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Customer Review

287 of 338 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Pinnacle of SF Cinema, November 11, 2010
This review is from: Avatar (Three-Disc Extended Collector's Edition) (DVD)
There appear to be two kinds of people in today's filmgoing public: those, like me, who regard AVATAR as a pinnacle of SF cinema, and those who find fault with it, and I confess to being utterly puzzled about their carping. Clunky dialogue? Well, I thought it perfectly workable and, at times, brilliant, and I've been writing my own SF and opinion re the same for several decades now. The overly familiar plot? It seemed utterly fresh and beautifully structured to me. Yes, it has historical analogues, but that is true of many, many excellent films.

I have been a devotee of SF all my life, and I'm in my seventies. Notice I do not call AVATAR "the pinnacle," but one of them. To my mind the list must begin with "The Day the Earth Stood Still" (NOT THE REMAKE), and include CE3K, the 1st Star Wars trilogy, and some, though not all, of the Star Treks. But James Cameron has created a myth of enormous power wedded to stunning technology that so engaged me intellectually and emotionally that I had to remind myself on each rescreening to wear my contact lenses, because my glasses always got streaked by tears.

I sympathize with those who do not wish to purchase a 2D extended set because they expect a 3D version eventually will be issued. They are probably correct, but let me offer two observations. First, I saw AVATAR many times, and once, inadvertently, I took a friend to the 2D "flat" version (I didn't know it existed as such). Actually, it worked quite well; little was lost, though I would not have believed what I am saying if I had not seen it for myself. Second, 3D DVDs, in my experience, don't work all that well on TV sets. For example, "Coraline," which I loved in the theatre, was a visual mess in its 3D version; better to watch it flat.

AVATAR Special Edition is a must for me; if it ever does come out in 3D, I may buy it, but I fully expect it to disappoint on home video.

Marvin Kaye
Online columnist for "Space and Time Magazine."
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Showing 1-10 of 20 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Nov 12, 2010 3:32:42 AM PST
J. Orvin says:
I have the 3D version of Coraline on Blu-ray and I agree it's not that great but I think it's less do to the fact that 3D on home entertainment systems are bad but more due to the fact that you're watching a 3D movie on a non-3DTV wearing the cheap little glasses that came with the movie. The newer 3DTVs are pretty amazing if you're able to find the money for one. For myself I'm just going to wait for them to go done in price like the HDTVs eventually did.

Posted on Nov 12, 2010 10:02:36 PM PST
Glen A. Gill says:
[Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway. Show all unhelpful posts.]

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 15, 2010 11:28:56 AM PST
Chris Boylan says:
Yeah, I think the reviewer's take on "Coraline" is of the anaglyph version that originally came out on Blu-ray and DVD (which required red/cyan glasses) and which is inferior to the native Blu-ray 3D version that came out later as a Panasonic exclusive bonus title. That native Blu-ray 3D of "Coraline" looks quite wonderful on a proper 3D TV.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 15, 2010 6:27:50 PM PST
I agree there are a lot of SF movies and if you don't Rank this up in the Num 1 Category then you are out of your mind... This is what STAR WARS was to the 70's........My all time favorite movie....

