First, and most obvious, is that Avatar brings to life many of the seemingly far-out concepts for the future we all enjoy here on PopSci.com every day. And like the best science fiction, they usually have some semblance of a foundation in real-world innovations. Does James Cameron read PopSci? I think there's a pretty good chance, considering some of the major technology themes in the film:
- Marines in Space: The film opens with hero Jake Sully awakening from cryogenic hibernation after a long-haul space flight from Earth to Pandora. Floating attendants straight out of 2001 encourage the Marines to take it slow (and use the space-sickness bags) as they acclimate themselves to microgravity. While our concept of space Marines didn't go as far as to assume a landing on another planet, we featured our vision of the Marine Corps' Sustain project on our January 2007 issue's cover. Sustain would utilize suborbital flight (what Virgin Galactic's first passengers will experience) to deliver Marines anywhere in the world in less than two hours, all without encroaching on foreign airspace.
- Exoskeletons: A bad-ass exoskeleton suit is practically a requirement in anything even remotely sci-fi today (see also District 9, anything from Japan), and James Cameron is himself no stranger, giving us one of the more memorable mecha scenes already in Aliens. While no one has quite approached the scale or level of control on display in Avatar's amazing warbots, real-world tech like Sarcos's XOS exoskeleton, which we covered in-depth last year continues to push boundaries. And with Iron Man 2 already staking out territory as next year's big superhero blockbuster, expect more exoskeleton madness to come.
- Prostheses: As you well know from the trailer, Sully, the leading Marine, is a paraplegic. In many ways he treats his Na'vi avatar as a full-body prosthesis: While Jake himself is lying in semi-hibernation, with his brain inhabiting his avatar's body he can run, jump and enjoy all the other benefits of a 10-foot-tall, super-strong alien with an "organic carbon fiber" skeleton; the scene in which he first takes control--his liberation--is wholly exhilarating.
Here in the real world, breakthroughs in modern prosthetics continue to close the cyborgian gap between the human nervous system and man-made replacement limbs. Led by incredible projects like Dean Kamen's "Luke Arm", the wild idea of directly controlling a mechanical arm or leg with your brain is coming into focus as an attainable goal.
Expanding on this, one of the Na'vi's most impressive accessories are their ponytails--which serve a double purpose both to highlight Cameron's alien-fetish eroticization of his blue creations, and to allow them to perform brain-prosthesis-type mind-melds with Pandora's other similarly-equipped beasts. By wrapping their ponytails' tendrils around the tendrils of another, the Na'vi can sync their consciousness to talk to trees and fly their dragon-like lizard-horses by reflex.
It's pretty awesome, and I want one. Which brings me to the second reason I loved the film--its almost too brilliant execution of escapism that is inspiring all of the "he's changed movies forever" type of hype.
If you haven't noticed yet, we're all being nudged slowly but firmly into what the visual entertainment industry--from the writers and directors, the major studio heads, all the way up to the Sonys and Samsungs of the world--sees as the future of our movies, TV shows and video games: 3-D. At CES next month, you will see 3-D TVs trotted out as this year's world's-thinnest or world's-largest, all promising to put us "inside" our entertainment (and, presumably, "outside" of the real world) like never before.
It is only fitting that the the most visually compelling 3-D movie ever made is centered around a multi-threaded plot of a series of escapes. There is Jake's escape into an alien avatar, replacing his own disabled body with one of super-human, almost dream-like strength and ability; there are the Na'vi's augmentation of their own consciousness with nature and their ancestors via their neural-network-interface ponytails, and of course, there is the escape of Jake, a human, from what has become a destructive and soulless race into a foreign culture that ultimately accepts him as one of their own.
This plot may come off as one-dimensional and flat only because it's universal (All the reviews are right: Cameron essentially re-made Dances With Wolves with blue aliens instead of American Indians). And like John, I find it kind of amazing that one of the most technically sophisticated and innovative movies ever made is, in the end, a polemic against the distance we've placed between ourselves and the natural world. It plays on every human's desire for acceptance into a like-minded group, and in the film, no one wants to be a part of the future humanity Avatar depicts. So what's left are the Na'vi and their natural world.
And in many ways that's exactly the point--Cameron's made 3-D that's addictive in its subtlety and its ability to enhance not just gimmicky, stuff-flying-out-of-the-screen shots, but every shot. It's hard to take off your Kim Jong-Il glasses at the end because you don't want to leave the world he's created; it's just another escape. So much so that it's surprising Cameron is even allowing it to be shown in 2-D (the reason, obviously, is to reap money from the still-significant number of theaters not equipped for 3-D, but it was surely a difficult concession made by one of Hollywood's craziest control freaks).
It's indicative, though, that Cameron has woven the content of the film and its delivery method together so tightly. If this is the true future of visual entertainment media, as every studio head and electronics CEO would have you believe, it's going to be a tough act to follow.
More like they are pushing to insure 3D is the next step in entertainment.
If you have not seen this movie go and watch it! What a masterpiece
What are you doing here @BETTY go back to CBM LOL.
I Love Avatar 'nuff said.
From the article - "major technology themes in the film: Marines in Space."
I really liked the movie, you really liked the movie (yeah!!), but you are wrong, wrong, wrong about this.
Jake Sully is not a marine, he is an ex-marine turned mercenary - as are all the other military people in movie. So, it's more like "Blackwater in Space" than anything else.
I mention this because some people have accused the movie of being anti-military. It's not. It's anti-mercenary.
From the article: "I find it kind of amazing that one of the most technically sophisticated and innovative movies ever made is, in the end, a polemic against the distance we've placed between ourselves and the natural world."
I don't get this criticism. It is true that the hero is Jake Sully - a merc who grows a conscience - but the people who make his spiritual conversion possible are the scientists and lab techs who created the Avatar and support the associated technology.
