See “This Is It!” See Surrogates!
Chiang Mai movies beginning Thursday, October 29, 2009
… through Wednesday, November 4
by Thomas Ohlson
Best Bets: Michael Jackson’s “This Is It!” Surrogates.
EU Film Festival in Chiang Mai: Nov 5 to 15. At Vista at Kad Suan Kaew.
World Film Festival in Bangkok: Nov 6 to 15.
EU Film Festival in Bangkok: Nov 19 to 29.
This is Issue Number 53 of Volume 4 of these listings, a complete four years! The first issue came out November 3, 2005. Wow! So as to not get too far out of sync with the calendar, Volume 5 will start next week, on November 5.
Now playing in Chiang Mai * = new this week
* Michael Jackson’s “This Is It”: US, Documentary/ Music – 112 mins – Brilliant! Don’t miss it! This performance film, comprised of rehearsal footage for the show Michael was working on at the time of his death, opened world-wide yesterday, October 28, for two weeks only. Here in Chiang Mai it’s at Major Cineplex at Airport Plaza in digital format in their new digital-equipped cinema. Tickets are 150 baht.
It’s a spectacular show with Michael at the top of his form, looking great, and moving in a way that is a wonderment. Generally favorable reviews: 62/69 out of 100. But I think it’s way better than that, and I highly recommend you see it.
Kenny Ortega (director of the High School Musical series of films) was both Michael Jackson's creative partner and the director of the stage show, and he also directed the film. He says, "It will also show Michael as one of the greatest entertainers in the world and one of the industry's most creative minds…I think the footage will show that the process was something that Michael deeply enjoyed and that it was clear he was on his way to another triumph."
Indeed, that’s exactly what it shows!
I also have to add that the trailer, the preview, for the film is absolutely the worst preview I have ever seen. I don’t know what they were thinking of, or how it ever got into existence, but it seems designed to make people not want to see the film. It promises two hours of MTV-like headache-inducing jump cuts and fast montages. The film is actually just the opposite.
Roger Ebert: "This Is it," Michael Jackson told his fans in London, announcing his forthcoming concert tour. "This is the final curtain call." The curtain fell sooner than expected. What is left is this extraordinary documentary, nothing at all like what I was expecting to see. Here is not a sick and drugged man forcing himself through grueling rehearsals, but a spirit embodied by music. Michael Jackson was something else.
The film has been assembled from rehearsals from April through June 2009 for a concert tour scheduled for this summer. The footage was "captured by a few cameras," an opening screen tells us, but they were professional high-def cameras and the sound track is full-range stereo. The result is one of the most revealing music documentaries I've seen.
And it's more than that. It's a portrait of Michael Jackson that belies all the rumors that he would have been too weak to tour. That shows not the slightest trace of a spoiled prima donna. That benefits from the limited number of cameras by allowing us to experience his work in something closer to realistic time, instead of fracturing it into quick cuts. That provides both a good idea of what the final concert would have looked like, and a portrait of the artist at work.
Never raising his voice, never showing anger, always soft-spoken and courteous to his cast and crew, Michael with his director, Kenny Ortega, micro-manages the production. He corrects timing, refines cues, talks about details of music and dance. Seeing him always from a distance, I thought of him as the instrument of his producing operation. Here we see that he was the auteur of his shows.
We know now that Michael was subjected to a cocktail of drugs in the time leading up to his fatal overdose, including the last straw, a drug so dangerous it should only be administered by an anesthesiologist in an operating room. That knowledge makes it hard to understand how he appears to be in superb physical condition. His choreography, built from such precise, abrupt and perfectly-timed movements, is exhausting, but he never shows a sign of tiring. His movements are so well synchronized with the other dancers on stage, who are much younger and highly-trained, that he seems one with them. This is a man in such command of his physical instrument that he makes spinning in place seem as natural as blinking his eye.
He has always been a dancer first, and then a singer. He doesn't specialize in solos. With the exception of a sweet love ballad, his songs all incorporate four backup singers and probably supplementary tracks prerecorded by himself. It is the whole effect he has in mind.
It might have been a hell of a show. Ortega and special effects wizards coordinate pre-filmed sequences with the stage work. There's a horror-movie sequence with ghouls rising from a cemetery (and ghosts that were planned to fly above the audience). Michael is inserted into scenes from Rita Hayworth and Humphrey Bogart movies, and through clever f/x even has a machine-gun battle with Bogie. His environmental pitch is backed by rain forest footage. He rides a cherry-picker high above the audience.
