[Think Tank] Is Avatar This Generation's Star Wars?

[Think Tank] Is Avatar This Generation’s Star Wars?

Visually stunning, but how’s the acting?

UPDATE: Now that we’ve actually seen Avatar, don’t miss our Avatar Podcast: “Are We Human, or Are We Panther?”.

Fenzel avatarFenzel: I wonder how the Avatar article I wrote [Ed. Note: Fenzel wrote “5 Reasons Avatar Will Suck” before seeing the movie. —Ed.] is going to hold up, now that Avatar is actually in theaters. James Cameron’s probably gunning for us. So, if I get killed by a liquid metal killer robot, you all know why.

mlawskiMlawski: The funny thing is, I spent this morning reading all of the early reviews for Avatar, which were all ridiculously positive. But none of them said the plot, characters, or writing was any good. They all boiled down to, “Oooh! Pretty!”

So we can have a situation in which the movie is a big critical hit, yet Pete’s article is completely right.

belinkieBelinkie: I wonder if the movie is a lame cliche, but at the same time, it’s a well-written lame cliche. Like, the plot moves along quickly, the dialogue is sharp, the jokes work. So Pete’s article might be completely right, but it works in spite of those issues.

perichPerich: You mean, like Star Wars? Star Wars: A New Hope was groundbreaking visually and is a lot of fun, but let’s never forget that the writing is really (really) bad.

belinkieBelinkie: I’m going to straight-up disagree with you. I’m not even a Star Wars fanboy, but them’s fighting words.

Star Wars is an extremely well-plotted movie, with some amazing characters. Seriously, how do you look at a screenplay that invents Darth Vader and Han Solo, and declare it really really bad writing? If you mean it has some cheesy DIALOGUE, well sure. But that doesn’t make the writing bad, in this case. I’d say the cheesy dialogue is part of what makes the movie so much fun, and therefore part of its goodness.

Fenzel avatarFenzel: A New Hope is the only movie I know of that is still watchable in ASCII. That’s gotta count for something, right?

wratherWrather: I’m not sure “invents” is the right word for what Star Wars does to Han Solo and Darth Vader. A lot of the good parts of Star Wars you identify are borrowed from elsewhere — both from the Joseph Campbell Hero’s Journey stuff and from the space adventure film serials that George Lucas grew up with. Come to think of it, these have cheesy dialogue, so the cheesy dialogue in Star Wars is a faithful recreation.

If a lot of what’s good in Star Wars is borrowed, maybe George Lucas’s accomplishment is one of arrangement or curation.

(Zooming out for a second, Star Wars is a product of the same sensibility—let’s call it “early mainstream post-modern”—that gave us Indiana Jones, which is a similar effort in bricolage. This sensibility is the ancestor of Wes Anderson, Diablo Cody, and Vampire Weekend, who have pushed it into the territory of the decadent or baroque. But that is beyond the scope of my comment here, so, conveniently enough, I will just make those claims without substantiating or qualifying them.)

mlawskiMlawski: Nuh uhhh, John!! Star Wars is so well-written! (runs off crying while clutching her original trilogy box set)

More arguments:

I haven’t seen Avatar, so I can’t say if its length is justified, but Star Wars: A New Hope at least has its 2 hr running time in its favor. It’s a concise movie that never gets boring — not to me, anyway. I have a feeling I’m going to be looking at my watch during Avatar.

Plus, you have to give George Lucas some cred for starting off the movie with twenty near-silent minutes of a really alien robot culture. You can argue that Han Solo and Darth Vader are obvious cliches, and you’d be right. But Jawas, sand people, Artoo and C3PO? That cheesy-looking robot that kinda looks like a garbage can with legs? All great and exciting and new, especially in film at that time. As for those xexy boobed cat-people that look like they were ripped off whole cloth from Everquest or WoW? Oh, that James Cameron: such a visionary!

As for Star Wars’ over-the-top dialogue, I agree with Matt and Matt. Look, when it works, it works. Star Wars is a romance (in the old Northrop Frye sense of the term). It should have epic dialogue. It’s not trying to be The Wire, nor should it be.

Incidentally, “xexy” is my new alien word for “sexy.” Eat that, James Cameron!

belinkieBelinkie: I never thought I’d say this, but I don’t think you guys are giving Lucas enough credit. Sure he’s taking inspiration from various things. But if Darth Vader isn’t an original character, then who is he ripping
off? Maybe I’m just playing devil’s advocate, but who are the obvious sources for Vader?

andre_the_giantCallot: Vader is one of the characters Lucas took from Kurosawa’s samurai films. I think his face mask is supposed to reference Japanese theatrical masks, and/or samurai armor. Also, his bizarrely brutal violence mixed with intelligence and honor are sooo Kurosawa.


Before ...

Before ...

... After!

... After!

shechnerShechner: In two regards, Lucas’ creation can be considered brilliant writing. First, we have to recognize that there’s a special kind of genius that comes not from creation, but from creative mixing. For example, I heard that this one time, a guy in Harlem totally sat down at a piano, mixed Ragtime and Blues, and created Jazz. For Lucas, realizing that he should just wholeheartedly embrace Campbell while mixing space opera and Samurai epic is a brilliant innovation.

