22 February 2011

Movies: Dances With Fern Gully

Dances With Fern Gully http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0499549/
Plot: Man that lives a life that fully utilizes the environment with out considering possible consequence finds himself immersed in a culture the fully embraces and lives in harmony with the environment. Then he finds himself fighting to support the culture of environmental harmony against the very people he has lived in support of his whole life. Overall message: Trees Good. Money-hungry environment raping corporations bad. Europe sucks for decimating Native Americans. For the Horde!

Directed/Written by: James Cameron

Yes - the plot of Avatar has been recycled a few times.
Does this make the movie worse than people claim?
Depends on their claims.

The visuals are stunning. Considering the majority of the movie takes place within computer generated environments with computer generated actors and sometimes human actors - and looks so realistic the viewer gets more caught up in watching the story unfold - is a testament to not only the amount of money that went into production, but a testament to the advancement of marrying computers with film making since their first use in a major motion picture - 1973.
And that's probably the longest sentence I've typed in a very long time.
The CG actors are good enough to not trigger the uncanny valley response- probably because they are fantastical blue creatures that aren't trying to look exactly like humans. They are life-like enough and not human enough that our brains don't trigger revulsion. Plus with the big wide-spaced eyes and other feature proportions they probably trigger a neoteny type of response as well, adding to the subconscious acceptance of the CG actors. That whole "if babies weren't cute we wouldn't take care of them" theory thing. And we have the Lord of the Rings Weta Digital folks to thank for that.
And that's not even mentioning the advancement of 3D in film making. It is a shame a lot of 3D movies after this one will look like crap because they (a) didn't film it the same way that Cameron did, (b) they didn't spend as much on their budget, and (c) at least 15% of people have stereo vision impairments and have various problems watching such flicks.

IMO this flick ranks in film technology advancement with other milestone flicks like Lord of the Rings, The Matrix, Toy Story, Jurassic Park, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Ray Harryhausen, the original King Kong movie, Lon Chaney makeup artistry, color film, sound movies.

Story - eh. Nothing really new story-wise. It is basically the same underlying plot of Dances With Wolves and of Fern Gully.
But it wasn't boring. Made for a good entertaining watch. And it was paced well.
Some details were kinda weird - like the whole tendrilly-things coming out of their ponytails and wrigglying into animal tendrilly things. Not quite as icky as, say, riding a horse down the trail in the most bestialitic way possible, but darn close. 
(yes I know that isn't a real dictionary word - but verbing the noun works in this situation).

However. Consider "unobtanium". 
Could they have used a stupider name for some resource Earthlings need to rape the moon Pandora to get?
Oh my gosh it's so, so, un-obtain-able!
And gee what a subtle metaphor for "oil", "trees", "parts of the continental United States where the indigenous were not already eradicated by smallpox and dominated by scurvy European descendants".
Yes, I know 'unobtanium' has been used since the 1920s to describe theoretical materials that would be perfect for use except they don't exist. But why the heck use it in this movie?
Especially considering the movie "The Core" used the same freaking term. The Core. What movie wants to be compared to that?
PS: "Wonderflonium" in Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along-Blog sounds much cooler.

Another thing that bugged me - why are the Pandora vertebrates six-limbed, but the Na'vi four-limbed? One would think they would've been six-limbed as well. Kinda like how and why all the vertebrates/tetrapods on Earth are four-limbed. Well, all of them but snakes - but even some modern snakes have vestigial hind limbs. HOX gene expression explains what is going on with snakes.  I'm satisfied.
Following the same biological logic, all of Pandora's vertebrates should be six-limbed hexapods. Especially when the other primate-similar species was shown in the flick to be six-limbed.
Hah! I just found this:http://nymag.com/daily/entertainment/2010/05/james_cameron_knows_the_navi_s.html
So I can't fault Cameron. Especially considering he makes more money in the time it takes him to poop than I make in a year.

Nonetheless, when it comes to stunning visuals, great camera work (in reals and CGI 'cameras') this movie really sets a high bar for any movies attempting anything close with 3D, CGI generated characters, etc. Despite the recycled story it is a very entertaining watch and probably worth repeated watchings to catch all the nuances of the generated environment. And it ain't too bad of a science-fiction flick either.

If you haven't seen it, Highly Highly recommended to see it. Worth every minute of watching. Cameron outdid himself. Very entertaining.

And, despite the length of this note for one movie and my petty complaints - I did like this movie. I just complain because that's what I do.
Even though I've already seen Dances with Wolves and Fern Gully. And I liked both of them too.

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