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Friday, January 22, 2010

Avatar: Forget the Hype. It's better than that.

Finally got a chance to see Avatar tonight. Took my two sons with me. And parents, use your own discernment before the Lord as to whether you want to see it or take kids to see it.  But all I can say is: WOW. Seriously, I was absolutely floored by the movie.

I've heard lots of reviews talk about the special effects as if they are worth the price of a ticket, while the story is weak. NONSENSE. The story was brilliantly executed, if not terribly original. It's not like the story of Star Wars was that original either. Hello, Arthurian Legend?

One critical point and then back to raving. Beware, SPOILERS ahead, but I'll try not to ruin the movie for anyone. Ok, so the one hokey thing is that the Na'vi (the blue alien race) have a kind of New Agey/Indian Spirit World kind of religion going on. There are a couple of strange scenes where they all lock arms and kind of sway in a sort of prayer to All Mother (kind of like mother earth). And there's a line or two about us killing our own world's mother. But that's it. Official Disclaimer: there's some seriously foul language from time to time--from the space marines, which makes sense, but nonetheless made me wince a few times.

Effects: This is the first movie I've ever scene where I actually could not tell where the reality began and ended. The CGI is that good. From beads of sweat on a forehead to strands of wheat on a cliffside, to an uncanny look of love in the eyes of Neytiri (female lead), it was all absolutely spectacular. It was all just right. Camera angles, color, action, detail, shadow, movement---just flawless. And the world that Mr. Cameron developed was nothing short of breathtaking. After the movie, my son said to me, "Dad, I want to go back there." I asked what  he meant. "Back into that world," he replied. And you know what? So did I. The coolest thing was that on the drive home, the shared awe of this fantasy world gave rise to a conversation of what Heaven will be like--that it will blow Avatar's world out of the water! We also got to talk about doing heroic things here on earth by serving the Lord. How's that for post movie chit chat? Praise God.

Story: Humans have depleted earth's resources and go looking for more elsewhere. We find it on an alien moon where the Na'vi live. There's a powerful ore beneath the Na'vi's main home and so greedy people want to take it. Sounds like a lot of things, right? Well, not so fast. See Avatar isn't just a cool sounding name. It's the key to it all. Kind of virtual reality taken to a level never before seen. And it leads to all sorts of internal conflicts and passionate themes. I was inspired to love my wife better, to love my family with protective ferocity. There's this one scene I will never forget where Neytiri protects her husband who is wounded, and warding off enemies. After several battles, she crouches over her beloved and turns to face the attacker----WOW!!!  I want someone to love me with that kind of ferocity. I want to love others with that kind of ferocity. Maybe God loves us with that kind of ferocity. He loved us enough to die for us.


Cloe said...

Sounds cool! I've wanted to see it but I wasn't sure if it was a very good movie. But now I do:)

Also, I read COTSK and it is one of the best books ever. I let some friends borrow it and they loved it too. Thanks for writing!

BleachTune said...

I thought the same thing I really loved the movie. I do agree to the oddness of the Mother earth stuff but other then that I really liked it.

Millardthemk said...

Does the "thematic effect" and great "CGI" make up for the poor spiritual message?


WayneThomasBatson said...

Hey, Millard, seems like a good question, but honestly, how do you quantify "make up for?" I guess that's for you to judge if you see it. My personal thought was the Mother Earth stuff was a very minor point. There were universal themes like sacrifice, love, fighting injustice, the harms of greed, etc.

thelastolympian said...

I saw it too, and it was awesome! I thought only a few things were odd, but I especially loved the world.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Mr. Batson, I've been wanting to go to see the movie but didn't know if it was any good.
This was really helpful! Thanks!


Barie-ah Hue-en-la said...

I personally have never liked science fiction movies -not even Star Wars- so I didn't even give that movie a second thought. It seems I should have. :)

Storyteller said...

That is great. Every good fantasy should inspire us to live like that.

everlastingscribe said...

I am not going to see the movie because of the fact that the rendering here deliberately attacks the work of real CGI. It's all MOTION CAPTURE.