But if you’re looking for genius of the first sort, look no further than R2-D2. Campbell mentions that the hero, as he accumulates a cadre of followers, is often accompanied by clowns; these serve both to ground him (lest the weight of his quest delude him with grandeur), and to connect the listener with the story. R2 and 3PO would, at first blush, fit these roles, and for 3PO the argument holds water. R2-D2, though, is arguably the most competent character in the films; indeed one of only three characters that remains corporeal and consciously aware throughout all six movies. (Though we don’t see the Emperor during episode IV, it’s assumed that he’s not dead, or mind-swapped with a chicken.).

mlawskiMlawski: Back to Avatar: Manohla Dargis loved it.

Guess I’m going to have to see this thing, huh?

perichPerich: I am suitably chastised when it comes to the writing in Star Wars: A New Hope. I often use “writing” when I mean “dialogue.” So let me clarify: the dialogue sucks.

And further, I don’t think the pulpish subject matter of the film validates the clumsy writing. I know it’s not trying to be A Man For All Seasons, but being a “popcorn flick” is no excuse. You can have action movies with good dialogue (Die Hard). You can have war movies with good dialogue (Saving Private Ryan). It’s eminently reachable, if the director makes good dialogue a priority.

But I have to concede to y’all – Star Wars is a tight little miracle of action-movie plotting. It’s immensely fun. And, as critical as I am of Lucas at times, I need to give him more credit. Science fiction in the 70s painted pictures of little but grim, dystopian futures (A Boy and his Dog, Rollerball, Logan’s Run, etc). Star Wars was a shaft of light through the clouds.

So if Avatar is visually stunning and the plot is not actively toxic, I suppose I ought to see it.

What’s your verdict, Overthinkers? Have you seen Avatar yet? Does it stack up to Star Wars? Sound off in the comments!

41 Comments on “[Think Tank] Is Avatar This Generation’s Star Wars?”

  1. hazbaz #

    I saw Avatar on the 16th, and it’s worth seeing. I can’t fault it on action and CGI, that’s great. The plot may be a little hackneyed, but it’s well told. What really lets this movie down is how cliched the characterization is. The actor’s might as well have been walking round with placards stating their roles.
    Star Wars had some fairly simple character archetypes as well, but there was so much more nuance in the script.


  2. Tom P #

    Star Wars is an extremely well-plotted movie,

    You lose, sir. Try to watch Star Wars and figure out the time-line sometimes. Luke learns how to be a Jedi in like, an hour, on the trip from Tatooine to Alderaan… then after spending maybe a week with Yoda on Degobah.

    Or, you know, why Storm Troopers would kill Luke’s aunt and uncle who have information about the Droids instead of, I don’t know, bringing them back to Darth Vader to get the information out of them directly.

    Or the Empire’s poor design planning on their equipment.

    Or why Luke essentially gives off such strong Force such that Vader can detect their connection but Leia does not.

    I love Star Wars, don’t get me wrong, but I can’t call it well-plotted… or well-written.


  3. Valatan #

    or, the heavy, heavy foreshadowing about Leia having the potentiality of being a Jedi… that goes absolutely nowhere.

    Not to mention that when I watch that movie, there is a lot that I enjoy, and that I find fun, but C3PO, to me is only slightly less obnoxious than Jar-Jar was.


  4. crazydave #

    I have seen the Star Wars movies and was very impressed by the awe and majesty of the movies. I have seen them again and again and am still spellbound by the Lucas Magic. I have also seen and been entranced by the Lord of the Rings Trilogy and watch them periodically. The movie mage has created a pure cinematic spell in Avatar that is sure to go down as one of the all time movie greats. The setting, plot, action and not least, those sexy aliens will have us all wishing we could get to Pandora, climb into a booth and romp with the natives as one of them!


  5. MBernstine #

    Star Wars (the original trilogy anyway) was a culture-changer that impacted several industries, not just the movie-industry. The Toy-Industry, the Fast-Food Industry, marketing, merchandising…

    You won’t see Avatar toys flying off the shelves. No 7yr old is going to dress up like Jake Sully or a Na’Vi for Halloween…there won’t be Na’Vi cereal or underoos.

    The movie just isn’t family-friendly at all. Jake Sully is a lousy protagonist. The people I saw the movie with wanted Stephen Lang’s character to kill him with that completely ridiculous bowie-knife that his mech had strapped to it.

    The completely over-the-top eviro/earth-mother/hive-mind jive was off-putting to say the least, and there wasn’t a single plot-point Avatar that you couldn’t see coming a mile away.


  6. CppThis #

    I haven’t seen it, but based on the trailers and generally ubiquitous hype a few points come to mind. Actual viewers, feel free to jump in and correct me if I’m way off base on any of this.

    1. I’m not sure space elves are going to have staying power. Star Wars had wacky aliens too, but they weren’t really the focus (well until the prequels, whose focus on wacky aliens is /precisely the reason they are so reviled/). Avatar seems to be focused on the space elves.

    2. As the OP said, not many critics are saying much about the plot or dialog, it’s mostly praise for all the CGI. Again, see the SW prequels for how well that works out in the long run.

