Well, I'm off for some long-awaited vacation, but be sure to come back here the first week of January for a look at what's coming in 2010!
Have a fun and deeply purpose-filled Christmas!
With movies like Aliens, The Abyss, Terminator 2 and Titanic under his belt, James Cameron has the right to command hype with any film he releases now. And Avatar has had it’s fair share. But how does it stack up after it’s 2 hours and forty minutes are finished and the 3-D glasses come off? That depends entirely on what is important to you in a movie.
Sam Worthington (Terminator: Salvation) plays a paralyzed marine who is chosen to remote control an alien body in order to communicate with the native people on an alien planet. There are two human forces at work. The scientists(good guys), who want to study the planet and it’s people, and the businessmen and their heavily armed mercenary forces(bad guys), who wish to get rid of the aliens and mine the planet for its valuable minerals.
From beginning to end, this flick is a visual feast. I’ve seen a lot of movies, but never before have I watched one with this many visual effects. The credits boast a handful of visual effects studios employed to make this movie happen. Nearly every shot has some element of CGI, not including the constant 3-D effects. The world of Avatar is exotic and lavishly detailed. I have no doubts that this film will get the Oscar in visual effects. For the full experience, do not neglect seeing this movie in 3-D. It will cost a little extra, but you can keep your glasses for the DVD/Blu-ray release and it makes for a much more absorbing experience.
There is also quite a bit of action in the movie. The spirit of adventure and exploration is constantly at work. But try as it might, it won’t carry the movie for some. The plot is very predictable and the entire movie will be charted out by some within the first 20 minutes. This wouldn’t be such a problem if the performances were captivating, but there is not a single character I became invested in. (Very bad for all those action scenes that I’m supposed to be on the edge of my seat for.) The problem is that the movie is being carried by characters rendered by visual effects. Despite this film breaking ground in the shear quantity of visual effects, it makes little progress in the quality of motion capture. CGI characters still look animated in their mouth and facial movements. We miss the subtlety found in a flesh and blood actor’s performances that the digital wizards of the industry haven’t been able to duplicate or capture yet. Without sympathetic characters to ground me, I became numb to the barrage of eye-candy after only about 30 minutes.
The movie has a few concepts and themes that may lead to worthwhile conversation. The “bad guys” are greedy businessmen and a military force anxious for war. The bad guys loosely refer to the aliens as terrorists and the good guys describe the mercenaries as using a “shock and awe” campaign. The movie also draws from a familiar well with its theme of nature preservation. Given these clues, you can probably guess the political affiliations of the filmmakers.
You can also draw comparisons to early American settlers and their conflicts with the Native Americans. Though I can’t tell if the writers are trying to preach a particular message with this theme, or if they are simply drawing from history for inspiration.
It’s also hard to pin-point whether or not this movie supports Pantheistic theology, or is merely using it for inspiration. The alien natives have a clear mental/psychic connection to their planet. Their Deity is synonymous with their planet and they go to their planet in their afterlife. This certainly smells like pantheism. But it is pointed out by one of the scientists that, unlike similar pagan human beliefs, the aliens in this movie actually have a provable biological, neural connection to the vegetation of their planet. So technically, it’s not a spiritual concept, but a physical concept inspired by a theological concept. Either way, it certainly presents opportunity to dissect pantheism if you’re looking for a conversation starter.
So this movie is a mixed bag that some will be content to rent in a few months, particularly if they have a large television. The plot and characters are far from captivating, but those who want to see Hollywood pulling out every stop to demonstrate the cutting edge of the visual effects industry should not miss seeing this movie in 3-D.
Avatar is rated PG-13 for intense epic battle sequences and warfare, sensuality, language and some smoking.
I came VERY close to releasing part 8 of the Dark Ritual commentary this week, but instead decided to see Avatar so that I could review it for the podcast this weekend. So if you were hoping for the commentary this week, don't let my sacrifice be in vain! Check out my review of Avatar at spiritblade.net/paeter or hear it on the podcast this weekend!
Wish I had some progress to report, but I ended up taking today off to get ready for some Christmas caroling! And you're welcome to join me if you live in the Phoenix/Mesa area! See the info at:
Anyway, better get back to gathering inventory for assembling gift baskets! Hopefully I'll have some "spirit bladey" stuff for you on Friday!
Most folks with a Christmas tradition that involves reading the Biblical "Christmas Story" turn to the second chapter of Luke's gospel. It's a very descriptive and detailed account, which is why it is read so often around Christmas. But there is a fantastic follow-up to this chapter that you might consider adding to your Christmas tradition.
In John, chapter 1, verses 1-14, we see a picture of Christ painted for us that lifts away the veil and reveals the truth and significance of the Christmas story in a way that Luke doesn't. Luke tells the story from the viewpoint of third-dimensional physical existence. John tells the story closer to God's viewpoint, recognizing the cosmic reality of who Jesus is.
You'll notice that John uses the odd title "The Word", to describe Jesus. He describes "The Word" as having existed before ANYTHING else. The Creator of everything that DOES exist. The giver and sustainer of ALL life, and a being that can NEVER be overcome by evil. He also said that "The Word" became flesh and lived among humans.
Imagine that concept for a second. If you're a sci-fi buff (and if you're reading this, chances are good that you are) you may be familiar with the science-fiction concept of a non-linear being. A being existing outside the confines of time and the 3rd dimension. Although this concept is represented in various ways in sci-fi and fantasy stories, ultimately it is portrayed in physical images for our linear, 3rd dimensional brains. In the end, we simply can't comprehend the concept of a non-linear, non-physical being.
Now consider that this infinite, timeless God chose, in ways we can't fully understand, to limit himself to the life of a human. Stew on that for a minute and try to comprehend it. God and human... at the same time. Jesus says later in Chapter 10, verse 30, "The Father and I are one." And later on in chapter 14, verse 9, "Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father." Even wilder concepts still.
The Hebrews of the time understood "The Word" to be the acting power behind creation (Psalm 33:6) and would also have understood it to make reference to God's law and goodness.
The Greek philosophers of the day would have recognized the Greek word used for "Word" here: logos. In Greek philosophy this word was a reference to the divine source and sustainer of all things in the universe. John was writing so that both Hebrews and Greeks would clearly understand that Jesus is God in every sense.
And keep in mind, Jesus did not become God more and more as he grew older on earth. He was just as much God on the night of his birth as he was when he rose from death. Infinite, unknowable power packaged in such a weak and helpless form. Even setting aside the cross for a moment, we will never fully know what the God of the Universe gave up to live as one of us.
This is the true wonder of Christmas!
Well, I still can't say what the "Secret Project" is for 2010, but I can tell you that I'm FINALLY working on it again after spending half the week in a mountain of e-mails. That's what happens when I take a few days off, and it's likely fixin' to happen again! I'll be taking several days off next week, so I apologize in advance if I'm a little slow to answer e-mails.
Anyway, as far the Secret Project goes, I can say that I found some really cool beats this week for one of the songs I'm working on for it. Some hard, even nasty sounding percussion that dirties things up in a way that makes me feel all warm inside. Can't wait to start stitching the song together!
Well, it's Christmas time again, and all you "Bladers" that have been here since the beginning know what that means! My dark, electronic rendition of "O Come O Come Emmanuel" is back up at spiritblade.net for free download!
As is customary each year, I did just a teeny bit of tweaking to the audio (because art is never finished, just abandoned) and added some embedded artwork. You can get it now at www.spiritblade.net/freestuff ! But only during the month of December!