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|Index||15 reviews in total|
Despite all the bad comments, this movie is rather enjoyable. True, the
acting is not always at its best...but other than that it is a solid
classical cyberpunk movie that looks as a professional level job...not
the amateurish home-made thing that someone described!
It's not a world shaking work of art, but it accomplished the job of entertaining the viewer and is much better then some Hollywood-crap we see this days.
I rate it a 6 for the movie "value" ... a 7 because it shows a good technical work ... and a 8 because we should get more of this stuff, it deserves support.
Not bad, not bad at all. I gather this is Australian, at least in part,
and it seems of a piece with the generally good quality of Australian
films, at least those imported to the US compared with the US domestic
As my title suggests, it combines general plot elements of Domino, The Matrix, and the general concept of Blade Runner; it doesn't try to outdo any of them, but instead is a somewhat stripped down, sleek SF action film, more in the spirit of Domino than the somewhat ponderous senses of The Matrix and Blade Runner, which had to set up the cyberpunk world that this movie can now take for granted.
What's nice about it is a general lack of crap or cheesiness; actors are all good, including Joan Chen and William Sanderson, apparently a permanent fixture of the cyberpunk world since Blade Runner; dialogue is good; no cheesy effects, performances, dialogue, etc. I find this compares favorably with something like Freejack, which had the faint whiff of fromage floating about it, as well as Mad Max (the original) which was sort of obviously cartoonish.
In the grand scheme of things this film probably does not deserve a
7/10 - which places it with countless other "better than bad" films. A
movie like this is all about expectations going in. High expectations?
Not a great movie. Low expectations? Well, this movie is a pleasant
There just are not many solid cyberpunk inspired films these days. Classics like the original Matrix and Bladerunner are singular standouts. Movies like Hackers or Brainscan are more the norm. Certainly there are stinkers like Johnny Mnemonic that has too much in common with a bad episode of Earth Final Conflict (an already terrible TV show). Avatar reminds me of the made for TV movie Cypher, though it is not as good as this little known film.
Avatar is a movie made for the film buff who has seen FAR too many movies. The director clearly has a vision, it keeps a solid consistent pace, and despite what other reviews here state, there is a great deal of ideas and content to like. Perhaps this is an easy movie to hate on, but reviews here that state that "the story is bad," and "the acting is bad," don't give clear reasons to back up their claims. If there is a clear weakness, it would be the casting. I don't mind looking at Genevieve O'Reilly, and one may believe Dash's (yea, thats her name) intelligence, but not the street hardened marksman that the viewer is supposed to buy into. Standout performances would be Joan Chen as an surgically and chemically "enhanced" 90 year old woman, and Kay Siu Lim as Julius. Julius is completely believable as a master of the net, someone who has given up their humanity for a life in cyberspace. I also liked a couple of the other "game masters" in their limited, but clearly fun roles.
At its core, Avatar is a mystery movie with a cyberpunk backdrop. I feel it could have been improved with noir characteristics of seedier characters, dark relationships, and perhaps more of an antihero. Regardless, the viewer is introduced to a "head hunter" or modern detective who specializes in the apprehension of identity thieves. I have to admit the telling of the story is much better than the story itself. I enjoyed following the main character through her quest to first find an identity thief, then dig deeper into the real story when it becomes clear she is just another pawn in a much larger game. The story suffers from anticlimaxes - points at which the story needs more impact, but somehow the importance of these moments are missed.
And yet I still enjoyed the film as a whole. Its fun, has style, and though not in the same league as so many other big budget films - still has much to offer in ideas and concepts, which deserve attention.
This film was based on William Gibson's SF writing, but he isn't mentioned anywhere in the credits. A challenge to watch, because the dialogue is often muted. If the audio track had been recorded better it would be a better film. The story is not bad, and the ideas are intriguing, but alas, they came from somewhere else...sort of a youth oriented film for younger fans of SF. Maybe a film that would have been better done by a big studio. Better than most trashy Cyber-Punk movies set in the proverbial post apocalyptic garbage can, this future is clean and orderly. The female lead is not that bad, but the film resounds with so many ideas that came from William Gibson it is like watching a mini cornucopia of the SF writers work all rolled into one film, that is written by someone else.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Although this movie has a bit of a slow start, the plot develops quite
nicely into an interesting movie dealing with the idea of a controlling
class playing 'the game', the only activity that such a group has to do
once they have everything. This group of illuminated 'players' work in
competition to build the Utopian society in which everyone lives,
sometimes making sacrifices for the greater good; either theirs or
society. Of course, the controlled wish to be free, and they figured a
way to crash the system, thus bringing the powerful out of power and
leaving the non-players to be free in a world of chaos, after which a
new order will be found. The only problem is that of the rogue player,
one which does not desire status, or material wealth, but true power,
although one with imbalance is easily removed from the game (as seen
near the end).