    3. On the plot, I’ve heard a lot of people saying there’s a rather overbearing “planet good, corporations bad” angle to it. This isn’t new territory for Cameron but in the past he’s been subtle about it…there may not be a lot of repeat viewings if he does in fact approach the subject with the subtlety of a bulldozer, as some have alleged.

    4. Cinemaphiles have been calling it James Cameron’s opus magnum. Usually when a successful director gets unlimited money and carte blanche to make a “legacy film” like this, it ends up sucking becuase they got so mired in trying to make each scene perfect they forgot to make all the scenes tell a coherent, concise story.

    All told, I’m sure it will make a lot of money–just like Titanic did–but the point of Star Wars is it’s staying power, and I’m just not convinced Avatar is going to be able to deliver anything that will put it more than the butt of occasional in-jokes 10 years from now–just like Titanic is. Star Wars came out in 1977–perhaps in 30 years we can have this discussion again.


  7. perich OTI Staff #

    @MBernstine: your point about Halloween is one of the most telling. Kids want to dress up like Obi-Wan or Luke or Leia or Chewbacca because they were cool aliens with interesting personalities who did exciting things. Do any of the Na’vi do anything exciting? Sure, they pilot winged aliens when fighting mechs, but that’s something they do as an army.

    Also – and bear in mind I haven’t seen the movie yet, but feel free to spoil me – I want AVATAR 2 to tell the story of the winged alien-mounts rebelling against the Na’vi who domesticated them. INFINITE RECURSION, MOTHERF$%#ER!


  8. Darth Buddy #

    Avatar is this generations Smurfs


  9. jdstorm #

    Its Funny you guys are having this argument, cause when Avatar finished the thought crossed mind. is this what star wars episode 1 was supposed to be.
    The Na’Vi /Gungans run from scary creatures and fight robotic looking things.
    Kick ass princesses, and an “unlikely” hero as the main protagonists.

    In saying all this. Avatar Succeeds in every way that episode 1 failed. the CG makes 3m tall blue aliens look real. There is no annoying Jar Jar character. the movie while long, is paced very well that the relatively standard story is still engaging. the Action sequences are incredible,

    The reason why avatar wont be this generations Star Wars is because it’s focus is to close on the male and female lead’s neither of which is unique enough to generate a strong emotional attachment to,

    unlike the other possible “next starwars” titles, which for me are the terminator and matrix franchises


  10. Raj #

    This one movie with amazing fx and a great story line and imagination . All the Fx movies we have seen in these years had only one story line ……..THE END OF THE WORLD !!!.
    Atlast we have a excellent novel imagination .
    Lastly I can only say that a great movie which has join in the
    history of cinematics …….Cheers for Avatar .


  11. Kopakka el Incrópito #

    Mr. Fenzel: I’d not worry about the article, it nails down almost all the horrors of Avatar, though the T-1000 is still a concern, probably. ;).
    And as for the so called Cameron’s movie being the new SW. Star Wars cannot be compared to “that” for several reasons that being too complicated to deal with in a commentary, should perhaps be matter to your overthinking, despite, dare I say Lucas’ best/worst (?) efforts.
    Finally, in jest, I’d like to point out that one being entitled to have one’s opinions/views/tastes and all, crazydave does honour his nickname or is a master of irony.


  12. Erlend #

    I think fanboys are misunderstanding Star Wars. George Lucas meant for Star Wars to be the boiled down perfect family movie. He took the characters and storytelling he found in a lot of fairytales, classic literature, comic books, movies and adventure serials and threw them all together into this world. Han Solo is an antihero outlaw and Darth Vader is a Dr. Evil villain. A wizard(Obi-Wan) teaches the heroic, naive hero(Luke) magic(the force). That could have just as easily been the plot of The Sword in the Stone. R2-D2 and C-3PO are clowns. George Lucas has said they were inspired by Tahei and Matashichi from The Hidden Fortress, but clowns like these, that serve as a storytelling device at the same time as being comic relief.
    In the same way James Cameron has set out to make a sci-fi movie more like the ones from his youth. He deploys stereotypical characters and a very classic storyline and uses the story as a political cautionary tales in the same way most old sci-fi films did.


  13. Esoteric #

    Way back in 2007 or so, when I first started really hearing about this new James Cameron movie Avatar…I thought, “really, the cartoon?” I soon learned it was not about the kids animated series at all. But was to be a sci-fi epic using all sorts of new state of the art technology.

    And that was pretty much all I heard for the next year and a half. I was not impressed, and not being a die hard Cameron fan, the fact that he was making it didn’t impress me either.

    Then I heard a snippet of the plot, and though, “eh, it might be watchable.” But I was sick of hearing about the tech, and hype over the FX.

    Then this summer I saw the trailer. And like all things blue of late (blu-ray, the Na’vi) once I saw them on a screen, I was hooked. Granted I wasn’t impressed with the cgi for Avatar in the trailers. They looked good, but not deserving of all the hype I’d heard of.

    Knowing it was going to be one of the biggest movies of the year, and an “event” movie. I planned to dish out top dollar to see it at the IMAX in 3D. I saw it Saturday.

    Ohh pretty.

