Still a classic.
August 29, 2010
August 15, 2010
I wasn’t that impressed.
When I first heard about Avatar, I thought, That might be interesting. Like most things, I took a wait-and-see attitude. But then, even before it came out, I started reading how it would “change the way movies are made.” Stuff like that … annoys me. I actually like, surprise surprise, good movies. I don’t really care if they’re groundbreaking in their production. So if anything, hearing Avatar was this “game changer” movie made me less likely to see it.
Then the reviews started coming out. It seemed they all went along the lines of, “The effects are fantastic.” “How’s the plot?” “The effects are fantastic.” I thought the whole Star Wars Prequels debacle would convince Hollywood that special effects don’t replace plot. I know, I’m an idealist.
Then I guess it was over Christmas I was home watching a Mythbusters marathon. What sucked was it seemed EVERY commercial break had something Avatar. Either a trailer for Avatar, or some phone with some Avatar feature, or some Avatar promotion at a restaurant, or some schmuck asking, “Has one of your loved ones committed suicide in the hope they’d be reincarnated on Pandora? Then call my law firm at blah blah blah.” And I swear, there was one commercial break where all the commercials were Avatar related. I’m the type of person where the more something is hyped, the less likely I’ll be interested in it. So after being bombarded with everything Avatar, I decided, screw it, I won’t shell out ten bucks to see it. I know, I’d miss all the amazing effects by not seeing it in 3-D, but I was sick of hearing about it.
So anyway, the other day I saw it in the movie section of my local library, and I checked it out. At least that $1.50 goes to a good cause. I’ll admit, I went into it not expecting to like it. And I wasn’t disappointed. In that regard, at least.
Since the main point of the movie was the effects, let me start there. I did watch it on my dinky little TV screen, but even then, some of the creatures looked … bad. I’ve seen how they use layers of effects to bring CGI creatures to live, like there’s a skin layer, then a fur layer, then a lighting layer, then a wind effect layer and stuff like that. There were a couple times where, to me, it looked like the had forgotten the last few layers, and the creatures looked more like their plastic toy versions than what you’d expect an actual animal to look like. I only saw the grand vistas on my TV and felt neutral about them. I’ll grant that they may have been fantastic on the big screen, I don’t know. As to the smaller, foreground stuff, I did get the feeling a lot of it was there for the same reason a lot of crap was in the Star Wars Prequels – to show the world they had the technology to do it. Not for any silly thing like, say, plot.
Speaking of the plot, I wasn’t all that impressed. I think my biggest problem was it felt like 90% of the movie was left out and all we saw were the big action scenes and some montages. I think if it had been a Lord of the Rings style project, of three films filmed together, it might have been truly awesome. It would break down like this. The first film would start with more background on Jake and his brother and what Earth was like. Then he’d go to Pandora, start training in his avatar, maybe have a scene where the base is attacked by the Na’vi and he helps defend it, and ends with him being chased by the thing and being saved by Neytiri. The second film would go into detail his learning about the Na’vi and the people, becoming friends with some of them, perhaps being pressured into going on a raid of the sky people camp, and end with the destruction of the Hometree. The third movie would be Jake fully becoming a native and gathering the forces for the colossal battle.
If there was more movie, then there would be more opportunity for the minor characters to, I don’t know, develop. I mean, when Jake goes to bond with an Ikran, there are (I assumed) young Omaticaya cheering his name. Who are they? And when Jake first arrived there’s a scene of a giant dump truck or something with Na’vi arrows sticking out of the tires. And since the Omaticaya are the only people nearby, they must be, I don’t know, raiding the sky people camp. Why don’t we ever see such a raid?
So basically, I would have greatly preferred a deeper movie with more of a plot and character development. If that could have been done without cutting into the effects, it might have been a fantastic movie. As is, I felt if fell flat.
August 12, 2010
Recently, I self-published A Man of Few Words, a collection of flash fiction stories. Most of the stories are humor or general fiction, but there are some scifi stories as well. So check it out.
Oh, and here is a silly little video I made for it:
August 11, 2010
August 10, 2010
(This was originally published as part of my 30 Stories in 30 Days Challenge in September 2008. I think it is a worthy way to start this blog.)
Ticket to the Future
Part of Angelica Daffin’s mind told her what she was doing was illegal. The rest of her mind told her what she was doing was insane. But right now, she was listening to her heart. I. M. Allen was her favorite author and ever since she read his first novel Doomed to Repeat, she had wanted to meet him; to know what his motivations and influences were.
