The Instigator
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The Contender
Con (against)
12 Points

Special-effects were not the cause of Avatar's huge success

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 7/12/2010 Category: Entertainment
Updated: 6 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,924 times Debate No: 12533
Debate Rounds (2)
Comments (2)
Votes (2)




This is a lighthearted, probably moderately opinion based argument. I am not a huge cinema buff or Avatar worshiper by any means. This is my first shot at creating an argument so I wanted to do something fun.

special-effects: anything computer generated in a film.
success: popular and financial

Resolved: Special-effects were not the cause of Avatar's huge success.

There is no doubt that Avatar was a huge cinematic success. The question is "What was the cause of the success?" The first answer seems to be the mind blowing special-effects, in 3-D to top it off! This is not the case; the real reason for Avatar's success is the storyline.

Many people who admittedly liked the film were somewhat harsh on the story: "It was very predictable." "It was just Fern Gulley/Dances With Wolves/The Last Samurai ect. in space." My answer to these claims would be yes to all, but these reasons are the very things that made the story great and Avatar a success.

Avatar is just a modern day fairy tale or myth.

Fairy tales and myths are very formulaic and predictable as Avatar was, but this gives them their classic and universal appeal. Stories like Jack in the Beanstalk or the trials of Hercules have staying power and are told for hundreds and even thousands of years.

Fairy tales and myths use lots of symbols that appeal to what Jung called "the collective unconscious" Very similar myths and fairy tales can be found in hundreds of cultures that have had no contact with one and other. There are certain characters and motifs that pop up in man's stories that are universal. The most basic example is "good vs. evil", these are most often protrayed in the characters of a "Dark Lord" and "the questing hero". for example Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Zelda. This is why Avatar is successful. The story appeals to the collective unconscious of man and uses many symbols and characters that occur in timeless stories in all of Western and Eastern Civilization.

It is a mistake to attribute the success of Avatar to something as superficial as special-effects when the true appeal of the movie is the fairy tale or mythological quality of the storyline in the film. There are dozens of other movies with special effects as or nearly as impressive as Avatar; however, these were not anywhere close to the popular and financial success of Avatar.


I would like to begin by thanking my opponent for posting the debate challenge. Let's have some fun with this.


I would like to submit a new definition of "special effects": "Illusions used in entertainment to simulate the events of a story. Often abbreviated as SFX." [1]

I would also like to submit a new definition of "success": "critical acclaim, financial earnings, and positive popular opinion."


I negate the resolution "Special effects were not the cause of Avatar's huge success".


I will now refute my opponent's argument. Since his entire statement revolves around one central point rather than a number of separate arguments, I will only be refuting this one point.

His central argument is that Avatar's success is due not to its special effects, but rather its storyline. While my opponent acknowledges that the plot of Avatar is "formulaic and predicable", he claims that these qualities are what grants the film its appeal. However, film critic Duncan Jones criticized the film for its predicable nature ("At what point in the film did you have any doubt what was going to happen next? Or were you ever surprised how it happened?") [2]. Film Editor Cynthia Fuchs of called the film "cardboard" [3] and criticized it for using the very plot structure my opponent claims has "universal appeal" and appeals to the "collective unconscious". NPR also criticized the film for being "totally derivative" and accused it of "ripp[ing] off of every movie in the world but Twilight". [4] Universal means "applicable everywhere or in all cases; general" [5]. The evidence I have provided clearly disproves my opponent's claim that Avatar has "universal" appeal.

Avatar won dozens of awards for its visuals. However, it was only nominated for two writing awards, and of those it only won one award. If the film's story were so much more central to its success than its visuals and effects, then it would have won more than 1 award for story and been nominated for more than 2. My opponent's argument is clearly contradicted by this evidence.

My opponent claims that Avatar's success was not due to its effects. This is disproven by the fact that it was nominated for dozens of effects-related awards.

To summarize: While CON acknowledges that the story of Avatar may have been a part in its success, PRO's claim that its success had nothing to do with its effects is invalid.


I would now like to present my argument.

ARG1: Avatar won the majority of its awards for its special effects, showing that they are the cause of its success.
Source [7] will show viewers that Avatar was nominated for and won most of its awards for cinematography, art direction, and special effects. The fact that such an overwhelming number of award groups praised Avatar almost solely for its effects shows how pivotal the effects were in its success.


To summarize the debate thus far: My opponent has made one argument with no clear sources. That argument has been refuted and no longer stands. I have made one argument and cited seven sources for my rebuttal and argument. While CON cannot truly prove that Avatar's success was due to its special effects, it is not the duty of CON to do so, as the burden of proof rests with PRO. CON must only prevent PRO from successfully making its case.


I will end by thanking my opponent for this debate and urging viewers to begin considering a CON vote. Thank you for your time.

[5] Second Definition.
Debate Round No. 1


Let me first thank my opponent for this fun debate. Carlin was a comedic genius by the way and comedy legend for sure.

I have to first address the issue my opponent brought up about critics criticizing Avatar's predictable nature. Yes there were critics who criticized Avatar for the storyline, but I'm sure there were critics who ripped on Avatar for a wide number of reasons. I suppose there is a reason that film critics have their jobs, but how many times have you read a scathing review of a movie you just know is excellent. Critics may feel pressure to judge movies from a high standard of culture and class. They would probably judge the story of the Little Mermaid as predicable but that doesn't mean it sucks. To put it simply, professional critics have their jobs for a reason but are by no means infallible nor unbiased.

