Saturday, July 17, 2010

Sorcerer's Apprentice

“Sorcerer’s Apprentice” really isn’t worth writing about. Honestly, folks are better off just watching the preview as the most ‘exciting’ bits of the movie are in there. As there are no surprises at all either in plot or character, nothing will be lost by missing out on the other 90 minutes of film. I didn’t expect much from this, nothing much at all. The visuals were nice enough, I suppose, but the movie was every bit the case of throwing money at the screen and hoping enough of it will stick. Bruckheimer movies all seem to suffer from a single, crippling ailment; that of overly complicated plots.

There are still a few things I would choose to do to streamline this movie and give it some kind of flow. As it stands now, it smashes into rocks, so to speak, seeming to be more a collection of details than something resembling a cohesive whole.

When one is given a history lesson as the start of a film, one knows that one is in store for some choppy storytelling. I would suggest that the first thing that happens is that the monologue at the beginning of the film simply be replaced with the ‘final’ battle between Merlin, Morgana and the others. The audience isn’t so stupid that they will be unable to figure out everyone’s place and character. As the old English professor’s addage goes, "show, don’t tell."

Next thing I would do is to totally chop off the next part of the film which depicts our hero, David at ten years of age. We don’t need this. Yes, it sets up his fixation on the Becky character but it takes up time we don’t need to spend. There is no training here, nothing is really lost. All this section of the film does is make us wait for the next bit. This time would be far better used for character development later on so that we might have a chance of caring about these people. Right now, we really don’t. And as all of the characters are clear archetypes, we don’t need to know WHY David might be a nerd. It’s enough that he is. We get it. Move along.

I could also make an argument here for removing the Becky character all together. Here’s the thing; the focus of the film should either be that of the apprentice learning from the master to overcome evil OR it should be the love story between Becky and David (reflected through that of Balthazar and what’s her name). As is often the case when the love story isn’t the focus of the story, this one feels tacked on and is barely explored. Again, it wastes screen time that could easily be devoted to something more interesting. Also, there is nothing here that Becky does that couldn’t be accomplished by David’s best friend and roommate. Since all she really accomplishes is to kick a satellite antenna out of the way, I can’t say her part is particularly deep. Cutting her out, I’m sure would be unpopular on the executive level as it would be seen as removing the interest for a part of the potential audience. Instead, since there is the feeling that a love story HAS to be a part of things, we get a watered down one thrown in with yet another un-fleshed out character. Cut her out. Don’t need her. Or make her and David’s relationship the center of the story and rewrite.

David’s progress seems amazingly fast, especially considering the size of the book he’s supposed to learn from. All the while, we’re told that there is going to be a moment when he gets over himself, gets some confidence and learns to cast magic without the use of a ring. Ok. So, telling us this over and over only makes that moment, when it comes, less exciting. All that time wasted on the tacked on love story could instead have been used to show David’s training, making it seem like something he actually had to work at instead of what appeared to be a minor annoyance in the way of him getting a date.

Magic is tough stuff to deal with in movies. For the audience to feel any kind of conflict is actually present, it should have some kind of internal logic, should have some kind of cost and most of all, should not look as if anyone who can wield it should be running foreign countries. There is nothing subtle about magical spells in this movie at all, with the one exception of David and Balthazar disguised as cops at the end of the situation in Chinatown. Calm it down, way down. Make it hard to do. Make BIG things even harder to do. Let us know that there’s a cost of some kind. Show us why these people aren’t running things or sitting on mounds of stolen treasure or puppet-stringing presidents and kings.

There is NO motivation for Morgana at all. She’s going to escape and destroy the world. Why? What does she get out of it? All we know is that she’s “EVIL,” and I suppose she is. It’s hard to be afraid of her, or really worry about her at all when the space she occupies is about as large as that of a chess piece. Is she crazy? Does destroying the world do something for her? Is she appeasing a demon? Does she get power? Is she Queen of all that is Evil? No idea. As such, we don’t care and never worry that she will actually succeed. Again, some of the time wasted on the love story could have been used to define her. I think there should be a balance between a protagonist and its opposite, that characters with equal definition will make for a better conflict. Even if the screen time isn’t strictly equal, something a lot more close than exists here would help a great deal.

