What storytelling risks could Avatar have taken?

Discuss

246 Responses to “What storytelling risks could Avatar have taken?”

  1. angusm says:

    The movie might have gained a little depth if the Na’vi existence wasn’t shown as so unrelievedly idyllic. A more realistic portrayal of their lives might have reflected the fact that life in the state of nature will always tend to be somewhat nasty, brutish and … OK, so the Na’vi are never going to be short, but you get the idea. Jake’s choice to join with them would be more courageous if their pastoral life wasn’t so perfect in every way; their acceptance of him would be more meaningful if their only negative quality wasn’t a touch or two of high-school level sexual jealousy.

    You could also mix it up by giving the corporate slimeball an idealistic edge. Maybe he’s not just thinking of the quarterly report: maybe he wants the unobtainium because it offers the chance to restore the ruined Earth and make life better for the people living in poverty there. Then you have an interesting moral dilemma: is it permissible to loot Pandora in order to try to salvage Earth?

    In terms of world-building, I’d want to know more about the planetary network (did it strike anyone else that the “ten to the fourth” connections that the trees are supposed to have sounds hilariously low?) What can it do, and why does it exist? Why can the Na’vi interconnect with unrelated species? And, come to that, why are they humaniform and susceptible to having their DNA mixed with human DNA? That makes me think that there’s been some cosmic-level genetic engineering going on in the background. Exploring that would make for an interesting sequel – or it could have enriched this story by giving the science team a much more critical mission, possibly one that was ultimately of greater importance than the strip-mining operation.

    • ncinerate says:

      I very much like this angle (that of a ruined earth -needing- to strip mine pandora to survive). Billions of lives in the balance would have definately added some edge to the movie and made the ending much more complex (not to mention it would have left the door open for a sequel)… You could have left the whole movie as-is with just one small added scene and this would have added significant depth to the film.

      As it was, toward the end of Avatar I had -completely- lost interested in the Na’vi and started rooting for Colonel Quaritch to kill a few of them before his obviously-coming demise (predictable to the end). I had a hard time getting behind these blue people as they were ripping humans to shreds in the final scenes. Where was the enlightenment there? I know the humans were striking first, but it was clear the na’vi were massing for an attack on the mining camp – the humans had no choice in the matter. The Colonel even clearly states this, saying they need to take the fight to the na’vi or surely everyone will be killed. I left that movie wishing james cameron had taken at least ONE risk. I would have probably felt better if the Colonel had killed Jake at the end (this would get rid of the sugarplum happy ending baloney with “becoming” a na’vi).

      Not that Avatar was a bad experience, just that a few tweaks would have made it – much – better.

      • Anonymous says:

        I also had a problem with the actual final battle. It’s not as if the Navi haven’t tried fighting the soldiers before but riding towards armored tanks and body suits with bow and arrow? Silly. What type of strategy is that? Made for good visuals but made no sense — not for a species that’s so in tune with their world that they could REALLY do a number with guerrilla fighting.

      • Anonymous says:

        “I know the humans were striking first, but it was clear the na’vi were massing for an attack on the mining camp – the humans had no choice in the matter. The Colonel even clearly states this, saying they need to take the fight to the na’vi or surely everyone will be killed.”

        The whole point was that the Colonel’s justification for hitting the Na’vi “first” was sophistry. The Na’vi knew that the humans were planning to forcibly dislocate the Na’vi and destroy their sacred/sentient tree, so their massing to attack the humans was already a defensive maneuver. And the Colonel knew that the Na’vi knew this, so his characterization of the Na’vi as aggressors was pure “spin”.

        The humans always had a choice — they could just leave.

    • Anonymous says:

      “…giving the corporate slimeball an idealistic edge. Maybe he’s not just thinking of the quarterly report: maybe he wants the unobtainium because it offers the chance to restore the ruined Earth and make life better for the people living in poverty there.”

      This is beautiful. I wish Cameron had done that, very simple hardly any risk and all kinds of rewards in terms of moral conflict. Nicely done.