Posted on Nov 15, 2010 9:20:11 PM PST
W.T.Hoffman says:
I have to admit, while AVATAR is no 2001 a Space Odsessy, nor is it the first Star Wars trilogy, or Blade Runner, its not a bad film at all. First off, as EYE CANDY goes, this is great cinema, but its so much MORE Than that. First, the interplanetary ship, long term sleep, etc, was based on what people now think real interplanetary ships MIGHT look like. (tho we never got to understand their system of propulsion.) ALSO, the extraterrestial animals look alot like a CGI special on DISCOVERY a few years back, that tried to consider what type of animals might be on foreign earth like planets, by looking at them with two probes sent from earth. These animals did look like what exobiologists assume they might. OR, that the Na'vi look the way they do, cos they are on a low light, low gravity planet. OR, that extraterrestrial MENTAL PROCESSES, and religious practices, are investigated here. (IN A TOTALLY NOVEL WAY!) I thought the future of GENE SPLICING was well done, as was the machine that allowed the link. In many ways, there was SOME good science in this film, and personally, i look for a good combination of speculative science BASED ON KNOWN FACTS, mixed with speculation on extraterrestrial biology, or sociology. The NA'vi were at LEAST as realistic, as any extraterrestials in STAR TREK, or Star wars. (I thought they were FAR more realistic, than the band playing those wierd instruments in the first STAR WARS film, which looked like Jim Hendsens mumpets, more than REAL extraterrestrials.) Maybe the ONLY thing i thought was weak, was the ULTRAMANIUM mineral, even tho it was no more wierd than LITHIUM CRYSTRALs, or whatever it is that fuels those STAR TREK ships. People just got it in their heads to LOVE TO HATE this film. I was in art school when the first STAR WARS film was out, and of course, we ALL loved it, but our professors? HATED IT, gave it every bad name in the book. This book simply follows conventions, that MAKE SCIFI Films interesting. The bottom line, is that SCIFI always has a good love story in it (think about it), and always has some planet ready to be destroyed (think about it), and always stretches REAL Science to adapt to what may be the biggest lie of all.....that humans CAN travel to other planets that are inhabitable. WE might not be able to EVER do this with ANY technology. But if we ever DO have interstellar travel, i doubt its going to happen in 200 years. So, the VERY MODERN AMERICAN styles, dont work for me, or for that matter, MODERN ENGLISH. The only thing i thought was IDIOTIC, was the cigarette smoking. I doubt that will occur at ALL after a couple more decades, except as law breaking drug use. (Unless there wasnt tobacco in that cigarette. She never SAID it was tobacco, right?) BUT, for a fun film, great to watch, and well within the bounderies of ALL SCIENCE FICTION (with the exception of perhaps 2001 SPACE ODYSSEY, which is an exception even as films go), this film followed the same guildlines seen in all scifi. IF it didnt, it wouldnt have kept people's interest. HEY, people hated LORD OF THE RINGS, cos Tom Bombidil wasnt in it. You cant please everyone, and some people CANT be pleased no matter what. Bottom line.

Posted on Nov 16, 2010 7:31:39 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 16, 2010 7:32:27 AM PST
W.T. Keeton says:
I would consider Avatar to be good, but by no means great. The story's derivative nature has to knock it down a bit. It's true that there are no new plots, but when a film essentially lifts the entire story from other movies, that's going too far. Basically, had Dances with Wolves never existed, Avatar would be an "A" movie, but the fact that Dances does exist makes Avatar a "B" movie. It's derivative at it's core.

But that's only when trying to analyze if for cinematic merit. It's still a heck of a lot of fun to watch, and that's really what it's all about. Right?

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 18, 2010 12:07:02 AM PST
Avery says:
What is with the CAPS every SO often but not EVERYWHERE, JUST IN enough places TO BE DISTRACTING?

1) Why cap EYE CANDY? You missed the point. Yes, it's ground breaking technically, but it's a message movie candy coated in order that the general public be willing to see it. The general public? The masses? The could care less about the environment, about the many analogies between this movie and historical precedent; the treatment of the Native Americans by white people with "superior" technology and grossly inferior ethics, conscience, care for the environment, and one another. A clear analogy is made between the colonizing, rapacious, greed motivated "technologically superior" space people (us) and the Na'vi. In reality theirs is the far more advanced culture, but as usual the "white man" (in this movie white stands for pretty much everyone, although it's interesting that the "head" baddies are indeed white "white" men -- not women and not hispanic or black.

The term they used was "Unobtainium" not "Ultramanium" -- if you're going to use caps, please get right. It's sort of embarrassing to read your post with odd words capitalized, but words that SHOULD have caps or other punctuation, lack it. The word "I" when used in a sentence is not "i' -- not as you said, for example:

"IF it didnt, it wouldnt have kept people's interest. ...."The only thing i thought was IDIOTIC, was the cigarette smoking.

