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Author Topic: For those who saw Avatar
Teraen
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I stumbled across this link today:

http://boingboing.net/2009/12/29/five-storytelling-ri.html

Its a review of things that could have made Avatar a better story. Some of the best are not in the article, but the comments left after... this reflects one of my main interests (and difficulties) of writing: how to make a compelling plot and good characters?

Now, regardless of what you think of the movie, I found this whole page fascinating from a storytelling point of view. If nothing else, it is fodder for hundreds of stories.


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Robert Nowall
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I haven't seen it (yeah, I can hear you all saying, "Duh!") but this seems a good place to mention that, by all accounts, it seriously rips off Poul Anderson's "Call Me Joe."

Anybody who hasn't read "Call Me Joe" should read it---besides being in several Anderson collections, it can also be found in The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Volume Two.


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MartinV
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It also rips off The Last Samurai or Dances with Wolves. I watched it in 3D and it was a nice looking screensaver but I really don't see why people are killing themselves after watching it.
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Brad R Torgersen
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My opinion, posted here:

http://bradrtorgersen.wordpress.com/2009/12/31/how-id-have-written-camerons-avatar/

Visually spectacular, but written poorly; at best.


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MAP
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Thanks for the link. That was interesting.

The fact that Avatar made so much money makes me wonder if movies can get away with cliche plots if the visuals are awesome or if most people like simple cliche plots, and we are just a very vocal minority.


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Brad R Torgersen
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I think AVATAR sells because AVATAR is visually amazing. Most people -- not even writers -- agree the plot and story lacks, if not downright sucks. But the visuals are worth the ticket price.
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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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I submit that there are several different art forms involved in the making of a movie. Storytelling is one, and special effects is another.

A movie can be an amazing example of the art of special effects without being anything special with regard to the art of storytelling. A movie can have wonderful examples of the art of acting, and/or directing, and/or cinematography, and/or film editing, and/or costume design, and/or set design, and so on and so forth.

There are those who go to see movies for the special effects, or for the acting or directing or cinematography, and they may be willing to put up with merely adequate story or whatever.

In an ideal world, the really great movies would be the ones that are examples of great art in all areas, but this isn't an ideal world.

I think it's good that we can learn from AVATAR and other movies how to do the kinds of art we are particularly interested in with either good examples or how-not-to-do-it examples.

I also think that a movie with great special effects should not be called a great movie if the special effects are the only thing great about it. It's a great special effects movie, but that's all it is.


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Robert Nowall
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It's also said to rip off Le Guin's "The Word for World is Forest."
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Crystal Stevens
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I'm sorry but I couldn't get Teraen's link to work, and it would probably help clear up some of my confusion. I thought Avatar was definitely the best movie I've even seen. Is everyone saying that if all the amazing visuals were taken out the result would be something most people wouldn't give a second glance? That if I read it in book form and never seen the movie that I would be disappointed?

I'm trying hard to understand everyone else's viewpoints, but instead find myself saying, "Huh?" and scratching my head. I feel like I'm missing a very important point.

Also I don't doubt any of you when you say Avatar is ripping off a lot of other works already done. Unfortunately, I'm not familiar with any of them except "Dances with Wolves", another film that I absolutely loved.

The more we talk about our likes and dislikes in books and movies, the more I feel I don't understand, because I seem to be on the opposite side of the fence. It also causes me to be concerned with my own writing when it comes to what I like to read and what movies I enjoy. Surely, I can't be too far off the beaten path if I like a movie that has been #1 at the box office for 5 straight weeks? I guess from what has been said here about Avatar makes me worry if my own writing might reflect on overused plots and story lines, and that scares me.

All of this is quite a wake-up call.

Sorry about the rambling, but I just couldn't sit on the sidelines without voicing my opinion.


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Robert Nowall
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I do have to take into account that the average moviegoer won't be as familiar with Anderson or Le Guin as I am...perhaps some of the younger ones won't be as familiar with "Star Wars" and "Star Trek" as I am, even. And that the visual sense is a very important part of a movie experience---most movies wouldn't be any good without it, but are everything with it.

I might like it...but I'm not inclined to go.