That’s probably more than this movie deserves. I saw it last night, it was still fresh in my mind and I haven’t posted in awhile. It seems to me that more time and effort spent on story would also equate to less money wasted on trying to patch together a lousy story and would also likely equal more profits in the end. I’m speaking from the outside here, but am I wrong?

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Prince of Persia

Another month. Well, well, well. Thing is, there haven’t been any films I’ve seen that either needed much fixing or could really be helped by any. “How to Train Your Dragon” was a real treat and was the last memorable film I saw. We’re now officially in the summer movie season so the big bucks are starting to be flung at the screen. First in line is “Prince of Persia.” I’m not sure how much there is to save here. It’s a movie based on a video game, a practice which, in and of itself, is a lukewarm idea at best. Oh, sure, millions played the game but playing a game and watching a movie is not the same thing and the translation often shows how shallow the original source material is. Games are, by their very nature, more captivating as their audience, by participating at all, is made to feel that their actions directly affect the outcome of the story. This isn’t really true of course, but because of that interaction, games can get away with thinner story than movies which only require us to sit and watch. A really good movie will also engage, start the imagination going and allow us to immerse ourselves in its tableau and even forget we’re sitting in a dark room with lots of other people doing exactly the same thing. Pity so few films seem to be able to do that these days.

So “Prince of Persia.”

Problem: The movie’s crux, the magical doohickey, the Maguffin is too damned complicated, and unnecessarily so. Sands of time can either do everything or nothing and we’re not really sure which. “Don’t do this,” or “If this happens,” and of course, “But only I can stick the blade in the stone which will save the world...” Blah blah blah. Taking a simple idea and watering it down with complexities disengages the audience, brings about disbelief and really is not necessary.

Solution: The dagger should only be able to do one thing; reverse time in short bursts. There should be no grand story about gods, destruction of the earth, great sandstorms that might come again and all that unnecessary crap. The dagger and sands should be two separate components of one idea; Two ‘chosen’ people unite to undo some of the world’s wrongs. One, a brother, wields the dagger with which he can right some of those wrongs. The sister is the one capable of creating the sands that the dagger uses. These abilities are passed down through the ages, taught mother to daughter, etc. This simplifies a hell of a lot and helps the conflict between Prince Dastan and Princess what’s her name; they will HAVE to work together to overcome evil, using the dagger, just as has been foretold, etc. Dastan’s killing of the brother in the opening of the film will make the coming together of the two more difficult and stronger once it happens. The movie can be more about Dastan trying to prove himself to her and to himself and less about all this mystical mucking about.

Problem: There is opportunity for closure in the film and that potential is unfulfilled. The King tells Dastan a story of why he was chosen from the streets when he was a boy, that the King saw what was a ‘good’ boy who had potential to be a ‘great’ man, and that by not stopping the attack on the holy city, he failed in that. It’s a well placed bit of foreshadowing (for a simple hero story) and it’s left only half finished in the end for a supposedly better, love-filled ending.

Solution: The solution is simply to have Dastan go back in time and convince his brother that the city should not be attacked before it happens, to stand up to both older brothers and the evil uncle the way his father said he should have in the first place. Perhaps a combination of the scene where Dastan stabs himself with the dagger, and that where he’s screaming to be heard on the steps of the conquered city could be done in the tents before the battle. There would be nice visual contrast of his facing this darkest hour before the dawn, literally as the army poised for battle could actually march forward as friends in daylight. Here, the movie would have a more bittersweet and stronger ending as Dastan would see the woman he loved and know that she would never be his as the circumstances for her to come to know him would never happen (at least not in this film). A tragic hero is a stronger hero than one who gets everything in the end, and a more memorable one. This also leads to the next issue.

Problem: The movie, which obviously wants to be the beginning of a franchise (not likely) does not end in such a way as to suggest that a continuation would be either needed or wanted. We see the hero get the girl, the evil in the royal family has been purged. I’m betting most filmgoers walked away from this thinking the story was over, the end, what’s next on the marquee? The same could be said for some other successful franchises (“Star Wars,” for example) but why not leave the audience wanting more? Isn’t that the best way to get them to come back?

Solution: Connected to the change in plot above, Dastan does not get the girl, misses out on love (at least for now) and is still third in line for the throne. And there is still the enemy of the empire on the horizon (pretty much forgotten about in the movie). In other words, things are not all tied up neatly at the end. There is tragedy in Dastan’s life, a scar that we, the audience knows is the first stone of a road he has started to travel. This part of the story would have an ending but we’d also expect there to be more.

