Posts Tagged ‘film’

[Movie Review] Avatar

Movie Poster for Avatar

The movie poster for Avatar, featuring the Na'vi princess.

Since it came out, James Cameron’s Avatar has been hailed as a masterpiece, the harbinger of a new era of film-making. A film to bush the boundaries, and to boldly go where no film has gone before.

And it is. The story is epic, the animation and camerawork is grand, and the idea is genius. There is no doubt in my mind that this film will be the film of the year. It will win at every feasible award show, and its Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic ratings will skyrocket. All this, because (at least, it might seem so) that’s how the film was made. Would you expect anything less from the maker of Titanic?

Dancing with Pocahontas in space.

In a future world where humanity are colonizing planets far away in space, Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) wakes up on Pandora, a moon circling the planet Polyphemus in the Alpha Centauri system. He’s there to pilot a so-called “Avatar,” an organism, made by combining DNA from the indigenous Na’vi with DNA from a human. The human providing the DNA can then take control of the organism thus produced.

Except Jake wasn’t meant to be an avatar pilot. His deceased identical twin brother was. Jake is a crippled ex-marine, while his brother, like the rest of the avatar-team, was a scientist.

Jake is not particularly enthusiastic about the project – nor is the leader of the Avatar project, Dr. Grace Augustine (Sigourney Weaver), thrilled about having him and not his brother. The tough chief of security, ex-marine colonel Quaritch, on the other hand, is thrilled to have a marine on the inside of the wuss scientist team, who can tell him all about the Na’vi – such as how to get rid of them most efficiently.

Of course, Jakes attitude to the whole thing changes when he meets the Na’vi and is accepted into their tribe where the scientists have all been rejected. It can come as no great shock that Jake will soon face the consequences of the humans’ advances on Pandora, and pick a side in the inevitable conflict between Na’vi and humans. Guess who he’ll choose…

2D in 3D

Avatar is, in most ways, an amazing accomplishment. The digitally produced sceneries are breathtaking, not least when viewed in 3D. The alien biology of Pandora is very original, while still seeming believable and coherent. The human technology seems just as well constructed. You get the impression that Cameron has gone out of his way to listen to scientists and take their views and ideas seriously.

The composition of the film is just as impressive. The pacing of the hectic and the subtle, the bad and the good – it works. The plot is believable, yet still contains surprises.

Most of the characters work just as well. Jake is a brilliant protagonist – we can relate to him, and while he starts out with several issues he needs to resolve, he is still likeable, especially as we see the good sides of him come out. Sigourney Weaver’s character is the same: a scientist with a bad attitude, but a heart of gold.

But it’s not all just peachy. First of all, the Na’vi seem too much like stereotypical Indians – many of their lines could have come out of Dances with Wolves, or similar, white-man-goes-native style films.

Secondly, the villains are two dimensional and somewhat unoriginal. The middle manager, doing anything for profit and the Marine colonel with a thirst for battle are both characters we’ve seen in loads of films. Especially the marine colonel urgently needs something to properly distinguish him from the million movie characters like him. Why on earth is he so battle thirsty? Why has he decided the Na’vi are bad? We are never told.

Just as some characters seem shallow, certain facets of the plot seem a bit tired. Why another film where a giant corporation tramples all decency and human compassion? Another one to put on the pile with Alien (all four of them), Blade Runner, I Robot, Robocop, Terminator – should I continue? Couldn’t we for once see a film where the men with the money see the error of their ways and help find a common ground? And why another film about a white man who meets the noble wild, learns of their ways, and leads them to victory against his former allies? I saw Dances with Wolves, thank you very much – I have no need to see it again in space.

The inevitability of academy

But when you’re watching the film, these things are minor, and very forgettable, annoyances. You’ll be far busier being amazed by the glorious images and the riveting story. This film is a shoe in for the technical Oscars, pushing the boundaries of computer assisted filmmaking, and doing wonders in sound and music. And while I can’t see any of the acting meriting awards, the director and scriptwriters are likely to receive nominations, at the very least.

Because this film is a milestone. It pushes boundaries of what can be done with computers, and sets new standards for all coming films to aspire to. And, what to me seems just as important, it sheds light on some neglected parts of what science fiction can do.

All in all: there are few, if any, excuses for not watching this film. Go on, don’t be shy. But do take it for what it is: a grand, masterfully produced, Hollywood blockbuster, tailored to be just that.