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aspirit
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In a story, stranger elements need balance with familiar elements. The visual style was risky, so I think using familiar plot lines and characters was a sensible choice.
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andersonmcdonald
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Everyone has their own likes and dislikes. When I left the movie theater after watching The Phantom Menace, I thought, "Wow! That was awesome!" I thought it was fun, not perfect, but there was just something about it that struck a chord. Jar-Jar didn't bother me, and I was blown away by the sheer escapism of it. That pretty much brands me a complete dork. Also, I'm a sucker for the "cheesy" mysteries of the 30's and 40's, both on film and radio. One of my favorite authors is John Dickson Carr, a writer who most people would turn up their noses at today. Certain stories just resonate with me. I see things there that other people don't. Maybe that makes me an emotional observer rather than an intellectual one...
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ChrisOwens
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Well, I won't be relying on you for movie recommendations, will I?
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andersonmcdonald
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Ha, ha. Let me just add a few others I like...

Seven Samurai

Rebecca

Casablanca

Castle In the Sky

Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure...I'm kidding. I hated that one.

The Searchers

The Adventures of Robin Hood

And a lot more that most people can agree with me on.


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Crystal Stevens
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Oh, I don't know, Chris. I thought "Star Trek" was wonderful, and it looks like a bunch of other Hatrackers think the same thing .
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MAP
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quote:
I'm sorry but I couldn't get Teraen's link to work, and it would probably help clear up some of my confusion. I thought Avatar was definitely the best movie I've even seen. Is everyone saying that if all the amazing visuals were taken out the result would be something most people wouldn't give a second glance? That if I read it in book form and never seen the movie that I would be disappointed?
I'm trying hard to understand everyone else's viewpoints, but instead find myself saying, "Huh?" and scratching my head. I feel like I'm missing a very important point.

Also I don't doubt any of you when you say Avatar is ripping off a lot of other works already done. Unfortunately, I'm not familiar with any of them except "Dances with Wolves", another film that I absolutely loved.

The more we talk about our likes and dislikes in books and movies, the more I feel I don't understand, because I seem to be on the opposite side of the fence. It also causes me to be concerned with my own writing when it comes to what I like to read and what movies I enjoy. Surely, I can't be too far off the beaten path if I like a movie that has been #1 at the box office for 5 straight weeks? I guess from what has been said here about Avatar makes me worry if my own writing might reflect on overused plots and story lines, and that scares me.


Crystal, I wouldn't worry aout it. Avatar grossed a billion dollars, and I can't think that is only due to the amazing special effects. People must enjoy the story.

I enjoyed it even if it was a well used plot. I didn't even think about it until after it was over.

But really it was a simple cliche plot with good guys and bad guys clearly defined. I pretty much knew exactly how it was going to end, and there were no surprises at all. But I enjoyed it.

That is why I posed my question earlier. I am wondering if many people enjoy the familiarity of cliche plots. Think about all of the Star Wars and Lord of the Ring clones out there, many of them extremely popular. Maybe there is something comforting in story patterns that we recognize. Of course the story has to be done well, all stories have to be done well.

If you loved the movie, you are not alone. So there are a lot of people out there who have similar tastes. Write your stories and write them well, and you will have an audience.

[This message has been edited by MAP (edited January 24, 2010).]


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Pyre Dynasty
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I just want to share Howard Tayler's review of Avatar, "Best Ferngully remake ever."

I haven't seen it, I will see it, first run theaters are a little too pricey for me. But when I started seeing the trailers my head was screaming "Call Me Joe" which is a great story and I join Robert's call to read it.

For me a movie that only has visuals going for it can be enjoyed like a painting. (Well a moving painting.) The story is in the colors and lines, not in what the actors are saying. I enjoyed the first two "The Fast and The Furious" movies. Pretty cars going fast, I don't remember one lick of the plots. That said I believe that the writing is the most important thing in a movie, and well written movies are the ones that stick around and are watched multiple times. Visual movies tend to get dethroned by new technology or new visuals.


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KayTi
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quote:
The more we talk about our likes and dislikes in books and movies, the more I feel I don't understand, because I seem to be on the opposite side of the fence.

