Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Quoted in Avatar article

OK, kids. It seems I'm on a list somewhere of SF geeks. Erica Newport of the Bradenton Times called to get my response to Avatar. Always flattering when someone wants your opinion. She asked nicely, so I gave it. Am still fighting for time to put in a more nuanced response in the stub of my review. In the meantime, here are a few crunchy soundbites with a soft, candy center.

Breakthrough filmmaking is the ticket for 'Avatar'
Published Tuesday, December 29, 2009 3:00 am
by Erica Newport

Throw out technology and any modern-day scientific advancements and find yourself absorbed in a world where creatures rely on their profound connection to nature, spirituality and physical endurance – welcome to Pandora. May we introduce you to the Na'vi natives?

Paraplegic war veteran Jake Sully (Sam Worthington, in an incredible performance) is sent to Pandora, a moon about 4.3 light-years from Earth.

Its natives, the Na'vi humanoid race, have their own language and culture, but they inhabit an area of this surreal forest land, where nature grows in mid-air in hyper-color and dragon-like creatures swarm through the trees and clouds, that a corporation wants to excavate for a precious material that could solve the energy crisis on Earth.

In exchange for the spinal surgery that will fix his legs, Sully gathers intelligence for the cooperating military by infiltrating the Na'vi people with the use of an "avatar" identity.

Here's where the love story begins. Sully begins to bond with the his Na'vi mentors and the native tribe, and falls in love with Neytiri, played by Zoe Saldana, and ends up changing his mission to help the natives protect their people and their land from the corporation's greedy tactics.

The official “Avatar” Web site says that director James Cameron, whose past credits include “Titanic,” “The Terminator” and “Aliens,” first conceived of this film 15 years ago, “when the means to realize his vision did not exist.”

The movie was rumored to have cost anywhere from $200 million to $500 million, and The Internet Movie Database says the actual figure was $230 million.

Considering the movie has a one-week box office take of $177 million, according to, Cameron's “Avatar” seems to be driving ticket sales and a galactic movement in movie making for the future.

Go ahead and compare this to “New Moon,” the latest installment of the “Twilight” saga. Its five-week box office take is at $277 million.

But the story isn't really all that original. It's a very good science fiction-fantasy story, and maybe the plot is familiar to many sci-fi followers.

Marty Fugate of Sarasota said he's published a few science fiction pieces, and is now focusing on science fiction cartoons, comic-strip type creations with local artist Austin McKinley.

Fugate said his friends call him the “science fiction dude.” He saw “Avatar" a week ago with his 20-something son Andrew Fugate.

“For any serious fiction writer, this is a good movie to see,” Marty Fugate said. “I would say that it does what a good science fiction movie should do: grabs you and pulls you into its world.”

Fugate said Cameron doesn't necessarily have a reputation for having the most original ideas. He said in some ways it's “Dancing with Wolves” – only in space.

He said the plot is also similar to several short stories and science fiction novels, but in this day and age it's tough to come up with something completely original and it can be a safe way to go back to the roots of the familiar with any audience.

But the technology is certainly groundbreaking and takes motion pictures to a higher level, especially when compared with George Lucas' “Star Wars” prequel trilogy, a fake and airless production when compared with “Avatar,” Fugate said.

The film is making new waves in Hollywood, with its stereoscopic filmmaking using cameras made just for "Avatar."

“I really enjoyed the movie,” Fugate said. “I ended up being touched by it and felt that we might have the same intimate relation with the living systems of our own planet if we'd taken a different evolutionary path. I highly recommend it.”

Without giving too much of the story line away, the movie is a love story in its purest state.

Cameron seamlessly projected a message of strength throughout the movie. His female characters ran the show and displayed the faith and courage needed to overcome continuous obstacles.

To imagine a world under a canopy of an untouched ecosystem, where people are spiritually connected to the earth and its creatures while joining energy to unite in prayer to save lives, feels somewhat foreign in our world of texting and Facebook updates.

“Everything is backwards now, like out there is the true world and in here is the dream.” Jake Sully says in “Avatar” while on Pandora.

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