It was just something about the tale of human colonists landing on a world wiped out by a genetically engineered virus that struck a cord with her. To her it was so realistic that while trying to “learn” more about the virus and the technology behind it – for the good of all mankind of course – that the colonists ended up wiping themselves out. Angelica wasn’t an anti-technology, new-age, hippie type, but she always recommended Doomed to Repeat as a word of warning to anyone who felt science was the solution to every problem.
Unfortunately, the prolific author (three novels a year) was also extremely reclusive. He never gave interviews, or went to conventions, or even had a blog. His agent and publisher said their only contact with him was through email. Since his books were best sellers, nominated for and winning most awards, they allowed him his eccentricity.
For years Angelica lived with her disappointment. She would preorder his books and take a day or two off from work to read them. His stories and characters were always so fascinating. From the generational starship where each generation descends further and further into madness in Going, Going, … to the simplicity of building a time machine and the complexities that result in Today, Tomorrow, or Yesterday?
With each book her curiosity grew and morphed into obsession. The final straw was With This Ring, concerning the bigotry surrounding and interspecies romance. When she finally put the book down, she wiped away her tears, and vowed that she would meet him. For months she tried every legal method she could to track him down, all without success. In the end she had to date a hacker who hacked into his agents email and traced his computer.
So now, Angelica stood with binoculars in the woods surrounding a little log cabin in the mountains, fifty miles from the nearest paved road. Not wanting to give away her presence, she had parked her car at a motel and hiked three days to get here. She couldn’t see any vehicle or even a satellite dish, so she wasn’t sure how this could be the right place.
She had only been watching the cabin for about a minute when the front door opened and out walked a short, green skinned alien with large black eyes.
The next thing Angelica knew, she was lying on a soft bed. The air was warm and filled with a flowery scent she couldn’t identify.
“Are you all right, Miss Daffin?” a soft, musical, male voice asked.
“Yes, I’m …” She opened her eyes and saw the alien standing a few feet from her. She screamed and tried to get away, but the bed was against a wall and there was no where she could go. Turning back to the alien she saw him just standing, silently, watching her. A thousands questions jammed in her throat. She swallowed and asked the first one that could get out, “How do you know my name?”
The alien reached over to a table and picked up her wallet. Holding it up to her he said, “Your driver’s license.”
“Oh.” The situation was too weird for her to be disappointed but such a simple answer. “How did I get in here?”
“You fainted at my appearance. I couldn’t leave you to lie in the leaves, so I brought you in.”
Angelica nodded. “Thank you.”
The alien bowed slightly. “You’re welcomed.”
“Who are you?”
Holding his hands behind his back, the alien stood up straight and replied, “You couldn’t pronounce my real name, but you know me as I. M. Allen.”
Sitting down on the bed, Angelica nodded. “Really?”
After a moment, Angelica asked, “What are you going to do to me?”
“Nothing? Aren’t you afraid I’ll expose you?”
“To whom? Yes, the people who wear tin foil hats would believe your tale that a famous author is really an alien, but …”
“All right, all right,” Angelica interrupted him. Taking a deep breath she asked, “What are you doing here?”
“It is far easier to remain inconspicuous in a place like this,” he waved his hands to indicate the cabin, “than, say, an apartment in New York.”
Angelica paused. Did an alien just tell her a joke? “I meant on Earth.”
There came the faintest of smiles to his tiny mouth. “I know. Your species has accomplished much in a short time, but you have barely scratched the surface on knowledge of the universe. You are at a critical point in your development where you not only have the ability to destroy yourselves, but also the mentality which makes such a fate a possibility.”
“Are you here to save us?”
Shaking his head, he replied, “No. My … charitable organization is probably the closest term you have for us, finds species in such situations and we try to help them save themselves.”
Angelica raised an eyebrow at that. “By writing scifi novels?”
The tiny smile spread. “That is not all we do, but my specialty is artistic expression. Most species have some form of art, but few have such a range as yours. We’ve taken special interest in your science fiction because it’s perfectly suited to our goals. What other art form forces you to consider how your species – and even you yourself – would react to First Contact? Or time travel? Or immortality? Getting people to think about the future is the first step in making sure that you have a future and that it is a good one.”