    But there is more. Yes the CGI was way better on the screen (perhaps because of the 3D) than I could have expected. The Na’vi (and all the flora & fauna of Pandora) looked as real as the tree out my office window. I was impressed. I felt like I was there. They didn’t seem to throw the 3D at you as if to say “ohh look what we can do!” like Beowulf (wich was utter rubbish.) The 3D enhanced the experience of the movie. I felt like I was there. By the end of the movie I was leaning forward off the edge of my seat.

    As for the rest: The basic plot may have been done many times before. But the elements, and details made it much more interesting than those other versions. True there are several moments of predictability, but what movie doesn’t have that?

    The acting is better than most (not all) the performances in the entire Star Wars Saga. And I’m a loyal Star Wars fan. But I agree that Star Wars is not beyond reproach or criticism. Neither is Avatar. It’s not perfect. There is no such thing as a perfect movie.

    Yes, Star Wars came at a time and place in our culture and was a massive alteration on our culture. Avatar will probably never have that much of an impact. I don’t think any one thing ever will again.

    For me a “good movie” is one I want to watch again and again. It’s full of great visuals, music, sound and if it gets me emotionally attached…even better. I want it to communicate something to me. Deeper than Ohh pretty, or may the Foce be with you.

    Star Wars and Avatar bot do that. Both convey a message that standing for what you believe in, even if you think you’re outmatched, is worth it. That standing against wrong is more than ok, it’s good and expected. That we have responsibility for our actions.

    I also want movie I really like to make me dream. Dream about what could be, in the imagination, as well as the real world.

    Yeah there is some “tree-hugging” themes in the movie. And I don’t think they are saying capitalism/corporations are bad. They were saying that corporation was bad, in thinking it can just take what it wants, screw the people/etc that they have to hurt/kill to get it. There is a similar them in the 90’s flick Medicine Man with Sean Connery.

    But this movie isn’t going to be for everyone. Just like Star Wars. Just like anything. And that is ok.

    So yes the FX are amazing. The story is interesting, the acting good, and the adventure amazing. If you watch, and take in the themes, it will make you think, not just about “green” issues…but bigger, and personal issues.

    It’s made my top 13 list. (Star Wars and Lord of the Rings, being trilogy/sagas…sit above and beyond all else…but individually, Avatar falls right behind Empire for me)


  14. saint #

    But Perich, the prequels ARE trying to be A Man for All Seasons, or at least epic historical procedurals in that style. The numerous characters with shifting narrative perspectives, the obscure and arcane plots, the treaties and senates and councils; Lucas was trying to make a movie along the lines of The Bad Sleep Well or Ran, which were Kurosawa’s attempts to adapt the tragedies of Shakespeare (Hamlet and King Lear, respectively) to the cultural and political history of Japan. The problem isn’t that “Shakespeare in space” is a bad idea, or even “Kurosawa in space.” The problem is that those kinds of stories are so sophisticated that have to stand up to intense intellectual scrutiny to be deciphered.

    The original Star Wars trilogy were influenced by a lot of things, but the scripts seem much closer to “hero’s journey”-style mythology than Shakespearean historical tragedy. That means the dialogue stands in for character, instead of being symptomatic of a philosophical or historical discourse. Neither of those options are available to the viewer of The Phantom Menace. The extended Star Wars universe was full of complicated characters and interesting history when The Phantom Menace was released, but Lucas ignored all that and made a movie that had little narrative connection, featuring no interesting characters, and filled it with confusing plot and boring dialogue.

    When we watch something like King Lear, we go along with the slow-moving story because the characters and the language are so beautiful and fascinating. When we watch historical dramas like A Man for All Seasons, the burden of language is lower because we’re already invested in the lives of these important historical characters. The Phantom Menace throws out character AND story connections, leaving us no good reason to enjoy the film. There’s no reason to put in the effort to decipher the draconian nonsense plot, so the whole thing feels obligatory.


  15. Kopakka el Incrópito #

    What’s your verdict, Overthinkers? – No it is not this generation SW, and if it turns out to be, well…

    Have you seen Avatar yet? – And I can’t unsee it.

    Does it stack up to Star Wars? Sound off in the comments! – No it doesn’t.
    But there should be a James Cameron week (probably undeserved, but necessary {I.E. I’d laugh my a** off})


  16. perich OTI Staff #

    @Darth Buddy: I LOL’ed.

    @Andre: could you go into more detail on what you mean about “the burden of language [being] lower because we’ve already invested in the lives of these important historical characters”? Because, if I’m reading you right, I disagree.

    I don’t think A Man for All Seasons remains so highly regarded today because people are simply fascinated about the life of Sir Thomas More. He’s an important figure in English history, sure, but outside of writing Utopia and burning lots of Protestants he’s not well-known today. A Man for All Seasons stands the test of time largely because of Robert Bolt’s phenomenal dialogue.

    Similarly, The Lion in Winter remains a highly regarded classic today, while Anne of the Thousand Days is noted but not loved. See also Richard III vs. Becket, and so on.

    So I’d say that A Man for All Seasons is no different from King Lear, because Henry VII and Sir Thomas More are just as fictional to a modern audience as Lear and his daughters are. Compelling writing saves them both.


