Sunday, February 14, 2010

Some Random Thoughts About Avatar

I finally saw Avatar last night. In short, I thoroughly enjoyed it...with a few minor caveats.

First, the story was pretty unoriginal, being little more than Dances With Wolves, Pocahontas, The Last Samurai, et cetera repackaged with aliens. Nevertheless, I don't mind familiar stories if they're told well, and I feel this one was told well. James Cameron made a good choice devoting so much time (almost 2 hours) developing the Na'vi culture, and making it something I cared about as a viewer. Once the inevitable conflict with the human colonists began, I was fully engaged in the story and cared very much about the outcome. Plus, it made the final triumph that much more satisfying. It's something any good story should do. Sure, it was nothing new and totally predictable. But with proper development, it doesn't matter.

Then there were the visuals. Simply incredible. I've often read and agree that science fiction isn't about character development or even's about the setting. It's about transporting people to new worlds and making them consider the possibilities. In this regard, Avatar was a smashing success in my book. Though the characters were mostly one dimension and the plot was nothing new, Pandora was an incredible world filled with wonder and possibility. Just the kind of thing I want to see in science fiction. Plus, I love movies with cool creatures, and Avatar was chock full of incredibly well imagined and awesome-looking lifeforms.

For one last quibble, I'm really disappointed the Na'vi were humanoids. I understand why from a story-teller's viewpoint. Make them too alien, and human audiences wouldn't connect, thereby destroying the story's impact. However, the Na'vi share no characteristics with the surrounding wildlife. They weren't hexapods, they didn't have four eyes, and they had hair. It seems they would share more features with their fellow creatures if they were actually native to Pandora (maybe they aren' for thought).

Also, I found the Eywa concept cool, in that all the lifeforms on the planet are linked together, creating a sort of planetary sentience and consciousness. It might seem far fetched, but it's similar to the Gaia hypothesis, which has been around for a while. Though I doubt there's anything like it on Earth, you never know what might be out there amongst the stars, waiting to be discovered. Maybe there's nothing exactly like what was imagined in Avatar, but there could be planet-wide neural networks out there, formed by lifeforms we can't imagine, creating intelligences with perceptions we can't begin to fathom. See? That's what good science fiction should do.


  1. Hi J-Bar, in case you hadn't noticed, AU discontinued the comment section of the blog. Some of us are on Facebook in case you were interested. On my page I have thirteen friends, and since I am very superstitious :-) and that is a bad-luck number, perhaps you would be so inclined as to help me out, by coming over and looking for me/us, and changing the number of friends I have to 14. I am under Alba(space)Tross.I found Alex and a few others from the old stomping grounds.

  2. You say:
    "However, the Na'vi share no characteristics with the surrounding wildlife."

    Actually that's not true. They shared two very important characteristics with the surrounding wildlife. They were intrinsically connected to the planet itself, and they, along with all the other wildlife, had the ability to connect neurologically with one another and to the planet by way of the sacred trees, through the physiological pathway on the end of what apparently only appears to be a ponytail.

  3. Soulless,

    Ok, you have a point there, I should have said they share almost no characteristics. Specifically, I was referring to their basic physiology, but you're right, their nervous systems show a strong relationship. I was mostly just complaining that they look too human for an alien lifeform. I wanted something cool and unique.

  4. Alba,

    I couldn't figure out which one you were on Facebook. There's 25 Alba Trosses. Which network are you part of?

  5. I'm still new to it, so I don't know what you mean when you ask what network I'm a part of. I sent you an email via gmail.