An interesting take on game philosophy and the theory of modern revolution. The production was decent, acting improved as the show went on, and the story had few major holes (probably due to editing to keep the runtime down). Recommended for those that like cyberpunk with a touch of Bladerunner and a hint of the matrix, along with philosophy and illumination. Don't expect it to be perfect, but some of the ideas presented are worth watching.
OK first off, its not a great movie, the acting is pretty awful. But I
give a huge amount of credit for the people behind Cyber Wars taking on
the rare challenge of recreating a William Gibson post modern cyberpunk
genre film. Its rare that we see these ideas put on display and
although this movie is very low budget, what they do with the budget is
very detailed and imaginative in recreating a Gibson future. Similar in
ways to Johnny Mneumonic, it goes deeper really by far into Cyberpunk
reality. Its not near as well made a movie, but its a lot deeper and
more interesting than Johnny was. Fans of the Cyberpunk genre owe it to
themselves to check this one out.
Also under movie references, This movie takes a lot more from Neuromancer and other Gibson novels by far than The Matrix. But that movie took a lot from Gibson too. Like the term "Jacked In" and many many more terms that Gibson coined and people take for granted today like Cyberspace, Virtual Reality, Neural Interfacing, etc.
Even if its not what we would hope to see in every way, it will awaken so many of your greatest memories from first reading Neuromancer. This is a genre we very rarely see and even more rarely, see done covering so many of the cyberpunk monikers as this film covers quite well. Its actually very ambitious of a movie, and you can see it was made by true fans of the genre who really did their best to capture the post modern ambiance, and they mostly succeed! With better actors and better dialogue in parts this would have been really great! But its not awful by any means. Its not like pure junk you find on the Sci-Fi channel usually, or a dumbed down Gibson ripoff, which often leaves people to interpret this film as being pretensious or goofy in ways, but I guess a lot of people still find this genre a little too far fetched even though Gibson has proved himself to be the Prophet of the 20th century by having predicted and even heavily influenced so much of the technology we have now and where we're headed. Its too bad that more people still cant embrace the scope of the ideas of Gibson even today even within their fantasy's.
Perhaps we'd see a lot more films from this arena, So far The Matrix reigns the Champion, and even it was hard for many people to cope with. And the Wachowskis had a hell of a time convincing Hollywood to producers to go with it. Good for them for pushing it on through!
Until we can widen our minds to accept more range in our imaginations, then we will continue to see an over abundance of Hollywood remakes that stick to their recipes and safe margins for getting easy profits off the consumers dolling out easily recognizable franchises taken from Comic Books, Video Games, and occasionally good books that don't push the feeble minds of our world too far to think.
It was once remarked by B-movie producer Roger Corman, that Singapore
would make a great place for a science fiction movie (Corman had
co-produced Saint Jack, the only Hollywood movie to date filmed
entirely here). And it's true, as we do have a number of locales that
look futuristic enough for on location shoots, and more so if given the
special effects treatment to spruce things up. The opening shot of the
city skyline is something familiar, yet on the other hand, something
rather artificial about it - It's not Singapore, it's a fictional city
state called Sintawan.
Avatar probably and unwittingly set itself a high benchmark to meet right from the start, by having that text crawl (cliche) explaining the setting of the world upon which the story is based, talking about Simplants and the police - pitting itself against cult classic Blade Runner. Director Kuo Jian Hong (daughter of the late Kuo Pao Kun, this movie is dedicated in his memory) might have high hopes of Avatar emulating and meeting those standards, or to achieve an indie following, however the fundamentals of having a proper storyline was already flubbed.
It tried too hard to be intelligent, rather than sticking to the "keep it simple stupid" rule, especially if one is thinking of cramping plenty of tech-no-babble into less than two hours. Unlike The Matrix which seamlessly gelled simplified philosophy into its narrative, and more so as an afterthought rather than assaulting your senses while the story is being told. Speaking of The Matrix, there were also some reference to the giant network storage of persons' identities, a Cyberlink (probably an advanced form of the Net), as well as a subplot involving the police up against a group of rebels, amongst others. Avatar suffered from trying to explain too much in too little time, and will make you switch off when listening to "important" mumbo jumbo you don't' care about, regarding some teleportation technology and identity doppelganging using biological science early in the movie, before shifting gears into presenting some huge conspiracy theory about playing God in the Game (oooh).