  17. Dane Thorn #

    Star Wars was not brilliantly written or particularly brilliantly conceived–except as a marketing ploy. Lucas ripped off elements of Dune and any number of other BETTER science fiction writers that had gone before. This is evidenced by how poorly written pretty much everything else is that he’s ever done. To think his writing in the case of Star Wars is brilliant is like saying “oooooh, see, I’ve seen all the same movies and read the same books everybody else has”.

    And R2-D2 is not remotely new or innovative. Take a look sometime at Huey, Dewie, and Louie in Silent Running (1972)–released five years before Star Wars. Ah, the convenience so many have of a little bit of knowledge.


  18. potato #

    “You lose, sir. Try to watch Star Wars and figure out the time-line sometimes. Luke learns how to be a Jedi in like, an hour, on the trip from Tatooine to Alderaan… then after spending maybe a week with Yoda on Degobah.

    Or, you know, why Storm Troopers would kill Luke’s aunt and uncle who have information about the Droids instead of, I don’t know, bringing them back to Darth Vader to get the information out of them directly.

    Or the Empire’s poor design planning on their equipment.

    Or why Luke essentially gives off such strong Force such that Vader can detect their connection but Leia does not.”

    Tom P, sir, you are equally wrong. While New Hope doesn’t beat Empire in terms of plot deliciousness, in my opinion, it certainly laid down the groundbreaking plot genius of its sequels (including the one with the bears).

    Is timeline important to a scifi/fantasy epic? How do you know how long it’s taken the Millenium Falcon to get to Alderaan? Or how long Luke has been on Dagobah? It sounds you’re making assumptions on which you have no basis.

    Storm Troopers aren’t exactly made out to be the sharpest tools in the box. At any rate, they were tracking the droids, and the droids weren’t there (at ole aunty and uncle’s), and the droids contained the Rebels’ plans, so it was probably important enough to be killed for. Maybe the aunty and uncle said something or refused to cooperate to protect Luke, since aunty thought Luke took the droids into town. Just because you don’t see it on screen doesn’t mean it’s the product of shoddy writing. Shoddy editing, perhaps.

    As for the Empire’s poor design, um, so are villains always right and smart? And, it’s important to note, that Vader didn’t start sensing his connection to Luke until after he started using the Force. Since Leia isn’t aware of her ability until Jedi, whereupon shortly thereafter Vader snuffs it, it doesn’t strain credibility to believe that the connection between them wouldn’t be sensed.

    Now, I am a fan, but I do not agree with your castigation of SW writing based on the arguments you provided.

    I still think I’ll see Avatar.


  19. Chrono #

    A few things…

    1) It’s way too early to make any sort of legit comparison b/t the two films. It’s not fair to either film as Star Wars had a 30+ year head start & people who’ve seen Avatar this weekend are probably still too influenced by the shear spectacle of it to be able to judge it on a reasonable level.

    2) Lucas’s writing should really be judged on 2 levels.
    First the dialogue: It’s god awful in Ep 1-3, but really not horrible in Ep 4-6. There’s campiness to be sure in Ep 4-6, but it’s not all campy & there’s also gotta be at least a dozen legitimate iconic lines &/or exchanges in these films. That has to count for something.
    Second, his writing should be judged on is the story as a whole. The overall story arc of both Star Wars trilogies is actually pretty good. I think a 3 page story summary of Ep 1-3 probably sounds great. It’s just the dialogue, character development & direction were flat out terrible, along with a shortage of really memorable action sequences.

    3) Movies that don’t borrow from other films or ideas are few & far between (arguably non-existent). This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as the remixing of certain elements can create two unique films that stand on their own. Star Wars was clearly influenced by numerous sources, whether historical or cinematic. Perhaps since I’ve seen it so many times, I no longer notice these things and accept them as Star Wars. Having seen Avatar this weekend, this really was an issue while watching the film. There were things I’d seen before in the Incredibles (flying machines) & Matrix Revolutions (manned robotic walkers), characters that were carbon copies from Camerons own films such as Aliens & the Abyss, and a storyline that was nearly identical at points to films like Dances w/ Wolves & the Last Samauri. Combined with the fact that there are zero suprises storywise, I couldn’t help but feel a little too familiar in an otherwise brand new universe. These things aren’t unforgivable, but they’re also impossible to ignore. There’s no denying the achievement of the shear spectacle created, which is undoubtedly worth the price of admission (see it in 3D). Perhaps in time the movie will stand on it’s own (and I hope it will), but for now it remains in the shadow of the films that preceeded it.

    4) What you can compare to Star Wars is the visual technical achievements of Avatar vs. Ep 1-3. I couldn’t break it down perfectly, but I’d say half of Avatar is all animated and the other half (that incorporated live action) was at least partially drawn. In that sense the comparison is a good one as that’s how Lucas approached Ep 1-3, especially Ep 3. In any debatable sense Avatar wins this by leaps and bounds. It’s not even close. It’s not the additional years of technology, but it’s application in more visually skilled hands. The 3D is not a gimmick like some hack horror film where the killer throws a knife at the audience. It’s a genuine tool that immerses the audience into this great great world.

