Triumph Of The Usurper


hijinks-ensue-edward-shirt-160I wonder if George Lucas went into Avatar thinking, “Heh, I’ll see Jimmy Cameron’s new movie. I’m sure it’ll be good for a laugh, but we ALL know who the reigning champ of 100% wooden digital characters is.” Oh, Georgie Georgie Georgie, you fat necked lummox. If Cameron can create CG characters with realistic human emotions and less than ridiculous accents, then why can’t you? Maybe he’ll teach a class at a community college next year and you can enroll. The funny thing is that Cameron  waited nearly 12 years until technology caught up with his vision, so Avatar could look the way he saw it in his head. Lucas, on the other hand, made 2 awesome movies (and a third crappy one), then waited 20 years until technology caught up to his vision to digitally ruin them with pointless bullshit.

I’m trying to save my full on Avatar review for the next HE Podcast, but let’s just say I was thoroughly entertained and impressed. [UPDATE! The Podcast is posted and we talk about Avatar for nearly half the show.] A lot of people are complaining that the story and writing take a back seat to the visuals, but else do you expect? James Cameron already used three of the dimensions making the movie beautiful, so of course there’s only one dimension left for everything else. Seriously, if you leave that movie and find yourself complaining rather than drooling for more you might as well sign up for the junior executive program at FOX because your heart has probably been replaced by a hate-filled pineapple.

I could very easily rant for pages and pages about how visually stunning the 3D was, how lifelike the motion captured performances were or how engrossed I was in the fictional world that Jame Cameron created but I’d rather just say this: the reason I know Avatar was well deserving of my (and your) entertainment time and money was that I left the theater asking questions. What are the far reaching implications of this characters actions? How will the final outcome affect Earth? How will it affect those already in transit to the planet (since it’s a 6 year ride)? Are there other inhabited worlds? Was the end really THE END? The list goes on and on. I don’t often find my curiosity so peaked over fiction without substance. Take from that what you will, but at least ignore the hype and approach Avatar with an open (if not childlike) mind.

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    • If only lucas would just kill himself and get it over with….but he would only fake his death so that he could direct the movie based on it and do it better with more special effects.

  1. You evidently didn't endure Cameron's filibustery point-by-point breakdown of this movie's story at the Ubisoft show during E3. Else you wouldn't have seen it in the first place.

    Also, Star Wars is forever, everything else is merely a limited engagement.

  2. I agree that this movie was just a phenomenal living world where Lucas created this wooden construct….

    Makes me wonder if the star wars prequel flicks would be better now? Indy 4 makes me think NO!!!

  3. I'm sure those questions will be answered in the first sequel. And the next. And the next.


    And yes, story telling IS more important than visual effects. Every film in the cinema has stunning visuals these days – it's not hard for a Hollywood film to do. Good storytelling is far rarer.

    • I agree with you but I have to say the effects in this film did actually improve the story telling. The immersion was just great enough that I was completely drawn into the scene and not thinking about what would obviously come next. I can't recall noticing the particulars of each shot and cut either (Sometimes movies that should be good are ruined for me because I'm just watching the camera movements and the editing instead of watching the film).
      I also saw Avatar in Imax 3D. Holy crap. I'll never be able to watch this film in 2D or on a smaller screen.

  4. Cameron may have waited 12 years for his technology to catch up with his vision, but that doesn't mean that the technology was building itself for 12 years just for the end result of Avatar. Putting a few Star Wars movies in the middle of that 12 year span helped move the graphics industry forward. And Lucas is one of those filmmakers that can make the investment to push technology beyond its limits. ILM also contributed to Weta's workload to help finish Avatar on time.

    I think George is a smart enough guy to know that CG characters are always going to get better and better as time goes on. If anything about Avatar made Lucas cry, it was probably the great storyline, the character dialogue, or James Cameron's directoring.

  5. Great comic! Saw it last night with my wife, who REALLY wasn't interested in even seeing it after having seen the trailer. After it was over, she was already making plans for when we could see it again. "Josh, you didn't tell me there was a love story!"

    This movie has something for everyone. Wow.

  6. Yeah, respectfully disagree. Avatar is the prettiest movie I've ever seen, but the story and characters are a three hour long commentary on the fact that James Cameron doesn't understand human beings. I don't want to get specific and spoil anything, but there is zero chance the movie could have gone down like that. Even worse, all the basic building blocks were there for him to tell a true science fiction masterpiece. Instead, we got a "race" war. Just because its pretty doesn't mean that it should get a free pass on every other criteria of a movie. Btw, I do think that we just witnessed something akin to the change between color and black and white, the diffrence was that profound.

