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Head Production Designer
JOSEPH CROSS, BRIANA EVIGAN,
Special Effects Make-Up
A SIERRA NEVADA
(MICHAEL MADSEN & JOHN SAVAGE).
The word Unobtanium (please tell me you get it) is an old joke scifi staple used in SF satire and comedy. To find it actually being used in what is supposed to be a serious SF movie fraught with political metaphor and social commentary only serves to further demean any attempt at intellectual or moral depth. But that's not the only problem AVATAR has.
For those who don't know, James Cameron has made his mark in making hard-core science fiction movies. In THE TERMINATOR movies, time travel is a theory, possibly unlikely, but it isn't fantasy masquerading as science: Everything else made sense.
In ALIENS, Cameron expanded on the hard-core science fiction of ALIEN and ran with it. This gave a logic and sense of realism to a futuristic movie. That feeling of place and unforgiving reality allowed audiences to seamlessly plug in to what was happening on another planet, because there remained an order to everything despite the unknown.
In the 1980s and early 1990s, James Cameron was largely all about getting the science right in his movies. In return, audiences rewarded him by making his films not only theatrical hits, but giving his movies long legs in the home video market.
In between ALIENS and TERMINATOR 2, however, Cameron allowed his focus to blur. 1989's THE ABYSS, like AVATAR, was Cameron's Special Effects preachy moral tale and, like all preachy moral tales coming out of Hollywood, it was dumbed down and infantile (possibly so a studio boss could understand it). One mind-bogglingly moronic thing after the next happens and it is amazing that the crew of the undersea lab didn't die from their own incompetence above and beyond the call of idiocy.
In fact, there is even a moment where they intentionally try to kill themselves right AFTER they've been rescued.
In the final scene, the crew, without going through hours of decompression (which the movie repeatedly took pains to explain was vitally, life or death, important! It's why the Bad Guy goes Bad!), blithely walk out of their undersea lab, now at sea level.
Mere seconds after they step out, the character of Lindsey Brigman (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio), let's the audience know that even THEY realize just how suicidally stupid they are, when she says:
"We should be dead. We didn't decompress."
One of her crew should have hollered out, "Yeah, well no shit, ya stupid cow!"
So how does it hold up in the science department?
How does it hold up to his past triumphs?
Well, have you watched ALIENS lately?
I watched ALIENS today.
Co-wrote (with David Giler and Walter Hill) and directed by James Cameron, ALIENS still holds up as a futuristic tale both in story and appearance. The Sulaco deep space craft looks like a futuristic craft would appear, as does the drop ship.
Military in appearance, yes, but neither look like craft that already exist today, or merely the next model of an existing craft. Released over 20 years ago in 1986, the only thing in the movie moving into obsolescence, right now, would be the curved screen, standard definition monitors they use. Built into the hull or bulkheads, however, we don't know that they are not flat monitors.
This article copyright 2009 - 2010 by E.C.McMullen Jr.
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