Will Avatar Be This Generation's Star Wars?

By Sheril Kirshenbaum | December 17, 2009 11:24 am

A few days ago I changed my facebook photo to feature Neytiri, a central character from James Cameron’s much anticipated new film Avatar. Displaying an ‘avatar‘ as my avatar seemed funny, but to my surprise, several ‘friends’ emailed puzzled over the switch. And while a simple facebook pic requires no explanation, it’s good reason to bring up the movie, which looks visuallyPicture 4 spectacular with an intriguing story to boot. Over at The New Yorker:

James Cameron’s “Avatar” is the most beautiful film I’ve seen in years. Amid the hoopla over the new power of 3-D as a narrative form, and the excitement about the complicated mix of digital animation and live action that made the movie possible, no one should ignore how lovely “Avatar” looks, how luscious yet freewheeling, bounteous yet strange. As Cameron surges through the picture plane, brushing past tree branches, coursing alongside foaming-mouthed creatures, we may be overcome by an uncanny sense of emerging, becoming, transcending—a sustained mood of elation produced by vaulting into space.

I’m very much looking forward to the premiere and extremely curious to see how Cameron and his team imagined this other world called ‘Pandora’ and its Na’vi inhabitants. What can I say… the science geek in me just loves the possibilities! There’s already a community blog and lots of enticing reviews around the interwebs.

While I don’t catch many films this days, you bet I’ll be buying tickets for Avatar in 3D. Who’s with me?

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Culture, Media and Science

Comments (20)

  1. Clark

    I’ll be going to see this movie, but “This Generation’s Star Wars” I think not. I love James Cameron, I grew up watching his movies, and I am excited to so Avatar. I think the hoopla about this revolution in 3-d is a bit too much as well, how does it enhance the story? What does 3-d do that wasn’t being achieved before? Its not a leap like silent to sound, or black and white to color.

  2. Good question, I think it’s worth asking! From the look of all the released trailers, I think it may just be. It is the one movie that seems to be totally inspired by video-games, and the art of the video-game. Speaking of video-gaming, the Avatar game, just released, (and re-viewed by X-PLAY on G4T.V.), this game lacks the hype that the movie has going for it, definetly. This game goes the distance by by trying to initate the consumer demand for the new 3d televions on the market. Iam not a kid anymore, like when Star Wars came out in theaters, but I think this movie for the new generation, maybe just as exciting.

  3. Call me a cynic but the trailers for this movie look terrible (visually). It looks like a dragon had sexual relations with a rainbow. Perhaps it is my familiarity with 3D technology but there doesn’t seem anything revolutionary about it. I loved Terminator and Aliens, could have done without Titanic (mostly because of the acting).

    Of course, I’ll watch it despite my skepticism and inside I’m really hoping the cynic is wrong!

  4. Anonymous Coward

    “It looks like a dragon had sexual relations with a rainbow.”

    NTTAWWT! Seriously, if you have something against flamboyant dragons, take it elsewhere Mister.

    (At the last James Cameron movie, my daughter was 9 months old, and it was the first movie my wife and I saw since my daughter’s birth — she was asleep in the stroller. Now, I kind of want to take the kid to Avatar, based on the claim it’s her gen’s Star Wars.)

  5. skinman

    The hype streaming from the commercials alone have turned me off to this movie. I grew up up on Star Wars. I loved it dearly. Unfortunately my love for it was soiled by 3 terrible prequels and some horrifying insertions into the original trilogy. From what I can see, Avatar has those mistakes from the get-go so maybe it will be the crap portion of Star Wars for this generation.

  6. Guy

    I want to see it but I hate going to crowded movie theaters.

    There’s no question it is on par with anything George Lucas has ever made.

  7. I wasn’t entirely convinced by the trailers but I saw the full film in 3D yesterday and it was quite literally awesome: much, much better than I expected. I really think that Cameron’s use of 3D is almost as big a step as the change from black-and-white to colour.

  8. cress

    It would be nice if people actually went into this film without the baggage of their reverance for Star Wars or their dislike of CGI. Previews never convey the reality of the movie-going experience. Check your reservations at the door, and go in with an open mind.

  9. John Kwok


    Am sorry, but I don’t think James Cameron is in the same league as Gene Roddenberry (“Star Trek”), George Lucas (“Star Wars”), and especially, J. Michael Straczynski (“Babylon 5”). Judging from what I have seen with regards to previews and reviews, it is definitely a film I am looking forward to, but one that doesn’t have the epic scope of the best of the “Star Trek” and “Star Wars” films and television episodes, “Babylon 5” television episodes, or Peter Jackson’s “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy.