    5) Finally, regarding the plot/story. It has elements un-apologetically derived from other sources, it’s ideologically not subtle at all, and is mostly predictable from start to finish. There are certainly flaws, but it is by no means ‘toxic’ as suggested above. Despite my criticisms, I’d say storywise is was generally good. The reason why the story has remained a secondary point in reviews is more due to the overwhelming achievement from a visual perspective.


  20. Alien Fanatic #

    I’m not “of” this generation, so I can’t really say. I’m of the generation that saw Star Wars as a kid, but the entire dynamic of films is different today than it was in the ’70’s.

    In the ’70’s, film was THE only medium of its kind to offer such immersion. Television was largely scripted, formulaic shows on tiny screens in B&W or fuzzy color. Hell, VCR’s weren’t even mainstream until the late ’70’s and early ’80’s, so you either saw a movie AT the theater, or waited years for a heavily edited version to hit the boob tube.

    Video games were PONG and the Atari 2600. Now, we have games that rival movies in terms of plot, realism, and story. Video games are actually competition, and people can live virtual lives in a 3D environment. (Even if it’s not wholly convincing yet.) In the ’70’s, if you wanted a fantasy world, you had to dream it or see it in the theater.

    Avatar, while I thought it was an entertaining movie, is diluted by the culture in which it lives. It’s a great technical achievement, but people are numbed by the sheer volumes of technological advancements we’ve made in entertainment. Playstation, Blu-ray, 3D, flat screen TV’s, World of Warcraft. All of these are viable alternatives whereas in the ’70’s, there were none.

    Had Avatar come of age in the ’70’s, it may have had an impact similar to Star Wars. Working against it, I think Cameron’s world building and National Geographic approach to the first 45 minutes makes the film harder to embrace for the non-Sci-Fi geek. For guys like me who love world building, it’s not a problem, but my wife asked several times how much longer the movie was. I just don’t think it’ll have the same legs that Star Wars did.

    It’s not that Avatar is a bad film, or that Star Wars is a great film, but that our culture is at a point that there is just so much saturation and overstimulation that I find it hard to believe that ANY film can reach that level of notoriety again. But I do think that this obsession with being the next “Star Wars” is silly and doesn’t serve either film in any way.


  21. blue trooper #

    Just reading this tread fram top to bottom proves that Avatar will never be this generations Star Wars, because as much as this tread was supposed to be about Avatar and Star Wars, most of it is about Star Wars only.

    I agree, there probably never will be any film that can have the same impact on culture as Star wars did.

    Avatar was a wonderfull movie visualy, and I will see it again, but only in 3d. As a 2d popcorn/eyecandy movie, it just does not hold up because of the extremely unoriginal story and weak characters. As far as 2d eycandy bang-crash-boom goes, I will rather watch 2012 again. Honestly. And that is saying a LOT, because I am a big James Cameron fan.

    I have a dream though, perhaps there will be an extended version of Avatar that broadens the story and characters and adds some deeper sub-plot elements, like some of the other Cameron movies. That would rock…


  22. Rockémundo #

    avatar recycled a lot from dances with wolves, in a similar way that star wars recycled from hidden fortress, but i will definitely admit that avatar owes more to dances than SW owes to fortress. Both had fun and iconic, if a little bad and cheesy dialogue. Both remain Very classic despite the fact that they’re on the cutting edge of technology. Both are filled with total archetypes of adventure storytelling and both, i feel, are Grade A Works of Classic Adventure Cinema.

    But thats all rephrasing what’s already been said. i have yet to actually contribute.

    I think the personal cinematic high i get from Avatar is far greater than that of Star Wars. that even includes the advantage of nostalgia Star Wars has in that department.

    Allow me to ponder what it means to be “This Generation’s Star Wars”. Myself, 17 years old, would KILL to be in 1977 and a part of all that. to see it on the big screen, with everybody, however many times. for “This Generation” to have a Star Wars of our own means, i feel, to have the next best thing to time travel. we can’t really have the ’77 star wars experience, and what gives us the next best thing? one may say the matrix, one may say the SW Preq’s, Definitely Lord of The Rings. i’m sure one could even argue that the first POTC, the first couple spiderman’s or x-men’s, and batman, count (but that starts getting to be a stretch). AVATAR in theatres is everything i imagine Star Wars in theatres was in 1977. thats worth a lot to me, and i think to lots of people.

    But i think a major difference is the iconicism. Avatar just Doesn’t Compare AT ALL.

    Forgive me for jumping around here so much- I want to BE Jake Sully just about as much as I want to BE Han Solo.. Thats worth a lot too.


  23. MBernstine #

    I don’t see Avatar as having any kind of staying power or iconic status. You can only get so far with an insipid storyline and a complete lack of fun. Special effects…yawn. The basics of storytelling are what suffers in Avatar. I didn’t care about Jake Sully, simple as that. In fact, as I mentioned, I was cheering for Stephen Lang towards the end. The ending I REALLY wanted was Giovanni Ribisi ordering the ship to Nuke the planet from space, then credits. If that had happened, I might have actually given the movie a passing grade.


  24. Zip #

    1. I’m not sure space elves are going to have staying power.

    Cppthis, They’re not Space Elves, They’re Space Indians.

