So how is “Avatar”?

Avatar opens today, the 3-D science fiction epic by James Cameron that some say will change filmmaking forever. I plan on seeing it when I can. In the meantime, if any of you see it this weekend, please tell us how it is.

Specifically, how are the new high-tech 3-dimension effects? Will it change filmmaking forever? Do they already make you want to stop watching your high-definition television set that you thought was so cool until you watched the movie, which made you want to not watch television any more until it too finds a way to look 3-D? Or not?

Also, how is the story? Does it have characters that we care about and that come alive? Does it have a gripping conflict? Does it have any thought-provoking themes? Or is it just a series of episodes, with one fight scene, explosion, and chase sequence after another, with a building sense of tedium? Or what?

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • http://www.cyberbrethren.com Rev. Paul T. McCain

    I heard an interesting discussion on public radio about what Avatar may mean for the movie industry:

    1. 3-D on this kind of scale, with this level of technology, is nothing like anyone has seen before. It is 3-D in HD. Even movies that are not action movies will benefit from this new 3D technology. It provides a much more “immersion” experience for the movie goer.

    2. You can, at the present, only fully experience this in movie theaters equipped to show these movies, which means, a unique experience drawing more people to the theater.

    3. And most importantly, it is impossible to pirate these movies. 90% of all movies are pirated by people sneaking HD cameras into theaters and taping the whole movie, then they make their way out on to the Internet. These movies however can not be pirated like this, since any tape of the movie will look horrible, due to the pixelated 3D effects.

    As for Avatar….I’m hearing mixed reviews, but often the comment, “Great on effects, and action, short on actual substance.”

  • http://www.cyberbrethren.com Rev. Paul T. McCain

    I heard an interesting discussion on public radio about what Avatar may mean for the movie industry:

    1. 3-D on this kind of scale, with this level of technology, is nothing like anyone has seen before. It is 3-D in HD. Even movies that are not action movies will benefit from this new 3D technology. It provides a much more “immersion” experience for the movie goer.

    2. You can, at the present, only fully experience this in movie theaters equipped to show these movies, which means, a unique experience drawing more people to the theater.

    3. And most importantly, it is impossible to pirate these movies. 90% of all movies are pirated by people sneaking HD cameras into theaters and taping the whole movie, then they make their way out on to the Internet. These movies however can not be pirated like this, since any tape of the movie will look horrible, due to the pixelated 3D effects.

    As for Avatar….I’m hearing mixed reviews, but often the comment, “Great on effects, and action, short on actual substance.”

  • Catherine

    I’m going to see it this afternoon. I’m going with friends, as it really wasn’t my first choice of a film to go see (I’m not a fan of movies with so much CG). Hopefully it’ll be worth my while.

  • Catherine

    I’m going to see it this afternoon. I’m going with friends, as it really wasn’t my first choice of a film to go see (I’m not a fan of movies with so much CG). Hopefully it’ll be worth my while.

  • Paul of Alexandria

    It seems to be basically another “cute nature-loving aliens meet nasty humans” story. Sigh.

  • Paul of Alexandria

    It seems to be basically another “cute nature-loving aliens meet nasty humans” story. Sigh.

  • http://mesamike.org Mike Westfall

    I know nothing about he film, except its title.

    …which I don’t like (because I’m not Hindu).

  • http://mesamike.org Mike Westfall

    I know nothing about he film, except its title.

    …which I don’t like (because I’m not Hindu).

  • http://www.redhatrob.com RedHatRob

    Dances with Smurfs.

  • http://www.redhatrob.com RedHatRob

    Dances with Smurfs.

  • http://www.scyldingsinthemeadhall.blogspot.com The Scylding

    The CBC has a good, and even hilarious review:

    http://www.cbc.ca/arts/film/story/2009/12/16/f-avatar-review.html

  • http://www.scyldingsinthemeadhall.blogspot.com The Scylding

    The CBC has a good, and even hilarious review:

    http://www.cbc.ca/arts/film/story/2009/12/16/f-avatar-review.html

  • Kirk

    @5 hahahahahahahahahahahah

  • Kirk

    @5 hahahahahahahahahahahah

  • http://www.redeemedrambling.blogspot.com/ John

    Most importantly, a tepid plot and no character development. Very shallow. Snore. As for the graphics, they were kind of like “Halo meets the Smurfs” (and kudos to #5). We have such good graphics on Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2, that movies like this don’t really wow, 3d or not. In fact, I had a really hard time with the whole “willing suspension of disbelief thing.”