  10. Guy


    I have to respectfully disagree with you.

    Jame Cameron’s Aliens is a vastly superior movie to “Star Wars: The Phantom Menace.” I’ve seen Aliens dozens of times and never grow tired of watching it. You can tell when a director really puts their heart and soul into making a movie.

    I can’t stand “Star Wars: The Phantom Menace.” That is one awful movie.



  11. John Kwok


    I’m not really counting “Phantom Menace” which I thought was an artistic mistake from Lucas. I am simply counting the totality of his work. What about “Star Trek”, and especially, “Babylon 5”? At their best, they were – and still are – light years ahead of Cameron’s work.



  12. Guy


    I’m big fan of Star Trek, but don’t see it necessarily better than Cameron’s work. It covers a broader spectrum of science fiction so there is more to to it. I don’t think the directing of the Star Trek TV series or films is in anyway better. The philosophical aspects of Star Trek are what keeps the franchise alive. It gives us a hopeful glimpse of a better future. One other thing that makes it appealing is that it excites the imagination like no other series has.

    James Cameron’s Aliens depicted a much darker future ran by corrupt corporate overlords who place little value on human life or personal freedoms. You can’t really fault him for that. He didn’t create the franchise, he was just continuing it.

    The show “Bablyon 5” was a bit flat and dragged on at times. It has some interesting aspects but I was never a big fan of J. Michael Straczynski’s work. I did watch occasionally to pass the time. One of the better aspects was a slightly more realistic space combat model, but the combat scenes were too sparse. Most of the show is boring dialog. I also thought some of the costumes were ridiculous looking. They had serious characters dressed like clowns.



  13. Ken

    Avatar simply builds from Lucas’ past successes and calls it “original.” That’s what makes me mad about Avatar. It steals the whole “universe is connected,” just like “the Force”! Its so-called revolutionary usage of CG is simply an upgraded technique of Lucas’ CG systems, which he had been using since the summer of 1999.

    To top it off, James Cameron brags a lot and this makes me unable to support the film 100%, though I probobly will see it eventually. By calling it “revolutionary,” “like the first moon landings,” “a game changer” and phrases like that, I kinda hope it fails at the box office just to shut these guys up. At least George Lucas didn’t expect Star WArs I: The Phantom Menace to make a gazillion dollars. He, personally, NEVER wanted it or expected it to be a “game changer.” He made it just to finish telling his 6-film storyline, which started in 1977. Avatar will have trouble finding enough story material for ONE sequal.

    Plus, George Lucas financed the prequals himself, which I think is kinda neat.

  14. John Kwok

    @ Guy –

    IMHO “Babylon 5” was the best science fiction “space opera” series ever to air on television. I’d probably rate it as follows with regards to the best science fiction series:

    1) The Prisoner
    2) Doctor Who
    3) Babylon 5
    4) Blake’s Seven
    5) Star Trek
    6) Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
    7) Battlestar Galactica (Ron Moore’s take, not the original)
    8) Star Trek: The Next Generation
    9) Stargate: SG-1
    10) Lost

    Since Babylon 5 consisted of a very intricately woven five year series arc, you needed to watch episodes in sequence, merely to understand the dynamic, often changing, relationships amongst the main characters. I remain in awe of the fact that J. Michael Straczynski wrote many of the episodes, especially those from Seasons Two to Four, in which much of the pivotal action occurs.

  15. Ken

    I watched Avatar two days ago and I’ve got to say that I don’t see how there can be a sequel without ruining the picture-perfect ending to the first installment; it’s a completely predictable, formulaic storyline.

    There’s nothing wrong with a tried and true formula, though, and the CG was so freaking amazing and immersive that I want to watch the film again. It’s like the whole Pandora and Na’vi universe is completely real; you literally can’t tell it’s CG, just like Cameron promised, except for a few scenes where the whole Omaticaya tribe are present, like Jake’s first arrival at the village and when he returns as the Toruk Macto.

  16. Steve Real

    This is a classic scenario you’ve seen in Hollywood epics from Dances With Wolves, Dune, District 9 and The Last Samurai, where a white guy manages to get himself accepted into a closed society of people of color and eventually becomes its most awesome member.

    If we think of Avatar and its ilk as white fantasies about race, what kinds of patterns do we see emerging in these fantasies?

    A white man who was one of the oppressors switches sides at the last minute, assimilating into the alien culture and becoming its savior.
    These are movies about white guilt. Our main white characters realize that they are complicit in a system which is destroying aliens, AKA people of color – their cultures, their habitats, and their populations.