Briefly, we follow the exploits of the best (Singapore, oops, Sintawan everything also must #1) bounty hunter in the business of Simplant capture - Dash MacKenzie (Genevieve O'Reilly), an ang moh, as locals don't have street cred to be leads in the movie. Actually, most of the local actors, prominent ones I must add, were relegated to playing supporting or cameo roles in this production, folks like Lim Kay Siu, Neo Swee Lin, Kumar, Gerald Chew, Richard Low and Kevin Murphy (from S11, didn't know he was that active in previous local productions, the other one being City Sharks, but bit role as well), The other main lead was an Asian actor Wang Luoyong (huh?) who played cop Victor Huang, in pursuit of Dash, and under circumstances beneficial to both, begin an uneasy partnership which blossomed into some hokey romance.
I think by now any self respecting (I say this in jest) local movie would somehow have a scene set in coffee-shops / hawker centers to get that seal of authenticity that it's made in Singapore. Diners should have no qualms that in Avatar's future, our favorite makan style of choice is still around, with shady covert dealings taking place right underneath hungry bellies. Other locations easily identified included the Expo MRT station (no more EZ-Link cards, your palm is scanned instead), inside MRT trains, Bugis Junction, the area around Empress Place, Little Guilin at Bukit Gombak and even Hotel 81 (yes!) which seemed to retain its perceived sleazy purpose in the movie.
The acting's all very stiff, probably from the cast's lack of belief in what they're actually doing, and the unbelievable lines they have to say. For a production of the time, it's probably still stuck in a mindset that it is better to engage B/C-graded caliber ang-moh actors than to choose jolly good ones from our local scene. Not that I'm against foreign talent, but in my opinion it's quite a pain to see them going through the motions here, spewing lines of dialog which are and sound so artificial, made worse by their accents.
Avatar looked like a million dollars, alas it felt like a cheap telemovie. The effects were decent though, but for scenes with extended CG or CG created backgrounds, it ended up a bit raw and looked unpolished. The costumes looked lush, especially Joan Chen's figure hugging and cleavage enhancing outfits. Some shots were done creatively, obviously so to cover up the lack of a bigger budget to get more gizmos mentioned, implied or are actually used in the film, like vehicles - you never actually see them zoom around the city.
So is Avatar worth watching? Yes, for that lesson on how not to make a science fiction film. One wonders if The Gene Generation will work out successfully, which also casted another Hollywood B-movie specialist Bai Ling in a lead role.
I watch a lot of movies, generally seven to ten a week. Few of them are
very good, even though I try my best to pick the diamonds from the
swill. I failed on this one, it's not only lame and derivative, but not
The heroine was drab and a bad fit for the part of a cyber warrior. She looked like a soccer mom acting in a neighborhood production. Bad casting there. I suppose they gave her the part because she was in the Matrix series, and Star Wars.
The storyline was lame, the special effects were the same ones you've seen over and over, the acting was mediocre at best. Nothing original or innovative in this film. It's hard to get into the plot and next to impossible to care what happens to the characters.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Jake Sully, the paraplegic poster-boy of the chair-bound X-box
generation, is selected to join the "Avatar Program". Given a "virtual
body", he "logs" into his avatar and "plugs" into the world of
"Pandora", a lush jungle moon inhabited by the "Na'vi", a race of blue
skinned eco-warriors who are busy defending their planet from invading
white men. The Na'vi, of course, are an amalgamation of every African,
Oriental and Amerindian "noble warrior" cliché, whilst the humans are
Colonialist conquistadors, akin to the British, Spanish and American
From here the film progresses along familiar lines. Jake joins the natives, initially looks silly for not fitting in, falls in love, wins everyone over with bravery and eventually urges the Na'vi to fight against their technocratic foes. In other words, if you've seen "Lawrence of Arabia", "Delgo", "Ferngully", "Geronimo", "A Man Called Horse", "The Mission", "Burn!", "Blue Soldier", "The New World", "Dances With Wolves", "Terra", "The Last Of The Mohicans", "Princess Mononoke", "The Last Samurai", "Emerald Forest", Disney's "Atlantis", "Pocahontas", "Nausicaa", "Warcraft/Starcraft" etc etc, you've already seen this story.
Only you haven't. This film cost a gazillion dollars and is filled with glossy CGI, animated landscapes (which resemble Disney cartoons rather than genuine alien planets), some poetic flying scenes (stolen from Miyazaki) and expensive, though dull, action sequences.
Beyond the technique, though, is some pretty archaic storytelling. Romantic primitivism to the extreme, the Na'vi conform to the rules of the "noble savage", technologically inept but mystical, pure at heart and deeply connected to nature. And of course they're forever reliant on the white man to inspire and lead them, thereby negating all Cameron's "white guilt". Worse still, these films always find the Western male symbolically inducting, via sex, from a position of authority, the foreign subject into the realm of Western norms. Condescendingly, the Na'vi are animals, debased, until the white man deems them "brothers" (ie a sexual option).
