Glow-in-the-Dark Planet

I've often wondered if there's a limit to video technology. As you jam more and more pixels on a screen, do you reach a certain point beyond which it makes no difference to the viewer? As you increase the framerate, what good does it do if the human eye can't discern the effect of more hertz? Are we fast approaching the point at which video is as good as it gets? Or can video actually be better than real life? Is there such a thing as enhanced reality?

Avatar is the first movie I've seen that's better than reality. Part of it is due to the special effects, part is due to realistic 3-D, and part of it is the artistic vision involved in creating the world of Pandora. Pandora is, in a word, stunning, especially at night. So it's not surprising to me that something called "Post-Avatar Depression" exists. Clearly some sufferers are simply fanbois and fangirls who want to signal their attachment to the movie by accepting this diagnosis. But I do think there's something real about it for a few people.

I don't want to make this a full review, so I'll simply say that aside from the visuals, everything else--the characters, storyline, dialogue, cliches--was terrible. Despite that, it was an overall enjoyable experience.

One of the supposedly attractive aspects of Pandora is the harmony with which the natives interact with nature. They live in the forest, but do their best not to alter it. They only kill an animal if absolutely necessary and say a prayer when they do. Giant birds are their primary means of long-distance transport.

While I can understand the appeal of such a world, I wouldn't trade it for the current one in which we live. I'd be bored out of my mind. Sure, singing songs, hunting, flying atop giant birds, and lounging around would be fun for a while, but where's the intellectual stimulation? I'm of a particular personality that I suspect is quite common in the blogosphere. I need to learn new things all the time or else I get bored. No internet? You can keep your glow-in-the-dark trees.

Whenever I watch stories about man living in harmony with nature, harmony is implicity and intimately tied to stasis. People live now the same way their ancestors did. Is there such a thing as progress on Pandora?

On another note, living in giant trees seems to resonate with some part of our psyche. Before Pandora, there was the Ewok Village. And before that was the Green Sky trilogy by Zilpha Keatley Snyder. Some of you might remember the mid-80s computer game "Below the Root" that was based on that series of books.

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The giant "ribcage" made up

The giant "ribcage" made up of circular arches, whatever its explanation, looks a lot like the ruins of a civilization, presumably the ancestors of the na'vi. This suggests that Pandora could be the creation of an advanced civilization, which integrated its own technology into the biosphere itself. Death is conquered on Pandora not by a belief in an unprovable heaven, but by a literal, scientifically demonstrable afterlife inside the network, into which people are uploaded. It is the sort of thing that singularitarians look forward to, and the sort of thing we associate with tremendously advanced technology.

"Is there such a thing as

"Is there such a thing as progress on Pandora?"

Is there such a thing in our own world? Apart, you know, from an ideological construct of neoliberals?

Nah, quality (and

Nah, quality (and longetivity) of life is pretty much the same now as it has been for the past few millennium. Amirite?

Okay so a few of my friends

Okay so a few of my friends and I were really, really obsessed with black light effects when we were in high school. Between that and the fact that the lenses of my 3-d glasses were covered in greasy prints that I couldn't get off I wasn't especially impressed with the special effects.

The 3-d seemed to mostly consist of occasionally having a vine or the butt of a gun jump out into your face, and all the intellectual promise of the movie was ruined the moment they used the word "unobtainium."

Of course since we had just spent $25 dollars for two tickets I was willing to forgive that issue, only to discover in the end that I had apparently "killed my mother," (although last time I checked mother earth never had a massive neural net spanning the planet that we could all hook into so I really don't see how its a fair comparison even if we had "killed her").

Thus I was left with the same thought I had at the end of Avatar that I had at the end of phantom menace: "well the artistry was nice."

3D is unpleasant

Dittos on the greasy glasses. For me the movie would have been better in 2D. That, and the convention that 3D movies don't have to have decent plot or dialog. They should go back to disposable glasses that ar clean.

To date, the best 3D movie I have ever seen is "The Man Who Wasn't There." (i.e., it didn't suck)

Movie 3D still has a ways to go. While it's easy to emulate the binocular part of 3D vision, emulating the need to focus on different depths is orders of magnitude more difficult -- stereoopticon vs. hologram. The same goes for sound. Movies have stereo and a surround sound, but they don't have phased arrays yet.

You can't compare sound

You can't compare sound stereo to movie stereo. Sound stereo does much more than provide cues to both our ears. Even with one ear stereo would be "3d" because it would create rudimentary parralax. With 7.1 you already get awfully close to a sound hologram.

Holography is not just about focuse, it's also - and mostly - about paralax.

The Man Who Wasn't There? The Cohen Brother's movie? Not in 3d. A good, plot centric, 3d movie would be Wings of Courage, the first IMAX 3D movie.

My only experiences with 3D prior to Avatar....

...were Captain E-O at DisneyWorld and a super bowl halftime show in the mid-80s. Avatar's 3D was far superior to those experiences.

Just to be clear, avatar was

Just to be clear, avatar was supposed to be cutting edge 3-d, presumably the best ever used in a major motion picture, or perhaps any movie. It just didn't really matter because my 3-d glasses were foggy/greasy and that dramatically undermined the effect, and I couldn't watch it without them.

That being said I'm sure I could have taken the time to get up and complain and could have possibly seen part of the movie in clean glasses but I though I was seeing things fine until everyone else told me how great the 3-d was... then I was like... really?!

A Super-Natural Singularity?

Constant: there is also a non-singularitarian logic to the idea of super-tech that looks, in the most literal sense, super-natural. If a high-tech culture does not want to transcend into wholly unknowable e-entities - or at least wishes them all to grow out of something really human, or (say) Pandoran - then a very conservatively elegant solution would be to keep ramping up the levels of tech to satisfy its members' desires, and keep ramping up the levels of emulation of the environment for which the species evolved. It could well be that a real Earthly Paradise for humans would look and feel a lot like the Palaeolithic - with C-umpteen levels of productivity 'magically' invoked, stratospheric levels of health and other kinds of basic welfare, and death conquered by automatic uploading into the free-form VR of the 'spirit world'.

I suspect we may have evolved a bit more from the Palaeolithic than this scenario suggests, but nonetheless...

Suppose that such an existence - effectively, an embodied fantasy world more concretly functional than our own - proved so consummately attractive, that most of those who had yet to die lost all interest in the impenetrably abhuman Higher Magics under the hood? And that the uploaded 'spirits', in exploring the infinite virtual possibilities available to them, also lost interest in the boring Noddy training interface?

Might not such a civilization fall, at least from the perspective of the embodied, for sheer lack of maintenance or external focus? Might its physical basis become dangerously vulnerable to outside assault, after millennia of optimization to self-containment?

However dumb the overt story of Avatar may be, it sounds so spectacular and seems to have sparked so much interesting commentary amongst such a diverse audience, that I think I really have to see it.

I'll simply say that aside

I'll simply say that aside from the visuals, everything else--the characters, storyline, dialogue, cliches--was terrible. Despite that, it was an overall enjoyable experience.

Indeed. I gave the movie an 8/10. The scope, vision and grandeur lift the movie above and beyond the sum of its parts.

Is the movie political? Sure. Preachy? Yes. Pity that all these HW liberals seem to think the same. Nobody likes being preached to, and I think this is where a lot of the negative criticism comes from.