as to make environmental appreciation and concerns resonate with his viewers in that way, rather than by bombarding them with more information on the subject.

He also sought to convey a message about war. His view was that since this country has never been invaded, most of his audience has never experienced what it’s like to be invaded. So he wanted his audience to experience through the Na’vi the pain and horror and misery that result from having your homeland invaded like that. And he was doing that in an effort to try to get us to think twice before we decide it’s necessary to invade someone else. (And, contrary to what you might expect, he didn’t seem all that determined that we never invade another country, only that we should think it through and make damn sure that what we’re doing is the right thing to do before we inflict that pain and horror on someone else.)

And he was forthright in admitting to some aspects of the film that people in this thread have objected to, such as the striking similarity between the Na’vi and human beings, the weaponry used, and its intentional broad-based appeal. With regard to the Na’vi, he said that he needed the audience to be able to relate to the Na’vi and how they were living and what they were going through, and that to make them alien and bizarre would make it difficult for audiences to identify with them.

With regard to the weaponry and why it wasn’t more advanced, it’s pretty much the same thing: the audience’s ability to identify with it. He didn’t want his audiences being dazzled by whiz-bang weaponry that was unfamiliar and would take them away from experiencing the emotionality of the scenes in which weapons were being used. Everybody already knows how the weapons in the movie work, so they’re better able to focus on the damage being done rather than on the weapons themselves.

And with regard to making a movie so obviously intended to have mass appeal, he quite naturally wanted the largest number of people possible to be exposed to the messages the movie contained, but he also felt a moral obligation to the studio that had entrusted him with the huge amount of money necessary to make the film, and he wanted to make sure that investment got repaid. This frankness and financial concern was also evident in Cameron’s response when Charlie Rose asked why Neytiri had breasts. He said “Because we wanted to put male seats in the movie theater”. :smiley:

And then there were the extraordinary lengths Cameron went through to make the movie as believable as possible within the context of the movie as it was to be made. He hired a professor of linguistics from USC, I believe it was, to invent an authentic language for the Na’vi, even down to making sure the grammer was correct. He took the actors to Hawaii for three days to prowl around in the rain forest there in order to develop the sense memory of what it’s like to be in a jungle environment. The actors had to take archery lessons and horseriding lessons too, all in an effort to make sure that their performances rang true.

So, all in all, Cameron was juggling quite a few balls simultaneously. He wanted us to look at human beings from an outside perspective, to experience and indentify with a culture that revered its environment, and to experience the shock, horror and misery that people experience when they are invaded. Plus he needed to develop or invent new technology in order to make the film in the first place, and he needed to repay the investor who had trusted their money to him. And he accomplished each of them extraordinarily well in my opinion.

So in closing, there is nothing either in the movie or left out of it that wasn’t the direct result of a conscious decision by James Cameron as the film’s creator and director. He has created a film that is not only a technological marvel but whose story is resonating with people emotionally and breaking attendance records in virtually every corner of the world. In no way did he place all his focus on the technologicall aspects of the movie and then just throw in a slapdash script to go with it, which seems to be the common misperception among the film’s critics.

Yeah, it was pretty good. The story was cliched and predictable to me, but what I loved was how fun it made it look to be a Na’vi, and the whole bio-internet thing. Thought they could’ve done awesome things with that in a book.

Here are a couple of the interviews Cameron did with Charlie Rose if anyone’s interested in getting the info straight from the horse’s mouth. Cameron’s an interesting guy to listen to, obviously quite intelligent but surprisingly low-key and amiable in his demeanor. Quite a bit different than his reputation. The first link is to the interview of December 17th that I mentioned upthread. For some reason they’re not available through Rose’s site but I just found them using Bing. (Had I found them earlier it would have saved a lot of keyboard time. :D)



This observation might have some relevance if the main criterion we use when evaluating the film is the director’s intent. But it isn’t. Even if Cameron never intended for the movie to have a complex story, this does not change the fact that some people see the absence of a decent story as a serious drawback of the film.

With the possible exception of Uwe Boll, very few directors intend for their films to suck. And yet, despite this, some films do suck. Noting that the sucky aspects of the film were something that the director didn’t really focus on isn’t much of a defense, IMO.

This seems to be a rebuttal to arguments that people are not really making.