  • http://www.redeemedrambling.blogspot.com/ John

    Most importantly, a tepid plot and no character development. Very shallow. Snore. As for the graphics, they were kind of like “Halo meets the Smurfs” (and kudos to #5). We have such good graphics on Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2, that movies like this don’t really wow, 3d or not. In fact, I had a really hard time with the whole “willing suspension of disbelief thing.”

  • Stephanie

    There was never really a point at which I was interested in seeing the movie. But after being subjected to blatant and intrusive product placement for the movie in two TV shows that I like, now I will defiantly refuse to watch it.

  • Stephanie

    There was never really a point at which I was interested in seeing the movie. But after being subjected to blatant and intrusive product placement for the movie in two TV shows that I like, now I will defiantly refuse to watch it.

  • Catherine

    So having just watched the film, it was exactly as I predicted… typical James Cameron. There wasn’t actually a lot of non-stop action. A great deal of the first half of the movie is the protagonist learning to become one of the Na’vi (the blue alien people) and learning about the forest. There was some very heavy handed political commentary (“We will fight terror with terror!”), and a lot of talk about the Deity of the Na’vi, called Eywa or All Mother, and how there is energy in everything. There’s a scene where the protagonist Jake talks to game as he’s killing it, thanking him for dying and giving him energy (or something, I wasn’t paying too close attention).

    I did enjoy it, and wasn’t bored for the most part (though some of the “training” scenes got old), but my friends who went with me seemed to enjoy it a lot more. The visual effects were great, but nothing I haven’t seen in video games before. People said that as the movie went on they forgot the CG was fake, but that didn’t really happen to me… Maybe I thought too much about it. I dunno.

    Verdict? Escapist popcorn flick.

  • Catherine

    So having just watched the film, it was exactly as I predicted… typical James Cameron. There wasn’t actually a lot of non-stop action. A great deal of the first half of the movie is the protagonist learning to become one of the Na’vi (the blue alien people) and learning about the forest. There was some very heavy handed political commentary (“We will fight terror with terror!”), and a lot of talk about the Deity of the Na’vi, called Eywa or All Mother, and how there is energy in everything. There’s a scene where the protagonist Jake talks to game as he’s killing it, thanking him for dying and giving him energy (or something, I wasn’t paying too close attention).

    I did enjoy it, and wasn’t bored for the most part (though some of the “training” scenes got old), but my friends who went with me seemed to enjoy it a lot more. The visual effects were great, but nothing I haven’t seen in video games before. People said that as the movie went on they forgot the CG was fake, but that didn’t really happen to me… Maybe I thought too much about it. I dunno.

    Verdict? Escapist popcorn flick.

  • kerner

    My son refuses to see it. He has read that James Cameron has publicly said it is intended to be a critique of US foreign policy. Having been part of the instrument of our foreign policy (USMC), he’s not particularly interested in seeing James Cameron’s leftier than thou take on it.

  • kerner

    My son refuses to see it. He has read that James Cameron has publicly said it is intended to be a critique of US foreign policy. Having been part of the instrument of our foreign policy (USMC), he’s not particularly interested in seeing James Cameron’s leftier than thou take on it.

  • http://dizzysound.net/blog Christopher R Gillespie

    Not bad and worth the money, if for the technical brilliance. The treehugging is a bit over the top, as is the allusion to the native indians. The story is simple but well executed. Details were resolved.

    No popcorn but the sour skittles hit the spot.

  • http://dizzysound.net/blog Christopher R Gillespie

    Not bad and worth the money, if for the technical brilliance. The treehugging is a bit over the top, as is the allusion to the native indians. The story is simple but well executed. Details were resolved.

    No popcorn but the sour skittles hit the spot.