"i" ? "didnt" "wouldnt" "ULTRAMANIUM"

Who are the "NA'vi" - half capitalized and half not? It's "Na'vi" - why would you cap half the word? Films is not a proper noun, it doesn't get the first letter capitalized, but the word "i" is always capitalized.

Why does any of this matter? Because your post as a whole is riddled with these oddities. "People just got it in their heads to LOVE TO HATE this film." Really? It's made more money than any other film ever made. These people you refer to are in the minority, why mention them in a review of the Blu-Ray DVD? Why mention half the stuff you mention, or "Lithium" crystals? Um, Lithium is another thing entirely, it's a medication. I think you meant "Dilithium" --

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dilithium_%28disambiguation%29

And with regard to "ULTRAMANIUM" I'm fairly sure you meant "unobtainium" -- not sure where you got "ULTRA MANIUM" but here is the Wikipedia entry for Unobtainium: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unobtainium

And a brief except from it:

In engineering, fiction, or thought experiments, unobtainium (also spelled unobtanium) is any extremely rare, costly, or physically impossible material, or (less commonly) device needed to fulfill a given design for a given application. The properties of any particular unobtainium depend on the intended use. For example, a pulley made of unobtainium might be massless and frictionless; however, if used in a nuclear rocket unobtainium would be light, strong at high temperatures, and resistant to radiation damage. The concept of unobtainium is often applied flippantly or humorously.

The word unobtainium is derived from unobtainable + -ium (the suffix for a number of metal elements). The term also closely resembles the systematic element name for unnamed or undiscovered elements that have an atomic number of 113-118, for example, Ununoctium. Like Unobtainium, these all have five-syllable names beginning with "un" and ending in "ium." However, the name unobtainium was in use long before the IUPAC systematic names were created. The name could also stand for material that is 'unable-to-be-obtained'.

It's considered a MacGuffin - a plot device; the Wikipedia entry says:

A MacGuffin (sometimes McGuffin or maguffin) is "a plot element that catches the viewers' attention or drives the plot of a work of fiction".[1] The defining aspect of a MacGuffin is that the major players in the story are (at least initially) willing to do and sacrifice almost anything to obtain it, regardless of what the MacGuffin actually is. In fact, the specific nature of the MacGuffin may be ambiguous, undefined, generic, left open to interpretation or otherwise completely unimportant to the plot. Common examples are money, victory, glory, survival, a source of power, or a potential threat, or it may simply be something entirely unexplained.

The MacGuffin is common in films, especially thrillers. Commonly, though not always, the MacGuffin is the central focus of the film in the first act, and then declines in importance as the struggles and motivations of characters play out. It may come back into play at the climax of the story, but sometimes the MacGuffin is actually forgotten by the end of the film.

MacGuffins are frequently used in films, television, and other literature. Notables examples of the use of a MacGuffin in a film include the meaning of rosebud in Citizen Kane (1941),[12] the Rabbit's Foot in Mission: Impossible III (2006),[13] and the mineral unobtainium in Avatar (2009).[14]

The Wikipedia entry is found at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MacGuffin

And while "you have to admit" that "AVATAR is no 2001 a Space Odsessey" [sic] I would have to disagree. I thought it was brilliant. People, the average and above average alike, need a wake up call; the environment, awareness of our own ethnocentricity and the millions of deaths it has caused and continues to cause. Successfully bringing that home to the masses is no mean feat at all; polemic message movies are avoided like the plague. This movie was very much a message movie but presented in bleeding edge technology which James Cameron had to advance to make his movie possible; written 12 years ago the state of technology wasn't sufficient or close to sufficient to allow its creation. In 2007 when production began, enough strides forward had been made that he could take what existed and develop the rest himself. He CREATED a new genre and did it brilliantly.