Consequently, I would say that human science and technology plays as much a role in characters' salvation as it does in putting them in harm's way. On the other hand the alien technology clearly does take sides which I think provides more insight into what Cameron is trying to say.
"...no one wants to be a part of the future humanity Avatar depicts."
That wasn't all of humanity in that movie. It was but a small group of people, almost entirely mercenaries (both corporate and military) drawn to a what they thought was an opportunity. So I'm going to just say "self-selection bias" and leave it at that.
@cryptic movie reference: but the comment Col. Quaritch made about fighting terror with terror is not a comparison that is directed at Blackwater as much as our own military. If you could hear some of the stories I hear from Marines and Airborne just out, it becomes difficult to mock Cameron's seemingly naive perceptions of foreign policy. I hate the idea of sending young men who are not old enough to understand why they're fighting. Many fight for a paycheck and the survival of themselves and comrades, or shit, just for the thrill. Have a marine tell you how they "clear" a city of insurgents.
I love the many messages in the film but feel like they are weakly delivered by shallow characters, and it's not at all because of bad acting, it's more the scriptwriting and lack of backstory than anything. I know some reviewers have said, well we know there's a lack of character development and backstory, but there are no scenes to omit to make space. Honestly, we have two horse-whisperer type scenes... we only need one. Omit the horse and keep the flying lizard. That would make room. Not that we'd complain if the film was a good 10-20min longer for the sake of development.
I absolutely loved Avatar, its going to revolutionize not only the way films are made but how the story is told without limitations. I agree that it does not depict how we as humans see ourselves in the future but its a movie of an adventure. Star Trek better represents how we see a better earth and humanity, people do the jobs they love, no money, no pressure, tolerance for others. A generation of developers (including talkingdesktop software) used Star wars as inspiration and a spring-board for new ideas. It let them break boundaries with software, interface and computers. It allows that generation to dream...Avatar does the same for the next generation.
This kind of stuff is technically impressive drivel. No movies with the literary depth of a cartoon for 10-year-olds will ever be anything but a footnote in the history of human creativity.
Well, let me qualify that: some cartoons, even if kids make up much of the audience, are actually works of art. Avatar is shallow, juvenile, and boring.
The reductio ad absurdum of computer-generated eye candy.
I have seen it three times in three days, and I'm still blown away. Saw it twice in 3-D and in regular viewing but am still blown away by the scenery, etc......outstanding I say!
saw this in 3D last night. it was amazing. id see it again in theaters. this was a very good review, one of the best I've read actually, surprised this came from PopSci
it's just so amazing how Cameron did this. All their hard work truly paid off. congrats to the crew! another awesome thing is, it's in 3-D! I felt like I was already in Pandora during the movie. And when it ended, I still was in Pandora!! It took 10 minutes for me to go back to Earth.
I saw this a couple days ago, it was good, great effects in 3d. $100 million dollars good. No.
The character development could have used a little work. I heard the same guy screaming "Come and get some" and "Bring on the pain" at least a dozen times. It dragged on so long I started rooting for the rdc and the badass commander.
Excited by the movie. "Come and get some" I screamed at the screen several times shortly before I was arrested. "Bring on the pain" I screamed several times at the cops. An unfortunate choice of words, then the unfortunate tasering incident. I'd rather not talk about it. But after a good tasering I started to agree with Cameron, freakin' technology, I want the good ol' days when a man could plug himself into his horse or flying reptile and set out into the wilds, like my forefathers.
I went out for a walk yesterday. It was very pleasant and enjoyable until I realized that the walk was nothing special in comparison to all walks that will ever be taken throughout human history.
For all you people that blast this movie, the whole point of a movie is to enjoy it. If I want a lesson on humanity and injustice I'll read the bible and the true history of man through the ages. The movie was fantastic and yes the story was simple, I'll still rather see live action movies even B-movies.
The visual appeal made the story more appealing . That is the thing which drives people to theater.
this is the future
There was a time when movies were supposed to make you think, and they surprised you and they were exciting not only to watch but to think about. I hope everyone agrees that this movie will be nominated for only one award and thats for visual effects. Every single other aspect of the movie from all the tech used to every plot point has been done too many times before to enjoy on their own.
And thats not to say I didn't enjoy watching the movie, I just hope they're not counting on selling any DVD's because there is absolutely no value in re-watching a movie with so little depth. Not to mention one of the holiest plot lines I've seen in such a big budget movie. I would hope star directors like James Cameron would put the time into making a good movie if they were gonna sink that much time, effort, and money into a project.
But I guess thats just the difference between great directors like Stanley Kubrick who excel in making beautiful and thoughtful movies, and mediocre directors like James Cameron who excel only in visual effects and marketing.
And the real lesson that we should all learn from the economics of the movies lately is that record breaking sales has no correlation to the quality of the film. Also, when considering the amount of money these types of movies make we should take into account their costs and production time. I mean it seems amazing when you say oh look that movie made $350 million in a week but when it cost $300 million and over 5 years to make thats a minimal return on investment, and surely nothing groundbreaking.
Story of the movie is not much original.
Years ago there was another movie in which mercenary soldiers were going against locals of an island because the island had a valuable Nitrate mine.
It looks like they just changed the story from an island to a planet and added a love story to jazz up further; just like the same director jazzed up Titanic story the same way. :-)
But still a very nice movie to see though.
How did this get into the military section?
amazing movie, but i didn't think that there was enough kinky blue alien sex. yeah... i went there.
Yeah, you went there.
PREDICTIVE PROGRAMMING, People. Predictive programming for a Transhumanist agenda. And the special effects are of course, insane and awe inspiring, but I agree with HenryRuger's comment. Saying this movie was the best of all time is like saying the Notebook was the best book ever written-- its laughable.