Problem: There’s just too much going on that gets in the way of the main story. Even without the complications of the dagger and the sands, there’s the whole subplot mess with Alfred Molina and his anti-tax stance (is that meant as some kind of political message?). The knife-thrower character is obviously just there to be thrown away later and is only given a flicker of respect. The whole cast of characters lack motivation, are wishy washy and are obviously just filler.

Solution: Remove importance of the Molina character and replace it with the knife-thrower. Have Dastan save his life thus transferring the life-debt from Molina to Dastan. Or, perhaps, make the whole incident with the ostrich camp go away. It’s not essential to the plot. It’s the Mos Eisley scene but goes on too long and comes back to haunt us. Molina is meant to be funny, but we don’t need funny and he’s not that comical (good actor, bad role). It’s nice that the knife-thrower sacrifices himself for the ‘greater good’ later on, but we know it’s going to happen, we know when and we know how. There are no surprises. Filler is understandable, yet it can still be better thought out and can be used to support the story as opposed to just slow it down.

Problem: The Hassansins are ultimately just silly.

Solution: If a character is meant to be above and beyond, let them be above and beyond and do not water them down. The Hassansins are shown to be spooky, ridiculously skilled and even possibly magical. Yet when they catch up to the whole crew in the mountain village, even the riff raff Molina is traveling with manages to kill some of them off. We no longer take them seriously or expect them to be any real obstacle. Have fewer of these Hassansins, or even make it just the one. Since there is no reason, with the plot adjustments above, to even have the scene in the village, simply have the Hassansin dog the tracks of the hero all the way through. Perhaps near the end of the film, it can be he who kills the princess, making him both more evil seeming as well as more competent. It would also reinforce the need of Dastan to reverse the whole series of events as well as deepen his regret when he realizes they will never be together.

Problem: British Accents, white actors.

Solution: With the amount of money being spent on a film like this, there is no chance that the leading role would go to anyone but a big name Hollywood star. While I think the audience would accept an Arabic actor if the story were that well done and compelling, Hollywood would never trust us to spend our money on an unknown. So be it. But. Why is it, why oh why is it that every foreign nation depicted in an American film has to have an accent from the UK? If the actors have to be voice coached, why not use the accent that’s actually geographically correct? This is not only insulting to the moviegoing public but to the cultures that are depicted. Easy solution; use the proper accents. Even better, hire actors from the proper countries as well.

Problem: American directors cannot film action scenes. Every fight is heavily planned and rehearsed and yet when it comes time to film these scenes, a camera is seemingly strapped to a vulture and the corresponding footage is sewn together with yarn. The camera jerks around so much, we have no idea who’s hitting who, where we are or what’s going on. There’s no sense of place at all. It’s a constant problem in American action films.

Solution: Either watch some Hong Kong action films and see how striking action should be captured or just hire cinematographers from Hong Kong to shoot these scenes. I use Hong Kong as an example as I have seen quite a few of the action films from there and rarely do I have trouble telling who is who, where they are, or what just happened. The camera moves far less and the sense of place is always clear. There are exceptions in American cinema but it seems the big budget action movies tend to suffer from this far too much. Even a simple fist fight looks like it was shot by a one legged roller skater. Enough!

Likely that even with major changes like those above, there would need to be a lot of ‘sanding’ done to make this movie flow smoothly, and there is good reason to question whether or not it’s worth doing. Thing is, as is often the case, this could be done at the writing stage and as such not be all that expensive to do or difficult. It costs just as much to film a well thought, tightly written plot as it does a sloppy one.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Star Wars

Ok. It’s only been a month and a half since the first entry here at the Movie Wrench. I’ve had a lot of other things to do. As promised, though, I plan to tackle the whole monster that is Star Wars. Before I go too far, I do want it known that I really only like the original film, now numbered IV and called, “A New Hope.” When I saw it in 1978 (I waited a long time), there was no ‘Episode IV’ or any of that at the beginning. Having recently seen the original version on DVD, I was glad to see that I had remembered correctly. I only like the original film because for me it’s the only one that’s actually -fun-. “Empire” gets dark, Luke gets whiney, Han loses a good chunk of his rascality. Yes, we get Yoda and Darth is even nastier but it’s also the beginning of things getting muddled, clarity and emotion getting lost. This is going to be a tough one and I’m going to have to leave out a lot of little things because this is six films and not one. And, to be fair, since not even the original “Star Wars” was fully conceived before it was shot (check out, “The Making of Star Wars” for proof and a fascinating read), I can’t really, totally blame Lucas for making a mess of some of the storytelling. He had to patch things together that he hadn’t foreseen because no one, NO ONE had any idea how huge the franchise would end up being. So, it’s easy for me to look back and nitpick. I admit it. I’m going to do it anyway.

