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05:25 PM on 01/14/2010
Refreshing to read a review that feels honest and not cult-like in looking at Avatar.

To be fair, I actually really like most of Cameron's other films. Some (Terminator 2, Aliens, Titanic, Abyss) quite a bit.

But this film was so -
so -
Michael Bay.
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blastocyst
Happy to be here
05:07 PM on 01/14/2010
Hear, hear. All of the great stories have already been written, the great films have already been done. Some filmmakers are gifted enough to 'emulate' more seamlessly than others.
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Lucky123
My micro-bio is empty.
05:23 PM on 01/14/2010
BTW, I have to do some research, but I'm positive large portions of this review are very similar to reviews I've read in the past.
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blastocyst
Happy to be here
05:25 PM on 01/14/2010
Your post 'n mine as well.
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ongomania
Mongo only pawn... in game of life.
05:56 PM on 01/14/2010
Lucky123 and blastocyst; both fanned in the spirit of reciprocity.
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Lucky123
My micro-bio is empty.
05:00 PM on 01/14/2010
As many posters have pointed out, the inspirations of just about every "new" film, book, etc., can be traced back in some way to previous works. I could understand your criticism if the movie borrowed, (ripped off), directly from one, maybe two, sources. But the fact that Cameron has combined ideas from so many past works is in itself "new". If nobody has ever combined those particular dozen or so concepts before, then it could very well be considered fresh.

How long have critics moaned that "there are no new stories. Everything's been written"? Like it or not, but personalizing these "old stories" with your twist, your perspective, is what makes them new.
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kejia
04:55 PM on 01/14/2010
You didn't mention the Rraey miners who set about destroying coral reefs in John Scalzi's "Old Man's War."
04:51 PM on 01/14/2010
So Mr. Weinkauf, what is an orginal idea? I always believed an artist (and by extension what they produce) is the sum of their influences & inspirations. So I find it kind of odd you ripp JC for having them and putting them to use... Who among us has been fortunate enough to grow up in a bubble away from all outside influences, and come up with a truly original idea? Must be you & you alone, wait no? not you? really... huh... I would like to quote 2 ppl here; 1st JC, "I made this movies for the fans, not the critics." huh, telling and now Jay-Z, "Men lie, women lie, numbers don't." I think you can see the point there. I thoroughly enjoyed the movie, as I have most of JC's work, and the only reason I read your article was so I could rip you for being a hater.... HATER!!! Yeah, Avatar will not go down as the deepest movie of all time but it was a fun escape for a few hours... and for most ppl that is all we are looking for... i guess you don't get that...
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FrankenPC
04:50 PM on 01/14/2010
Star Wars was a Western...in space. Talk about recycled.

I totally understand everyone's points about lack of plot creativity, but that's not REALLY Cameron's strong point to begin with. It's his presentation. Every movie he's ever made has been pure eye candy. Or eye crack actually. I've seen Aliens a thousand times. It NEVER get's old. Brilliant visual design.
04:49 PM on 01/14/2010
Wow, you used all the heavy artillery, poured thunder and lightning on "Avatar" and guess what? The film is as enjoyable as ever. You are expecting the people who've liked it to suddenly realize what toss it actually was upon reading your article? Don't hold your breath.

And would you care to elaborate on the sci-fi and fantasy films doing well without Cameron? Surely you mean Transformers and Eragon? Or the Harry Potter series? That MUST be it, such originality.

Seriously, there's a lot to criticize in "Avatar", but your arguments are exceedingly weak. You liked "Beowulf" better? Fair enough, but despite liking a lot of Neil Gaiman's work and finding his script rather clever, I found the film quite boring. A matter of taste, I guess. It's a Matrix rip-off? Well, what isn't? Even Pixar's "Up" used agent Smith's look-alikes and totally copied the helicopter-lariat scene.

Yes, "Avatar" is totally predictable. As is every fairy tale. Neither is less good because of that.

