Friday, January 08, 2010

Nature Trail to Hell

I still haven't seen the film, although I intend to sooner or later, hopefully while it's still on the big screen. I can (and expect to) enjoy a souped-up B-movie of a blockbuster as much as anyone, and I do appreciate the big visual and sound experience, even though I remain deeply suspicious of the merits of 3-D technology itself. And I believe the many reviewers when they say that Cameron over-invested heavily in his own writing genius, which will no doubt shame him all the way to the bank. For groundbreaking legacy, it would have been nice to hire some screenwriters and all, but for something like this we don't expect much more than reaching for the fastest cliché-ridden quasi-heroic epic that the nearest body can put to paper. And to his partial credit, it took James Cameron a longer resume than George Lucas to get to this point.

(Actually the problem with Star Wars is that Lucas did outsource for one of his flicks, and it turned out to be the good one.)

No, what it's going to take for Avatar to finally irritate me, is when they start believing their own bullshit, and we may already be in the event horizon of that. Star Wars was bad enough, and in that mold, we're about ready for four too many Making Of Avatar features, and worse, endless documentaries about the deep philosophical implications of the bargain-bin script, probably invoking three pounds of Carl Jung and ten pounds of Joseph Campbell, maybe a dash of whoever likes to say that science fiction is really about today, dude, to describe how the story is not some cheap-ass derivative piece of crap, but something timeless.

Avatar has also set the media abuzz with how 3-D television, introduced this year, is going to Change Everything. I am sure that they can do better than the awful, headache-inducing cardboard glasses that they (used to?) distribute in the theaters. Wikipedia says that more advanced versions use glasses with polarizers, or which have shutters synched to a rapidly flickering screen. The latter has got to be better way to go about it, and could justify dedicated hardware to manage that control link. And the refresh rate on the screen would have to be twice as fast as usual, which may even be why they were pushing 120 Hz last year, come to think of it.

But now you've introduced ergonomic variables (Not everyone's eyes are the same distance apart; not everyone is sitting in the same position relative to the screen; people may wish, at times, to briefly divert their attention to something else) that are sure to make many users highly uncomfortable. And let's be honest, stereoscopic vision just isn't all that. Don't believe me? Try closing one eye, and tell me how much less real everything fails to seem. I mean, the big mover for 3-D television is ESPN, and if you actually watch live sports, you'll notice that they tend to be, you know, far away, and coming right at you doesn't change the perspective much at all. I mean, except for horror or sci-fi flicks with big cluttered screens and objects you want to believe are near the lens... Christ, the worst thing about 3-D TVs, if they're adopted, will be what they direct the content to.


Keifus said...

Sorry to commit blogging and all. Two of five thoughts, the other three of which are getting shrill. Did y'all a favor...

Schmutz said...

Take heart my friend, I heard Cameron already say this thing is going to be a trilogy!

Haven't seen it, and don't plan on seeing least not before I see The Hangover which trusted sources tell me is all that.

(Today's verification word is "deboofre." What the hell is deboofre?)

artandsoul said...

I saw it. I liked it. (Not in 3D - I'm not a fan).

It is NOT Jungian! Eek! It's not original. It's CERTAINLY not Science Fiction.

Oh, I mean they "ostensibly" go to a new planet on a space ship with zero gravity and have to wear "face masks" but that's it - even the original Star Trek looked more science-fictiony.

No, Avatar is just a rollicking good time. Fun and cartoonish and the perfect way to spend $5 at a matinee (well, and also $25 for popcorn and a coke).

The "archetypes" are too flat and cardboard weak to really be considered archetypal.

The only "reality" in there was the line stolen from GWB "pre-emptive strike."

I'm glad they're all making lots of money. It's good for the economy. Our dying mall has one of those AMC 20 Theaters - which is BOOMING and all those kids are employed and well, I'm glad of that.

bright said...

K, gimme back my Weird Al tape.

We're watching The Phantom Tollbooth this evening. It's trippy.

(haven't seen it yet either. my verification word is facindu - a facile Hindu? facts in Urdu?)

Keifus said...

Yeah bright, I had the perfect title, and then what? Had to think up something to say about the movie. It ain't easy, I tell you. (A movie of that book, I dunno...).

Art: I don't know much from Jung, but if Lucas came closer than Cameron recently did (still haven't seen it), it still wasn't some timeless science fictional masterpiece of storytelling as it was a kinda generic western/epic iiin spaaaccee...

Not science fiction? As an occasional fan, I'd like to agree with you on merit, but I don't know where else you'd classify it. I've read that they actually called their unobtainium "unobtainium", which strikes me as a particularly humorless development of a well-worn joke. Fuck it though, I loved Jurassic Park, and I'll probably love this one too.

Smutty: you made me spend four bucks and watch an hour of the hangover. The mismatched characters made me laugh some, but those were some pretty horrible people.

artandsoul said...

I only meant "not science fiction" in that it isn't really an original story and it isn't really an original plot and it isn't even really original science.

Yes, they call it "unobtanium" -- I mean that is pathetic. Sorry to whoever thought it up, but that is truly pathetic.

And the "cryo" units with the gel... the guy acted like he'd never seen it when he got to Pandora - really? Memory foam gel? I have it in my pillow today.

So, it was a kind of purist idea of "science fiction" that I was using -- I think of things like Terminator, the world of Star Trek, 2001 ... etc. as really good SF.

As to Jung, I know Joseph Campbell made a big deal out of George Lucas and Star Wars but he (Campbell) was only alive for the first film. And if you stop at that one, I think you have a decent example of how Jungian Archetypes can play out in modern storytelling. Period.

Going any further along the Star Wars movies that fades fast. Cardboard stereotypes become stand-ins for any archetypal character. Ditto for avatar.

Fortunately for me, I just love schlock sometimes! :)

Keifus said...

I think we're pretty much on the same page here.

twif said...

eh, "science fiction" is only a type of setting.

anyway, haven't seen avatar. the wee bit of 3D in the last HP movie was actually good though.

as for your ending comment keif...i take it the prospect of 3D porn frightens you? get ready for DDDs in 3D!

Keifus said...

"Keifus, why are you closing one eye? Is something wrong? Are you winking at me?"

"It's an experiment, Sweetie, now lie back and think of, uh, perspective..."

"Experiment? Is that what I am to you?!"