Problem: The movies, as a whole, lack focus. We’re supposed to put our care too firmly on characters that come and go, who are inappropriately changed and, in some cases, barely fleshed out. The real center of the whole story only shows up in the last film (III or VI depending on how you look at it) and by then, it’s too late. The overall arc is fractured.

Solution: Annakin is the center of the whole thing. He should have been from the start but again, Lucas had no idea of his own, huge story. All six films should have been about Annakin’s rise, fall and redemption. There are many things that muddle his story, not least of which are things like the Pod Race and *ack* midichlorians. Star Wars is at its utter best when it just flies by the seat of its pants and explains nothing. When the original film came out, no one knew what a Wookie was, where these planets were, what the Clone Wars were and we didn’t care. We, as an audience, grabbed on and let ourselves be pulled along.

Back to the point. Annakin should be the center. His is not only the story we should be seeing but the focal point on which everything else tips. True, Luke is the eventual savior of his father, but it’s Annakin’s actions that bring about the change in the cycle of the Jedi. Annakin should be the one with clear vision, indeed the ‘chosen one’ that first realizes that the Jedi’s power is waning, that they have deluded themselves into thinking themselves infallible and ignoring the bits and pieces of what’s going on in favor of the ‘greater whole.’ There is some mention of this in the earlier films (I-III) where Mace and Yoda discuss the idea that their sight seems clouded and limited. But it’s only done in passing. More on this later.

Problem: Annakin’s motivation is so messed up, it’s impossible to see his decisions guiding him down the path he follows and all of it making sense. The fact that he leaves his mother alone, as a slave on his home planet seemingly for ten years or more makes us confused as to why he suddenly remembers her in the final movie. His ‘love’ for Padme is so awkward and weird, we can’t even tell if he loves her or is angry with her half the time. We also can’t understand why it becomes so easy for him to turn on the one person that’s been at his side all his adult life. Yes, the ‘seduction of the Dark Side’ and all that, but really, the seduction to do what? There is no real villain for Annakin to fight such that he would need to fall so far. Well, there IS, but it’s utterly unclear.

Solution: Solutions, in this case. First; remove the ‘immaculate birth’ and the midichlorians. Utterly unnecessary. Then, remove the whole slave aspect of things. They hardly seem slaves anyway, more just poor people. The idea that Jedi would take a child from his mother and leave her behind as an actual slave doesn’t portray the Jedi as who they’re supposed to be anyway. Better to have parents who are somewhat distant, perhaps, who don’t understand their son. All of the set dressing of Tatooine is just getting in the way of the set up of Annakin as a fully fleshed character. The pod race wastes a LOT of time. Annakin shouldn’t be proving himself yet or if he does, not in such a way that seems frivolous or silly. His piloting the ship in the final battle in ep. I seems goofy at best. Better to show him as a quiet child who has insights that his new masters miss, evidence that there is vision in him that the Jedi are lacking. This will lead into the crux, his rise and fall later on.

Problem: There is no villain for Annakin to fight, only the Emperor waiting in the wings, pulling strings. Since we see the story out of order, we know the outcome so the motivation and machination -have- to be better thought out. The ‘why’ has to be as interesting as the outcome since there can be no real surprise.

Solution: The ‘villain’ should be the Jedi. My idea is that the Jedi wax and wane or run in epicly long cycles. When Annakin comes along, they have long had peace, have long sat on their laurels. Their greatest time has passed and the Jedi we see are not the Jedi of legend, or, rather, there are very few of their kind left. They are blind, they sit on high seats and can’t see the street levels from their towers. From what little they can see, the people are safe, the greater good is being served. There are a few missions here and there, instances where they might flex their muscles and show off for being Jedi. At the point of time in which Annakin is born, -real- Jedi are nearly all gone. Qui-Gon Jinn is one of the few remaining and has the wisdom to know that something is wrong, even if he doesn’t know what it is. Flashes of insight from young Annakin, moments of that lost Jedi wisdom would work well with what little of his motivation we do see in ep. I.