    • hear hear! Visual effects, no matter how jaw-dropping awesome, don't mean squat if they can't support a good story. They may enhance the story, but there are limits to that.

  7. It was a combination of clichés and deus ex machinae, but it's nonetheless very hard not to get sucked into the story because it's so visually compelling. Nonetheless, Cameron does not get a free pass on account of visuals: this could have been a mind-blowingly this-is-why-we-live great film instead of merely a damned good one, if the story itself sucked less.

    But hot damn, that was such an amazing world. I give major, MAJOR kudos to the design team for Pandora's flora and fauna. My biologist side has never been so happy to see a sci-fi world's ecosystem like this. They did their homework better than anyone else I've seen, and it was gorgeous. My only qualm in this realm is what selective process would favor a six-legged body plan for large land dwellers. But even that doesn't really stick out because the locomotion for the six-leggeds looks natural enough that you hardly notice they have six legs. So yeah, squee.

    • Agree completely on the free pass. To take such a complex topic and treat it in such a pedestrian way…*shrug*…I guess that's Hollywood.

      Also, is the biology really that great? I don't buy the tree's ability to interface with a human (i.e. alien) body the way it does at the end there.

      • Eywa may have been able to adapt on the fly since it had previously been exposed to Terran life & since both worlds ecologies appear similar enough to create hybrids. Now the fact that both have DNA based on similar enough base pair amino acids is a huge stretch.

      • Well, operating on the premise that the plants on Pandora collectively form a kind of superorganism, the "tree" is more than just a tree–more like an organ for interacting with the Na'vi. And behind that organ is a giant neural network, a sort of living computer. We don't really know the nature of the interface between the tree and other organisms, but if you can accept a sci-fi story in which the singularity has happened and anyone can upload themselves into a computer and live forever, this is functionally the same thing.

        So what I really loved about the biology was that they put a great deal more thought into the design of the wildlife than most designers do. Most sci-fi productions superficially raid the megafauna and megaflora for some interesting features or behaviors. But these guys really made the effort to make truly *alien* life, and not only that, reinforce the motif of the collective superorganism through the design of the individual organisms inhabiting the planet.

        Pretty much every mobile organism they created (including the Na'vi) has at least one feature that harkened back to sessile organisms (tentacles/tendrils, pod-like parts) and many of the 'plants' behaved like animals (the sacred seeds, the ferns that retracted into their trunks). This sort of blurs the line between what's really a 'plant' or 'animal', breaking down that divide so that what you see before you is simply 'life'. The visual features of the flora were strongly based on sea anemones, jellyfish, tube worms, coral, fungi, and lichen–organisms which can form colonies and/or live in symbiotic relationships with other organisms. In this way they reflect their creator Eywa, the collective life force, and the idea of harmony and balance between species. In addition, taking marine life and fungi and blowing them up into giant photosynthetic plants makes for some truly weird looking stuff. I think that was an effin' brilliant move.

        • My initial take on Eywa's intelligence wasn't quite as generous as yours. I placed it more at the "emergence of thought patterns" stage, rather than fully self-aware, conscious entity, but maybe adapting to new patterns is a core faculty for it. Either way, I guess I can swallow the AI analogy.

          Guess it had better learn how to negotiate, because it's pretty damn likely that the next stage is humans coming back with some real hardware and reducing that planet into a series of mines, with wildlife parks sprinkled about for variety.

    • The biology might have been nice, but the physics took a really long back seat there. Floating mountains. Des ex machina mentioned, and at least they stayed away from technobabble, or i might have realized the stupidity during the movie instead of afterwards.

      Radio not working. Yes i love the fact that Humanity in the future forgot that Laser guided missiles exist. And radiowaves are also just part of the electromagnetic spectrum just like visible light. yay.

      • And using a shuttle to do a low pass do drop makeshift bombs? Excuse me but did the Military officer for that crappy operation remember that shuttles can reach speed to escape atmosphere and must have the structural integrity to withstand atmospheric reentry. Wanna see a stupid semiintelliugent bird catch a shuttle at Mach 4 that drops bombs (makeshift or not give them a detonator for airburst).

        And on the question raised how will Earth respond. Well if i would lead a corporation that can "buy" military power. Id set lots of napalm to the planet everywhere id be working. Woods burn great once you put a firestorm in place. Dresden and both nukes during WW2 proved the working principle. A planet consiting of huge amounts of forest is perfect for that.

        But yeah apparently there are nice people on Earth too, that might be against such a scorched planet tactic.