  • http://thejcalebjones.tumblr.com The Jones

    I saw it last night, and yes it is blatantly preachy at points with lines like “well, diplomacy failed” and “only a preemptive attack can save us” and “we must fight this terror with terror” coming from the bad guys. That might be bad enough, but then there are lines like “I didn’t think our plan would involve being a martyr” from the good guys. Yikes. Blatantly critiquing foreign policy is one thing, but blatantly sympathizing with terrorist ideology is another. Plus, Bush has been out for a year. Give it a break. Yes, it’s a Dances with Wolves plot rip off, everybody knew that, but I liked Dances with Wolves. Somebody needs to tell people not to mix extraneous and morally confused metaphors into unrelated plot lines. That marred an otherwise amazing movie.

    Even with that, though the movie is worth seeing. It’s got great action, and the effects alone warrant checking it out. Plus, the story is actually quite enjoyable. Predictable? Well, yes, but who cares? It’s spectacular. It’s worth seeing just for the visual kaleidoscope. Who knows, you might actually enjoy the other stuff, too!

  • http://thejcalebjones.tumblr.com The Jones

    I saw it last night, and yes it is blatantly preachy at points with lines like “well, diplomacy failed” and “only a preemptive attack can save us” and “we must fight this terror with terror” coming from the bad guys. That might be bad enough, but then there are lines like “I didn’t think our plan would involve being a martyr” from the good guys. Yikes. Blatantly critiquing foreign policy is one thing, but blatantly sympathizing with terrorist ideology is another. Plus, Bush has been out for a year. Give it a break. Yes, it’s a Dances with Wolves plot rip off, everybody knew that, but I liked Dances with Wolves. Somebody needs to tell people not to mix extraneous and morally confused metaphors into unrelated plot lines. That marred an otherwise amazing movie.

    Even with that, though the movie is worth seeing. It’s got great action, and the effects alone warrant checking it out. Plus, the story is actually quite enjoyable. Predictable? Well, yes, but who cares? It’s spectacular. It’s worth seeing just for the visual kaleidoscope. Who knows, you might actually enjoy the other stuff, too!

  • http://thejcalebjones.tumblr.com The Jones

    Oh, and about the 3D. For 95% of the movie, you don’t even realize that you’re watching something in 3D. You just see things as incredibly clear and dynamic. It’s like watching things actually happen. It’s quite an accomplishment. And yes, I do think it is a watershed in movie-making.

  • http://thejcalebjones.tumblr.com The Jones

    Oh, and about the 3D. For 95% of the movie, you don’t even realize that you’re watching something in 3D. You just see things as incredibly clear and dynamic. It’s like watching things actually happen. It’s quite an accomplishment. And yes, I do think it is a watershed in movie-making.

  • MarkB

    I am just back from seeing Avatar in 3D Imax. The graphics were spectacular. I loved the scenes where it seemed you were flying through this amazing forest. I personally liked the training scenes too. It was great to see the animation and the characters running, jumping, climbing and falling. Then the scenes where the “Avatar” was flying on the back of the Dragon were exciting. It made you feel like you were there.

    As to the plot, it was simple and predictable, but so what I still liked it.

    As to the references to things like the war on terror and things like that, it is about what I would expect. I would highly recommend it to anyone who wants to have a good time at the movies. And the Imax experience was great.

  • MarkB

    I am just back from seeing Avatar in 3D Imax. The graphics were spectacular. I loved the scenes where it seemed you were flying through this amazing forest. I personally liked the training scenes too. It was great to see the animation and the characters running, jumping, climbing and falling. Then the scenes where the “Avatar” was flying on the back of the Dragon were exciting. It made you feel like you were there.

    As to the plot, it was simple and predictable, but so what I still liked it.

    As to the references to things like the war on terror and things like that, it is about what I would expect. I would highly recommend it to anyone who wants to have a good time at the movies. And the Imax experience was great.

  • http://www.mosingsonlife.blogspot.com Moses Bratrud

    I saw the film last night and it was amazing. Amazing graphics, amazing characters, amazingly stupid plot.

    The premise is that humans “killed their mother” (Earth) and now they have to find another planet to rape, which they do.

    I’ve seen anti-Republican films, anti-Communist films, anti-slavery films, anti-Christian films. But Avatar is none of these. Avatar is anti-human.

