Happy New Year

>> Thursday, December 31, 2009

I don't know about the rest of you, but I'm ready for a new decade. Although the last decade is arguably the best one of my life, it's been a bitch of a time for many around the country and around the world. I offer my hopes that things improve drastically for everyone.

One recommendation I have, for those who have the time or money, is seeing Avatar. I don't often review movies, though I love movies. Truly, I have very specific things I'm after and what I'm looking for doesn't mesh, necessarily, with what others are looking for.

With Avatar, I'm at a loss to put my finger on what people could be looking for that they'd miss. Admittedly, I like James Cameron and have since the beginning. If I didn't personally like Titanic as much as some of his other work, I did like it and I could appreciate the broad appeal (and, if you're one of those that said it didn't have any, you're blind to the facts).

  • If you like adventure, it's in there.
  • If you like action, it's in there.
  • If you like a little romance, but not too much, you're covered.
  • If you like a story with a meaning, it's in there.
  • I doubt you need me to tell you that the CGI and effects set new standards, the type of movie that, if possible should be watched on the real movie screen (I saw it on Imax 3D, twice. Not sure how much the 3D really helps. I'm going to have to stop myself from watching again to find out.).
  • There are some critics who found the plot "stupid" but the reasons they quoted showed, in my opinion, a lack of understanding of science, space travel, history and reality. The same things that I found bolstered the plot and made it real for me are the things those critics are caviling at.
  • There are some critics who hated the dialog; clearly, they don't spend much time around military types.
I loved the world envisioned, admired the eye to detail and the biologically sound critters. I loved all the allusions to all the things people love about video games and science fiction, and space travel. I love the old time adventure and the message about the value of people and nature.

If you love that stuff, too, I can't recommend it enough. I brought two different people to the movie, neither of which expected to enjoy it all. One admitted to enjoying it, getting swept up in the story (isn't that what movies are for?) and one described it as the "best movie EVER."

As a rocket scientist and a science fiction writer, I was inspired and entranced.

Just sayin'.


  • Roy

    Happy New Year Steph! Thanks for being there in 2009.

  • Jeff King

    Happy new year...

    and i agree 100% Avatar Rocked, i just might go see it again this weekend alond with Sherlock Holmes...

  • Shakespeare

    Loved the world of Avatar. Hated the outer story (the Unobtainium, the soldiers, the stupid crap that I didn't care about at all). The world itself was mesmerizing. If only it had been given more time, all the plot, etc. Then I would have walked right back, bought another ticket, and watched it about ten times over again.

    As it is, because of all the other junk (the military, etc.), I might not buy it on video. I will, however, watch it (scanning through the bad parts) at your house, so that I can fall back into the magnificent world again. Truly spectacular world building!

  • The Mother

    Haven't seen it, and probably won't. Not a big fan of sci fi (I know, it's a terrible thing to say to YOU, the sci fi writer, but then you probably aren't keen on my genre, either)--it tends to be lush in description and excitement and world building and a tad short on plot. Which is what I hear from the Avatar reviews.

  • Stephanie B

    I read that too, by reviewers I really admire, except what they were describing as "implausible" - to me - made perfect sense if one understood history and space travel limitations and biology.

  • HolySocks

    No, I haven't seen it nor wanna. All over the news and 'net and I get the basic gist. Them floating islands were great I hear... but wait'll you take a lookit Heaven which I was in for a brief time. Meet me Upstairs in the Great Beyond for a celebration of our resurrection where we'll have a kick-ass party till well after sundown. God bless.

  • Stephanie B

    Sorry, HolySocks, I don't personally believe in Heaven, but enjoy.

  • Boris Legradic

    I saw Avatar as well, but my reaction was more... meh. It's all reight I guess, but much, much too long. Oh, the eye-candy was spectacular, and nearly distracted me from the trite plot. But even the excellent FX was distracting in a way: Why the hell did every other plant glow? In pink?
    And don't get me started on those stupid floating mountains. I am willing to suspend my disbelief for a movie, even if it's playing very loose and fast with physics - as long as there is a reason for why it does so. But those floating mountains where there for no reason other than that somebody thought "You know what would be cool? Floating mountains!" and then went ahead and put them in. Grrr.

    Anyway, I think it would have been a much better movie if they'd used some of the gazillion dollars in developement cost for some script-writers, or maybe had the balls to do something more ambitious than 'white man rescues indigenes from exploitative cooperation'. Still. It is pretty, and it's use of 3d was the best I've ever seen.

    Happy belated new year!

  • Stephanie B

    Boris, there was a reason! Didn't you see the unobtainium floating? It's a room temperature superconductor (not high Tc as only nitrogen temp).