I never said that he just threw a “slapdash script” together for the movie. I’m perfectly willing to believe that he carefully considered all of the things that you mention in your OP. My criticism is that, from my perspective at least, all his hard work still resulted in a film with a shitty, predictable story, a ham-fisted allegory, one-dimensional characters, mediocre acting, and fantastic visuals.

In short, i agree with you about all the things he tried to do. I’m just saying that, for me, many of those things failed.

I’m not quite sure why defenders of this film keep insisting that the critics have missed something. It’s not like this was a particularly deep film, with loads of subtle nuance that we might have missed. Hell, your whole OP basically supports the notion that it was created with Everyman in mind, and that generally means appealing to the lowest common denominator in terms of story complexity.

Those of us who criticize the film didn’t miss anything; we don’t have any “misperception” about it. We just don’t think that it really succeeds as a film.

I don’t have a lot to say, but thank you Starving Artist, for this thread. I’ve never even opened the other thread and have no intention of ever doing so. If there were an “Ignore Thread” feature, it’d be the first to go on the list (well, either that or “Jimi Hendrix was Murdered” but they’d both be on it within a few seconds of each other). It’s nice to see a thread with this Subject Line.

IMO, Avatar is a fine movie, maybe yes, even a great movie, with an interesting story, good acting, a worthwhile message and serviceable enough characters. Oh, and fantastic visuals.

Believe it or not, I never thought of you once while composing the OP. :smiley:

Now, having said that, it isn’t my purpose to criticize anyone for disliking the movie or finding it wanting in terms of story, predictability, etc. What I’m saying that Cameron took those things into account and decided they would be a detriment to the messages he wanted to get across and the emotional responses he wanted to evoke.

I just wanted to make people aware of what it was that Cameron was trying to accomplish with Avatar and that he didn’t just blow off the story aspect of the movie in favor of technological accomplishment, which is a complaint I’ve seen voiced both in reviews of the movie and around here.

I thought that Avatar did an extraordinarily effective job of doing what it set out to do, which was to take us outside ourselves as humans and look at ourselves as homo sapiens from another perspective, to look for and appreciate beauty and value in terms of the environment, and to experience the helplessness, pain, horror and misery that can result from being forcibly invaded by a vastly more powerful force.

What is the point of fighting ignorance? Clearly it’s so that people can make knowledgeable, informed decisions, and it’s my hope that if people are going to be critical of Avatar, that they know the real reasons why it was made the way it was rather than the reasons they suppose.

And to be honest, I suppose it’s also my hope that if some of the people who saw the the movie and found it wanting for whatever reason were to learn what it was really trying to accomplish and look at it from that perspective, they’ll see how incredibly well done it was and therefore appreciate it more and perhaps enjoy having seen it more.

And on preview, thanks, Equipoise. And btw, your post brings up another complaint about the movie I disagree with, and that’s the quality of the acting. I thought everyone in it did a superb job. Not once during my initial viewing of the film did I give a thought to the actor behind the role, and that’s one of my primary criteria for judging how well an actor did his or her job. Zoe Saldana and Sam Worthington trained for months to learn how to perform their roles the way Cameron wanted. They crawled around jungles, took archery lessons (and because Cameron made the Na’vi left-handed, they had to learn to shoot that way too), horse-riding lessons, trained to be more physically fit, and even had to learn to speak the Na’vi language that Cameron had commissioned for the film. I recall Saldana recounting in an interview the challenges she faced in her role as Neytiri, where among other things she not only had to learn to speak Na’vi, but then how to speak English with a Na’vi accent.

I thought every actor in the movie did a superb job. And if you’ve ever seen an interview with Stephen Lang, who played Col. Quaritch, you’ll see what a great job he did as he’s nothing at all like Quaritch. He’s a very pleasant, smiling and affable guy who seems nothing at all like the role he played. He even seems smaller (though the fitness he projected is certainly still there).

And as much as I’m sure Kelsey will appreciate the shoutout, I meant to say “grammar”. :smack:

Man, I’m making a lot of mistakes tonight. I just had to explain a missing period in another thread. What a schmuck!

