Finally saw it. Some friends gave me a free ticket that had a few days to expiration since they couldn’t use it. The text below contains spoilers.

The Story

Well, Pocahontas has been brandied about. And it was somewhat like what I expected it to be. But most of all, I was reminded of the real case of rebels in Papua New Guinea. Some copper was found on some original peoples’ land, a mine was built that polluted the environment, they started fighting it with really primitive weapons. The miners brought some Australian hired guns to kill them but it was exposed by the Australian press and they withdrew from the project. The rebels managed to seize the area, and the mine was shut down. Government troops couldn’t go to that part of the country anymore. They had gotten some better weapons at some point too. They had also seemed to self-organize otherwise. Drove old beat up pickup cars with self refined palm oil, had self built hydro power plants in the hills etc etc.. In such a warm and relatively easy environment you don’t need that much organization to improve your quality of life some. I saw all this in a documentary some five years ago.

So even when Avatar seemed very cheesy at many times, it still had some interesting connections to reality. Sometimes reality is cheesy like that.

I can imagine general criticism against the plot. Slashdot headlined how “anti-technology” it seemed. There is no examination of the native culture, it’s just some cliche of being one with the nature and running around in freedom. Can they cure sicknesses or survive if the weather turns bad? Could they actually get a lot from a more modern civilization? Certainly in real life many natives have left their materially poor tribes to pursue a more affluent life in the western culture. An inuit sitting in an oil company office commented how bad a seal really tastes – that he’d take a bic mac over it any day.

But is this all how relevant? That is not at the core of the story. The basic idea was that the Na’vi tribe was sitting on something valuable, a big chunk of unobtainium. No matter how happy and successful the blueskins would have been in their way of life, they could be labeled as enemies, like the protagonist Jake Sully comments to Parker Selfridge, the company man leading the mining operation.

On one hand, it would be interesting to see the mental gymnastics excercised to prove that of course the company had the right to drive off the natives from their home and take the mineral, and I’m sure the internet is full of such stuff. It naturally bears some resemblance to the Iraq case (though that is not so simple), and a large portion of people in the English speaking world have so much emotionally invested in it that it’s hard to discuss in any interesting way.

It might also have effected my experience that I had just read a short interview of Ilmari Juutilainen, a Finnish ace who shot down some ninety Soviet planes in the second world war. He naturally felt that fighting for your independence and not yielding to a bigger nation’s demands was a very important thing. He had survived situations that seemed completely impossible and I recommend the interview to everyone. So, as a Finn, I naturally identified strongly with the natives in the film. We just wanted to be left alone and live our own life which we were perfectly capable of doing. Naturally the Soviet Union invented some reasons to attack us, even shelling their own border village, Mainila. So, a single movie is too short for including much, but the whole propaganda machine and willing press would have made a great part for it too; how it would have portrayed the savages’ “brutal and unprovoked attacks” to the public back on Earth, and created a will to murder the blueskins.

War is not simple, nor is peace, but one can not withdraw from moral judgments.

The Technology

Well, the 3D was worse than I expected. It didn’t work seamlessly for me, I saw things kind of partly double a large portion of the time. Also the picture seemed quite jerky. Fast action is bad in movies anyway (Transformers was awful for the most part!) but this was even worse with the closeups of folks running in jungle just turning into a total mess. Luckily Cameron or his photographer had the sensibility to pull in some wider and also slower shots at times. It’s perhaps old-fashioned nowadays but those were the best part of the movie.


So, you’re probably reading this on an LCD. All light is first polarized in one direction, then it passes through tiny liquid crystals that can twist the polarization if they are twisted with an electrical field, or then they keep it straight. Then there is a final filter panel with yet a polarization. If the liquid crystal twists the incoming light so that it is in a different polarization than the outgoing filter, then that pixel is black. If it’s the same way, the pixel is full brightness.

In a 3D viewing technology, the idea is to give different eyes different images so the brain reconstructs the 3D image from that.

Now, just change the original initial and filter polarizers of half of your pixels, and there you have it. Your LCD was already that close to being a 3D display!

Say, now half of the pixels have vertical and half have horizontal polarization. You of course need to also change the software so that half the pixels work with reverse logic from the old way, but that’s very easy. Then, wear specs with a vertical polarization surface on one eye and a horizontal polarization surface on the other and the eyes can see different pictures. One eye sees the odd and one the even pixels. The rest is just software. Of course, brightness and resolution suffers as both see just half the pixels, but things like frame rate and everything else stay just identical. No flickering or any other problems like that persist, like with glasses or projectors that do some switching. Movement should be exactly as smooth as with no 3D. The glasses can also be perfectly passive with no need for batteries. And cheap, so you can get as many as you want.

Now, projectors use LCD:s as well. You just have to have a screen that keeps the polarization.

I don’t know why this kind of 3D technology is not used more widely. It seems totally trivial to implement with just small changes to a factory built ordinary LCD display.

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2 Responses to Avatar

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