  8. I was hoping Lucas would be forced to do this simply by releasing the "first 3" Star Wars movies, or by screwing up the old, good Star Wars movies, or for simply creating Jar-Jar Binx.

    Oh well, I guess as long as it happens I shouldn't quibble about WHY it happens.

  9. The 3D in "Avatar" was so good, George Lucas should have been eaten by Pandora's fauna coming out of screen.

    Lucas could only wish to be a director like Cameron. Even if the story and the characters weren't original, Cameron mixed them and refreshed them well enough for an entertaining movie.

  10. Not so fast.

    Lucas waited 20 years for digital cinema technology to catch up. He pushed Sony to build 24p HD cameras (first used in Ep. 2, evolved for Ep. 3), which Cameron then took the reigns to make 3D. If Lucas hadn't come out with the technology just for the cameras, Avatar wouldn't have been made on that alone.

  11. Haven't seen it yet; unsure if I will. If reviews and word of mouth from friends are true, it's just Titanic meets Ferngully.

    Anyway, it ain't that hard to crush lucas, the bastard. I don't think I'll ever forgive him for the prequels.

  12. OK, I'm sorry, everyone who loved the Avatar, I've got one question for you. What were you high on when you saw this movie? My wife FORCED me to go against my will. I want those 2 hrs. back. In NO WAY is Cameron a “great” director. You all talk about Lucas screwing up his movies, well let's look at Cameron's record that I’ve seen and can comment on.

  13. The Terminator, Awesome! Rambo: First Blood Part II, what was he thinking? Aliens, not as good as the original, Alien, but decent for a Sci-fi horror. The Abyss, I have YET to see in its entirety because it continually puts me to sleep every time I try to watch it, so a point for helping me fight insomnia, but minus 19 for making me try to watch it over and over. T2, better than the first! Awesome again! Aliens IV, really? You didn't learn your lesson from Rambo? True Lies, never has Jamie Lee Curtis looked so hot. Kudos for that one. Titanic, another 3 hrs. of my life I would like to have back, and casting Leo for that role? What?! Dark Angel TV show, great the first season after that downhill but in his defense, it's TV. Terminator 3. Starting to push it but OK, cool, I can get behind it. Then he completely ruins it with the Sarah Conner Chronicals. And I'm not sure about this but I heard he was some kind of artistic advisor on Terminator Salvation, either way I've just lost more respect for him because of it.

    • So there ya go, my rant about how Cameron is no better (in not worse) than Lucas. Lucas' only fault was he got greedy, and he didn't tell his story with the prequals with the same passion and dedication that he did with 4-6. So yeah, there are some minor flaws in the story, and he kinda screwed up the canon a little, and yeah he took away the mystery of the force with some LAME scientific reasoning, but it's still Star Wars. Creator of one of the, no scratch that, hands down THE BEST and most memorable villians of all time, even still I get excited about buying it when it comes out on Blu Ray and raising my kids being exposed to it. That is why Lucas is better than Cameron. Ohh and BTW (for all who may not know), not including the prequels, the only Star Wars episode that Lucas directed was A New Hope. So even there you can't really judge him on his directing skills.

  14. 31 comments, and nobody's going for the obvious one…?

    "Is that a lightsaber in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?"


  15. Yes from a visual sense this was a breakthrough movie but I have enjoyed movies that I have watched on my iPhone a lot more than Avatar. Story matters and if you are going to the trouble of creating a real language for the sake of verisimilitude don't then ignore the rules of physics, sociology, or common sense.

  16. Was Avatar a hopped up cowboys-n-injuns story? Yes. However, by the same token, the entire Star Wars franchise was merely a Camelot allegory, (and the O.G. Star Trek a Cold War proxy, and Babylon 5 merely a damned soap opera).
    When all is said & done; this is the finest movie I have ever seen!

  17. Avatar is the most over rated film in the history of films. Fuck James Cameron. 3D OOOOOOO. I don’t care if a film is black and white with mono sound, if it’s a good story I’ll enjoy it. The inverse is also true. This may be 3Ds “wizard of Oz”. It isn’t 3Ds “citizen Kane”.

    P.S. The Dark knight, Abrams Star Trek, and Inglorios Basterds are all FAR superior films of late.

  18. (A bit late to the party, I know; I just discovered HE a few days ago and I'm working my way through the archives.)

    For all the comparisons to other movies ("Titanic meets Ferngully", etc.), everyone seems to have missed the closest comparison. I'm sure nearly all of you have seen this by now, since most of these comments are more than 3 years old, but just in case:

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