As the films progress and Annakin’s training commences, he will learn to see wider and farther and it will be his growing dissatisfaction with what the Jedi are doing about the real problems of the real people of the Republic that will frustrate him and give Palpatine the niche in which to insert his claws. The seduction will be that, with greater power, not the failing ones of the Jedi, Annakin might do more good, might bring back the greatness of both the Jedi but the Republic. The wars that are erupting, and which are generally being used to distract the Jedi from the real problem are something Annakin could want to end, with real power, as a real wielder of The Force. Palpatine, knowing Annakin for what he is and represents, his clarity of vision and power with The Force would want nothing more than to corrupt the tool that would allow the Jedi to rise again. Also, the need to do good, to correct a very corrupt and broken system that is the Republic and knowing that it would take more than just one man to do so would be a lot better conflict and motivation than what was given in the films. Being able to see the bigger picture and to know that the Jedi are part of the problem, that he alone understands makes for a more understandably frustrating confict and makes it easier to understand why he would look for something, anything to help him in his task. It also underlies the real power of the Dark Side and makes Palpatine seem far more interesting and insidious than an old man with lightning bolts. This conflict would make Annakin more heroic so that when he does fall, it’s something the audience feels as opposed to sees.

Problem: The connection between Annakin and Luke is shaky at best. We know Luke cares, but there’s no real reason why. “He’s my father,” is all well and good, but is fairly thin a motivation. We know it because Luke says so, but there’s nothing other than that when it comes down to it. It’s all very noble and all rather hollow. And there’s something nearly totally built into the movies that remains untapped that would work better than what was depicted.

Solution: There is a pivotal, crucial scene in ep. IV, something that’s been ringing in my head since I first saw the movie. The moment when Obi Wan hands the light sabre to Luke is the most, or -could be- the most important scene in the whole story. Luke is not the chosen one. He is the first step for the Jedi -if- they rise again and start to regain the position they once held, restart the cycle, etc. Annakin sees what’s happening to him, that he’s been corrupted, that the job he thought he was doing by reaching into the dark side of The Force has made it impossible for him to do what needs to be done. It’s his last flash of clear insight, to realize what has been done to him and who is behind it. He’s falling down a hole and only at the end does he look up and realize it. And because he’s got insight, vision, he realizes that there’s only one way to correct this. He no longer has the strength and purity to put himself on the path. Killing himself would end all hope. The taint on his soul has thrust him from his position. The Dark Side has its grip on his heart forever unless something changes, Annakin will be its tool and a tool of Palpatine. So, somehow, as the last act he can commit in the name of the Light, he gives his light sabre to Obi Wan and begs him to give it to his son. Luke, he sees, is the path to his redemption, the only way he can get out from under the Emperor and the Dark Side, the only way to destroy his own master. If this act pays off, it will release the hold Palpatine has on the Republic and, hopefully himself. To me, giving up the light sabre to Obi Wan to hold for his son was an act of desperation and hope. THAT is the new hope.

Luke, in receiving the weapon from his father, might also be receiving the spark that ignites his acceptance of The Force as well as a fraction of the sight and vision necessary to chose and understand the path that’s been offered to him. In dreams, perhaps, or far away visions, he feels the torment of his father calling out to him. Driven by that, he then follows that same path but in a much clearer sense than he does now. Other scenes have more weight; when Luke fights ‘himself’ at the tree on Dagobah, how more horrifying is it to see him face his father and by using a weapon directly against him, realize that he is the villain? Luke’s is a more personal trial; to save his father’s soul. There are hints of this in the movie, “There is good in him; I feel it,” but no evidence to this effect, just the payoff at the end. Far better for us as the audience to see this goodness, to know where it comes from and what it is than to just allude to it and assume it’s there.

Problem: Luke becomes a very annoying character very quickly in the second film. Instead of being a hero of any depth, he becomes shallow, narrow minded and fails at almost everything he attempts.