    • Anonymous says:

      The 10^4 number is the number of connections each tree has to other trees, about the same order of magnitude of the number of connections each human brain cell has to another brain cell.

      Now, the human brain has about 100 trillion cells. Could a planet like Pandora have that many trees?
      That’s a stretch.

      If you took the surface area of our moon ( about 10 billion acres) you’d have to pack 10,000 trees on each acre, only possible if they were packed together like hot dogs and had 2 foot diameter trunks. Nope, it doesn’t quite add up.

      • Grumblefish says:

        Pretty sure the human brain has 100 billion cells, not 100 trillion (I was watching the film with a neuroscientist, and she said the numbers were right)

        Also, the planet is a moon of a gas giant, so in size appears to be somewhere between that of the moon and Earth (i.e. it has an atmosphere, but lower gravity).

        So the numbers aren’t silly.

  2. Rob Beschizza says:

    “…giving the corporate slimeball an idealistic edge. Maybe he’s not just thinking of the quarterly report: maybe he wants the unobtainium because it offers the chance to restore the ruined Earth and make life better for the people living in poverty there.”

    These are the sort ideas I really like, because they could be added to what’s already there–even just as an extra scene–to give it all more dimension.

  3. Frank W says:

    In terms of narrative, you have everything set up for Apocalypse Now in space. But we don’t want to go there. There’s too much money on the line.

  4. a_user says:

    I didn’t see threads like this for any of the Spiderman films, Transformer films or 2012.

    What made anyone think a big budget CG heavy film would have anything but what it was?

    The people giving the money to make the film are just like any investor they want guaranteed returns. They don’t like risks.

  5. BruceMcBruce says:

    On the note of the Na’vi being overly idyllic, I was wondering throughout the movie what they would have thought of Sully’s human body. Early on the tell him about how they “accept when it is their time to go”, and all of that “law of the jungle” stuff. If Sully had his (I think unspecified) condition if he were born a Na’vi, I don’t think there’s any way he would have survived as long as he had as a human – especially not in the role of a warrior.

    I just wonder what the Na’vi would have thought of it – but of course they didn’t touch on that in the movie, because it would show the humans actually doing something good, which would be far too ambiguous.

    • angusm says:

      “If Sully had his (I think unspecified) condition if he were born a Na’vi, I don’t think there’s any way he would have survived as long as he had as a human …”

      I’d assumed that Sully’s paralysis was the result of an injury, possibly – but not necessarily – a wound sustained in combat.

      Your point is a good one: imagine a scene where a Na’vi suffers a similar injury, and Sully gets to witness as the Na’vi’s companions “put him out of his misery”. That would give him (and us) the opportunity for some interesting reflections on his new lifestyle.

  6. Michael_GR says:

    What I was expecting was some better use of the world-mind. The entire planet is a huge mind and all it can contribute to the fight is “send some beasties”? At the very least, use the flora and the insects. Better yet, have Eywa use the electromagnetic field somehow. EM attacks, death rays, fling floating rocks, something.

  7. bge says:

    As a sometime consultant, the analysis the ‘Company’ will be doing today runs something like this:

    How much money were we spending on that security force? Ammo and food shipped from earth plus shipping the people there and back, plus the gunships, the fuel and the salaries? (See that story linked above that the point of the Avatars was to get the locals to work the mines because it cost so much to have human mine-workers out there – the cost of running a military as well must have really eaten into profits. )

    And now we’ve started a war we’d need one several times as large, and how much would that cost? What will it cost to ship 3 or 4 more big gunships out there plus dozens of choppers? And that’s just one site!

    The original security force looked like maybe 500 men (in the evac scene at the end). Now we’re looking at perhaps 2k per site or more and with multiple sites we could end up with 10k men up there. All being supplied with food and ammo shipped from earth?

    So just coming back with more men and guns might be totally unprofitable. The US cavalry were supported by railway, not a hideously expensive 5-year space-flight.

