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James Cameron's Avatar AKA Dune?

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I read an interesting review of James Cameron's Avatar (out Dec. 18th) over on Aint it Cool where the reviewer, a big Dune fan called Massawyrm, claims Avatar is a point by point adaptation of Dune but set in a raintforest instead of a desert.

Personally, I think Avatar looks bad.  I don't have any plans to go see it, but I'd be interested in the opinions of those who did on this subject.  From the trailers I just don't see the connection, other than the whole stranger adopts foreign peoples customs and leads them plot, which is hardly restricted to Dune.

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People at fark are saying it is Dances with Wolves but on another planet.

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Don't plan to see it either.

Seems like a high-budget christmas family movie filled with top-notch 3D graphics and consensual ideas.

People say Avatar is inspired by Pocahontas, althought some Dune influence is not to be excluded.

Whatever mixed influences, Avatar is far from artistically ambitious, it's all about matured 3D technology.

Rest assured David Lynch movie will remain cult far long after Avatar will be forgotten as the best 3D that big money can buy at the moment.

I don't even expect the coming Dune adaptation to gain a comparable momemtum.

Nevertheless i hope it will be creative, mystical and inspiring, because that's the core values.

One can't do justice to Dune in one single movie, yet one can have priorities and concentrate on the core values.

I don't care whether it's muscular or it's about natural ressources and ecology.

I only want the core values.

If it's too much actual then it's failed from the start.

Don't make it actual. Make it timeless.

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When they say 3d film, does that mean an imax is needed for the 3d? Regular theatres it is no different than any other animated movie, other than detail is better because of $ spent? There is no 3d in regular theatres?

It's not a christmas movie, although it was probably timed for this time of year to get that market, and also increase chances of movie awards.

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a big Dune fan called Massawyrm

Who? ;)

I took one look at the image with the sandworm chest-buster and decided to pass. The <i>Dances with Wolves</i> comparison seems more apt.

I'm interest in hearing more of the alien conlang. Will probably go see it...

(I kinda got the impression that there is a 2D version for non-imax theaters. ? ? ? )

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Also, I have utterly renounced capitalism. :D

I must call James to let him know that the experiment was successful. We may begin large-scale implementation of Project Undermine immediately. ;D

Anyway, I plan to see Avatar on Thursday. I was completely oblivious to the fact that this movie was in production or existed in any way, until a few days ago.

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There are many parallels between the movie Avatar and The Jesus Incident (Pandora Series).  For starters they both occur on a planet with the same name, Pandora!  Strangely enough both of these planets with the same name have a sentient form of plant life which is in danger of being destroyed by the antagonists.  In Avatar, once a person dies their consciousness is transferred to the Tree of Souls much like the kelp does in the Lazarus Effect.    The only thing missing to make Avatar a true Pandora film was an appearance by Ship  ;)

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Well, I guess you could find similarities between anything if you tried really hard enough.

Me, I don't see it. (And I did see it, yesterday morning. In 3D. GORGEOUS. :D ) Or should I say, I don't See it. ;)

(arnoldo, you obviously don't pay any more attention when watching movies than you do when reading, but to explain more would be to spoil more. Suffice it to say that I find the situation quite fitting. Don't ever change, OK?  :) )

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Just saw it, comments are organized. I'll preface it by saying that I really, really enjoyed it.

A Revolutionary Film: In the sense that directors and special effects houses will have a larger role in film-making industry, which, until fairly recently, was almost entirely actor-centered. I think Cameron wanted to use a relative-unknown for the role of Jake specifically because the presence of a big-name actor would spoil the character. That's a cool thought. Also, the technology used here will doubtless have the same effect on the film industry that The Matrix did, and I wouldn't be surprised if many of the methods we saw here became as ubiquitous as "bullet-time."

...With Some Creativity Issues: Dances With Wolves + The Matrix + Fern Gully: The Last Rainforest = Avatar. Don't get me wrong, I loved the film, but from the standpoint of its storyline, it was utterly bereft of creativity. Normally, this would be a huge issue for me, but it says a lot about the cinematography/special effects/acting/writing (dialogue) that even with this major flaw, I still absolutely loved it. Who cares if the story's been told before if you continue to tell it well?