  • http://www.mosingsonlife.blogspot.com Moses Bratrud

    I saw the film last night and it was amazing. Amazing graphics, amazing characters, amazingly stupid plot.

    The premise is that humans “killed their mother” (Earth) and now they have to find another planet to rape, which they do.

    I’ve seen anti-Republican films, anti-Communist films, anti-slavery films, anti-Christian films. But Avatar is none of these. Avatar is anti-human.

  • http://confessionalbytes.blogspot.com/ Jim Pierce

    @ 1 Rev. McCain: The 3D technology sounds great, but how are they going to package the DVDs for this movie? Certainly it won’t be the same 3D technology? I am assuming they have another version of this movie ready to go for DVD.

  • http://confessionalbytes.blogspot.com/ Jim Pierce

    @ 1 Rev. McCain: The 3D technology sounds great, but how are they going to package the DVDs for this movie? Certainly it won’t be the same 3D technology? I am assuming they have another version of this movie ready to go for DVD.

  • Mitchell Otto

    The best way to see this movie is to go with a friend and, as you watch it, scene by scene see who is the fastest at identifying what movie it was copied from. Interesting to watch, but no one in our five person group said they wanted to see it a second time.

  • Mitchell Otto

    The best way to see this movie is to go with a friend and, as you watch it, scene by scene see who is the fastest at identifying what movie it was copied from. Interesting to watch, but no one in our five person group said they wanted to see it a second time.

  • http://www.geneveith.com geneveith

    Is it true that only some theaters have the whole 3-D equipment?

  • http://www.geneveith.com geneveith

    Is it true that only some theaters have the whole 3-D equipment?

  • Wyldeirishman

    Military, corporations= BAD.

    Gaia, ‘noble savages’= GOOD.

    You almost expect Michael Moore to have a cameo as a rotund Na’vi.

    Cameron is a hack. Granted, a hack with a particular knack for spectacular technological achievements…but a hack nonetheless.

    Meh.

    *counts the days ’till ‘Clash of the Titans*

  • Wyldeirishman

    Military, corporations= BAD.

    Gaia, ‘noble savages’= GOOD.

    You almost expect Michael Moore to have a cameo as a rotund Na’vi.

    Cameron is a hack. Granted, a hack with a particular knack for spectacular technological achievements…but a hack nonetheless.

    Meh.

    *counts the days ’till ‘Clash of the Titans*

  • inexile

    A very interesting review of the movie today by Ross Douthat at N.Y. Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/21/opinion/21douthat1.html?ref=todayspaper

  • inexile

    A very interesting review of the movie today by Ross Douthat at N.Y. Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/21/opinion/21douthat1.html?ref=todayspaper

  • Mark

    inexile:

    I wholeheartedly agree: a very interesting review and surprisingly orthodox for the NYT! Thanks for posting it. It’s a good read.

  • Mark

    inexile:

    I wholeheartedly agree: a very interesting review and surprisingly orthodox for the NYT! Thanks for posting it. It’s a good read.

  • http://katiesbeer.piperblogs.org/ Theresa K.

    Can’t say it better than #16 (Moses), except to say that it seemed to have been a good screenplay which was submitted to Al Gore for review and revisions. Thus the extended length due to the parts he added in about the evil humans. Wonderful movie, turned insult to viewer in the end. Anyone else see several strong correlations to Disney’s Pocahontas movie?

  • http://katiesbeer.piperblogs.org/ Theresa K.

    Can’t say it better than #16 (Moses), except to say that it seemed to have been a good screenplay which was submitted to Al Gore for review and revisions. Thus the extended length due to the parts he added in about the evil humans. Wonderful movie, turned insult to viewer in the end. Anyone else see several strong correlations to Disney’s Pocahontas movie?

  • Peter Leavitt

    Ross Douthat’s review is brilliant. He connects Avatar with the ubiquitous pantheism that involves an escapist worship of nature including the fear of global warming. Contrasting Avatarwith the hope of Christmas is, also, on the mark.

    Douthat reveals his Christian belief with the excellent:

    But except as dust and ashes, Nature cannot take us back.