    What about plan B? Take off and nuke the site from orbit? Well, you’re assuming no political / PR issues (and we can be sure there’s a whole shitstorm about all these casualties already). And would it irradiate the unobtanium? How about the workers? We’ve had enough nasty surprises to last us a while, thank you.

    Besides, you can only nuke an area – you can’t sterilise the entire planet (at least, not cheaply). Any impact zone would be re-colonised by the local BigCreaturesWithBigTeeth soon enough – so that’s only a short term solution. An open-cast mine is a decades-long proposition – you might be able to drop a nuke and then build a mine in the crater, but what happens once the nasties are back on the perimeter?

    So we come to plan C: we now have a human (sort of) we can talk to. We come up with a list of sites and give him a veto. We go to deserts and polar regions. We can cut way back on the military budget – ideally, no-one will even know we’re there. Sure, we might end up extracting less unobtanium, but we can always charge more for it and we won’t have to worry about any unexpected downtime…

    Ultimately – it will all come down to the numbers, not pride. If there’s a way to run the mine at low cost and low risk, giving the locals a veto might be worth it.

    However, the one scientific problem we haven’t talked about at all is, what role does the unobtanium itself play in the planet? Does it power Eywa? Seems like an obvious plot point for the sequel to me…

    • SaschaS says:

      Good points, and it would have made the whole big end battle much more credible if the Jake had convinced the natives along the line of “We cannot defeat them, but we can make fighting us so costly for them that they will rather try to bargain for what they want.”

      Instead it played out “all the natives need to unite under the leadership of a white man and wait for the intervention of god”, and that’s cheesy in my book.

  8. Anonymous says:

    The movie is already 3 hours long. Where do you fit in all these “improvements” being suggested?

  9. kerim says:

    One area where the story could have taken some more risks is in its depiction of avatars. As I discussed in my Savage Minds post:

    one of the most interesting things about virtual worlds is how complex the interaction between humans and their avatars can be. People can have multiple avatars, or “alts.” Different people can control the same avatar. And there are numerous problems raised when people are away from their keyboard but the avatar is still there. Of these, only the last one is even possible the film, due to the premise that each avatar has a unique genetic bond with a particular human. A little more complexity here could have made the film’s story line less predictable.

  10. Viadd says:

    The unobtanium is not just upsidasium used in military hardware. It is also a cure for cancer and a vital ingredient in electronics. With the limited supply available without genocide, you have to make the tough decision between smaller cellphones or saving the sickly orphans–which do you think people will choose?

    In our world of 2009, coltan is mined in the Democratic Republic of Congo and is the motive for horrific warfare, driven by the tantalum capacitor market to make smaller cellphones and lighter laptops.

  11. Anonymous says:

    The riskiest change to the film in terms of appealing to an American audience would have been to make Neytiri actually feminine. Has anyone noticed that in all American action films over the last two decades the female character is always braver, stronger, more decise and assertive than the men, who are either ridiculously heroic (Rambo, Commando, etc.) or weak-willed losers in need of help from the heroic women? I do not see the caring side of Neytiri, I do not see in her any tenderness, and thus I do not see the possiblility of any but a platonic relationship possible between her and Jake. In general, how can uncaring women who show no tenderness raise their children in a loving environment?

    Another interesting way to throw a wrench into the political correct group-think mind of America would have been to make the Na’vi less idyllic, as suggested above (comment #19). Perhaps make the women completely subservient to the men. (Remember in the run-up to the invasion of Afghansiatn Laura Bush went around the country telling people how terrible the Taliban were because they made women wear burkas, which I suspect went a long way to guaranteeing public support for the war). Note that making the men completely subservient to the women would not work as that too would be politically correct. Sigourney Weaver said she thought the only reason Hurt Locker won the Oscar for Best Picture is because its director was a woman.
    Could a male actor have said that and not been accused of being sexist?

    Or perhaps have the male and female leaders of the Na’vi have their choice of which newborn children to take as concubines at the age of 9 to do with them as they wished.

