Another semi-busy week.
First off, I join in the Tolkien birthday celebrations, with my next "Barbarians of Middle-earth" article. I have to say, one of my favourite bits in Jackson's The Return of the King was that big tattooed Haradrim Mumak-driver, grunting and yawping like mad. He wasn't like any Haradrim I imagined, but he was fun, one of the few characters that I found engaging, for all the second he appears. I was very sad to see him killed in such ludicrous fashion: I was hoping for a big showdown with Theoden (like in the books) but apparently it was more important for Eomer to kill two Mumaks with one shot. Because as anyone knows, the best way to make the odds look insurmountable is to have the five-story monsters insultingly easy to kill.
I also have to love Jackson's wish to avoid racist stereotypes by, effectively, just switching the targets. Instead of possibly being insensitive to Muslims, let's just be insensitive to Pacific Islanders and Polynesians. Rather than, you know, emphasising the fact that the Haradrim are at best deceived, and at worst enslaved, by Sauron? In the half-hour epilogue bonanza, would it have killed them to have spend a few seconds to show the reconciliation between Gondor and the Haradrim, thus solidifying the idea that these guys were alright when they weren't ruled by the darkest, most insidious force on the planet? Argh. It just bugs me.
On Tuesday, I do a proper tribute to Dan "PainBrush" Goudey. A week later, and I still can't believe it.
Wednesday, and I have to comment on The Hobbit casting call. I really think the script is what lets down the Jackson Lord of the Rings films for me: simplistic dialogue smooshed together awkwardly with Tolkien's prose, mucking about with the story and characters, leaving out great scenes from the book and replacing them with half-baked fan fiction. I really hope TORN is right, and this doesn't reflect the film at large. I still demand Brian Blessed as Balin.
Saturday is Avatar time. I went into the film extremely skeptical. All the talk I heard about it being a masterpiece and a "game-changer" simply ellicited the contrary aspect of my personality ("five stars, eh? We'll see about that!") Still, I was pleasantly surprised. Stephen Lang was distilled, deep-fried, eighteen-months-matured, gold-plated awesome. The effects were remarkably convincing, and I'm the sort of guy who thinks the special effects in Jurassic Park were the apex of CGI (and still do, as a matter of fact). Pandora's world and creatures, while hardly anything I've never seen before, were beautifully realised.
Still, it ain't perfect. The plot is really, really straightforward, with absolutely zero suprises. Sigourney Weaver does a great job, but I hated her character, who came across as obnoxiously abrasive in the beginning, to the point that I didn't really care when she died. Jake Sully was a compete imbecile: what kind of idiot tries to bat away a seemingly magical thing immediately after he was already chastised for it? "Baby" indeed. All I can say is now that James Cameron films dominate the top two grossing blockbusters, he's going to be insufferable.
There was one dilemma not related to plot: who would I be backing, the robots or the "dinosaurs"? Since the giant mechanised suits weren't technically "robots," it was easy to back the dinosaurs. Damn, I'd love to see a proper Dinotopia done like this.
One thing bugs me though: the Na'vi use feathers on their arrows, yet I didn't see a single feathered lifeform on Pandora. The birds all had slick membranous wings. So where were the Na'vi getting their feathers?