Motion capture is used by some companies to get movement down so that it makes sense to the eye. Then that's used by artists to construct the characters you see in the CGI movie.

AVATAR is ALL motion capture when it comes to the characters. Actors wear special suits and work on basic stages and the movie and dialog is shot there. Then the footage is fed into the computers and images are 'painted' over the actors in effect. It looks real because it IS real in a sense.

Is motion capture bad? No, no it's not bad just like 'choose your own adventure books' aren't bad, but I wouldn't want them to be the only thing on the shelf to read! Hollywood likes easy, and motion capture is a whole lot easier than wire frame rendering. The mind set is 'hey this works we don't need the other CGI artists any more' so I'm not going to support the movie for that reason just like I wouldn't support a company that published only choose your own adventure books.

Nathan R. Petrie said...

yeah...I couldn't decide if the All Mother thing was meant to be the point of the movie or not. Being mature, we should be able to separate such elements. But as it played such a major role, to me at least, the movie was "iffy" for me lol.

I REALLY liked it. But I don' it lol

And that's awesome that you were able to get a cool spiritual discussion out of it. That's all that matters right?

Though I've gotta say. Those Banshees were AWESOME lol

Nathan R. Petrie said...

yeah...I couldn't decide if the All Mother thing was meant to be the point of the movie or not. Being mature, we should be able to separate such elements. But as it played such a major role, to me at least, the movie was "iffy" for me lol.

I REALLY liked it. But I don' it lol

And that's awesome that you were able to get a cool spiritual discussion out of it. That's all that matters right?

Though I've gotta say. Those Banshees were AWESOME lol

Seth said...

Interesting, I would want to see it if I hadn't taken a look at some of the reviews, but that's a personal decision. I'm hoping a cleaner one might come out on TV some time, but it'll be a while.

Scott Appleton said...

I totally agree with you. I posted about Avatar on my blog and I absolutely was FLOORED by this movie.
Some people are making a big deal out of the mother earth stuff that was fed in the movie, but that is far less an issue to me than a lot of other things that I don't see those same people rant on other movies for.
I am buying this movie the second it comes out. AVATAR was Great!

Before people talk about that kind of issue, why don't they address the Lord of the Rings where people were sold on 'good' wizards versus evil wizards? Why aren't they up in arms about some other things if they are so riled by Avatar?

Anonymous said...

Wow, I'm surprised to hear you liked it and that you'd actually do a post on your blog! It's just that I've heard so much negative stuff about it from my Christian friends and positive stuff from my very worldly friends that I didn't want to see it. I also heard that there was a very strong political agenda (though, yes, I know that most movies nowadays have them) that I didn't want to support.

Now I'm really not sure what to think. But thanks for the honest opinion! I'm a big fan of your books, so I value your ideas.

Ian said...

I don't really agree with this review...there were a lot of great things embedded in the movie as it went along, but all that was kind of overshadowed by what I found to be a pretty bland plotline. The fact that I predicted almost every event at least ten minutes before it happened made it hard to really engage in the movie. I couldn't shake the annoying thought of "I've seen this exact plot several times already. I know what happens."

I've heard people talking about how great a new twist they put in their with the whole "avatar" thing, but I found that it served as little more than a new method for an old, worn out story. (Spoiler warning) The guy gets into the other people's community and learns their ways and "tries" to negotiate with them. They could have done much more with this avatar idea, and they should have.

I could go on and on about what I didn't like about this movie, but I don't really want to take up that much space here for that. :P What I will say is, from what I heard about the movie and its storyline beforehand, I expected something much more engaging and exciting. Also, I didn't take any huge close looks at the CGI or animation, so I couldn't have been amazed at their attention to detail. But those details only add on to a movie, they can't make it good. I sincerely wonder, if all of the apparently amazing graphics were removed, would people still have enjoyed this movie as much as they have?

So yes, I am one of those people who thinks the plot was unoriginal. :P And I stand by it.