His audience in this case consists entirely of stagehands, gaffers, technicians, and so on. These are working people who have seen it all. They love him. They're not pretending. They love him for his music, and perhaps even more for his attitude. Big stars in rehearsal are not infrequently pains in the ass. Michael plunges in with the spirit of a co-worker, prepared to do the job and go the distance.
How was that possible? Even if he had the body for it, which he obviously did, how did he muster the mental strength? When you have a doctor on duty around the clock to administer the prescription medications you desire, when your idea of a good sleep is reportedly to be unconscious for 24 hours, how do you wake up into such a state of keen alertness? Uppers? I don't think it quite works that way. I was watching like a hawk for any hint of the effects of drug abuse, but couldn't see any. Perhaps it's significant that of all the people in the rehearsal space, he is the only one whose arms are covered at all times by long sleeves.
Well, we don't know how he did it. "This Is It" is proof that he did do it. He didn't let down his investors and colleagues. He was fully prepared for his opening night. He and Kenny Ortega, who also directed this film, were at the top of their game. There's a moving scene on the last day of rehearsal when Jackson and Ortega join hands in a circle with all the others, and thank them. But the concert they worked so hard on was never to be.
This is it.
Variety, Andrew Barker: Despite the grotesque and unceasing curiosity over Jackson’s private life, his working procedure was scarcely documented, and his intense perfectionism is breathtaking to see here. He corrects his dancers while in the midst of striking poses himself, pores over video footage and auditions, works out with a vocal coach and gives his band instructions that are alternately brilliant (“Play it like you’re dragging yourself out of bed”) and Kafka-esque in their impenetrability.
Yet there’s likely a reason that so little of this side of Jackson was ever seen previously; the more one observes his anxiety-riddled drive to present a flawless performance, the more obvious it seems that he would never have wanted audiences to see the performance in such a rough state. However, “This Is It” is a classy film that only affirms the man’s talent. Even at nearly two hours, the film still feels too short.
*과속스캔들/ Scandal Makers (Speedy Scandal) / ลูกหลานใครหว่าป่วนซ่านายเจี๋ยมเจี้ยม: Korea, Comedy/ Drama – 108 mins – A big hit in Korea, this film is now called Korea's highest-grossing comedy of all time, with 8.2 million admissions. Comedic favorite Cha Tae Hyun (My Sassy Girl) stars in this surprise box-office hit. Written and directed by first-time filmmaker Kang Hyung Chul and produced by director AhnByung Ki, Scandal Makers serves up hearty laughter with the story of a former pop idol who enters panic mode when he discovers he may have a teen daughter. Mixing family sitcom laughs with winking jabs at the entertainment industry, the film is the perfect vehicle for Cha Tae Hyun to flex his comedic muscles and hapless faces. Adding to the fun are breakthrough actress Park Bo Young (Our School E.T.), and adorable scene-stealing child actor Hwang Suk Hyun, whose priceless facial expressions had moviegoers up in stitches. Already picked up for a Hollywood remake by director Barry Sonnenfeld (Men In Black I and II, Wild Wild West, and Get Shorty). According to reports, Sonnenfeld saw Scandal Makers and agreed to direct and executive produce the US remake because he found the original “funny, intelligent, sincere” and with a universal quality that would work with wider audiences.
Unfortunately, the film is being shown here in a Thai-dubbed version only, with no English subtitles. It’s the worst possible way to experience it, in my opinion. At Airport Plaza only.
Reel Views, James Berardinelli: Surrogates was not pre-screened for critics. Most of the time, I understand when a studio takes this route - it's a way to avoid undue negative publicity before the release of a movie that is recognized behind-the-scenes as being a dud. Once in a while, however, a non-screened movie turns out to be a pleasant surprise, and this is one of those instances. Surrogates is better and more thought-provoking than about 2/3 of the fare currently showing in multiplexes, yet it has been given a "no confidence" vote by Disney. Why? Who knows? Maybe the decision was made to cut this loose and spend as little on marketing as was viable without offending star Bruce Willis. Perhaps an assessment was made that there weren't enough action scenes (although there are plenty) to energize the target teen audience. Or, most disturbingly, maybe it was thought that the premise was too cerebral for the throngs of movie-goers who clog multiplex corridors on Friday and Saturday nights. Whatever the reason, Surrogates was shielded from the eyes of critics before its opening, and that's a shame. Because, whatever its flaws, it is a good movie.