...And Some Political Issues: Going along with creativity issues, there's really no room for free-thinking post-viewing. The movie has about the same level of moral ambiguity as Star Wars, probably less, and that's saying a lot. Frankly, it's laughable to think that this movie could sway anyone's views on any issue, save perhaps for the need for greater environmental awareness. I mean, Cameron intended this to be a critique of Iraq. Really? Yeah, the insurgents and al Qaeda are totally tall, beautiful, blue-skinned, nature-loving aliens who only want to live in peace inside their giant love tree. That argument from analogy is awesome. I'll hide the next one for the benefit of non-watchers:

[hide]And I'm somewhat disappointed that the humans are portrayed, by and large, only as racist, greedy bastards. We don't know why this substance's value is so unbelievably high, we likewise don't know the conditions on Earth but receive only Jake's allusion, "... and the aliens went back to their dying world." For all we know, this substance is crucial to the continued survival of mankind. Hey, maybe to save a few thousand Na'vi, Jake was condemning millions of human beings to death and millions more to lives of continued suffering. That would have been some cool goddamn moral ambiguity! I'm not trying to say I necessarily wanted the marines to win (well...), but it's easy to say "I'm anti-war" or "I'm anti-capitalism" when you've just seen a movie that stacks the deck... about as much as it can be stacked. And besides, if the substance really is that valuable/necessary ($20,000,000 per 1 kilogram!), who wants to bet that the Na'vi have only as long as it takes to get to Earth and back before they have to deal with three times as many marines, only with nukes this time? Anyone? Man, totally a bad idea to let all those prisoners go...[/hide]

Oh, but I don't think it's Dune. Not anywhere close, unless you want to do a spice = unobtanium or Na'vi = Fremen analysis. But even those break down for various reasons.

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I think that you are all right that it isn't anything like Dune.  But, it is A LOT like The Jesus Incident and The Lazareth Effect. The books and the movie take place on a planet called Pandora. In the movie all the life forms on the planet are connected by a root system that the natives can connect with and "upload" their personas. In Herberts books this is accomplished with kelp fields that cover most of the planet.  The animal life is also quite similar. If you haven't read the "Ship" series ... you should.

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I suppose I should make a comment on Avatar - I've seen it about two weeks ago now - because everyone else is doing it. :)

First of all, yes, of course, I enjoyed it immensely. It was an absolutely gorgeous movie. If you can, go watch it in 3D. The visual effects are stunning.

Having said that, the plot sucks. There's no kinder way to put it. Don't get me wrong, it's not a bad plot - it's just copied wholesale from other sources. If you've seen Pocahontas, Dances With Wolves, or even The Last Samurai, you've seen it all before. Here it is in a nutshell:

[hide]The hero goes to some far-off land/planet. His main task is to help with the oppression of the low-tech natives. But, for some reason or other, he ends up separated from his people and lives with the natives for a while. He learns and appreciates their simple, traditional, nature-loving ways. He falls in love with a native woman. Then the hero's own people come along to kill the natives and/or drive them off their land, and the hero decides to take the side of the natives. Either by force of arms, or by diplomacy, or by a combination of the two, the conflict is resolved - with the hero making a major contribution, if not being a great leader himself. Then he lives happily ever after with the woman he loves. The end.[/hide]

The similarities with Pocahontas, in particular, are very striking.

There are also elements of The Matrix in there, and I could see the parallels with Dune:

[hide]1. One of the core elements of Na'vi culture is riding fantastic creatures - a bit like the Fremen riding the worms.

2. The hero is a foreigner who fulfills an ancient prophecy, becomes the leader of the Na'vi/Fremen, and unites the tribes to drive out the oppressors.

Toruk makto! Toruk makto! ... Muad'dib! Muad'dib![/hide]

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Wolf:

...And Some Political Issues: Going along with creativity issues, there's really no room for free-thinking post-viewing. The movie has about the same level of moral ambiguity as Star Wars, probably less, and that's saying a lot. Frankly, it's laughable to think that this movie could sway anyone's views on any issue, save perhaps for the need for greater environmental awareness.

I, for one, loved the political implications - such as they are - because the movie sends a strong anti-imperialist message. The reason I just said "such as they are", however, is because the political implications of Avatar basically amount to: "It's wrong to invade other people's lands to take their natural resources." Not exactly very revolutionary stuff. It's a message that pretty much everyone agrees with, in principle. Where disagreements appear is on the question of which particular real-life conflicts are about invading other people's lands to steal their resources. And a science-fiction movie can only give a response to that question if the fictional sides are blatant metaphors for the real-life sides in some conflict... which is the case here, but unfortunately the conflict in question is the European conquest of the Americas, so it's too late to do anything about it.

As for the hidden part of your post, Wolf, I can only say that you've engaged in too much Fridge Logic. ;)

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Edric: Well, coming from you, that's not really a surprise. Don't get me wrong, I don't think imperialism is a fantastic institution, either, but there's an undercurrent of anti-business sentiment in the film that I think is unwarranted (given... how it/James Cameron came to exist in the first place, among other reasons), but that I'm sure you absolutely loved. Though... it may very well have creeped in there accidentally as a result of plot-simplification or just plain old plagarismo.