And please, please... when you write, double check. Speaking about Lithium... there are lithium batteries, lithium as a chemical, lithium as a drug; Star Trek dealt in DILITHIUM, which is also real, but not in the sense, of course, that it was used in the movies and the television show. Rather than calling it weak or silly, isn't it better to understand WHY James Cameron called the compound they were looking for "Unobtainium"? I think it it is... a couple of minutes of googling or using Wikipedia provides a lot of answers; in this case Cameron was absolutely correct to call the compound they sought "unobtainium" because of the meaning of the word and its use as a plot element, exactly as it was used.

with Star Trek, Dilithium is an actual molecule (Wiki it - the disambiguation version that I gave the URL for above clarifies the difference)

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 18, 2010 12:21:21 AM PST
Avery says:
I disagree; Avatar goes beyond Dances with Wolves with respect to issues covered, and its ability to pull in the masses who wouldn't be caught watching Dancing with Wolves (which was brilliant, particularly the director's cut).

Dances with Wolves made the point that the "White man" is crass, kills wastefully, and is prejudiced but Avatar takes it a planetary level and throws in not only a different race, but an entirely different species. This message - save what is left of the environment before it's too late (if it isn't already); stop waging war to enrich the 1% of the population that holds 99% of all the assets; end the class system where one person has access to necessary medical care and the other person doesn't, simply by accident of birth - rich or not; end the ugly ethnocentricity of which white christian males in this society and in Europe before the US came into being; the idea bred into their bones that they are superior and entitled; *entitled* to take what they want no matter the cost to anyone else (Oil? more oil. War for oil. Using Oil up, killing, manipulation, polluting) where other alternatives, safe, clean and renewable exist but aren't explored to the tiniest level because, hey, solar power is free; wind is free - if they could manage to charge for it, they would and further enrich the tiniest segment of the population that holds nearly all of the resources.

For these and other reasons, Avatar goes further - this doesn't detract from Dances with Wolves; brilliant and wonderful, but it does make Avatar more than just derivative.

And that, in addition to the brilliant world and imagination behind it, the mind that created the ideas of the Na'vi and their culture; their direct line or link to their Gaea, their Goddess, or "Mother" (Nature) -- the very opposite of derivative, in my view. The bond? Connecting Na'vi to "horse" or raptor? To the tree of souls, directly to Aywa? And they fight; they're willing to fight and risk all; that too is the message - if we don't, we'll lose all; we are already losing it.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 18, 2010 11:30:17 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 18, 2010 11:30:43 AM PST
I ejoyed this movie in ways I have not enjoyed a film in many years. I agree fully with your review. The only tiny thing that bothered me was the name of the element being mined. "Unobtainium" is a somewhat silly name but very easy to look over.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 19, 2010 3:48:08 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 19, 2010 3:57:35 AM PST
Avery says:
Thank you :)

I thought it was also, but after I read why they used it, it made sense and became more of the film's cleverness and not silly -- although "unobtainium" does sound silly if you don't know (as I didn't) that it's real, a term used for things just like this, not just a silly name they came up as the un-obtain-ium-able substance.

Did you look at the Wikipedia entry for Unobtainium? It's very funny... and explains why they used it, why they chose it for the name of the ore they were trying to mine. It's a really good entry, short and to the point and shows how even here they were being humorous intentionally.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unobtainium

I hope you find it interesting :)

Have you gotten the collector's edition? I have, now I'm waiting for our new Blu-Ray player, the first I've purchased - I just didn't need one before, I waited until the movie came along that I had to have it for, and waiting was good because they are so much less expensive now. And 8 hours of extras is far better than only 3... I wanted to have the option to be able to watch all of them over the course of a few days if I wanted to, not be limited to only the three hours that are on the regular DVD, and with a discount I had they were almost the same price. I saw the same DVD Collector's Edition in Best Buy... FORTY dollars - 39.99; almost double what we pay here.

These are the time when I truly love Amazon ;) And with Prime, no shipping charges and 2 day delivery, what more could I want.. other than instant delivery but still pre-ordered items arrive on the day they come out and no waiting at the store to try to get a copy of a book or whatever it might be. And the money saved on books is phenomenal.
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