    Incidentally, I think the reasons Avatar didn’t get the Best Picture Award are: 1. it didn’t need it to generate extra revenue as everybody
    will see it anyway; 2. Hurt Locker is propaganda: the only Iraqi portrayed as positive is the boy who is a budding young capitalist selling DVDs; all the Americans are heroes, not one of them doubts that what America is doing in
    Iraq is right 3. Avatar could be seen as anti-American: the mercenaries talk of fighting terror with pre-emptive terror and call their operation “Shock and Awe”, the name of the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

    In the end, I suppose I side with #12. Keeping the film myth-like makes it accessible to audiences around the world who, when they watch films in translation, miss much of the subtlety English speakers can pick up on.

    Incidentally, whistleblowers who participated in black programs have said that downloading one’s consciousness as is done in Avatar is possible and has been used. See: projectcamelot.org.

    In general the disclosure of information related to contact with alien civilizations that everyone has been waiting for has been happening for some time through films. They are preparing us for the release of that information in this way.

    P.S. If Sigourney Weaver is trying to be the diplomat who makes peace between two completely different races, why is she portrayed as a person who likes plants more than people who is rude and surly, furious that no one is there to hand her a cigarette the minute she comes out of her avatar chamber?

    • Anonymous says:

      RE: Neytiri not being ‘tender’: You seem to be equating ‘feminine’ with weak. You sound ignorant and sexist. It must be nice to have your gender be the default when it comes to protagonists; you must be pretty upset that some strong female characters are (finally!) being given screen time. And, shit, she ends up just ‘marrying’ Jake anyways. Typical, and disappointing.

  12. Anonymous says:

    As a military man, Jake certainly would have known more about the Na’Vi before being dumped into their playground. What the heck is unobtainium? It is obviously obtainable. What does the avatar body do while the person is done visiting the planet? Does it just sleep and wake up every once in a while? I find it odd that when Jake jumped on the big red bird, that made him accepted by the clan. I doubt that would make him an instant leader. The movie could have covered more about /how/ Ana made communication inroads with the Na’Vi. They could have cut out a lot of the fighting scenes to make room for that. In the movie theater, the only line that got laughes was when Ana said that she had to get biological samples, just before she died. There could have been many other “funny” scenes. I will bet that there will be some college classes this semester on the film.

  13. magicbean says:

    You know, something I think we are missing in this literate society is the thought that Avatar is a myth…myths are melodramatic, predictable, seemingly simple, unsubtle…because…the depth lives in how you apply whatever lessons of humanity you find in that myth to who you are. Myths are stories that should have meaning across culturals, across generations…

    And the coolest things about myths is that you can see yourself and the culture ANYWHERE in the storyline because the characters and the story are so simple. The more subtle and complex it becomes, a story ceases to be a myth and becomes simply a story….still powerful, but with less flexibility and adaptability to individual meaning. From Avatar, you can look at racism from multiple perspectives, you can examine how we choose to treat the resources around us, you can examine ideas of courage, of failure, of humiliation, of love. Whatever, dude. Doesn’t matter if you’re 8 or 80.

    It was an article in the New Yorker about two years ago that talked about the psychological differences between pre-literate and literate storytelling and culture. in a pre-literate society, the melodrama and repetition are critical to story-telling – if it’s not written down, you can’t just look it up and re-read it to remember, it’s up to you to listen time and time again until the story is melted into your very being. The more melodrama, the easier it is to remember….and re-tell, because myths get told over and over and over again.

    Keeping in mind how the internet and movies and books have changed the human relationship to storytelling over time, could it be that part of the success Avatar is its return to a mythic, ham-fisted simplicity? And the cool technology?

    • Anonymous says:

      To Magicbean,
      could you please specify the title and author of the New Yorker article concerning the psychological differences between story-telling in literate and pre-literate societies?
      Thank You

    • Anonymous says:

      I think this is a great point, thanks for sharing it! It’s a myth, as ancient story’s were and allows the viewers to take away the morals they need to learn. I think a heavier hand in the story line would have deteriorated the movie in this sense.