Oh, and if you don’t know anything about Avatar – take a look at the trailer:

To be honest, it pretty much says what I just said above…


How to rip a film apart

I know I said I was going to bed, but I just saw a review of an animated film called Battle For Terra…

…ouch. Just ouch. I wanna see the film now, see if it’s so bad.

Heureka! I’ve got it!

A subject for this blog – and a name for it,  apart from just boring “Elias’ blog.”

My problem was, that when I was thinking about what I wanted to fill this blog with, I was imagining just about everything: Rolplaying, writing, computer games, film, literature, maybe a bit of journalism, a dash of philosophy, let simmer a few years and you get… nothing. Just a random collection of thoughts. But then I realized that there is a red thread running through almost all the things I do: they have to do with stories and storytelling.

The kind of storytelling that I spend most time on is Roleplaying. The fantastic thing about storytelling is excactly that you create a story together, a story which is more real, more living, than if a single one of you were to have written it. This is my measure of a good roleplaying game: I don’t care about realism, and immersion usually leaves me luke warm – but a game that helps us tell a magnificent story wins my heart every day.

Another kind of storytelling is of course the more standard kinds of storytelling, with a clearcut storyteller and a definite audience. Today, this is ususally films and books, both of which I love and have far less time for than I’d like. But from my mother, I inherited another kind of storytelling: storytelling! The kind where you tell a story to a captive audience, telling a story, written in advance by you or someone else, yet not read aloud, but told, adapted to fit the teller and the listener; gesturing and acting, but never leaving the role of the storyteller. This kind of story flourished in hundreds and thousands of years in a largely ilitterate world. Today, though, it has dwindled, now being mostly the province of professionals.

Journalism, between Truth and Story
Journalism is of course also, in its nature, about storytelling. In fact, it lies in the language of journalism: the greatest treasure of a journalist, his preciousss, is his story. A journalist is like a prospector, panning the rushing streams of leads and information for the telltale gleam of pure, twentyfour karats STORY.

This is kind of ironic, though. A story is, in its nature, not true. It may be based on truth – but it is told, cutting out, colouring, highlighting the climax. Yet one of the the virtues of a journalist is his “truthfulness.” His articles should be True, not adding anything to the Truth, not at all embellishing, but only what is actually there, in his research. A journalist is expected, at the same time, to tell a riveting exciting story that draws in his reader, and tell his story as objectively as not humanly possible. Oh, the paradox (and the Humanity, obviously – journalism certainly has its Hindenburgs from time to time).

Interactive stories
Another kind of storytelling I’m rather fond of, is the kind I can interteract with and control to a certain degree; I am, of course, talking about video games. To me, the game’s story is absolutely crucial. I have a friend who loves games like Hearts of Iron and Crusader Kings. To him, a game should be simulator; he knows nothing better than micromanaging an entire country, practically in realtime, through the World Wars or the Crusades. Iam quite different. I tried Crusader Kings, but quickly grew bored with it. Give me a good adventure game, on the other hand… I replayed Sid Meyer’s Alpha Centauri several times, because they have managed to infuse the game with a brilliant story, told through voice clips, videos and fragments of text.

So… Filemonia?
In short, storytelling is my game. It’s what I know, what I do, what I like. And thus, I’m going to be telling the world that this is a blog about storytelling.

So, why the title, “Filemonia”? Well, gather around, now, and I’ll tell you the story. The first time I told stories (that is, did actual storytelling), I told the Norwegian fairy tale, Tatterhood, as well as a Danish folk tale. Now, Tatterhood is my mother’s signature tale and a story of female empowerment, and the other had a cumbersome title in Danish.

The next time, however, the first time I actually spent a lot of time preparing myself for the storytelling, I told two brilliant tales by Michael Ende. The first was “the Dreameater,” a fabulous little tale of the King of Sleepland, who goes on a quest to find a cure for his princess’s terrible nightmares, and return with a verse that summons the Dreameater, who arrives to eat all the nightmares. A nice tale, which I actually considered for the title of the blog. The other, however…

The other Ende tale was one called Philemon Faltenreich (Philemon rich-on-folds), about an elephant, standing on the bank of the Holy River. However, a group of flies decide to play a football match against Filemon, but he never notices. Now, Filemon was perfect for several reasons. It is a good little story, probably my favorite. The word – Filemonia – is nice, and sounds a bit like both philosophy and harmony. And finally, Filemon is a philosopher, and an  elephant, just like me (please, don’t ask me why I am an elphant – just take my word for it).

And thus, I got this show well and truly under way. Hope you will find it interesting, though provoking, entertaining, worth returning to, worth reading and worth commenting.