I don't know, Crystal, I think it's just that there are a lot of people with a lot of different tastes. In a writer's community, I think you're probably also coming across a lot of people who expect certain novelty from the story that they're watching, since they read, write, and watch a lot of stories (I joke that my family and I consume stories - we eat them up. The kids - ages 6 & 8 - read several books a week, plus we do an audio book together at all times - depending on the book it takes us a few weeks to read - plus the movies we watch, and certain TV series' where each episode is a story.)

However, there's something inherently comforting in watching a story unfold that covers familiar ground. When you have a general sense of where the story is going, what the peaks and valleys are going to be, how there's going to be something bad here about 2/3 of the way through the movie (second act climax...) and you can feel the movie building to it, etc.

We recently watched Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, and while I didn't love love love the movie, I did enjoy it. One of the things I enjoyed was that it was clearly written by people who are expert in telling stories via visual media. There were almost visible plot elements, a father/son relationship mirrored in another father/son relationship (which peaked earlier/resolved earlier than the main father/son conflict.) There were easy-to-expect disasters, and there was plenty of tension and satisfying resolution. Even though I didn't love the movie and the plot didn't really light my fire, I can stand back from it and appreciate the incredible technical mastery that went into creating such a solid story (and it was very satisfying for the kids, I think because of that predictability.)

To contrast it with a different film of the same genre - we also saw Up last year. That movie resonated with me in a profoundly different way than Cloudy. It's story was much less predictable (though I had a general sense that things would work out.) There were many unexpected aspects to Up. And there was an emotional resonance that was incredible. Here, I find I can appreciate the astonishing creativity, skill, and inventiveness that the writer(s?) put into the film. While it's also a technical wowzer, it's a much more subtle film than Cloudy. Things didn't quite happen in the way I expected, but it was a pleasurable journey nonetheless.

I haven't had the chance to see Avatar yet, but I am really looking forward to it, because it looks like the kind of movie I would enjoy. And I can push aside my expectations for an incredible story in order to enjoy the spectacle. In fact, sometimes I find it preferable to experience films in that way. (In fact, if we're going to confess guilty pleasures, I really liked the first Transformers movie, even while I laugh at the way the music is cued to pull at my heartstrings just so, or the cheesy lines, I just like it. The second movie was not as good, they went too gaga on the special effects, but the first was excellent, in my opinion.)


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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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Offering another "movies I've liked" datapoint here:

Went to see ASTRO BOY recently, for reasons of nostalgia, and liked it a lot. The story was fairly predictable, but it was a nice story, and it worked. <shrug>

Saw WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE a few days before ASTRO BOY and didn't like it nearly as much as ASTRO BOY, though I can say that it was well done and I appreciated the work that went into it. The story just didn't work as well for me. <double shrug>


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babooher
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Hey andersonmcdonald, I loved the Phantom Menace for the escapism, too. Still I recognize on an intellectual level that the movie is a bit of a dud story wise (to quote a different movie, "there's only one trilogy!). My loving brother sent me a link recently to a 70 minute (that's right, seventy minute) breakdown of why Episode I is the worst film of all time. After watching about 7 minutes, I had to agree with everything the guy was saying. There is no protagonist, the characters are flat, etc. Even knowing this, I still like the show.

As for Avatar, I was disappointed after the hype. I also didn't like the political lecture I had to endure. After discussing this with my friends, I found out a lot of people went to see Avatar for the spectacle, not the story. It ain't that great of a spectacle to make up for the word unobtanium.


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aspirit
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Great timing! I just stumbled on this tvtropes.org page describing the use of "Unobtainium" in fiction.
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Robert Nowall
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I liked every movie on "andersonmcdonald"'s list---even "Bill and Ted's." But tastes are so different and I can only report on what I liked.

Going back to all of last year, for movies I saw for the first time and liked, "WALL-E" and "Up," plus "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs," "Ice Age Three" (whose full title I forget), and "The Music Man." "Up" is the only one I saw in a theater, the others all on DVD. Only "The Music Man" predates the last two years, and it's the only non-animated one. There are others I bought but haven't yet watched; then again, I may be missing some I did like and have forgotten I looked at. (I've also bought and watched several I've seen before, like "The Adventures of Robin Hood"---really worthwhile on BluRay.)

(Come to think of it, "WALL-E" should count against 2008---I watched it for the first time just before Christmas.)