WayneThomasBatson said...

Great feedback. And Ian, especially glad you offered a counterpoint. Really goes to show that, different kinds of personalities/experience will focus on very different aspects of "a creative concept" and come away with a very different opinion.

You focused on the aspects of the plot that were "familiar" or "derivative," so much so that you really didn't pay much attention to the CGI. I focused on the "new spin" on an old plot pattern. Touche'

Thanks for writing.

lizzybethinabox said...

I saw the movie with my dad this last Thursday. Overall it was amazing, no matter how many times the plot has been used. My dad said that the weird spiritual stuff reminded him of Dances With Wolves, which I have never seen.

It was definitely worth watching in 3D, though, and now I want to return to Pandora!!!

Maybe I can convince my mom that she should go see it; and take me with her:)

Eric Reinhold said...

Great post! I saw Avatar a few weeks ago in 3-D and appreciated the fact that it didn't feel forced, like a lot of 3-D movies. The ash from the burning tree, drifting back to the ground looked as if it was falling all around me in the theatre.

As far as plot... It came across as a Sci-fi version of Pocahontas and John Smith. White man comes to indians, daughter of chief falls in love, etc. But I was fine with that. As an economics major and finance guy, I was a little put off by the cardboard stereotype of the heartless capitalist that would come to another planet and ravage the natural resources from a beautiful world with amazing indigenous creatures. I think in this day and age we are a little beyond that. And it goes against my military background to start rooting against the Marines as villains (but such is the nature of Mr. Cameron and Hollywood). The subtle line from the Marines of bringing in "shock and awe," was not an accidental dig against President Bush and the attack on Iraq. That aside, I thought it was beautifully done and I enjoyed it immensely.
Congrats again on "the spiders!"
Eric Reinhold, Author
Ryann Watters and the King's Sword
Ryann Watters and the Shield of Faith

nick said...

that movie was awesome!!!!!!!
everything about it was amazing loved it so much

Colton said...

Mr. Batson,

I was wondering, since I haven't seen the movie, are there any inappropriate scenes or using the name God in vain?

WayneThomasBatson said...

Hi, Colton

I really appreciate your question. It's really important to filter what we see and hear. I'm not sure of your age, so it's hard to determine appropriate for you.

The Space Marines in the movie do curse a blue streak. I think there might be one or two uses of the Lord's name in vain. I can't remember to be sure.

The alien race in the movie wear very little clothing, much like some tribes of Indians did, so there's that to consider as well.

I hope this helps.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry to add a peripheral comment here, but Mr. Batson, there are some rather important things in relation to the Tribe Building Contest that it would be IMMENSELY helpful to know...

First, at the end of your post on the Today Only quest, you said there were 25 books to be claimed. You then said that 18 had been taken and 2 were left. I'm confused. :)

Also, could you PLEASE update the tribe ranking score? Much has changed since the last one.

Rillan Frostblade

will treaty said...

MAny movies may be "great" by our worlds standards, but we need to ask ourselves does it meet up with God's standard? Phillipians 4:8 should be how we measure movies, from wwhat it sounds like the new age themes can become a problem if we become obsessed with it. I don't want to see it because of the Blue People, and the swearing.

Son of Noltoc said...

Thanks, Mr Batson.

By the way I'm 16 years old (And if I may say, a big fan of the Isle series!) but I don't think age should matter when it comes to things we shouldn't see or hear.

WayneThomasBatson said...

Glad you liked the books, Colton, but age definitely must be considered, age and maturity. There are some matters that aren't necessarily evil versus good issues, but rather maturity. We don't let kids drive a car when they're seven because they are not ready. By the same token, some may not be able to handle some content in movies.

WayneThomasBatson said...

Will Treaty, you are absolutely right to point us to God's word to inform our decisions. Let's look at it:

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

Let's take Avatar by this standard. Whatever is true: Well, no. Avatar is fiction, which is by nature not true, esp. so with fantasy fiction. I've heard well-meaning Christians use this to say that ALL Christians should avoid reading or writing fantasy fiction. But Jesus was a master storyteller. He made very strategic uses of fiction throughout his ministry.