Regardless, the whole notion of "Na'vi" vs "Humans" (aka Rebels vs Empire) is hopelessly dated. The world of simple paleowars has long gone. We now live in a world of neowars, fronts no longer identifiable, battles fought in the peripheries by proxy parties, the objectives, motivations, enemies and territories forever blurred. The very nature of multinational capitalism, which the film hypocritically rallies against, renders today's conflicts murky and impenetrable.
But at their core, all Cameron's films are about the same thing: beautiful machines violently rebelling against their makers. This paradox sexy machines which seduce us into self-annihilation itself infects Cameron's work methods. Here is a director obsessed with machines, a man who spends his career warning us of the very robots he creates and relies on.
So the question Cameron's films ask (can technology have any emancipatory value?) might as well be asked for his art itself. Artists like Cameron have largely been responsible for the modern marriage between spectacle, capitalism and computer technology. Pop cinema and capitalism, both of which thrive on spectacle and a kind of techno-fetishism, are now so intertwined that all possibilities of resistance have long been repressed. So while capitalism works against any immediate and simple reification by decoding and deterritorializing endlessly to the point of making everything simultaneously "meaningless" and "amazing", cinema undergoes a similar transition. With this comes the replacement of critical perspective with schizophrenic layers of "perceived reality", and an aesthetic which is enslaved to "reduxing", "remastering" and "revision", all relating to a state of perpetual nostalgia. Even our internet personas (avatars, signatures, email addresses, alter egos) are strikingly postmodern.
Baudrillard predicted this 3 decades ago, anticipating the "disappearance of meaning" and "brutal disaffection" that would characterise the merger of western art/culture and techno-capitalism. Today, the cultural and subjective needs traditionally satisfied by Art and cinema are now satisfied, or anaesthetised, by other practises, the "counterfactual dreaming" of cinema giving way to a kind of dreamless desire (drugs, "youtube", internet avatars, TV, "ipods" etc), transforming us into self-excited circuits, from subjects into overstimulated projections. And while art has long been a "human prosthesis", humans are now becoming the "prosthetics" or "avatars" of art. We've been fully McLuhanized; art makes us and vice versa, new media turns every user into both performer and performance and traditional distinctions between spectator/spectacle, man/machine break completely down.
And of course, like "WALL-E", the machine dreams of reconnecting with nature. Of rebelling and "plugging" into some non-existent "new age" "natural mystic". Ironic: alienation curbed (or conned) by capitalism in the form of mega-budget CGI jungles.
What's most interesting about "Avatar", though, is the way it highlights how vampiric cinema has become, obsessed with consuming itself and re-creating a "more advanced", "more perfect", "remastered" version of whatever it created before. "You've seen it all before...but never this high definition!" Hug a tree, but "Ewww!", they look so much prettier on screen!
Hollywood seeks a perfect representation of a past image, and filmmakers are increasingly obsessed with achieving a kind of super-lush hyper-reality, the violence harder, the grass greener, the shadows darker, the rain wetter. Think the films "Antichrist" and "Avatar", both supposedly about nature (one the hostility, one the beauty), and yet both using computer augmented graphics to render "hyper real" jungles and forests. Technology wants to seduce us into thinking it "can give us more reality than nature can."
But it is technology in the service of necrophilia, millions of dollars spent on retro visuals, old ideas and narratives, hardware as a slave to past visions, desperately trying to rekindle a kind of comfortable nostalgia. As Baudrillard says: "cinema plagiarises itself, recopies itself, remakes its classics, retro-activates its original myths, remakes the silent film more perfectly than the original. It is fascinated by itself as a lost object (as much as it and we are fascinated by the real as a lost referent), obsessed with reanimating that which it liquidated, lost in the role of resurrecting ghosts."
6/10 - The resistance is dead.
There are basically 2 main problems in this film: the main character
and the plot. That said, the visuals are pretty decent, giving a good
atmosphere and credibility.
Now, the main character. Letting aside the fact that this "head-hunter" fits perfectly the archetypal mysterious lonesome harsh persona (Rick Deckard anyone?), the actress doesn't do such a decent job, lacking charisma. That, summed to her amateurish movements in action scenes and her toy-looking gun, makes the experience less enjoyable. Perhaps she was just cheap and didn't mind to show a bit of breast and legs.
For the plot, well, what can I say. Expect your typical cyberpunk stuff here, no surprises. That doesn't have to be a bad thing necessarily, although a bit of thinking wouldn't have hurt anybody.
The bottom line: you may like it enough if you are into Cyberpunk, since the FX's are quite OK. For the rest, this could easily be a long episode of a futuristic TV series.
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