Sunday, January 17, 2010

My Ramblings After Seeing Avatar

I fear I’ve lost my sense of wonder.

I kept being pulled out of Avatar. The 3D effect often offered problems, a sort of going-out-of-phase that would last for awhile, maybe the length of a reel, like there was an occasional projector issue. When this problem occurred, subtitles, for instance, would look double printed and therefore really hard to read. The 3D distracted me because of these problems. Maybe it was my glasses. Maybe it was my eyes. The  friend who came with me didn’t seem to have any problems.

Next, I kept getting pulled out of the experience because of the bits I saw and heard that seemed lifted out of other movies. The spaceship at the beginning featured rotating arm things just like the one on the Leonov in 2010 (a similarity I sort of liked because I was seeing it in the year 2010). Of course, it’s a sensible design for artificial gravity, but still, it distracted me for a minute. The design of the sleeper chambers like in Alien. The Exoskelton suit thingy which was a sort of cross between Ripley’s loader in Aliens and the mini AT-AT things from Return of the Jedi. The space marines in general.

Horner. Sigh. Almost immediately I heard THE MOTIF the danger motif, those triplets this time sounding VIRTUALLY IDENTICAL to moments in Star Trek II. Then there was the recurring use of a section that seemed lifted from Brainstorm. And the opening bars of the theme that eventually turned in to the lame song at the end sounded EXACTLY like the opening bars of that Titanic song. Oh, Horner, Horner, Horner.

The plot points seemed overly easy to follow and predict. The biology on this alien world seemed essentially terrestrial. Humanoids, really? Oh, but they only have four fingers, so that’s different. And they’re taller and have tails. Wow. And trees. Just like our trees. And dogs. And big dragon things like we’ve drawn for centuries. I guess I just expected it to be more, well, alien. And I still can’t even begin to consider the physics of floating mountains.

But, all that aside, I enjoyed it. I wish the 3D wasn’t so intrusive in its lack of consistency or me, but I appreciated the way the effect added depth to the proceedings (when it was working) without resorting to a lot of “throw the spear at the audience” moments. I enjoyed the feeling that this was a world that was very thought out, both the Marine’s world and Pandora. James Horner did his job and made music that worked in the film. And it was a nice, big experience, one that would be difficult to duplicate on a small screen.

But I feel like I mostly appreciated it intellectually without ever getting sucked in emotionally, and this is where I think I’ve lost my sense of wonder, my ability to suspend disbelief. I shouldn’t CARE about physics or astrobiology or lifts from previous movies or Horner’s being Horner. But my stupid brain wouldn’t let me just sit and get sucked in. As a kid, Star Wars completely enveloped me, sucked me in so I was unaware of anything but the movie while I was watching it. But these days I can’t seem to do it. I guess Star Trek, which I loved (and let’s not get started on stupid physics there) got a lot closer to completely sucking me in, and I was able to appreciate the “meta” qualities of it as nods to its own history as a franchise. But instead of reveling in  a new world and moviegoing experience, I was lifted out too many times. I REALLY wish the 3D had been flawless for me, I think that would have really helped. But I wish I could also turn off my big stupid brain and just appreciate the movie for just being itself.


Jorn said...

Well I hope you find it again, your sense of wonder that is. Your analytical skills are top nothc, but I was once like you though. Analysing everything until I ruined everything. Not sure why and how I changed, but I am not going back there, although I love a good analysis (like yours).

Avatar had many flaws but the moment I sat down in the cinema I was helplessly sucked into Cameron's (and Horner's) ability to amaze. The duo kept me at the edge of my seat for 3 hours and when it was over, I wanted to see it again and again.

Not once in the movie was I reminded of past designs or past music (although I must admit I smirked when I heard the "danger motif" for the first time. It made me relax... because I was really scared... scared that Cameron and Horner somehow would make a mess of things, but Horner's motif made it all so clear... yes, this is Horner!!! My excitement went from a 10/10 to at least 17.39 and Cameron's visuals didn't exactly put a damper on things.

Avatar is beautiful, simply beautiful. Not since the LOTR trilogy has 3 hours just vanished like this. I really hope Avatar kills at the awards this year and I will be shocked if it doesn't.

Great to read your thoughts as always Neil!

Oh by the way... I thought I saw your sense of wonder taking a taxi to see Avatar one more time. Better catch up! ;)

That Neil Guy said...


Another thing I'll say for the movie is it NEVER felt like three hours. It was not hard to sit through at all, it did not seem long.

Guess I should admit that I have not seen any of the Lord of the Rings movies. They just never looked very interesting to me. I tried to read the Hobbit three times as a kid and could never get into it and I've never read or seen any of the Harry Potter stuff. All the magic and elves and such don't really appeal to me. I prefer spaceships, I guess.

And, yes, Horner defintiely delivers the goods. What he wrote works wonderfully in the film, and that's what counts in the end. Only .001% of the moviegoing public who are soundtrack nerds will roll their eyes at the danger motif. The rest will just recognize a job well done.

Andi said...

One word: unobtainium.

_skynet_ said...

You watch too many movies =D

About the floating mountains... Pandora is the moon of a gas giant, so, it not just has always the same face towards the gas giant, mountains can be pulled due to gravity and stabilized due to the density of the air.
It is not totally realistic, such pull would not stabilize the mountains that much as if you could walk on them. And such pull would also pull the atmosphere making it an open atmosphere and therefore unbeareable to life. But for the style it gives, I gladly pay the price of not bothering myself with that.

I see no problem with the similarities of earth life too. Besides the factor of style (it's not that you can't like a slug with eight eyes and antennae, but it would be much more difficult).
The Universe, being a fractal system, will reproduce its characteristics (the one being discussed is life as we know) with similarities.
Notice the animals are much bigger and/or taller. That's a gravitational effect, and possibly because the air is so dense, that it brings much more energy to life.

Also notice a scene where they were walking in the forest, and the ground lightened up as they stepped. That's piezoelectric effect together with some kind of chemical luminescence, which would be perfectly possible in an alien biology.

I didn't think things were so random as if they weren't thought up. They were, and much deeper than many other scifi movies.