    I've heard that argument on the story you're saying as well, but I didn't see it that way. I think Sully did so well at his tasks, in part because he brought a new perspective (while he was learning one), in part because he had to prove himself in adverse conditions (as can happen to natives themselves), and, in part, because he had no choice. I thought it was intelligent that other Na'Vi had tamed the big one before in times of need. It argues that taming it is not as much a matter of skill as it is an act of desperation, and that the living spirit of the planet was a conspirator in correcting the problems by allowing it for whoever was best suited to fix the problem.

    But that's all just my opinion.

  • The Mother

    Okay, I saw it (was dragged, actually).

    Visually stunning. Not so thrilled about the hackneyed plot.

    Nor the force-fed spirituality. I have no trouble with animism--largely because animists tend to be quiet and not burn people at the stake--but it's a tad philosophically simplistic. Plus, I HATE preachy movies.

    And here's the kicker, for me: Science and technology shown as only BAD, nature and animism shown as only GOOD. This is the thinking that spawns alternative medicine and the anti-vax movement.

    There is a happy medium. It would be nice if we saw that once in a while in the movies.

  • Stephanie B

    I guess I didn't see science and nature as two separate things or in any way at odds. And I think you'd be hard pressed to say the scientists represented "BAD".

    Oh well, to each, their owm.

  • The Mother

    A few rogue scientists who want to do the right thing, in a whole base full of nasty guys in high-tech gear, doesn't vindicate the nature-good/science-bad theme.

    I don't see the two as separate, either, except when it is portrayed this way. That is, unfortunately, the take home message of the movie.

  • Boris Legradic

    @Stephanie, concerning Unobtainum (and isn't that a creative name? Why not Muchworthium?):

    Sure, I got the bit with the floating piece (although at that time I was thinking high temperature superconductor, not floating magic rock), but I think my complaint stands: The floating mountains do not contribute anything to the story. It would have been the same if unobtainium was just really, really expensive, and the floating mountains just very steep normal mountains. Bah!

    @The Mother:
    Hear hear! Actually, the more I think about the flick (and a mere flick it is, expense notwithstanding), the more I don't like it. Which just goes to show that you shouldn't think too much about Blockbusters, I guess.

  • Stephanie B

    Boris, my understanding is that unobtainium is an homage to a material that is either perfect but doesn't yet exist for a particular application or exists but is all but impossible to get. Apparently, it's been used in real engineering circles and science fiction circles for years. I'd say, in this case, it was an inside joke for those familiar with it.

    So, Boris, you object to something plausible but unnecessary (unless you connect the superconducting properties of the unobtainium to the life forms and their interaction and to the limitations imposed by a high magnetic flux field as was intended) on the basis that it looks unnecessarily cool and exciting? Heaven forbid science, nature and space look cool and exciting...

    As for the Mother, how many "scientists" were in the high tech gear (unless you want to count the avatars as being perhaps the coolest possible high tech gear) on the attack?

    There has been something of a push and pull between those that do the science that leads to technological advancements (such as modern physics) and the uses to which those advances are put, such as nuclear weapons. Even people directly involved often object as they realize the real implications of those weapons and uses.

    In other words, I think Einstein and Feynman would not see this movie as an attack on science (though that's just my opinion). Actually, I'm kind of surprised anyone would. After all, the natives never once attacked the science/technology (although it seems more to me to be just the technology). Just defended their own land, just didn't want to be eradicated. To me it was more an attack on greed than on science.

    Call it unkind, but, hey, we're still doing it. Even today. The misuse of technology on others is an old story, but it won't be hackneyed, to my mind, until we stop using it. Admittedly, there are some fine things done by technologically advanced societies, such as modern medicine and advanced farming techniques.

    But, when it comes to technology (whether we like it or not), we've done at least as much harm as good to existing native cultures with it, which puts us in a similar boat with the missionaries you rightly deplore. Or is that why you're disturbed by the movie?

    I've recently looked at a book on the art (stunning) and did some reading on the research behind the vehicles, the biology, botany. I have been impressed with the detail and dedication in bringing real life botanists and zoologists in to speculate on plausible possibilities. With so many science fiction stories out there where people shoot lasers out of open portholes turn their ships invisible, it seems odd that this is under fire. I guess no matter how hard you try, you just can't please everyone.

    Fair enough. I don't have to understand or agree with your objections for them to be valid for you. You can like or dislike whatever you want for whatever reasons you choose. I like it for those very reasons. And that's OK, too.

  • Steve Capell

    I have seen this movie twice and I am again blown away at James Cameron's directing ability and insight into what makes a must see movie. I am artist and I am amazed at the artistic talent that is exhibited throughout this blockbuster film. I guess you can tell I am very much a fan of Avatar and I am not usually a science fiction type fan.

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