Whatever is noble: plenty of nobility in Avatar. Noble, loving society. Once hopeless and jaded hero changes his mind and fights for what's right. Wife defends husband. Many more.

Whatever is right: some yes, some no. Villains do bad things, does that mean no stories with villains? I hope not. Cursing, definitely unequivocally wrong. Shouldn't have been there.

Whatever is pure: see above, some very pure love and very pure motives here.

Whatever is lovely? WOW, this movie was stunningly lovely, and the whole time I'm watching it, I'm just thinking of heaven.

Admirable, excellent, praiseworthy? This is the highest quality production I've ever seen. Score, CGI--absolutely amazing.

Now, all this said, scripture also tells us that we should be wary of sin that crouches at our door. If profanity, new age, or the tribal fashions will mislead you, then def. don't see Avatar.

Anonymous said...

My parents went to see it already and said it was really cool, but there was alot of political stuff in it (soldiers are protrayed as greedy, evil people, scientists are shown as being good and helpful. I still plan on seeing it once it comes to dvd and clearplay.
I would say it all depends on how people view it. Some only see it as bad, soem are able to pick out the good. etc.

WayneThomasBatson said...

What's clearplay?

Nathan R. Petrie said...

WTB, I'm pretty sure it's a dvd player that censors cussing, nudity, and other not so good stuff.

Son of Noltoc said...

It's a DVD player that cuts out things like fowl language, gore, and anything that might ruin a good movie.

Son of Noltoc said...

And I like your thought on maturity at the movies. (Sorry I published last comment before I got this thought in.) ;]

The Writer said...

I'm in agreement with you, Wayne. This was an incredibly well-made movie, with a nice reimagining of a familiar story. Like Star Wars, the bizarre religious aspect was rather unnecessary, but it wasn't as big a part of the movie as, say, the Force was in Star Wars. The closest thing I can compare it to is the grandmother who's a tree in Pocahontas. Except when Disney did it, no one complained. Like Star Wars, Avatar makes a world truly come to life in a way I've never seen it done before, and the admirable qualities of this make it a must see for all those with discernment. Great review, and I eagerly await Venom and Song in August! (By the way, a cover's up on Amazon)

B. D. Eastman said...

Clearplay DVD players an awesome technology that take bad movies and well make them good. Sounds like science fiction lol, but basically they eliminate curse words and cut out "bad" scenes. Well I think.

Also I would say if anyon has any concerns over a movie, music, or TV show. They should always check out

Peter Stone said...

Thanks Wayne, I've read a variety of reviews, but some of my friends who saw it two weeks ago had the same kind of impression as you.
I also like how it inspired you to think of just how awesome heaven's going to be.
Now I have to see it myself...

Millardthemk said...

Heyo WTB :D

I would like a tribe point update :P


Anonymous said...

I have Clearplay myself, it's amazing. But use common sense at the same time, there are some things it can't cut out or the movie wouldn't make any sense. It still works really well. The Star Trek Clearplay was AMAZING.

Anonymous said...

Clearplay filters out all unnecessary bad things. Sometimes it keeps them in for the sake of making sense out of the movie, but that's only if you don't use common sense. You can adjust your filter settings also, for example if you don't have a problem with violence you can change it to least filtering or no filtering, but if you do you change it to most filtering or normal filtering. Keep your eye out though for some ridiculous filters, like...dishonor flag!?

Evergreena said...

I've been rather curious to see this movie. I've heard such vastly different viewpoints about it. Maybe my family can scrounge up the cash so we can go see it for ourselves. Thanks for the review!

Eagles Wings said...

I really liked Avatar, the plot was excellent! sure it has been used several times before, but never with this spin on it... the special effects were amazing! think lord of the rings, but better, and in blue kinda special effects! the one thing i didn't like about the move is that it did have quite a bit of cursing in it.. i still thought the movie was well worth watching, but would have been a whole lot better without a few things