Ampoliros wrote:I'd argue that the difference was that District 9 was Sci-fi because it retold Apartheid through an alien culture whereas Avatar simply uses colonialism *in space as a setting and doesn't really bother to tell much of a story for what it cost.
This is where I think there is a misunderstanding, which leads to (in my opinion, misguided) criticism of Avatar. Avatar is not SF because if features colonianism in space, nor because of the battle-mechs, strange planet or creatures. That would make Star Wars SF, and Star Wars is fantasy (mostly).
Avatar is SF because it employs a new science/phenomenon as a metaphor for a basic human trait, in order to examine that trait in ways you could not do without the metaphor.
For example, Dune is SF because it features the spice as being critical in all the different levels of a society which is deeply stratified. This allows Herbert to examine how oil, or any other single resource, determines, controls and threatens a society. Or take how Paul's perfect vision sheds light on all advice - the perfect advice leaves you a slave...
Avatar is not about colonianism vs nature. It is definitely Dances With Space-indians, but that is not the interesting stuff at all. There are three layers:
Basic story a 10-year-old would understand - Imperialism bad, indians good. Action romp and sadness over falling trees.
The mythologial layer - The hero's journey, I have a described how this fits with Dune; but of course the point is it fits with the basic hero/myth-structure.
The SF/'laymans philosophy' layer - Technology vs. human relations (Heidegger). Others as means, or others as goals in themselves (Kant). Dominating with force, or understanding others through language (Habermas). Meeting in negotiation and common interest vs. meeting in 'shared nothingness' (Sartre).
No amount (!) of critcism of the first layer (or the second) will take away anything from the third. But a masterpiece film works on all layers, and criticism of eg. the predictability of Avatars first (and second, although that is more or less the point) will detract from any 'how great a film is Avatar'-score. But you cannot reduce the movie to 'Dances with Wolves in Space' and think you have criticized it as SF. (Nor can you call Dune 'Lawrence of Arabia' and think you have reduced it to non-interesting plagiarism).
Cameron has admitted and shrugged of the Dances with Wolves comparison - it is simply not the issue. But if that aspect ruins the film for you, so be it. But person A being bothered to the point of hating the movie, does not mean that person B cannot enjoy it enough to see through to other layers - and person A saying 'I didn't like the blueness of the Na'vi' (as one Danish commentator said) does not detract, or even begin to adress, the real SF aspects of the movie.
I liked the SF aspects and was not bothered by the action, pretty flat characters or predictability of the plot. I would love to discuss the themes of the movie, but that is infinitely more fun and inspiring if you actually liked the damn thing
Maybe I should just reread The Jesus Incident, and we can discuss electrokelp instead of Hometrees... But I did lile Cameron's take on it too, sorry.