The material is not new to science fiction fans. In fact, it has been a staple of the genre since there has been a genre. It appears in the writings of many of the greats. It was a lynchpin of the original Star Trek pilot ("The Cage," with Jeffrey Hunter). And it has been an element in numerous recent big-screen sci-fi productions (The Matrix and Dark City, to name two - and there are others). Surrogates is not the best of the stories to delve into this subject, but it's far from the worst. It is hamstrung by the need to prioritize pacing over content. The movie runs a little too short and skimps on aspects of plot development in order to keep things moving at a fast pace.
Today, on-line, many people you "meet" in chatrooms are not who they seem to be. 40-year old men may be posing as 20-something women. Teenage boys may be adding a dozen years to their age….In the cyber-realm, it's possible to be whoever or whatever you want to be. In the world of Surrogates, this has been taken one step further. Technology has enabled people to have real, three-dimensional robot avatars taking their place in society, while they lie in a bed and control the mechanical being's actions with their minds. Virtually all interaction is done through the surrogates and, although this reduces the dangers of day-to-day life and has all-but eliminated violent crime, it has also increased isolation. People no longer feel comfortable dealing with other people, even spouses, without the surrogate buffer. There are groups of humans that reject the surrogate culture, but they have been marginalized and are forced to live in ghettoized reservations.
Greer (Bruce Willis) and Peters (Radha Mitchell) are FBI agents investigating a double homicide in which the destruction of two surrogates appears to have killed their users. This is not supposed to happen and violates a failsafe. In order to get more information, they approach the creator of surrogates, Canter (James Cromwell), who also happens to be the father of one of the victims. Canter realizes that the target of the murder attempt may have been him, and points the finger of blame at the corporation he created (but no longer runs). When Greer's surrogate is destroyed and the FBI refuses to provide him with another one until an investigation runs its course, he elects to go out "in the flesh," and the details uncovered by his sleuthing cause him to reach a terrifying conclusion.
The film's direction by Jonathan Mostow is crisp and clean. He shows the same flair for action he displayed in Terminator 3, and his sequences are coherent and not marred by the quick cutting and flashy camera moves that have hijacked too many action scenes in recent productions. Although the movie likely would have been better had the story been fleshed out more, it does not give the appearance of having been noticeably "dumbed down." Although this is first and foremost an action/adventure movie, it does not neglect the hard questions about technology. There is also a delicious bit of irony near the end; we consider along with Greer the benefits and penalties associated with action versus inaction.
The special effects work used to create the surrogates is effective. They look almost human. I'm reasonably sure this "unreal" look was accomplished as much through computer-enhanced airbrushing as it was through makeup. Bruce Willis, for example, looks 20 years younger (especially compared to the grizzled version who makes his appearance once the surrogate is destroyed). Radha Mitchell is stunning - she's a beautiful woman to begin with, but her avatar is flawless. Of course, there's a creepiness to all these robots, since none of them look or act quite human.
Disney's treatment of Surrogates raises the question of whether Bruce Willis, once one of the Big Three (alongside Stallone and Schwarzenegger) can still open an action movie. Perhaps the issue isn't Willis' drawing power, but the fact that he's not playing a gung-ho icon. This isn't John McClane. Greer is physically weak, borderline agoraphobic, and of dubious hero potential. That kind of protagonist is harder to sell than someone who charges in where angels fear to tread. This should not, however, be a reason to avoid Surrogates. If anything, it's a reason to see it. This represents the smartest high-budget, high-profile science fiction film to have come along in quite some time.
Variety: Surrogates distinguishes itself from countless other thematically overlapping films by being not about robots run amok, but about humans seduced by the easy life; humanity here has "advanced" so far that it has become subordinate to its substitute.
Roger Ebert: Surrogates is entertaining and ingenious.
Slice / เฉือน: Thai, Crime/Thriller – 90 mins – “Slice” as in “slicing up your victims.” Sure enough, a string of homicides has occurred, and in each case the body of the victim was sliced into pieces.Thedetective on the case, desperately seeking the serial killer, releases from jail a former assassin for help in finding some clues to the killer’s identity. The film has created a stir because its blatant gore seems designed to test the limits of the new movie grading system.