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Teraen
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I think some may have misunderstood my purpose in sharing this... It was MEANT for people who didn't like Avatar, because it is a discussion on what they could have done better.

Oh well...


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sjsampson
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I didn't like the movie, but I have to agree with what aspirit said:

quote:
In a story, stranger elements need balance with familiar elements. The visual style was risky, so I think using familiar plot lines and characters was a sensible choice.

To me, Avatar seemed more of a milieu story. My expectations for the plot were low.

What could they have done better? In my opinion, they should have cut the movie by an hour. There was some small part of me that hoped they would go in a similar direction as Princess Mononoke with it, instead of keeping it so simple. But oh well - at least it was pretty.


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Corky
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It sounds like a milieu story to me. And the worst of those aren't much better than travelogues. At least this has some story, but maybe we need to consider just how much story a milieu story needs.

Consider: event stories need quite a bit of plot, but character stories don't need so much. Idea stories need plot, too, and maybe that's where AVATAR falls down. It's a milieu story, but isn't it also an idea story (in spite of the "unobtainium," or maybe because of it--after all, if "unobtainium" doesn't qualify as an IDEA--thanks, aspirit, for that link, by the way--I don't know what does)? And, the avatar aspect also qualifies as IDEA, come to think of it.

So maybe that is it. AVATAR had two big IDEAS, besides the milieu aspect, and so it should have had more story than it does?

I'd call DANCES WITH WOLVES and THE LAST SAMURAI milieu stories, too--and not much else.


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Crystal Stevens
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I finally did get into that site and read what it had to say... the one in the first post in this thread... and I must admit there are some comments in there that did cross my mind while I watched Avatar. The main one was how (I'm not real good with names.) The young native girl was supposed to mate with one of her own kind... like it was preordained. And then he didn't even put up a fight when she fell for Jake. I was expecting some kind of duel or something or that the tribe would get upset with this outsider coming in and messing up all their plans for the tribe's future ruler and spiritual leader.

The other was something someone else brought up. If Jake got through to the planet to defend itself, I expected much more than the animals attacking. I kept thinking about Anne McCaffery's Petaybee books where the planet attacked with a volcanic eruption, earthquakes, and abrupt seasonal changes where they shouldn't occur.

I also agree with the movie not using the planetary brain thing more. There was so much more that could've been done with that.

So, yes, I can see where the story could've been much improved with a little more thought. But I still loved it, and its length didn't bother me one bit. It kept me entranced the whole way through.

I kept thinking of it as a milieu story, too. This also kept going through the back of my mind while I watched the movie.


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Devnal
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I liked Avatar.
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Ben Trovato
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My $.02 is that part of the problem lies in that none of the characters in a science fiction movie have ever READ a science fiction story.

As I recall, there's a part where Sigourney Weaver's scientist says something to the effect that "we can't trade with them; we haven't got anything they want." Yeah, because you're doing it wrong. It isn't racist or imperialist for the more advanced civilization to trade with the natives. Ask Nicholas van Rijn.

Or, if the natives' god talks to them, set up a god of your own who talks louder. This is the punchline (literally) to the Gordon Dickson story "Itco's Strong Right Arm."

I agree that any of the risks mentioned in the OP's link would have made Avatar vastly better...but then, pretty much anything would have. You know something's wrong with a movie when the villain is the most likable character. (Go, Quarich! Tiger mecha stomp!)


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philocinemas
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There are supposedly only seven basic story plots. Of course, there are many ways of mixing these up. With that said, there are not really any new stories coming out that are completely original. I know this is a very bold statement, but I believe it to be completely true. This does not mean that there are not (sorry for the necessary double negative) different ways of telling the same stories. As writers our ultimate goal is to tell these stories in different ways and give them the perception of originality.

I have chosen some movies out of my personal collection which I consider to be among the best sci-fi movies within recent history. I can narrow them down to five basic types of movie (not necessarily themes):

1 - The Dark House - This is not the name of a movie, but a type. Any movie where someone is trapped and running away from something or fighting back is a Dark House movie. The father of modern special effects movies (2001: A Space Odyssey) is one of these. Here are a few others: Alien; Aliens; Jurassic Park; Dark City. Many modern action flicks, such as Die Hard, use this technique. However, the "Dark House" is no longer just a physical trap, it can be psychological such as a blackmail or ransom situation. It is a situation within which the MC has no option but to run or fight back.