Being a Terry Gilliam fan, I can only regret that you postponed editing his interview in order to write such a slight article.
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07:02 PM on 01/14/2010
It may not stop ticket sales but these criticisms might register with Academy voters. it would be very disappointing if Avatar wins anything but technical awards.
04:21 PM on 01/14/2010
Finally!!!! Someone gets it. Look, honestly, I don't care if a director rips off other scifi writers. I thought the Matrix was great regardless of where those ideas came from. The problem with Avatar is that it was just a crappy movie. Granted, there was some cool visuals, but whatever. I'm not going to sit around and watch visuals for three and half hours. I'm looking for story, arc, character, something. This movie blew. Epic Fail! Culture for the consuming masses, drivel for the cogs. And of course, to top it off...a McDonald's promotional tie in!?!? Classic.
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FrankenPC
04:51 PM on 01/14/2010
Box office numbers say differently. Cameron now holds the grandmaster record of the TWO HIGHEST GROSSING MOVIES OF ALL FREAKIN TIME! Simply discounting that wholesale only shows how shallow your viewpoint is.
05:41 PM on 01/14/2010
Box office should not be the only measure of quality.

Yes this film is popular but if Box office numbers are what you measure a film by then you must agree with the Vox Populi in thinking JarJar Binks and the Star Wars prequels to be a great character and great films.

Are you a fan of JarJar?

Avatar is a popular film, it will make a lot of money, but it will not change Hollywood in the same way that Star Wars did and still does.

Avatar toys are already shifting to the Aisle of Misfit Toys at your local TRU, where as Star Wars toys are still selling and selling well. By that "Box Office" measurement Avatar has a long way to go to catch Star Wars.
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07:04 PM on 01/14/2010
Mr. ED got great TV ratings in its day but I would not call it classic sit-com!
Star Trek struggled its entire time on NBC. Now its a TV landmark.
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ongomania
Mongo only pawn... in game of life.
04:04 PM on 01/14/2010
Another Hollywood cheap-shot artist. Either you are a 'has been, wannabe, or never was'-- which is it; or is your Hollywood therapist away on vacation (as in 'What About Bob?).
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FrankenPC
08:11 PM on 01/14/2010
If by cheap-shot you mean the directory/producer of the two HIGHEST earning movies of all time, then yes. Cameron is "cheap".

I'm sensing a serious trend of jealousy regarding Avatar. I guess deep down we all wish we could make 1+ billion on a single piece of creative work.

So sad that like you and me, we will never make that kind of money.
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getoffthecross
I take social satire seriously...
03:46 PM on 01/14/2010
Avatar wasn't as "good" as Starship Troopers??? That one bit of insight pretty much tanks your whole disparagement.

Like it or not (and you obviously don't), Cameron did exactly what he set out to do. He created an event movie that put butts in seats...and not by a small margin. It's a film that can't really be appreciated at home, and that's what the industry needs.

Look, I was no fan of Titanic, and had plenty of reservations about this opus. But it was GORGEOUS and amazingly well crafted from a technology standpoint. It made Phantom Menace look like something that was drawn by a kid with ADD and no thumbs. There were unorginal themes, and some of the dialogue was the equivelant to theme park movies they show while you're in queue, but the world they created was thrilling and immersive. I think you're just going to have to get over it. Sorry.
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FrankenPC
04:52 PM on 01/14/2010
Not ONE...but the TWO top grossing movies of ALL time say he is a master of style. I love his work. Yeah, it's shallow if you put it under a microscope, but a LOT of movies are shallow.
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JimmyD
03:27 PM on 01/14/2010
Yes, borrowing or being inspired by other material is just the way it goes.
George Lucas was always up front about where his ideas came from.

My beef with Cameron is how he's spoken repeatedly about how original this movie is. How the audience has never seen anything like it before. Yet... in one form or another, we have.

I think if he'd kept his King of the World mouth shut, 'Avatar' wouldn't be dissected like it has been.

I LOVED your article.
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07:06 PM on 01/14/2010
Bngo. Cameron is taking 100% of the credit for this. Even for the tech stuff!
01:04 PM on 01/14/2010
Most of Shakespeare's work was derived from older plays and stories, so Cameron's in pretty good company there. But I haven't seen Avatar, and frankly, it does sound like a pretty trite, oft-told story, with cool eye candy. Eye candy doesn't really do it for me any more, guess I'm getting old. I'll defend Aliens and Terminator. They may be old hat for sci-fi readers, but they broke new ground as far as cinema goes. No comment on Titanic, never saw it.
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BlackJAC
It's better to be a black king than a white knight
02:34 PM on 01/14/2010
I own a writing reference book entitled 20 MASTER PLOTS AND HOW TO BUILD THEM. Ultimately all you can do is put some sort of twist on one of those existing plotlines, like how the Ben Stiller STARSKY & HUTCH is really a romantic comedy.
03:59 PM on 01/14/2010
Equting Cameron and Shakespeare. Wow, I've now really heard it all.

LOL!!!