But, for the other side, there were definitely large amounts of the recurrent James Cameron military fetishism that I've always found a little odd. But hey, that's why I love Aliens, so why should I complain?  

Speaking of which, don't you come after me with that "Fridge Logic" business--first of all, I do not have a problem... I stock my fridges well in advance. Secondly, these are fair points! Like:

[hide]If all they wanted was the gold/unobtanium, why fight the natives in the first place? Why not plow the burnt ruins of the tree and mine... like they wanted? Frankly, it reminds me of some of the issues in the fantastic

critique. But again--don't get me wrong--Avatar is actually a good movie.[/hide]

Or...

[hide]Why would a corporation spend billions of dollars to freeze, transport, unfreeze, deploy, and send to his death a marine on some faraway world? Why would they send humans at all? But, then again, who's going to watch a movie about a UAV in space?[/hide]

If the realization of these issues bothers you, or reduces your enjoyment of the film... well, I'm sorry, man, I can't help but notice this stuff, and if we're going to have a conversation about the film, it's going to come up eventually.

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Edric: Well, coming from you, that's not really a surprise. Don't get me wrong, I don't think imperialism is a fantastic institution, either, but there's an undercurrent of anti-business sentiment in the film that I think is unwarranted (given... how it/James Cameron came to exist in the first place, among other reasons), but that I'm sure you absolutely loved. Though... it may very well have creeped in there accidentally as a result of plot-simplification or just plain old plagarismo.

Oh yes, anti-business sentiment is like dakka - you can never have enough. :)

However, while the movie does indeed carry a somewhat anti-capitalist message, it's anti-capitalism of the romantic kind, which yearns for a golden age of natural harmony that never existed. In fact, if the Na'vi were a viking-like society of honour-bound warriors instead of hippies, and if the humans were portrayed as incompetent weaklings hiding behind their technology, the message would be fascist (though, granted, those are two very big IF's).

To make the message actually socialist, the plot would need to be altered in the following ways:

[hide]1. The Na'vi society would need to be stripped of its utopian character, and made more typical of real-life tribal societies - complete with infant mortality, ridiculous superstition, and hard work in finding food.

2. The tribal chief and high priestess would need to be made less sympathetic and more close-minded. No, they don't need to be oppressive feudal scum (like the so-called "good guys" in The Last Samurai), because the Na'vi are not feudal. But they should at least be suspicious of everything new, even when it's their only hope for survival. Which brings me to...

3. TECHNOLOGY. Seriously, this movie was borderline Luddite. That would need to be changed completely. Instead of fighting the marines with bows and arrows, there should be a faction within the Na'vi advocating the use of human weapons and technology against the invaders. This faction should be proven right by events, and should come to power in the tribe after the traditionalist chief and high priestess are discredited. Then the Na'vi should have a reasonably high-tech rebellion, using clever combinations of traditional skills and newly acquired technology. The movie could end with the Na'vi starting to build a sustainable, egalitarian technological society that respects nature... and allows them to be armed and ready for any future human attacks.[/hide]

Hmmm. You know, actually, I think that would be a much better plot (leaving aside politics). For one thing, it would have at least two morally ambiguous characters - the chief and priestess.

But, for the other side, there were definitely large amounts of the recurrent James Cameron military fetishism that I've always found a little odd. But hey, that's why I love Aliens, so why should I complain?

Well, there is something to be said for military fetishism... And sometimes you just can't resist it, whatever your political views.

If the realization of these issues bothers you, or reduces your enjoyment of the film... well, I'm sorry, man, I can't help but notice this stuff, and if we're going to have a conversation about the film, it's going to come up eventually.

Haha, no, you misunderstand. It's not that the realization of these issues bothers me. It's that you are so obviously right about them that there isn't much to say. They are plot holes, pure and simple. I mean, the material the humans are after is called unobtainium, for God's sake. Clearly, Cameron didn't give it much thought. It might as well be magical pixie dust.

There is, however, one thing you mentioned that is not, in fact, a plot hole:

[hide]"Why not plow the burnt ruins of the tree and mine... like they wanted?"

Because their satellites saw the Na'vi tribes gathering in one place in large numbers. Their attack was a pre-emptive strike to prevent the further growth of this rebellion, and eliminate an obvious threat. The movie makes this very explicit. Also, the marines were off fighting the Na'vi - that doesn't mean the civilians couldn't have been mining the old tree-site at the same time.[/hide]

On the other hand, something else is a problem: Unobtainium looks like a rock. There is absolutely no way that an inorganic mineral could possibly be unique to a planet with a biosphere. Geology is the same everywhere. Some kinds of rocks may be rare, but I refuse to believe that any rock could be as rare as life - which is what needs to be the case in order to make it necessary to mine this rock from a living world rather than getting it from a lifeless planet instead. The only kinds of resources that could reasonably be unique to planets with biospheres are substances produced by living creatures (directly or indirectly). Such as oil and coal on Earth, or the spice on Arrakis.