2 - The Savior - This is a movie where there is one person who is the "only one" who can make a difference. The Star Wars saga is a prime example of this. Yes, I know "there is another", but there really isn't is there? First, after the the 6th, it was Anakin, and then there was Luke. Planet of the Apes used this, as did the Mad Max sequels and even The Lord of the Rings and The Matrix.

3 - Change the Past/Future - This is not necessarily time travel, but often it does come in that form. Where many movie types cross-over into other types, this is the greatest trespasser. The Terminator movies dealt greatly with the Savior type storyline, they were primarily about changing the past and/or future. This was a common theme of the Star Trek movies (oddly, some of the best ones). Children of Men is an example of the non-time-travel type.

4 - Social Justice - Two really good examples of this are Blade Runner and V for Vendetta. Some of the other movies I have already mentioned, like Planet of the Apes and Children of Men are also examples of this.

5 - They are Imposters - This is usually horror. This includes the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers and all of The Puppet Masters rip-offs.

There are other types of movies of course, but five groups can usually describe most sci-fi.

Avatar actually borrows from several of these story-types. The MC is "trapped" in his wheelchair and in the Avatar Chamber where he lies unconscious and vulnerable. He is trapped in a plan he comes to disagree with as well as in another being. I find this last part to be a new take on an old concept. He also becomes the "Savior" of these people - not original at all and completely deserving of criticism. There is a minor "Change the Future" story-line, but I don't see it as being of much emphasis. There is quite a bit of social justice, which I suppose is the main thrust of the story. And finally, the MC is an "imposter", but becomes an accepted imposter, which is, in my opinion, a slightly different take.

All in all, I don't believe Avatar had a great story-line, but I feel that it was more "original" than what many have suggested. The comment that I made at the beginning of this long comment was that "As writers our ultimate goal is to tell these stories in different ways and give them the perception of originality." By filming the movie using this new technology, I believe Cameron succeeded with this goal (and gave a new take on an old story at the same time).


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philocinemas
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However, I do agree that it was predictable - just not bad.
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philocinemas
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I just thought of two more movie types, although I can only think of one example of the second one.

6 - Invasion or What the ____ is Going On? - Examples of this would be Signs and Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

7 - The Experiment Gone Wrong - The only "recent" good example of this that I can think of is David Cronenberg's The Fly.

There might be others, but I can't think of any right now. Those two have been keeping me from going to sleep over the last hour. I hate it when that happens.

[This message has been edited by philocinemas (edited January 27, 2010).]


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Robert Nowall
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I don't really know how "Avatar" handled it (at least I didn't see it in any review I read), but I would have thought that if the main character was "linked" to his "avatar," and became trouble to the guys around his proper self in the way he did, that they would've in some way moderated or modulated or even severed the "link." But I don't know how it was handled. A potential plot hole? You guys who saw the movie would know better than me.

(The aforementioned-by-me "Call Me Joe" did have a handle on that---the guy, essentially, became his other self.)


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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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Thanks for the movie types list, philocinemas. That's a great list.
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KayTi
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Serenity might be an example of Experiment gone wrong (though there are elements of Social Justice, too.) Cool list - I love indexing schemes.
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aspirit
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Robert, the MC's link was severed once or twice, forcing his consciousness back into his human body.
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Robert Nowall
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That answers that. So where does his consciousness finally wind up?
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Crystal Stevens
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You would need a spoiler alert to tell that, Robert.

If you're that curious, why not bite the bullet and go see the movie ?


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Merlion-Emrys
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I also enjoyed philo's list and I agree very strongly that when boiled down to essentials, there are only so many plots. And generally, if you deviate to far from them or create something that basically has no plot...if you get too "original" people complain its to "far out" or that they can't relate to it.


Thats why "cliches" become cliches, they are used frequently because they are effective, they resonate with people and people enjoy them.

And thats why I dont support "overused plot" as a meaningful criticism. Its of course a perfectly valid reason not to like something but it in no way makes something somehow objectively "bad."

As far as Avatar (which I havent seen) "ripping off" the Poul Anderson and Ursula LeGuin stories...does that mean they ripped each other off (whichever one came first?) What about all the other stories and movies that have used similar plot lines and concepts? Who is really "ripping off" who?


