Avatar Review, and stuff about science fiction

My friend Tony commented that not seeing Avatar in 3D was a waste of time, and I'm inclined to agree with him.  Unfortunately, a) 3D makes my brain tingle (seriously) and b) I feel like any movie that's dependent upon special effects to be good, really isn't.  And that was certainly the case with Avatar.

The movie was 162 minutes long, which was roughly 142 minutes longer than it really needed to be.  Twenty minutes of an adventure in the alien forest would have been enough.

I won't talk about the story, as that's been beaten to death since the movie was originally released.  No, what Avatar made me think about was science fiction in general, and our efforts to tell science fiction stories in visual mediums.

Basically, the odds of an alien race looking anything like us (as in humans) are really, really small.  The sheer number of evolutionary coincidences that would have to happen to create a humanoid race would be astronomical.  In other words, the little green men wouldn't really be men at all.

Of course, visual storytelling has been hampered by its tools.  Star Trek had face paint and limited prosthetics to work with, so the fact that every alien race they encountered had two legs, two arms, two eyes, two ears, a nose, and a mouth wasn't their fault.  They did the best they could with what they had.

I won't fault Avatar for this, either, even though it was, in theory, the first science fiction movie that could actually move away from this rather ridiculous trope.  From a storytelling standpoint, making your characters humanoid means the audience will be able to connect with them, at least better than they'd connect with, say, a shapeless cloud of energy.

Avatar does lose points for the rest of Pandora's residents.  Every single life form on that planet was an analogue for something on Earth.  You saw the alien creature and you knew it was a bird, or a cat, or a horse.  Each creature matched up with something familiar when, again, the odds of such a thing happening are infinitesimal.  Even the fact that the planet had plant life just like Earth is ridiculous.

And, again, Avatar, with all of its vaunted special effects, is the first movie to come along that truly could have acknowledged all of this.  It could make special effects look real and, in turn, made the unnatural comprehensible.  But it didn't.

No, I didn't see Avatar in 3D, but I think creators actually dropped the ball on this great new technology, which is unfortunate.