    And Klingons are Space Vikings.


  25. The KoT #

    Avatar is not Star Wars for this generation, Star Wars is! Have you no idea how many small kids have only seen or prefer Lucas’s prequels only because they saw them in theaters and look newer? I know tween boys and girls who love Anakin and older teens or college girls who somehow think Episode II is just sooo romantic. Anyways, the original Holy Trilogy will never die. They are timeless classics that will be loved for generations.


  26. mlawski OTI Staff #

    By the way, commenters, I can’t speak for the other OTI writers, but in the article above I was only speaking of Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. I feel it necessary to point out that not only do I not enjoy the Star Wars prequel trilogy, but I have never enjoyed the Star Wars prequel trilogy, and none of my above commentary applies to the Star Wars prequel trilogy. Seriously, anything that includes the line, “I hate sand. It’s dirty and it gets everywhere. Not like you,” needs to be stricken from our collective consciousness, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind-style.

    To answer some of the above commenters’ questions, I didn’t get to see Avatar this weekend due to the blizzard. I’ll most likely see it later in the week and will be back to render my judgment.


  27. stokes OTI Staff #

    @MBernstine nuking the planet from orbit – I’m with you there. I can see why they didn’t do it, and I’m actually fine with the super-happy ending they went with in space. (I mean, there’s a reason why “nuke it from orbit” is not one of the standard ways to tie up your plot.) But that’s by far the most realistic scenario. Ribisi et al are basically the British East India Company. Yeah they got beat – are they going to go mine somewhere else? No, they’re going to come storming back in with the regular army riding shotgun and turn the place into a parking lot.


  28. stokes OTI Staff #

    Typo: “in space” is supposed to be “in its place.” Although I kind of like it as stands: “the super happy ending they went with… IN SPACE!”


  29. Nomaic #

    The innovations from George Lucas can, for the most part, be seen in practically every film made today. He didn’t just make some cool special effects, he pushed the SFX industry into the forefront. He introduced new ways of capturing and coordinating the sound design, and pioneered a system of film editing that allowed for non-linear work. The groundbreaking special effects Cameron used in T2 were the result of a special effects team that was established by Lucas. And what I love about Lucas’ work ethic, maybe moreso back then than today, is that he didn’t direct Star Wars to change the way movies were made, or to revolutionize the special effects industry. He literally had to fight for every inch of that filmstock to get loaded into projectors across the globe.

    And the biggest thing, in my mind, is that both Lucas and Cameron have each released the highest grossing films of all time, in their respective periods….but while Cameron left the industry to indulge in hobbies, Lucas completed his space opera and contemporaneously worked with Spielberg on the Indiana Jones trilogy.


  30. Nomaic #

    Coincidentally, though I haven’t seen Avatar, I was able to draw conclusions about the story and characters, which have been consistent with remarks from those who’ve seen it.

    Personally, Avatar would’ve sounded SO much more interesting if Stephen Lang’s character had been the primary focus, and if he’d been given a much more atypical and interesting character arc. Anyone else?


  31. perich OTI Staff #

    @Zip: does that make the mechs Space Conquistadores?


  32. Dokk #

    Doubt it. How many “this generation’s Star Wars” are we gonna have anyways?


  33. saint #

    I love A Man for All Seasons, don’t get me wrong. The scene where More says goodbye to his family in his prison cell makes me cry every time. What I mean by “burden of language” is that King Lear starts out with a bunch of characters that Shakespeare had to create out of nothing, so language has a lot of jobs: it has to establish character, it has to be entertaining, it has to be beautiful and THEN it has to tell a story. Which it does, beautifully, because Shakespeare was brilliant.

    A Man for All Seasons and Richard III have the advantage of beginning with a relationship to history, so there’s at least the possibility of the audience having certain character and story information already. Richard, for example, lives in England. When he fights the French, we know what that means without spending a scene describing how awful the French are. When King Henry shows up in A Man for All Seasons, that scene is so much more exciting and shocking because we know what it means for Henry to show up anywhere. Yes, he’s set up well in the dialog and in the story before he shows up, but fans of history get a lot more out of his character because of the cult that has grown up around Henry in the real world.

    When Boba Fett shows up in Attack of the Clones, we don’t need to see a scene explaining how he grows up to be a bad-ass bounty hunter because we have that information. Those scenes can advance with that advantage, and they can focus on the story because the characters are already interesting. Unfortunately, that doesn’t happen often in the series.


  34. MJG #

    Die Hard’s dialogue is not particularly good and doesn’t compare well with Star Wars. There are a few good lines here and there, and it benefits immensely from Alan Rickman, but some of the scenes in Die Hard are flat-out terrible. The “friend” scene where the guy goes into Rickman’s office and gets shot? All of the dialogue between Willis and the cop from Family Matters? The FBI idiots? Awful.

    Also, with regard to Saving Private Ryan, was there any memorable dialogue in it? The whole movie is a cheese fest, although apart from the bracketing segments, an extremely well-structured movie.