As for movies that supposedly have visuals and nothing to offer story wise...I dont agree that such a thing exists because whatever the story is, it will be enjoyed by some people. Are some more involved than others? of course. But the first goal of most movies is to be entertaining and if the story aspect entertains some people it has succeeded. Theres also a case to be made for the two not being all that seperate at the end of the day...the visuals are part of what tells the story.

Also some observations. I'm probably going to get slammed for this but oh well. In my experience here on Hatrack, people are very focused on publication success. And thats measured mostly in terms of money (pay rates are what determines whether a publication is "professional" or not) and/or circulation...I know there are prestige elements etc as well but those are still mostly based on those things. There are many here, or so it seems, that feel or seem to feel that low-paying and/or non-prestigious publication has little use in a writers career or whatever.

However, its also been my experience that a lot of folks here tend to be a little derisive of a lot of things that are widely commercially successful...Christopher Paolini's books, Twilight, Harry Potter (though it seems a bit more divided on that) and this and some times other movies. It strikes me as a bit ironic.

Its also ironic that I have often heard it said on here, in various ways, that since literature has to compete with movies we should, in essence, try to write stories that are more like movies in style and construction.


I always say with stories you can't please everyone, because everyone has different tastes...but the tone is usually that one should try to appeal to as large an audience as possible if you want to be "successful." It appears Avatar has done that.

These are just my observations, no hostility is meant, I'm just saying what I see, and how interesting I find it all.


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DivineDistorter
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Is it just me or does this story resonate with the entire saga of the Native Americans? Except the aliens win of course! Just my 2cp
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Brad R Torgersen
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Avatar is basically a giant revenge fantasy for everyone who is sympathetic to the colonially-exploited histories of any number of First Peoples.

My big question is: if McGuffin Rock can be found on Pandora, what about the other moons circling that big, nameless Jovian in the background? Easier to go mine those places, and let the xenologists play with the Blue Cat People in the jungle. In fact, since the Avatar psionic technology appears to have no functional range limit, why not leave the humans in orbit and drop a pod containing Avatars onto the surface?

Hole, holes, too many holes...


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Teraen
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My main criticism was simply that Cameron seemed to only scratch the surface of deeper meanings and themes that he could have developed to a much deeper level. It wasn't inherently a bad movie, but it was bad in that it could have been much better... if that makes sense.

That's why I enjoyed that list. Also, it gave me ways to think more deeply about my own stories.


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philocinemas
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I'm glad you guys liked my list. Years ago, I would study movies to try and understand why they were successful (or not). Believe it or not, it has very little to do with actors, beginnings, plot, endings, or special effects. There are two factors that effect a movie's success more than anything else:

Pace and Credibility

Movies that have a "heart-beat" are the most successful. These have periods of intermittant action/suspense and rest/humor. Pick any successful movie and put it to that test. Cameron is consistently better at pacing than possibly any director I've ever seen (except maybe for Hitchcock).

Also, the movie has to follow it's own rules. It's OK to have floating mountains as long as it follows the "rules" of that world. The ending, especially, has to follow them. But if a talking zebra shows up or a plane dodges balls of lava, there better be good explanation. Monty Python were masters of Suspension of Disbelief.

Obviously, bad acting or filming could prevent a movie from being successful. But there have been several movies with not-the-best acting that were very successful due to pace and credibility. Not the case vice-versa.

By the way, there have been some "good" movies that didn't have particularly great pacing, but they were not particularly successful (by number of patrons) either.

[This message has been edited by philocinemas (edited January 28, 2010).]


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genevive42
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The word that came to mind after I saw Avatar was 'hackneyed'.

The most disappointing thing for me was that it was just too predictable. At every turn, every opportunity to shift the plot, Cameron went with the cliche.

It is said that he wanted to make this movie in the early 90's and couldn't because the tech wasn't good enough. I wish that in all the time the script was collecting dust on the shelf he had bothered to look at it and write a more interesting story.

Avatar was fun to look at and I didn't hate it, and I didn't regret paying my money. But it could have been so much more if they had taken some risks.

