Sunday, January 17, 2010


I snuck into Avatar this weekend. And, yes, those 3-D glasses are a beast--but I brought duct tape. I'd been reading all about Cameron's newest venture so I wanted to see it for myself--if nothing else, to see the gorgeous animation.

I admit I found the spilled popcorn and Junior Mints quite a distraction. So I will leave the thorough analysis for the experts. But a few thoughts have been jangling around in my head.

First, it was gorgeous. No argument there. Loved the glowing plants and creepy creatures. Hoping the sequel addresses the physics behind floating mountains.

Second, it is good cautionary tale about the pitfalls of technology, arrogance, greed, oppression and all that. I am all for loving the planet and respecting others. I love a good underdog story.

But I have to say, a couple of things really bugged me. First, the Na'vi were too darn perfect. Yes, it was terribly arrogant of the humans to think they had nothing to learn from the Na'vi. Cameron chose to tell a tale that has been told many times over (and one I am partly pleased that the next generation will have in their library). But enough with the nature-tuned perfection of the simpler people. Bleck!

Maybe it was the cat-thing that raised my hackles. The ears, the tails, the hissing! But I am pretty sure the Na'vi would also have some societal challenges of their own, some heartaches, some folks with desires that push their societal boundaries and certainly some good ol' bad apples...

The richer story would have been that when any two peoples meet, peace and all things good come from discovering and applying each other's virtues and tamping down our respective demons. We all have problems. (I'm working at my snarling-at-the-door thing...sheesh!)

I do want to go to movies to see People Who are Higher Evolved than my people. I want to believe that societies can live in peace and balance.They must be out there somewhere.

Wouldn't it have been fascinating if the Na'vi had a long, remembered history which included the rise and worship of technology? What if they really DID have a higher-evolved society--having long-since shrugged off the trappings of technological advancement and expansionism? What if they could eat piles and piles of tasty treats-- and choose not to! Not a new theme in sci-fi, by any means. But one worth teaching our our pups. Watching the audience, I can say that most were still quite in awe of the technology, however evil its application. And how many humans would really truly want to go live naked in the jungle for more than a vacation? Dogs would!  Hmmm...

Most bothersome to me was the revelation that the Na'vi must REALLY be a simple folk if Their Ways can be taught in three short months to a guy from the Jarhead Clan of Earth. If you stuck a cat in a dog body, ain't no way that feline is going to master canine ways...ever. The cat might learn the basics... eventually... but there is a lot more to being a dog than putting on a dog suit. I would love to see a movie where the cat has to live in the dog body and the result is a meld of feline-canine into something better...or at least different. You would become something new...a Dat or a Cog. Heh...
But back to Avatar. Not only could the Earthling master the Na'vi Ways after his Outward Bound crash course in culture, but he also - SURPRISE- ends up one-upping them all. He's the best of best-- becoming the awesomest guy in town by tackling the big red dragon-thing. No Na'vi could do that for how many generations? None of them had ever noticed the bad-ass dragon never looks up? Boy, they are simpler than I first thought.

So the message is: You cat-people Na'vi are perfect and your simple life is to be admired. Humans should be like you. Earthlings are mean. Or at least very out of touch with what matters. Yours is a better way.

But, if humans take the time, they do Your Ways better than you do! Your God won't listen to you-- but she listens to the new guy! You Na'vi rock and you have so much to teach humans. But you still need an outsider to come in, quick learn your ways and save you.

And how about that saving? Boom! Bang! Yow! I kept waiting for something different. Might does not equal Right. That was loud and clear. And everyone loves it when the weakling rises up and beans the bully on the nose.

But wouldn't it have been cool if the Na'vi had simply gathered with all the forest creatures en masse and had a massive sit-in to protect their sacred place? Wouldn't it have been stirring if ALL the Jarhead Clan's hands dropped away from the triggers, unable to slaughter?

Boy #2's favorite character in the movie was Michelle Rodriguez's pilot who did just that. She was still tough and "cool and funny" and she demonstrated the best of what humanity can offer. (What a waste of an interesting character, can I just say? Her death scene wasn't even fun on the kick-their-asses-scale).

But back to that ending and my sit-in idea. Let me be clear. Passive resistance is not for cowards. The price of life might have even been the same as the boom boom battle before The Jarheads would get the message. But hearts could have been changed. Peoples could have been brought together.

But, let's be honest, slaughtering of the peaceful (or stopping the slaughter and missing out on all those cool explosions) is hardly good entertainment. And maybe Cameron is smart enough to know you have to wrap the heartworm pill in hamburger to get it swallowed. Or maybe he is simply savvy enough to know that if you changed hearts and brought people together there is no marketable sequel.

But it would have been a great story to tell the pups.

Pochahontas/Avatar plot comparison


  1. I loved your take on the difficulty of a cat inhabiting a dog's body. It reminds me of the plot of one of my favorite movies "All of Me" with Lily Tomlin and Steve Martin. They both wind up occupying one body and they practically tear it in half!

    I have yet to see "Avatar" but I'm looking forward to it. I'll try not to overthink it now that you have. I can see where the expression, "worrying it like a dog with a bone"
    comes from!

  2. Now I have to see this movie. Your the only one I've heard that had any problems with the stry. Nice!