    The whites realize this when they begin to assimilate into the “alien” cultures and see things from a new perspective. To purge their overwhelming sense of guilt, they switch sides, become “race traitors,” and fight against their old comrades. But then they go beyond assimilation and become leaders of the people they once oppressed.

    This is the essence of the white guilt fantasy, laid bare. It’s not just a wish to be absolved of the crimes whites have committed against people of color; it’s not just a wish to join the side of moral justice in battle. It’s a wish to lead people of color from the inside rather than from the (oppressive, white) outside.

  17. Phenomenal

    Yes, this moniker: “This generation’s Star Wars” is fairly earned. Quite an achievement. For many this is the first 3D movie of their experience. Phenomenal movie!!

    @ Steve Real: Read Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs & Steel for why historically Western European civilization invaded and conquered other civilizations. Homo-subspecies & homo-sapiens intra-species conflict as well as mass extinction such as mega-fauna preceded this in prehistory. Your guilt is selective to say the least. The colour of the main protagonists is an artifact based on both history & geographic location of Hollywood movie production team making the movie; it’s very innocent actually. The archetypal story works whatever colours are used but blue is also a beautiful colour too if you failed to notice? The main protagonist is a hero for his actions & gains insights from the challenges & changes he experiences and responds heroically to. He does make some mistakes, however. The reading above is a shadow of an obsession with externals or wilful misinterpretation.

    Jared Diamond’s other book: Collapse is also interesting & related to some of the movie’s secondary themes (clash and/or collapse of civilizations) & very topical with the poor political will of the Copenhagen Climate Summit recently fell into. Currently all groups of humans are causing mass extintions of other biological life-forms is another theme that is alluded to.

  18. Hey i just had a alert from my firewall when i opened your website do you happen to know why this occured? Could it be from your advertising or something? Thanks, really strange i pray it was harmless?

  19. I am happy to report the cynic in me was wrong!

    Yes the plot was a little template but that isn’t the worst thing ever. It also does some nice twists on those basic story lines that made them feel fresh. Of course, plot isn’t what generated all the hype. And the hype was well worth it.

    I should mention I saw it in 3D and had a bad experience (while all my friends loved the 3D) but I was still awed.

  20. Barry Johnstone

    At 66 yoa this is the best film that I have seen. We saw it in 3D.


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About Sheril Kirshenbaum

Sheril Kirshenbaum is a research scientist with the Webber Energy Group at the University of Texas at Austin's Center for International Energy and Environmental Policy where she works on projects to enhance public understanding of energy issues as they relate to food, oceans, and culture. She is involved in conservation initiatives across levels of government, working to improve communication between scientists, policymakers, and the public. Sheril is the author of The Science of Kissing, which explores one of humanity's fondest pastimes. She also co-authored Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future with Chris Mooney, chosen by Library Journal as one of the Best Sci-Tech Books of 2009 and named by President Obama's science advisor John Holdren as his top recommended read. Sheril contributes to popular publications including Newsweek, The Washington Post, Discover Magazine, and The Nation, frequently covering topics that bridge science and society from climate change to genetically modified foods. Her writing is featured in the anthology The Best American Science Writing 2010. In 2006 Sheril served as a legislative Knauss science fellow on Capitol Hill with Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) where she was involved in energy, climate, and ocean policy. She also has experience working on pop radio and her work has been published in Science, Fisheries Bulletin, Oecologia, and Issues in Science and Technology. In 2007, she helped to found Science Debate; an initiative encouraging candidates to debate science research and innovation issues on the campaign trail. Previously, Sheril was a research associate at Duke University's Nicholas School of the Environment and has served as a Fellow with the Center for Biodiversity and Conservation at the American Museum of Natural History and as a Howard Hughes Research Fellow. She has contributed reports to The Nature Conservancy and provided assistance on international protected area projects. Sheril serves as a science advisor to NPR's Science Friday and its nonprofit partner, Science Friday Initiative. She also serves on the program committee for the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). She speaks regularly around the country to audiences at universities, federal agencies, and museums and has been a guest on such programs as The Today Show and The Daily Rundown on MSNBC. Sheril is a graduate of Tufts University and holds two masters of science degrees in marine biology and marine policy from the University of Maine. She co-hosts The Intersection on Discover blogs with Chris Mooney and has contributed to DeSmogBlog, Talking Science, Wired Science and Seed. She was born in Suffern, New York and is also a musician. Sheril lives in Austin, Texas with her husband David Lowry.Interested in booking Sheril Kirshenbaum to speak at your next event? Contact Hachette Speakers Bureau 866.376.6591 info@hachettespeakersbureau.comFor more information, visit her website or email Sheril at srkirshenbaum@yahoo.com.


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