One of the comments on the link of the original post mentioned how it would have been more interesting if the mineral being mined was not just for profit but something to benefit/save humanity. That one twist would have made this movie so much more.

So as a lesson to us as writers, twist everything. Challenge yourself and your characters and always ask, 'what if?'.

I'm glad I saw it. I won't need to get the dvd.


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philocinemas
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...And if you want to make a godzillion dollars, maybe plot twists don't matter.
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Merlion-Emrys
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See thats the thing. Western movies arent exactly known for their daring anyway. Although I don't necessarily have a problem with "predictable" I do often see Hollywood movies that I like but that, as my Lovely Assistant genevive says, leave me with a sense that they could have been more.

Doesn't make them bad. But Hollywood isnt about taking risks its about making money, by being as appealing--and as easy--as possible for as many people as possible.


Much as we are often advised to be in our writing, here, by our fellow writers. Extremely ironic, if you ask me.


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genevive42
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It seems that you have to start by being brilliant and original so that you stand out. Then, when you hit it big you go cliche and mainstream to keep the money people happy.

I know not everyone in Hollywood is like that. But if Avatar didn't have all the money behind it to make it look pretty and the big name we'd probably just be saying it was a lame movie with a predictable plot and cookie cutter characters.

Why can't entertaining and thought-provoking coexist in the minds of Hollywood?


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Robert Nowall
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Don't forget, with many of these guys, it's also about pushing a political agenda as well.

Also, strictly speaking, thanks to the byzantine and bizarre accounting practices of the Hollywood studios, the studios themselves make money on every movie---they take no risk and suffer no loss.


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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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Well, I've seen it now, and I loved it. Loved it, loved it, loved it.

I have my own theory about the "story," though. First of all, it was enough. Sure, they could have complicated things a little, but the story was enough just the way it was.

Also, I submit that AVATAR is NOT the same story as DANCES WITH WOLVES or THE LAST SAMURAI, nor is it Disney's POCAHONTAS, though it has similarities with all three. (I haven't seen FERN GULLY, so I can't speak to that.)

My theory is that AVATAR is instead an Andre Norton story. And that is why I think it works just fine the way it is.

In case anyone is unclear on what I mean by "an Andre Norton" story, I will explain. Andre Norton used to write a lot of stories about protagonists who did not fit in where they were. In fact, I think she was possibly the top "protagonist does not belong and tries to find his niche" YA author of her time. I also believe that those stories were one reason she had such appeal to YA readers. (I also think that this particular motif, when used in other stories--up to and including the Harry Potter series--contributed to the appeal of other stories a great deal.)

The hero of AVATAR does not fit, and then he finds HIS PLACE, his niche, where he truly belongs. And that is the kind of story we have in AVATAR. And my theory is that THAT is why the movie has such appeal.

Well, that and the dragon-riding. Wheeee!!!

I would also like to say that after the dragon-riding, the special effect that impressed me the most was how they made Sam Worthington's legs really look like crippled legs. Wow!

Apologies if I seem a little excited here.


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Dark Warrior
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Did you see it in 3D? If not you should give that a try. The way they did it really enhanced the experience. Instead of throwing objects in your face they use it to enhance the setting and make you a part of it.
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KayTi
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Finally saw it today and liked it. I was surprised at how much of a war movie it was. Perhaps enhanced by my 8 year old son next to me whose kept exclaiming during the raging battles near the end of the movie how great it was (boys and fighting...is it hard wired?)

I actually thought the environmental point that I've heard some complaining about (not here, just some general press about how people felt "preached to" with the movie) was not as strongly made as it might have been. There were several times when I wished the writers had taken it further, or foreshadowed something more (even just a few further seconds of reflection on the gravity of Grace's injury, for example) or chosen to do a little something different, but these were things that I recognize I see as a writer, that most viewers wouldn't be paying attention to this sort of thing, and these places where I wanted more weren't impeding the ability of the audience to enjoy the show.

I'm still surprised at how popular it is. It's a beautiful movie (saw it in 2D, I didn't want to see it in 3D, I have screwy eyes that make 3D not really work on me) and the story is interesting, but approachable, and while it's predictable, it's also surprising in ways.

Anyway, glad i saw it, and glad I saw it on a large screen, as I'm sure it's going to be a little lessened on a smaller screen.


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