Solution: Use the motivation above to instill a driving need for him to succeed and really, don’t make him so stupid, so blind, so unwilling to try and do things. Instead, it should be Yoda whose eyes are slowly opened at last, bit by bit by the wisdom instilled by Annakin through his son. Obi Wan, too has some of the wisdom of his teacher though not enough of it was passed on before Qui-Gon died. Qui-Gon was wise enough to sense the potential in Annakin but not wise enough to be the ‘chosen one.’ His position is still important, just to right of center. Yoda was once, perhaps, the chosen one himself. And perhaps if he was, training Luke can be his redemption, a last achievement before he just rolls over and dies in the last movie. Knowing that he had put things right, that now, at the final moment he can see what was clouded from him or so long would make a more powerful scene and ending for his character. It would also be a reflection for Annakin’s story arc, and that of all six movies as well.

This has been a long entry so far, and there are a lot of smaller points to fix. For example, remove Jar Jar. That one is an easy call. Make the Clone Wars more interesting, perhaps by having the Jedi trying to clone themselves, or even having already done so in an attempt to broaden their power and, supposedly, to keep more of the Republic in balance when instead, it’s the start of their downfall, a muddying of their power. (When there was only one movie, there was speculation that Obi Wan was in fact a clone and that his name was really OB-1. I find this has even more possibilities than his just being Annakin's default teacher and friend.) I could go on and on but I think the major point is here, that a stronger, narrower, more tightly focused central story arc was necessary in the Star Wars films, that motivation was something that was roughly thought out at best and that Annakin should have been the center of the whole deal. Discuss away.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010


The first film up at the Movie Wrench is "Avatar." I don't think there has been a film more talked about in recent years than this one. It seems to be one of those love/hate situations which makes for lots of commentary back and forth. For my part, the movie made me angry. Why? While the visuals were indeed stunning, even revolutionary, the story felt poorly constructed, lacked depth and was riddled with cliches. It felt to me as if the script were a flimsy network made to hang the visuals on, which is a shame as I think both could have been well made without detriment to the other.

The main reason I did not like "Avatar: was the ending. It made me so angry I nearly walked out of the theatre. The entire film, the whole race of Na'vi, the struggle, the time, money and effort all came down to a fist fight. It proved that we as an audience and the peoples of the film have learned nothing since cave man times since violence, one on one violence was the only answer given to this problem of conquest and lack of morality.

There were other elements, though that I would also have changed as they made little sense, or seemed to lack depth.

Problem: Jake Sully's past. Quite honestly, I saw no reason to make Jake a paraplegic. Using this as his motivation to accept the job that was his brother's was obvious and also denigrated those who live with this condition. It also raises questions about the technology present in the movie; they can build genetic, empty, living beings while mixing DNA of both humans and an entirely alien race, but they are unable to repair nerve damage? They can transplant consciousness from one being to another, but wheel chairs still exist? This makes no sense and doesn't bear much scrutiny.

Solution: Change Jake's past utterly. Remove the subplot of his brother as it does not add anything to character or story. Remove his 'accident,' as it, too only distracts from the story and, in my opinion, lessens Jake's redemption at the end of the movie. Instead, make his immersion in the Na'Vi world something that starts to invade his dreams. Let him start seeing the world as Cameron expects us to see it; as something enticing, something we all wish we could be a part of. Have the experience of being in the Avatar be something like a drug, or, as a more obvious metaphor, like playing an online role playing game. As he falls more and more to his addiction, we see gradual understanding replace the simple, drug-like effects of being given the chance to be greater than he is with the feeling of belonging, the realization that what the Na'vi wish to do with their own world is right. Have him really see his own people, his own actions from the outside. Don't make his transition easy. We never get the real impression that Jake is anything like his bellowing commander. We see from the beginning, because of the subplot of his dead brother, that Jake yearns to belong somewhere, to something. We're not surprised that he chooses the Na'vi. There's no real reason for Jake to want to stay with humans or the military. We never expect him to. As such, there is no conflict between Jake and his former life. It's simply set up to be thrown away. Make Jake a stronger, more self-assured character from the beginning and there is not only more conflict but his eventual turning away from his heritage would be a more impressive element.

Problem:The Na'Vi should have a great deal to offer and yet they are portrayed as merely 'lucky natives.' What I mean by this is that with all their culture, the real, physical inclusion they share with the animal and plant life around them, there's really no reason at all they should win any given conflict. The humans and their tech will stampede all over them. We are given glimpses of a world that seems to utterly work together. Everything is indeed one. So why is it that the only solution to war is to fight back with the same old weapons, fists, knives of any other culture? Also, why is it that we have to see yet another example of, "The native peoples were lost but for the help of one.. white... man?"