  • Peter Leavitt

    Ross Douthat’s review is brilliant. He connects Avatar with the ubiquitous pantheism that involves an escapist worship of nature including the fear of global warming. Contrasting Avatarwith the hope of Christmas is, also, on the mark.

    Douthat reveals his Christian belief with the excellent:

    But except as dust and ashes, Nature cannot take us back.

  • CRB

    Isn’t Cameron an atheist?

  • CRB

    Isn’t Cameron an atheist?

  • Bruce Gee

    Thanks for the great variety of reviews. I think I’m going to take a pass on it. Ed, is your curiosity sufficiently piqued to take a look? Inquiring minds would like to know.

  • Bruce Gee

    Thanks for the great variety of reviews. I think I’m going to take a pass on it. Ed, is your curiosity sufficiently piqued to take a look? Inquiring minds would like to know.

  • http://www.geneveith.com geneveith

    The story sounds like it would just make me mad, but I’m very curious about the 3-D effects and the film technology. I’d like to take it in just as a visual spectacle.

  • http://www.geneveith.com geneveith

    The story sounds like it would just make me mad, but I’m very curious about the 3-D effects and the film technology. I’d like to take it in just as a visual spectacle.

  • jim_claybourn

    I got acclimated to the 3d effects fairly quickly. The remaining 2-1/2 hours were ok, but the 3d alone was not enough to make me tell someone go see the movie. Really, if you’ve seen one 3d movie, the effect is not that impressive.

    Film/computer technology, on the other hand, kept my interest a while longer, but I still wouldn’t pay to go see it again.

  • jim_claybourn

    I got acclimated to the 3d effects fairly quickly. The remaining 2-1/2 hours were ok, but the 3d alone was not enough to make me tell someone go see the movie. Really, if you’ve seen one 3d movie, the effect is not that impressive.

    Film/computer technology, on the other hand, kept my interest a while longer, but I still wouldn’t pay to go see it again.

  • Carl Vehse

    In his Avatar review, “The Suicide Fantasy”, Doctor Zero writes:

    “Avatar was written by a man who thinks those who disagree with his environmentalist obsessions are so blind that, in the future they will create, the last decent man in the universe will lead a far more noble alien race to victory over us, and literally renounce his humanity as part of his reward. James Cameron invites you to join him in the most beautifully rendered adolescent daydream of suicide ever created, and share his sense of righteous superiority over those who refuse to applaud at the end. I’m a sucker for good-looking dragons, so I gave him a golf clap for those.”

  • Carl Vehse

    In his Avatar review, “The Suicide Fantasy”, Doctor Zero writes:

    “Avatar was written by a man who thinks those who disagree with his environmentalist obsessions are so blind that, in the future they will create, the last decent man in the universe will lead a far more noble alien race to victory over us, and literally renounce his humanity as part of his reward. James Cameron invites you to join him in the most beautifully rendered adolescent daydream of suicide ever created, and share his sense of righteous superiority over those who refuse to applaud at the end. I’m a sucker for good-looking dragons, so I gave him a golf clap for those.”

  • Wyldeirishman

    #24) And why should ‘Nature’ want us back, anyhow? Last time I checked, non-sentient non-entities were quite incapable of WANTING anything at all. :)

    #29) Makes L. Frank Baum look like a rank amateur, I tell you. :)

    My movie money’s still holding out for Titans. And Robin Hood, too.

  • Wyldeirishman

    #24) And why should ‘Nature’ want us back, anyhow? Last time I checked, non-sentient non-entities were quite incapable of WANTING anything at all. :)

    #29) Makes L. Frank Baum look like a rank amateur, I tell you. :)

    My movie money’s still holding out for Titans. And Robin Hood, too.

  • Margo

    I don’t understand why many people dislike the environmental aspect of the film. Yes, it is ‘anti-human’ in that it shows humans being their usual destructive selves. Maybe you’re in denial about the truth: that humans, at some points in time, have done ridiculous and negative things.

  • Margo

    I don’t understand why many people dislike the environmental aspect of the film. Yes, it is ‘anti-human’ in that it shows humans being their usual destructive selves. Maybe you’re in denial about the truth: that humans, at some points in time, have done ridiculous and negative things.


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