Midweek Fancies: Avatar

Today I am launching a new section of blog known as “Midweek Fancies.” These will all be in the middle of the week (of course!) but the day will vary from week to week. Also, the subject matter will be more esoteric than the Sunday installments. So, without further ado, the first Fancy!

Avatar by James Cameron

For anyone who doesn’t keep up with flavor-of-the-week and pop-culture, this is the newest 3-D movie just released a few days ago on December 18th. It is directed by James Cameron, perhaps most famously known for his Alien movies, and like those previous ones also starring Sigourney Weaver, albeit in a secondary role. Now first, we must state right at the outset that this movie is visually stunning. There are no two ways about it, one cannot argue over it, it just is. It takes new technology, and pushes it right to the edge for visual story-telling. The music, directed by James Horner, is also quite stunning, blending seamlessly into the storytelling to enhance without disrupting. With a few exceptions where the music is central to the story, I could barely remember the music itself after viewing the film, only the emotions it drew forth. And that is exactly as it should be.

Now we must come to story, and I will push all further content below the cut to avoid spoiling the movie for my Readers who have not yet seen it.

I cannot pretend that the worth of Avatar’s story is not controversial. That being said, I liked it, despite its many flaws. The story itself is simple. Humans find another planet, the beautiful Pandora, which contains a rare metal they desire. Despite the planet’s previous habitation by a native sentient species, humans move in to despoil this beautiful place. And I use the word despoil advisedly, here, as the measures the greedy humans go to in this film to obtain what they want are rather excessive in my opinion. So, enter our human hero, who infiltrates the alien Na’vi culture, in order to learn their weaknesses, only to find himself drawn into it, and eventually to betray his own race in order to save theirs. Also cue beautiful Na’vi woman who he falls in love with and eventually “mates” with, which is their equivalent of getting married.

Alright, so much for the basics. The main distinguishing feature of the story is the use of the human driven “Avatars” which are used to interact with the local natives. These are living breathing creatures created from their human “driver’s” DNA and Na’vi DNA, but lacking a driving power or intelligence, call it a soul if you will. They can only be used by one human ever, except one of the human drivers is killed before he can use his. Luckily, his twin brother can also use it because they are identical twins. And so, a simple retired Marine corporal enters into a world where previously only specialized scientists had entered. And this is the catalyst of our story, I think, the meeting of Human Warrior and Na’vi Warrior, and the respect they draw for each other from this mutual “warriorness” which they then build upon. This is a gradual thing, of course, but I think the progression is believable. Of course, most of the rest of the humans on Pandora do not take the hint, and through the course of the movie eventually the conflict is escalated to an all-out war. Our human hero decides to do the right thing, and help defend the Na’vi and their home-world from his fellow humans, and in so doing win his girl of course.

Now, as mentioned before, there are certainly some unexplained plot points, and some outright plot holes (why are Joel David Moore’s character and his presumably dead Avatar both present for the herding of the Humans back aboard their ship?) but for all this the story still works. In fact, I rather think that if the story had been too awesome, perhaps it would have detracted from the enjoyment of the movie. Sometimes, a simple story told well can be far more pleasure than a complicated story. However, my husband suggested, and I agree, that the medium of a movie would not be able to cope with some of the more in depth details of the story, such as the hero’s dual life as a human and a Na’vi and the psychological ramifications of this. Conversely, a book would be admirably suited for this sort of in-depth characterization. Perhaps, someone will hire a talented writer create a beautiful book to complement the beautiful movie.


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