I pretty much agree with all that (and I don’t even care about the technical aspect of the visuals; it could’ve looked half as good technically and still done the job for me), and yet I still liked it. I thought of it pretty much like a superhero movie. Just imagine how damn unbelievably cool it’d be to get into a giant alien body and run, jump, ride, and fly around while exploring another planet-- oh, and you’re basically invincible. That’s what made it an awesome movie for me. I could relate, and that relating was awesome.

I think you’ll find very few people who actually believe that Cameron intentionally gave short shrift to this (or any) aspect of his movie. There’s no denying that he’s a meticulous director who combs over every aspect of his production with scrutiny and attention. In fact, I think you’ll find that even in the very worst of films, quite a lot of genuine effort from a lot of dedicated people went into every single component of that particular movie.

For those of us who don’t care for the film, it’s not that we’re somehow unaware of what Cameron was trying to do. It’s not as if somehow your post has drawn the veil from our eyes and revealed a nuance and subtlety to his intentions that somehow eluded us. With Cameron, there is very little subtext–it’s all text, on the surface and clearly evident to anyone who’s paying attention. He’s not exactly what you’d call a complicated, opaque, or elusive director.

The problem is that, when it comes to the sheer quality of the writing, originality in story-telling, and capacity to draw complex performances from his actors, Cameron (IMHO) just does a bad job. It’s really that simple. And not all the (overrated or overwrought) visual bells & whistles in the world are going to change that perception.

If this was his intent then I think he still failed with it. I never connected emotionally with any of the characters or the environment. It still felt cartoony to me so I didn’t really care if the cartoony planet survived or not.

True. We’ve never been invaded. But as for conveying a message about war I don’t think there’s a more popular movie topic than “war”. Every year we get a couple of war movies. There are tons of them out there. And some of them ( a lot of them) are really really great about conveying the feeling of desperation in times of war. Avatar didn’t. Again it felt just too cartoony and forced. It’s one thing to say you’re conveying a message, it’s another to actually do it effectively.

Yea, Lucas did that too with the Ewoks in 1983. It was kind of a gimmic and I don’t think people really cared.

Well, having the best intents is one thing. But what ends up on film is another.

To me this:

is what ended up on film.

He did not reach my heart. As such he can claim whatever message he wishes but I do not buy it.

Did anyone on SDMB get anything new from Avatar about the environment or about war? Did you say:
“Aha! Now I get it. We need to live in harmony with nature and with each other. Nature:Good. War:Bad. Thanks Jim for pointing that out. And, oh, BTW, what’s the human equivalent of Eywa? I’d like to pray to her/him/it so that there will be peace on earth, after ruthlessly destroying all evil.”

I think that Cameron is brilliant in his ability to convey a black-and-white, one-dimensional message to the masses by marshalling huge amounts of money and talent to create a polychromatic 3-D income generator.

He can create an entertaining movie, too.

Sure. I’ve already said numerous times in the other thread that i had a good time at the movie.

But while i sort of understand the argument that some people make, “If you enjoyed it, then it must have been a good film,” i don’t completely buy it. In my opinion, it is possible to enjoy the movie experience without thinking that it was actually a good movie. I can enjoy the movie while also believing that its negatives outweigh its positives. I recognize that this is my own subjective position, but that’s just how it is, i guess.

I certainly didn’t. I don’t think this movie made any comments about the environment, imperialism, war, or anything else that hasn’t been done better in dozens of other movies.

I think the best you can say about these aspects of the movie is that they might have given some cinematic food for thought to the type of people who only ever watch summer blockbusters. If this movie is the first thing you’ve ever seen that opens your eyes to those issues, then i think it says more about your level of civic and political engagement than it does about the movie.

Because the critics have missed something: they missed the movie.

They keep looking for an Avatar movie that does not exist, and judging the actual Avatar based on their own expectations. Avatar did not have an intricate plot. Other movies do not have stunning visuals. The lack of one or the other makes neither a good nor bad movie.

The movie must be judged based on what was in the movie, not by what you wanted to be in the movie.

Also, over-the-top descriptions such as “hamfisted <whatever>” pretty much make me discount what ‘the critics’ say. That’s not there to argue a point; that’s there to argue an emotion.

In support of the OP’s point, though: It was a good movie.

It’s plot and characterization are at least as good as the original Star Wars – also considered a ‘good movie’, although had the Internet been around when it released, no doubt we’d all be subjected to long, tiresome threads telling us that we were wrong thinking that Star Wars was a good movie.