To clarify my position in this debate, I agree with the fact that, "Avatar won dozens of awards for it's visuals." and the special effects could have had a part in the overall success of the movie. I feel that the success of the movie because of a resonant story is the main overshadowing reason.

The bulk of my opponents proofs of his claims cite the number of awards that the film won. Well John Williams has won many awards for his compositions in dozens of movies, but is his music the only reason all of those films were a success? Why should the composers of special effects in movies have any greater claim to a films' success. Great music, nor great special effects make a successful film.

I don't like to research and cite a ton so I will paint what I hope is a good analogy. I leave it up to the voters to judge if it has merit.
The old Star Wars movies (episodes 4-6) had ground breaking special effects for their day but are nothing special at all now. However they are still beloved as one of the greatest cinema classics of all time. Why, because, among other things, they have a fantastic storyline. The stories of the old Star Wars are full of the kinds of Jungian archetypes and mythical motifs that I have mentioned and am arguing for.
Compare the success of the old Star Wars films to the new ones. Although the special effects in the new ones are by far and away superior to the old ones, fans prefer the old films hands down. The new films sacrificed good story and writing for special effects. The new movies were built around the special effects and not story line.
So if we choose to define success as "positive popular opinion" we would have to acknowledge that fans prefer good story over special effects, Star Wars fans being a perfect example.

I will admit that the special effects were great in Avatar. I felt like I was right there getting ready to put my dreads into the "video in" slot of an alien dragon. And the love scene with the blue alien girl was so crazy and real I felt like I shouldn't tell my girlfriend about it.

To seriously sum my case up, the masses know superficial, special effects driven movies when they see them and these movies don't succeed. Avatar was a film that combined both groundbreaking special effects and great story. To be fair I must point out a weakness in my case now that we have discussed it. The true test of my claim may not be possible at the moment. The real test of Avatar's resonant story will be if, like the old Star Wars films, Avatar still has value years in the future. I believe it will.

I'm running low on words but if anyone wants to read a bit about the paradigm I am coming from, a great page to visit is Avatar's success aside, I would encourage anyone to read some Joseph Cambell and about Jungian archetypes. You will never watch a movie or read a book the same again. Next time you watch a movie or read a book that resonates deeply with you, it may be because it tickles your collective unconscious. Whether Avatar does this or whether anything I have said is true I leave up to the voters to choose.


I would like to thank my opponent for a quick, yet engaging debate. George Carlin was truly a genius and he is missed.


Now I will respond to his rebuttal.

What I meant to do by citing those reviews is show that Avatar's story does not possess the universal appeal PRO claims it has. As to the awards for its visuals, those were meant to disprove the claim that its special effects were not the cause of its success. CON does not necessarily hold the belief that Avatar's story is not good, but CON's beliefs are irrelevant. The fact of the matter is that the sources CON has provided show that PRO's claim of Avatar's story's universal appeal is invalid.

In his rebuttal, my opponent contradicts his own resolution. His resolution is that Avatar's special effects are not the cause of its success (Cause - the producer of an effect. [8]). However, he admits that the special effects may have "had a part in the overall success of the movie". Here, my opponent admits that his own resolution may be invalid. The resolution states that Avatar's effects were not the cause of its success. This resolution is absolute in nature, stating that Avatar's effects had nothing to do with its success. My opponent's arguments are very well suited to the resolution "Special Effects were not the sole cause of Avatar's success" or "the main cause of its success". However, my opponent's resolution states clearly that Avatar's special effects were not the cause of its success, meaning they were not the producer of the effect. In conclusion, my opponent has admitted the fact that his resolution may be inaccurate.

As to the "John Williams" argument, CON need not prove that Avatar's special effects are the sole reason for its success. Thus, this point is irrelevant.

Also, back when the old Star Wars movies were released, their success was largely due to their effects. The effects were not the sole reason for their success, but it played a large part in the production of the effect, or the cause. The same can be said of Avatar.
As to the modern Star Wars movies, the effects used in those were not groundbreaking advances in CGI. The success of the original Star Wars was due to the fact that nothing like this had ever been seen before. Roger Ebert's statement in [9] supports this claim.

Also, Avatar's special effects were anything but "superficial". Many critics cited them as the best feature of the film, or at least one of the better features. This claim has already been proven by sources given in R1 by CON.


Now I will weigh the debate.


CON has refuted all of PRO's statements and provided one argument which still stands, as it was defended from refutation. PRO has not clearly outlined any arguments. Thus, I urge a CON vote for Convincing Arguments.

Both sides have shown very good conduct; as a result, I recommend casting a "Tie" vote for Conduct.

While CON's grammar and spelling have been strong throughout the debate, PRO has made a number of grammatical and spelling errors throughout the debate, including misspelling "worshippers" in R1, misusing "it's" in R2, and using inaccurate punctuation in R2. Thus, I recommend a CON vote for Spelling/Grammar

While CON has provided 9 sources throughout the debate, PRO has provided only one and even stated a lack of desire to research their case. Thus, I urge a CON vote for Reliable Sources.

I would like to thank mebjornson for a fun debate and the viewers for their time. Please vote CON.

Debate Round No. 2
2 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Posted by Puck 6 years ago
Avatar was a success?
Posted by KRFournier 6 years ago
I'd debate this if you changed the resolution to "Avatar's huge success was due primarily to storytelling." I can't see anyone taking the Con position with any amount of sincerity.
2 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Vote Placed by TheIntellectualDevotional 6 years ago
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Vote Placed by GeorgeCarlinWorshipper 6 years ago
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