You gotta love the internet. It gives voice to those who should remain silent.
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FrankenPC
04:53 PM on 01/14/2010
Yeah! And it also includes spell checkers! Yeah! Try it! Seriously...
05:05 PM on 01/14/2010
Saying Shakespeare and Cameron have something in common does not constitute "equating" them. Maybe you need to get that mote removed....
12:53 PM on 01/14/2010
Your argument about Cameron being unoriginal by borrowing from other sources doesn't hold up. Sorry, but if you were to find "original" storylines/characters/settings in any scifi movies today, you'd be left with very very little. Cameron choose such blatant and simple themes in order to reach the widest audience possible...and it worked. Sorry if you're bitter about it!
Not to mention, you must be very ignorant about all the processes that went into creating the world of Pandora- if you truly believe everything about that planet is a ripoff and unoriginal, the plant life, the gravity/atmosphere, the creatures...then you are mistaken, and a quick google search might help you a bit.
Not to mention the motion capture technology developed for this film is INCREDIBLE. what the actors had to go though, with Cameron pushing them every inch of the way, is truly fantastic.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ti_LqksDgZQ
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blastocyst
Happy to be here
05:18 PM on 01/14/2010
Yes. Cameron counted on tapping into the essential, homogenized and lowest possible common denominator. In short: The Game Console Crowd.
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10:30 PM on 01/14/2010
Judging from the movies Box office ticket sales and viewing audience demographics, it would seem like the majority of movie watchers, young and old are 'The Game Console Crowd.'

Which isn't necessarily a bad thing.

It would just mean mission accomplished for Cameron and 20th Century Fox in capturing their target demographic.
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12:52 PM on 01/14/2010
Superficially you've made a case against commercial endeavors as being ultimately stressful on the environment, but that didn't seem to bother you throughout your shallow toxic computer game life. I suggest there is a deeper more subtle message in Cameron's show, as well as being very prescient. Look deeper into the mystical aspect and your appreciation will surely grow. Look up The Meaning of Avatar: Everything is God (A Response to Ross Douthat and other naysayers of 'pantheism'). I see you.
12:50 PM on 01/14/2010
Oh, you poor tortured soul! Great article! You obviously know your material, lots of good facts. I suppose of all the viewpoints possible the cynical and jaded view is a valid reality. Not a reality view that I would wish on anyone, but nature abhors a vacuum they say. Amazingly your article, had you taken the opposite reality view, would have been a touching testament to hope, humanity and imagination.

My 88 year old dad and I had planned to see an I-max simulcast Opera but ended up having to choose something else. We ended up seeing Avatar. First of all you would have to know this crusty and stubborn technophobe, he gets determined to create upsetting drama for all when things don't go well for him. The first few minutes of the movie he would insist on looking over the 3-d glasses, I noticed and mentioned something to dad. The next time I peeked at him he was fully jacked-in. I think he moved only once through the show. Don't tell anyone but we both got choked up at one point. At the end of the show we were both exhausted and exhilarated - what a life!
05:58 PM on 01/14/2010
I will motion "AGAINST!" in this discussion. The above poster is a zen master compared to your bloody crusade - So true above!

This list below is GROWING by the day and took less than 5mins for me to produce, so it's far from exhaustive. If we factor that in as well, I am not sure where your argument for originality is based on when the source material and inspirations are: Legion, diverse, recombined and finally reformed into something different? Evolutionary or revolutionary? I think a bit of both. If you look at James Cameron: Director, Explorer, Artist, Scientist, Inventor & Writer, he has a lot of the qualities of a polymath: "A person of great/varied learning." These people have been some of the most original people!

Here are some of the sources I have tried quickly to categorize into lists: I'm sure it is like looking at a mountain... it looks tiny from very far away...

Article cited

Poul Anderson
Harlan Ellison
Philip K. Dick
Robert A. Heinlein
Frank Herbert
Wachowski brothers
Anne McCaffrey
Timothy Zahn
Roger Dean... added:
Ursula Le Guin
Arkady & Boris Strugatsky
Pocahontas
Dances with Wolves
Ferngully
Delgo

Voodoo
ethnology
biology
astral physics
Linguistics
Allusions & motifs to Vietnam, Native Indians, Maoris, Gaia theory, Deforestation, avatar -computer & Avatar-Sanskrit
James Cameron's interest & expeditions involving Marine life
James Cameron's themes from his previous films
James Cameron's film camera technology inventions
James Cameron: "All the sci-fi & fantasy I read, growing up"