Twitch: This particular collaboration, Kongkiat Komesiri and Wisit Sasanatieng, continues to bear some very striking fruit. Beyond the fact that both directors make films for Thailand's Five Star Entertainment, Wisit Sasanatieng and Kongkiat Komesiri wouldn't appear to have much in common. Sasanatieng burst on to the scene with his Technicolor western Tears of the Black Tiger before cementing his reputation with his whimsical fantasy romance Citizen Dog. Komesiri? He arrived as part of the Ronin Team, the group of extreme film makers behind the ultra-gory Art of the Devil films before branching out somewhat with martial arts drama Muay Thai Chaiya. And here's where things get interesting ... somewhere between Art of the Devil 2 and Muay Thai Chaiya Komesiri and Sasanatieng met and became friends and have been collaborating ever since. Sasanatieng served as art director for Chaiya, a favor Komesiri returned by writing ghost story The Unseeable for Sasanatieng to direct. And now Sasanatieng has written horror-thriller Slice for Komesiri.
An equal fusion of gore and police procedural, Slice looks likely to draw comparisons to The Silence of the Lambs for its fusion of influences and refusal to shy away from the hard stuff. The story revolves around a serial killer who preys primarily on men, slicing and dismembering their bodies. The police are at a loss as to how to catch him and eventually turn to a former hitman turned informant, enlisting his help to do the job for them.
Haunted University / Mahalai Sayongkwan / มหา'ลัยสยองขวัญ: Thai, Horror/ Thriller – 90 mins – Based on various horror and ghost tales from universities, the film tells the stories of students who encountered paranormal events that haunted them in their university days, and their fight against their fears.
Wise Kwai: It's about students (Panward Hemmanee, Anna Reese from Queens of Langkasuka, and Ashiraya Peerapatkunchaya) who are facing all the various ghost stories that are told at Thai universities, probably just to scare freshmen. It's by Bunjong Sinthanamongkolkul and Sutthiporn Tubtim, two young filmmakers who are making their debut feature as a team. Bunjong has previously worked as an assistant or crew member on such movies as Fake, Goal Club, and Yam Yasothon, and he directed last year's mad-dog comedy, Woh Mah Ba Maha Sanook. Sutthiporn's credits include Goal Club, editor on Mercury Man and Colic and co-director of the pirate flick Salad Ta Deaw.
Law Abiding Citizen: US, Drama/ Thriller – 108 mins – 18+ – After his wife and child are murdered by two criminals, Clyde Shelton (Gerard Butler) is informed that one of the murderers will be sentenced to death but the other one will get off because of his cooperation with the police. Shelton decides to take justice in his own hands, including getting revenge on the murderers as well as those in the system responsible for setting the one murderer free. District Attorney Nick Rice (Jamie Foxx), one of those who helped set the murderer free, tries to stop Shelton. Rated R in the US for strong bloody brutal violence and torture, a scene of rape, and pervasive language. In Thailand, 18+. Generally unfavorable reviews: 34/41 out of 100.
Bangkok Traffic Love Story / Rot Fai Faa Ma Ha Na Tur (I Ride the Skytrain to See You) / รถไฟฟ้า..มาหานะเธอ: Thai, Romance/ Comedy – 120 mins – A cute-looking romantic comedy about a 30 year old single woman who is suddenly forced to give up her car and ride the Bangkok public transportation system, where she falls for a maintenance engineer of the BTS system.