    Don’t get me wrong – I enjoy Die Hard and the damn thing is on roller skates when the crappy supporting characters aren’t talking. Saving Private Ryan has a core hour and 45 minutes that is terrific and a lot of dumb stuff at the beginning and the end. Avatar, it seems to me, will have roughly the same impact as Gladiator and SPR, although the eco-theme will turn off some of the normal macho audience. It doesn’t make anyone forget Aliens…


  35. Francisco Bacon #

    first of all, i find it interesting that all mainstream outlets and critics are raving about this Avatar thing. i noticed some negative user reviews posted under Manohla Dargis’ NYTimes review, and by end of day they had been removed ! Makes one wonder if all major media companies were underwriters of the film’s $500 million price tag, and are now actively propagandizing to ensure a return on investment.

    We can all agree (even Avatar fans, it seems) that the story was rather thin. We also agree that Cameron seems to have cribbed from just about everywhere. Most people cite other major sci-fi works like Dune as his obvious inspiration, but I felt the film borrowed rather heavily from the works of Hayao Miyazaki (which I find ironic, since Miyazaki’s cel animated worlds are decidedly more “2D” in visuals, but whose characters have tremendously more depth.)

    I am very surprised to see serious film critics gobbling up the technology here, and failing to really add any serious demerits for the weak storytelling. I would have expected a harsher critical reaction. It seems like when a film has such a massive budget, critics love to swarm over every surface of the film, examining faults.

    Rather than detail every one of the film’s storytelling flaws, I will instead state simply that the 3D technology that was so hyped, and which got me to see a film whose story, from the marketing, looked rather uninteresting to me, came off as more of a distraction than an enhancement. Creating more “depth” to the image, encouraged my novice eyes to explore every object in the frame, even when that object was an out-of-focus foreground element instead of the characters (or any other compositional “focus”).

    While Dargis and other reviewers may foam at the mouth over the possibility of 3D being “the future of movies,” it’s my sincerest hope that it quickly disappears. I remember a quote I heard attributed to Leni Riefenstahl to the effect that “[the coming of sound spelled the death of cinema.]” Which in truth, it did. The cinema of 18fps silver nitrate with intertitles was forever replaced with sound, color, THX, CGI and 3D. I still think Lang’s Metropolis is better sci-fi than Avatar.


  36. Srinivas #

    i’d say in terms of depicting a whole new world, both Star Wars and Avatar are full of realistic imagination
    As far as story is concerned, Star Wars scores a lot more than Avatar
    I cannot express as much as the guys above me, there are a lot of similarities between Star Wars and Avatar
    Though Avatar stands apart in a few scenes of its own – Pandora’s description, the first flight by (avatar) Jake Sully, Eywa, among other things.
    As far as CGI, both the epics stand apart in their own time, simply GR8
    i just hope to see more of Avatar


  37. Tom P #

    @potato: How do you know how long it’s taken the Millenium Falcon to get to Alderaan? Or how long Luke has been on Dagobah? It sounds you’re making assumptions on which you have no basis.

    I’m making assumptions based on what’s going on at the same time. Luke heads to Degobah at about the same time that Han and Leia go to Bespin from Hoth. The Falcon’s hyperdrive engines are out of order, so we have to assume that Bespin and Hoth are relatively close… like… in the same star system or else they’d be traveling for years. So, best-case scenario is Luke, in the X-Wing with a working hyperdrive, gets to Degobah instantly (and can return to Bespin in about the same elapsed time) and the Falcon travels for months (unless you want to argue that years pass between the time the Falcon leaves Hoth and arrives on Bespin — in which case I argue there is no way that Han & Leia hadn’t either killed each other or started a family), Luke is still learning enough about Jedi-ing to challenge Darth Vader to a knock-down/drag-out in a couple months.

    I’m pretty sure in the Star Trek movie universe it’s well-established that a good hyperdrive allows a ship to cross the galaxy in “a few days”. The Falcon, clearly, had a pretty crappy hyperdrive, but I’d still argue that it doesn’t take them more than a couple weeks to get from Tatooine to what’s left of Alderaan.


  38. Nate #

    Avatar did showcase a great and bright new world. Although the story was intriguing I don’t believe that it will ever match the timelessness that Star Wars has.


  39. Sami #

    Tell you what guys. The fact that you may even try to argue if it’s a match or not to Star Wars speaks volumes about the work Cameron has put before us.

    Fact about this is this is a ground breaking technologies we are seeing before us and once again Cameron has raised the bar!

    Yes sure the story may not be so original but guys what an original way to say an old story!

    Guys think about it you are presented with a whole alien world that looks real and not cartoonish and your feel that you can almost touch it! After this the next step up would be to actually feel whats going on!

    All I can say I have gone and watched the movie. I did not feel bored. It felt like i was on an alien world, sure the story could have been made different better whatever but it was not bad the way it was. So thank you Cameron keep them coming!


  40. TheGryphon #

    OK all I’m saying is do some research guys … Luke is Lugh of the Long Arm … Vader is Balor of the Evil Eye … the whole root of the story (whether Lucas knew it or not) is ripped from Celtic mythology.


  41. perich OTI Staff #

    @TheGryphon: would you care to elaborate? The Japanese and Campbell-ian roots of Lucas’ work is well known, but I’ve never heard this angle before.


Add a Comment