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So can anyone explain to me how Avatar is connected to Dune, or resembles Dune in any way, and if it doesn't, why is this thread still in the Duniverse section? ???

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Is it really so similar to Dune? I have a reason to download it  :)  But I feel from your commentaries that it doesn't bring many new ideas.

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Oh yes, anti-business sentiment is like dakka - you can never have enough. Smiley

Haha, wow. Oh man, Edric--how do you know that I love 40K so much? Then again, I suppose I've referenced it often enough on here for people to figure it out. You play?

Wow, that wasn't a digression. My problem with anti-business sentiment is that it's short-sighted. Look around you: virtually everything that you have that's enriched your life has been the product of incentivized effort. People tend not to create innovations, produce goods, or provide services unless they have an incentive--usually economic--for doing so. You may feel that, at times, business go too far, and attempts to secure further profit through illegitimate means, but this is in and of itself illegal. You would be surprised what the law was doing to ensure that competition occurred positively as early as the 1700s.

However, while the movie does indeed carry a somewhat anti-capitalist message, it's anti-capitalism of the romantic kind, which yearns for a golden age of natural harmony that never existed. In fact, if the Na'vi were a viking-like society of honour-bound warriors instead of hippies, and if the humans were portrayed as incompetent weaklings hiding behind their technology, the message would be fascist (though, granted, those are two very big IF's).

I agree with you on this: first of all, the idealized society presented never existed. Second of all, when humanity was in a similar state of being, what was the average life expectancy? 25? 30? Most people lived in some state of mild-to-moderate illness. Most children died at or near birth. Most people were hungry. Life sucked. One could argue that primarily technical innovation has improved it since. And I think that's another mark against the absolutist anti-business approach.

As for this:

Hmmm. You know, actually, I think that would be a much better plot (leaving aside politics). For one thing, it would have at least two morally ambiguous characters - the chief and priestess.

I totally agree, and I find that story fascinating--despite it's foul Marxist taint. (You know I kid.) On the one hand, it maintains a sense of realism without sacrificing the core elements of a good story. On the other, it has a great potential for character growth, internal conflict, tension, and plight without necessarily relying on huge explosions and awesome battlemechs. On this note, however, I'd like to add:

[hide]Jake's eventual success is actually primarily the product of two very convenient events that are not immediately obvious to the viewer. One: Jake's extremely lucky that Tsu'tey died gloriously in battle. Otherwise, there would have been the potential for a power-struggle between the popularly powerful Toruk-makto and the traditional line of succession. Not to mention that Tsu'tey would legally have had claim to Jake's girlfriend. Two: This is actually two parts, one minor, one major. The minor: It's never mentioned on-screen, or even alluded to that the Na'vi actually know how "the dreamwalkers" work. Given that the rebel humans moved their portable upload chamber while the Na'vi believed that they were traitors and demons leads me to believe that they kept it hidden, and would have had little incentive to disclose its location. The question is: how does Neyteri or whatever know that the random human inside of the portable unit is Jake Sully? How does she know it isn't just another Terran marine that she should kill out of hand? How is she aware that he can't breath the atmosphere? It strikes me as a little odd that the humans would disclose such a weakness to their tribal adversaries (making it really, really easy to kill all those marines that you went to such great expense to deploy to a faraway planet), but this isn't that big a deal. The major issue is this: Jake's really lucky that the never-before discovered Pandoran planetary bionetwork or whatever was capable of transferring an alien consciousness from an alien body to a "native" one. He didn't know this before he defected to the Na'vi's side. In other words, what the hell was his exit strategy? Presumably, the portable unit only had a small supply of air and food. Either they were going to come crawling back to the Terrans or they were going to starve/suffocate in a matter of months, or even weeks. This is very reminiscent of our modern James T. Kirk being exiled to the same planet, within a few kilometers, that Future Spock was marooned on. A more sensical approach, and, I think a better movie, comes when Jake realizes that he's going to sacrifice himself and his friends to "do the right thing." If he had died in the female Na'vi's oversized arms, I think the impact of the film would have been far more effective. But... what do I know?[/hide]

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This is slightly off-topic, but it's been announced on Wikipedia that Avatar is now the highest-grossing film (not adjusted for inflation) ever made!

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I think the main link to Dune would have to be the whole messiah who comes from another planet, rides a huge animal to prove he is the messiah, as well as the mining of a rare material on the planet with disregard to the natives...ok so that is a major part of the film's plot then!

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