AVATAR, SCIENCE FICTION AND REALITY
The following is a ramble I entered on the World Pantheism Movement website in a discussion of the film Avatar which, I'm proud to say, I didn't run off to see:
This rambles, but at root, it's a critique of Avatar from many angles. When I was in the Navy in the 50s, I was in the Science Fiction Book of the Month Club so, at one time, I was a fan of that genre, and I got to know it fairly well. I still think Fahrenheit 451 is an excellent film. I found and bought a beat up tape in a library sale that I still own. And the film Gattaca far surpasses any of the Star Wars films. I like Gattaca for its cinematic artistry, its style and the staging and sets. Simple and beautiful and based in character. What always sets most science fiction apart from serious art is that science fiction is nearly always idea driven rather than character based. That's okay and I'll go see a science fiction film, but I'm hyper critical. Matrix is just one single idea stretched over three films. Good guy versus bad matrix. A waste of time and effort. One was enough. The recent Star Trek movie could only appeal to Trekkies. Lines repeated from the TV show to titillate the infant mind. Why do I say that? Think... at what age are children delighted to have the same phrase or fairy tale repeated again and again? It arises at a specific emotional and intellectual stage of development! I don't know how many times I winced when TV Captain Picard uttered the tiresome phrase, "Make it so!" Right out of WW II just like Lucas's air battles. Bradbury wrote a few good books in which character predominates. I admit that I no longer dabble in science fiction literature, and I've heard that in the literary arts some writers are working on some interesting concepts. I suppose it might benefit me to find and read a few good science fiction books.
Two recent films that use scientific research in fascinating ways are Momento and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and they are outstanding because character predominates over their scientific ideas. Here's an interesting detail. I think it was Antonio Damasio (The Feeling of What Happens) who wrote that someone in Hollywood called him at one time to ask if it would be possible to erase the memory of a bad love affair. Though Damasio didn't name names, I'd swear that someone involved in Eternal Sunshine must have been his caller.
Finally, I think Fellini's "8 1/2" is a fantasy neuro-scientific film that broke down the barriers between memory, hallucination, fantasy and dream life and reality about as well as anyone could. I may have been simple-minded when I first saw that film, but, let me tell you, it really challenged me, and I didn't understand it for the longest time. I didn't understand his technique or what he was about, but when it finally hit home that he was giving us a stream of consciousness presentation of life through the dreams, imagination, memory and life of a single individual without attempting to frame the shifts for us to understand, that taught me more than any Avatar could ever teach me about humanity's imaginative life or future.
I'll admit that taste is an opinion and everyone is truly an expert on his own tastes, so who am I to quibble? I only quibble because I'm afraid that the sort of films that entertain me might not be made anymore, and I don't like the thought of that one bit. Nor do I like special effects films like Avatar which aren't up to my standards but which will make films ever more expensive, and I'm not even entertained by them, no matter how much they cost nor what gimcrackery they employ.
O, I just thought of The Truman Show, another excellent film that opened my brain up anew. That far surpasses any recent science fiction yarn that I can think of made in the last decade, Avatar, I Robot or not.
This is an addition to my ramble on the Avatar thread. I also, at a very young age, was a fan of Asimov's Foundation novels. F A S C I N A T E D! I think I read them all in high school.