Beyond that, there are Avatar’s spectacular visual effects. Truly stunning.

But what I was most impressed with, actually, was the editing. Everything that did not move the plot and action along from this movie was stripped out.

Since the description of what Unobtanium was did not affect the plot, it was not mentioned.

Since the explanation of why the company/mercs are using their probably-outdated weaponry did not affect the plot, that was not mentioned. (goodbye, orbital Thorstrike so beloved by many Internet denizens).

I think the best example of the editing was when Jake was about to go after the Greater Leonopteryx – we’d just seen the scene of Jake taming his Banshee. Rather than repeat that action, the editing simply cuts to the next scene with new action to entertain everyone.

So that’s why I found it to be a good movie: great visuals, great editing, servicable plot and characterization and acting.

The fact that you and others continue to repeat this, ad nauseum, doesn’t make it true. The fact that we missed the movie that YOU want us to see doesn’t mean that our criticisms lack validity.

Also, in my opinion, Avatar doesn’t just lack an intricate plot; it actually has a bad, predictable, by-the-numbers plot. Plots can be good without being intricate, and they can be intricate without being good. This plot was neither, in my opinion.

Again, you miss the point. I am judging the movie precisely based on what i saw in the movie. I looked at the plot and the acting and the character development, and i found them wanting. What you seem to be saying here is, “You must judge this movie based on the same set of criteria and priorities that i use when judging this movie.” Sorry, pal, but that’s not how it works.

You are welcome to discount whatever you like. It might feed your ego to think that my criticisms are designed specifically to annoy you, but i can assure you that you are not the center of my movie-watching universe.

As for the emotion thing, well, duh! Movies are about emotion, in case you missed the memo. Half of Cameron’s discussion of this movie, as described by the OP, is based on eliciting an emotional reaction from the audience. The fact that my emotional reaction differs from yours doesn’t make me wrong and you right, no matter how many often you insist that it does.

You’re kidding, right? Is this satire? Comedy? Farce?

Avatar is a 162 minute movie that could have “move[d] the plot and action along” to the same conclusion in about 100-110 minutes. I’m not really begrudging the extra time, because it did give me more of a chance to appreciate the amazing visuals, but to praise this film for efficient editing seems, to me at least, to be rather unwarranted. YMMV. And obviously does.

Responding to the OP, you seem to be saying “Cameron didn’t screw up - he made the movie he intended to make.” I don’t think anybody would seriously argue with that. However, “the movie I intended to make” and “a good movie” are not necessarily synonymous. I haven’t seen the movie, so I’m not commenting on that. This is merely a critique of your argument. You haven’t hit QED yet.

I, for one, find the endless battles over whether *Avatar * is a [ great movie | overhyped piece of shit ] to be [ nearly as | much more ] tense and exciting [ as | than ] the ones depicted in the film!

*Avatar *is a trite story told well. The dramatic beats came when they should have, the motivations of the characters were clear and supported the unfolding events of the story, the editing amplified the action instead of confusing it, and the ending tied up the various story arcs in satisfying ways. Well done.

However, what it DID NOT do was take us anyplace unexpected. It did not provide any surprising insights into the human condition, or give us characters with any ambiguity or complexity. It confirms and amplifies what we already know, rather than opening up new vistas for us to explore.

And this is why it is merely a GOOD movie, and not a GREAT one.

A great movie does not have to be artsy or pretentious. The Godfather was a great movie, while still managing to have mass-market appeal. But Michael Corleone has a depth that’s missing from Jake Sully. And that makes the difference between good and great.

Starving Artist, I feel for you. In 1998 I thought Titanic was a great movie, still do, but I would’ve never got in the middle of this crowd and shouted so.

Ya got guts, kid. :smiley:

(Another movie I think is great, but has many, many detractors is Speilberg’s War of the Worlds.)

It was a great, fun SF movie made with the aid of state of the art CGI. It made over a billion dollars really fast. Of course the fanboys are whining. If there were a formula for provoking whining from fanboys, that would be it! They long for the days when the aliens were made of papier-mache, the budgets were in the tens of thousands of dollars, and special effects consisted of flaming pie plates on string. Do not be angry at the fanboys. Pity them. Theirs is a hopeless cause.