    • Anonymous says:

      I agree wholeheartedly with your comment and Thank You so much for being the one who understands what the Movie is really about, Meaning. =]

    • Comatose51 says:

      Do you have the title or link to that article. Sounds really interesting. Thanks for bringing in that point.

  14. Lobster says:

    He could have made more creative aliens than sexy human + cat + blue. How’s that for a risk?

  15. SamAdkins says:

    I was very disappointed with the story. After the movie my girlfriend stated that all it was, story wise, was FernGully, which I think sums it up well.

    I wish the story depth was more on par with Princess Mononoke.

    • Anonymous says:

      Considering how many story elements James Cameron lifted from other movies, he should have just gone whole hog and lifted the ending from Princess Mononoke itself. More of a bittersweet ending, more uncertainity, and at least Quaritch would have survived (albeit crippled, and perhaps more introspective).

  16. Anonymous says:

    #33, maybe the environment was oxygen and their masks filtered out poisonous gas. Maybe the air was too oxygen rich… Evidently you didn’t think very long before complaining. Your complaints on “realism” are tedious and disagreeable.

    And, like my friend, your political persuasion too heavily influences your perception of the natives. Like most who object to the noble savage, I think you must feel threatened by the idea. That is why it remains an excellent theme to explore.

    • tuhiarangi says:

      do you even know what the noble savage idea is..? As I understand it, it is based on the idea that humans have degenerated since being kicked out of Eden, but the ‘noble savage,’ in his ‘primitive’ state, hasn’t fallen as far. How is that idea worthy of debate? Unless you read the Bible literaly

      • Anonymous says:

        Here is your answer: Read the above thread, where 50 people discuss the human relationship between, earth/nature, and technology/progress. You will note at least two things, 1) No one mentions the bible 2) The conflicts posed by these relationships are not trivial and the way we resolve these conflicts will define the direction of humanity in the coming decades. There’s finally enough support in the developed world to question the balance. I much prefer my peers were engaged with the dilemma than completely ignore it, which evidently, you have decided to do.

        Besides that, I’m fiercely agnostic, but even I recognize value in religious allegory. The value of your comment is zero, save this reply.

  17. Vnend says:

    Prospero761 | #108 : Just because they didn’t have a character come out and tell you on screen why the mountains float doesn’t mean they didn’t explain it. They did. In the movie. But you have to watch it and think.

    The added velocity of the banshees isn’t what I credited the later success in attacking the choppers to, it was the angle the arrows were hitting the surface at. The earlier shots were fired from below and hitting angled panes, scratching them and bouncing off (and, yes, it is indeed a stupid mistake to have your gunship that low, even if you are certain your are invulnerable… unless you are looking for an excuse to step up the violence). In the later attacks the arrows are striking the windscreens at a right angle for better penetration. (Not the mention that the successful attacks are on the support choppers while the earlier unsuccessful ones were on the gunship, which you would expect to be better armored…)

    It is a pity that the Na’vi weren’t as advanced as the Iroqois when the Norse got to North America around 1000; they were reported as using a catapult against the Norsemen. And wouldn’t a nice heavy rock made for a mess in someone’s rotors…

    But, tactically, there is a lot to complain about in this (or just about any) movie. Why not have the banshee’s carry rocks and drop them into rotors? Why not ferry Na’vi up onto the floating mountains and push boulders onto the attackers when they fly below? Why are you flying your bombing run at that low an altitude?

    The answer, of course, is some version of either ‘We didn’t think of that’ or “We thought this made a better movie.”

    • Cowicide says:

      Not the mention that the successful attacks are on the support choppers while the earlier unsuccessful ones were on the gunship, which you would expect to be better armored

      I had thought of that, but then I thought it would be pretty stupid to not supply the choppers with the same protected glass in that hostile environment as well as those robotic land warrior things.

      Then again… maybe Donald Rumsfeld was brought back to life and was in charge of it all and they went to war with the army they had, not the army they’d might want or wish to have at a later time.