Solution: Take Pandora one step further, a step I was expecting while watching the film. If there are indeed areas of concentrated life energy, and if each tribe guards one of these mounds, and if the Na'Vi are literally plugged into the other life forms of this world, why not have the world woken by this so-called savior and have it and its people fight back merely by mentally repelling the invading troops? We already know that the "unobtanium" wreaks havoc with the humans' instrumentation. What if the entire planet were emitting this field at once? What if the spirits of all those beings were calling out to the humans at the same time? Could not the Na'Vi then stand proud, showing that their one-world/one-people culture really was better than that of the "greedy, evil" humans? As it is, the Na'Vi just fight back with no unity, no real help from their world other than the fliers that are "slaved" to Na'VI riders. Jake's taking of the great, flying reptile is meant to be a sign that unity is needed, that the entire world must come together, work together. Why does that have to mean a battle? Besides which, if this "unobtanium" is truly that rare and valuable, all that really needs to happen is for the humans to send more military to the planet and this "victory" is easily overturned. As force was used to battle force, there's nothing to say that another general's tactics wouldn't work against the Na'Vi. Better to have a solution that seems more final, one that does not allow so easy a turnaround. Have the planet work as a single being in dire times. Have its elements, Na'Vi, animals, plants work as one great life form when times dictate. This, to me not only seems more elegant but would be more likely to drop jaws at the end of the movie than what turned out to be nothing more than a CG-aided bar brawl.

Problem: Unobtanium. The name is poorly thought out as it forces the audience to stop and pay attention not to a story element but a word that seems to be a joke. Also, we have no idea what it is, what it's for, why it's so valuable. Even the other characters in the movie don't seem to know much about it, other than the business manager. At best, we can guess that it's somehow a unique source of natural anti-gravity. Doesn't this mean that the source of this stone should in fact be in the floating mountains and NOT beneath the big tree that the Na'Vi live in?

Solution: Change the name. Change its properties or move the Na'Vi to the floating mountains. There is too much conflicting information about this mineral. It confuses the audience and also cannot stand much scrutiny. Perhaps the mineral, besides its anti-gravitational properties is also what forms a sort of planet-wide circuitry, the very substance that allows the world's parts to communicate and come together. Since there is no reason for the Na'Vi to even know this element exists, there's no reason, other than their proximity to it to care whether it's taken away or not. Could it not have worked out that the earth beneath their settlements was mined, by them for the stone? Again, it's properties in "Avatar" make no sense while it could be an important element to the story. What if it also existed in the Na'Vi itself, the same way iron exists in human blood? Could this also have made the wrongness of the human's actions more vibrant?

These are the major issues I have with the film. I think the writing was stilted in places, especially in the beginning where it felt like we were just being told all the background parts, and rather jerkily, as they couldn't be introduced more smoothly into the story. Sigourney Weaver's character seemed to be there merely to relate information to the audience.

That's all I have for this post. Next up: Star Wars 1-3

What's it all about?

What this blog is all about:

I see movies. Not as many as I used to mostly because there seem to be fewer and fewer that are well made, engaging or without serious flaw. I used to go to the theatre once a week. Now it's more like once a month or less. So many times I've watched a film and winced as some plot hole or mechanism has made itself known and jarred me loose from being immersed in the story. Since I believe that's the whole point of storytelling in general, captivating an audience for a certain period of time so that you can get your point across, these lapses in storytelling skill really bother me.

So I started this blog to offer up what I see as 'fixes' for movies I've seen. Likely, I couldn't do any better than anyone in Hollywood. On the other hand, I may have a point. These are my opinions only and are done for my own amusement and, in some cases, to exorcise film-demons from my head. I think it likely also a good exercise as I wish to be a storyteller myself.

Comments are totally welcome, but I reserve the right to remove those that are not constructive to the point of being insulting or mere trolling. This is meant to be a creative exercise. I do not intend to 'bash,' but to offer my own solutions to what I see as problems in a given film. Some might argue with my definition of or identification of any given 'problem' in any given film. So be it. Art of all types engenders strong convictions.

Regardless of whether or not people agree with me, thanks for reading the blog.