Kong Rithdee: Bangkok Traffic Love Story became the biggest opening Thai film of 2009, gobbling up a record-setting 14 million baht on the first day and over 50 million baht after the first weekend. … The movie is good for the audience, and for the industry. It's a triumph of assembly-line scriptwriting and market test to ensure consumer satisfaction, in this case a Fake Sad Ending then a Real Happy Ending, as the world applauds a long-delayed coupling. Technically, Bangkok Traffic Love Story is at best run-of-the-mill. Psychologically, however, the movie is cunning in an almost cynical way: the basic premise taps into the woe of single office women approaching the dreaded landmark of 30, who feel the prospect of spinsterhood looming like an invading alien. …
The commercial success of the film - for this is nothing but a marketing feat - rests solely, I believe, in the casting. This movie has been "made" since they picked Ken as Uncle and splashed his face on building-sized posters. In the film, we don't get to know his character, we don't even get to know what he thinks, or if he's thinking anything, because it's enough for him to exist for [the leading lady], and us, to pine for. Ken knows this, and he bases his entire performance on his smile. …
The mark of intelligence from this melt-in-your-mouth toffee is its Hollywood-style conception of a movie as an efficiently profitable product. Its storytelling quality is pedestrian, with every emotional cue invariably punctuated by cartoon music. Bangkok Traffic Love Story is designed so that you'll want to leave your car at home, forget the hot and unromantic bus, and hop on the BTS, hoping that the man (or woman) next to you would be an engineer who looks like Ken and who happens to have no girlfriend and who happens to live in a riverside house.
Wise Kwai: Formulaic and predictable they may be, romantic comedies endure because they are easy date movies and comfort food for the lonely, the isolated, and the bored, who file into cinemas or plump down for the home video in the hopes that something new will be offered in the form of escapism.
If the rom-coms are at least entertaining, coherent, and competently made, like GTH's latest smash hit Bangkok Traffic Love Story then all the better. The movie … is apparently like catnip for moviegoers, presumably mostly single ladies. It has crossed the important 100-million-baht mark in its first week of release and could be the biggest box-office hit of the year.
The movie celebrates 10 years of Bangkok's BTS skytrain with a story of a 30-year-old single woman staring into the abyss of spinsterhood who finally sees her chance at romance with a maintenance engineer who keeps the tracks polished on the decade-old elevated railway.
Directed by Adisorn Trisirikasem, there is feeling of hopelessness and loneliness that pervades Bangkok Traffic Love Story even as the movie hits the usual titillating beats of romantic comedies.
It has stars that are so impossibly good looking, it's hard to believe they are in the situation the movie puts them in. These are the Zellwegerish leading lady Sirin "Cris" Horwang -- an appealingly bubbly yet unattached young woman -- and her Tom Cruise/ Hugh Grant/ Colin Firth stand-in, soap-opera hunk "Ken" Theeradeth Wongpuapan -- a handsome single young man who has to resort to renting porn VCDs to get a thrill.
Score: 3 out of 5 “Just okay.”
The Ugly Truth: US, Comedy/ Romance – 96 mins – 18+ – The consensus seems to be that, despite the best efforts of Gerard Butler and Kathrine Heigl, The Ugly Truth suffers from a weak script that relies on romantic comedy formula, with little charm or comedic payoff. Rated R in the US for sexual content and language. Generally unfavorable reviews: 28/38 out of 100.
The New York Times, Manohla Dargis: A cynical, clumsy, aptly titled attempt to cross the female-oriented romantic comedy with the male-oriented gross-out comedy that is interesting on several levels, none having to do with cinema.
Scheduled for Chiang Mai cineplexes on Thursday, November 5
The Box: US, Horror/ Sci-Fi/ Thriller – 115 mins – With Cameron Diaz, James Marsden, Frank Langella. Norma and Arthur Lewis, a suburban couple with a young child, receive a simple wooden box as a gift, which bears fatal and irrevocable consequences. A mysterious stranger, delivers the message that the box promises to bestow upon its owner $1 million with the press of a button. But, pressing this button will simultaneously cause the death of another human being somewhere in the world; someone they don't know. With just 24 hours to have the box in their possession, Norma and Arthur find themselves in the cross-hairs of a startling moral dilemma and must face the true nature of their humanity.
Vanquisher / Suay ... Samurai / สวย...ซามูไร: Thai, Action/ Thriller – 90 mins – After completing a covert mission in southern Thailand, CIA agent Genja finds herself forced to fight off rival operatives who’ve been ordered to take her out at all costs. She survives and after two years of lying low, re-emerges in Bangkok to face her old foes and foil a plot to detonate a bomb.
Wise Kwai: With a fresh dose of bright red CGI blood to go with the catsuit-clad, cleavage-baring female swordfighters, this long-in-the-works action flick will finally see the dark of cinema halls on November 5 in Thailand. Directed by veteran Manop Udomdej, the film stars Sophita Sribanchean, playing Genja, a CIA agent betrayed by rival operatives.
