The SciFi Diner Podcast
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On the menu tonight:
On this science fiction podcast, we give our thoughts on Avatar.
Promos this Week:
- David Alan Mack, author of the Star Trek Novel Vanguard.
- Any questions for him let us know!
- A SciFi Diner Retrospective: We are looking at having some podcast episodes focused on past shows like Farscape, Sliders, X-files, etc. Want us to talk about a show you loved in the past? Let us know!
- Our scifi five in five: Five favorite or five worst scifi television shows or movies of 2009. We’ll play them at the end of our show!
- Triva: Will back in January.
The Main Show:
Our Avatar Review:
In our review of Avatar, we share our expectations as we went into the theater and our initial thoughts as we left. We tear apart the plot and praise the wonderful world James Cameron has created using the CGI and his incredible attention to detail. We also comment on the acting and the messages of the film. Is it worth seeing? Hell yes.
First, the strengths: The film is absolutely gorgeous, a true visual wonder to behold, and if you’re planning to see it, I strongly urge you to do so in the theater, where you can immerse yourself in the world created for this story. As one has come to expect from a Cameron film, there’s remarkable attention to detail, both in the environment the characters inhabit as well as explanations for how and why things do what they do. Cameron’s always been a stickler for giving the audience what it needs to follow along, without beating viewers over the head with explanations and instead trusting them to fill in the blanks after first laying down enough clues and hints in logical fashion. He does so again here. As for the CGI, I have to confess, there were times that I realized I’d forgotten I was watching a computer-generated character, particularly in a few key scenes featuring such creations interacting with human counterparts. For the most part, the effect is that seamless. I can only recall one scene offhand where the quality of the effects pulled me out of the story because it looked too hokey. Otherwise, a very definite A for Effort is awarded here.
As for the actor contributions, they run the gamut. Sigourney Weaver provides a customary solid performance, and the very talented Stephen Lang, Giovanni Ribisi, CCH Pounder, Michelle Rodriguez, and Joel Moore do what they can with what they’re given. Other, cardboard-cutout characters are precisely that; glorified extras who inhabit scenes, mostly to shoot or be shot at and so on. However, the film rests on the shoulders of Sam Worthington (one of the few bright spots in the otherwise dreary Terminator Salvation) and – to a slightly lesser extent, Zoe Saldana (Uhura in the new Star Trek film), and both actors carry that burden very well.
Weaknesses: As with pretty much every other Cameron movie, the story is rather straightforward and even predictable in some places. It’s essentially The Last of the Mohicans, Dances With Wolves, and/or The Last Samurai, to name the prime examples for comparison. As other reviewers have pointed out, in this case, a simpler take isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as it gives you a chance to really throw yourself into the world of Pandora and its inhabitants, both indigenous and otherwise. Another Cameron hallmark is the not-infrequent line of cringe-worthy dialogue. Even without Leonardo DiCaprio to deliver some of the worst offenders, there’s still plenty to go around, mostly with respect to anything that comes out of the mouth of anyone in a military uniform. Of particular note is veteran actor Stephen Lang, who chews the scenery — real and computer-generated — with unrestrained relish. He gets some of the worst lines in the film, but he throws himself into his role of a hard-charging commander of corporate mercenaries with total abandon.
I enjoyed this movie. The world of Pandora and its inhabitants are beautifully rendered and completely engaging. The Na’Vi needed a little more work, though I mostly noticed issues with the avatars, and not the full blooded Na’Vi. I found the story to be the weakest part of the movie as I felt I’d seen this story many times before. The 3D was implemented excellently and accented scenes without being gimmicky. In the end, it was a good movie with inspired world building and captivating visuals.
The SciFi Five in Five:
Dave Gray: Top Movie of All Time
- The Matrix
- Jurassic Park