And looking forward:
Nov 12 – 2012: US/Canada, Action/ Drama/ Sci-Fi/ Thriller – Director Roland Emmerich has given movie watchers several apocalyptic films in the past in Independence Day and The Day After Tomorrow, and he offers another look at the end of the world in 2012. This action film stars John Cusack, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Amanda Peet. The film proves conclusively that the world will end on December 21, 2012, so let’s hope the studio recoups its investment before then. It’s the Mayan Long Count calendar that contains the proof, and it’s irrefutable. Don’t make any plans for Christmas that year! For further information, read John Major Jenkins, Maya Cosmogenesis 2012: The True Meaning of the Maya Calendar End-Date (1998).
Nov 12 – The September Issue: US, Documentary – 90 mins – A documentary chronicling Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour's preparations for the 2007 fall-fashion issue. The September 2007 issue of Vogue magazine weighed nearly five pounds, and was the single largest issue of a magazine ever published. With unprecedented access, The September Issue, directed and produced by R.J. Cutler, tells the story of legendary Vogue editor in chief Anna Wintour and her larger-than-life team of editors creating the issue and ruling the world of fashion. Generally favorable reviews: 69/70 out of 100.
Rotten Tomatoes: This doc about the making of Vogue's biggest issue and its frosty editor-in-chief is fascinating eye candy and light-on-its-feet fun.
Nov 26 – Paranormal Activity: US, Horror/ Mystery/ Thriller – 86 mins – After moving into a suburban home, a couple becomes increasingly disturbed by a nightly demonic presence, as the house makes no secret of the fact it is not pleased with its new tenants. Opinions are all over the lot on this one, but most give a thumb’s up. Rated R in the US for language. Generally favorable reviews: 68/72 out of 100.
Rotten Tomatoes: Using its low-budget effects and mockumentary method to great result, Paranormal Activity turns a simple haunted house story into 90 minutes of relentless suspense.
Film Threat, Felix Vasques, Jr.: This is a brutal, exhausting, and genuinely horrifying little ghost flick.
Roger Ebert: An ingenious little horror film, so well made it's truly scary.
Rolling Stone, Peter Travers: With a $15,000 budget too puny to empty a petty-cash drawer, the no-frills Paranormal Activity comes packed with thrills.
New York Post, Lou Lumenick: Like legendary producer Val Lewton in the '40s, director Oren Peli, who shot "Paranormal" in seven days in his own home, understands that what's most frightening is what you don't see but merely suggested.
The New York Times, A.O. Scott: A crudely made, half-clever little frightener that has become something of a pop-culture sensation and most certainly the movie marketing story of the year. Midnight showings in college towns and then in big cities, announced through minimal, viral publicity, have generated frenzied word of mouth and long lines at the box office. And now, to capitalize on this success, Paramount is giving the movie, written and directed by Oren Peli on a minuscule budget of $10,000, a full commercial release. Starting today, you can see it during daylight or dinner hours. It won’t be the same, though. At the midnight screening I attended last weekend, by far the most entertaining thing about the movie was the audience.
Dec 3 – Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant: US, Action/ Adventure/ Comedy/ Fantasy/ Horror/ Thriller – 108 mins – A young boy named Darren Shan meets a mysterious man at a freak show who turns out to be a Vampire. After a series of events Darren must leave his normal life and go on the road with the Cirque Du Freak and become a Vampire. Mixed or average reviews: 43/39 out of 100.
Rotten Tomatoes: Vampires are all the rage these days, so it makes sense that the 12-volume Cirque du Freak book series would be adapted for the silver screen. However, with The Vampire's Assistant, critics aren't exactly hailing the birth of a franchise. Chris Massoglia stars as a young man who mistakenly ends a truce in a 200-year-old vampire war; becoming a half-vampire means "dying" to his friends and family and plunging into the bloodsucking world. The pundits say The Vampire's Assistant is overstuffed and scattershot, uneasily mixing scares and laughs while leaving its characters underdeveloped.
Dec 17 – Avatar: US, Action/ Adventure/ Sci-Fi/ Thriller – From director James Cameron, his first feature film since Titanic. The story involves a band of humans pitted in battle against a distant planet's indigenous population. In December 2006, Cameron described Avatar as "a futuristic tale set on a planet 200 years hence... an old-fashioned jungle adventure with an environmental conscience... [that] aspires to a mythic level of storytelling."