  18. Eryk the Dead says:

    I don’t know how long a game Cameron is playing, and I’m not sure the trilogy thing is true, but my thought is all the Na’Vi are Avatars and that Pandora is not natural. The whole place is a bio-engineered AI/experiment for a real high end race.

    Movie 2. The real human representatives come back. By that I mean a military expedition. Blah blah, 3 hours later we have an understanding. During the movie there are hints from the world mind that a threat is coming that only Na’Vi and the sky people together can counter.

    Movie 3. They creators (of the force that destroyed them) return. Pew Pew Pew end of movie.

    Pretty standard Science Fiction meme actually. Someone call Alan Dean Foster. This has the makings of classic, if simple trilogy.

    The politics don’t bothers, the simple iconic nature of the story certainly doesn’t bother me. I do have problem with Cameron’s 2 dimensional portrayal of the “bad” guys is a problem. I for one have a real hard time that 154 years from now, Mr Corporate VP wouldn’t have an understanding how vital info tech had been in shaping his world; and that the idea of biological info tech that his bio-engineers had proven they could replicate (Jake’s USB port was Pandora compatible) would be worth 100x the superconductor.

    Still an interesting universe with lots to work with, I’m sure, if more movies are made, it will take the path of least resistance story wise, but still the potential for a “blow your mind” story exist.

  19. Xopher says:

    I liked it OK as it was. Well, OK, “unobtainium” really grated, but most of the tweaks I’d make would be subtle. This even though, yeah, this was another “Mighty Whitie” movie.

    Making the Colonel have some redeeming traits would be good. Having Jake get to know the other soldiers on the base would be good too…especially if some of the ones who are nice to him are the same ones he later has to kill.

    That whole base, all those scientists, not a single queer? OK, you’re going to say “Yeah, Xopher, you want to put queers in everything,” but you’re wrong: I just want to see some queers in anything that’s not a specifically gay movie. And tokenism (the funny neighbor or whatever) doesn’t count. How about Norm? He could have been gay.

    To combine ideas, why not have Norm be gay and have a lover (or even just a “fck-but-don’t-kiss” FB) on the soldier side of the base? Dramatic scene when Avatar-Norm faces human-FB in the battle scene, they both freeze in horror…then the soldier shoots Norm. Same after that, with human-Norm waking up clawing at the wound that isn’t there. Give that scene a lot more force!

    One minor thing I thought was done better than the average Mighty Whitie movie: he wasn’t instantly comfortable in the “native” garb. The scene where he claws miserably at the buttfloss of the bun-baring loincloth was a) hilarious and b) realistic.

  20. Anonymous says:

    1. A last minute betrayal would have been out of nowhere and then made no sense.
    2. The Na’vi only killed to protect life.
    3. Why would the Na’vi need mechanical tech of any kind. Besides they live in a jungle with biological internet.
    4. Remember, the Colonel is not an “evil” villain. From his perspective, Jake is a species traitor.
    5. Right on, Right on!

  21. Anonymous says:

    At the end of the day, the message is “While there is an american soldier, (even without legs), the world is safe.”

  22. Anonymous says:

    I have to comment on the developing criticism of the “physics” of spear-chucking and rock-throwing. It appears we are all focussing on a modern scientific dogma that separates that which we perceive to be alive from that which is not. Cameron contrasts this current human prejudice embodied in Parker’s comment, “They’re just trees” as if trees were just barely a step-up from inanimate (lifeless) objects. I would like to suggest that Cameron’s initial critique of corporate callousness to all living things can be extended to our own societal callousness towards what we consider to be inanimate or lifeless objects such as minerals or gasses.

    If indeed the entire consciouness of Pandora consists of a network connecting all things we consider to be alive then it would be a mistake to casually disregard that which we perceive as not alive to not be as critical a part of Pandora’s consciousness.

    The global neural net is a beginning plot device. And I remember the Sci-Fi novel from which the communicative neural “sexual organs” common to all Pandorian “life forms was derived (kind of ironic nobody brought up that strange tale – but it wasn’t targetting a mainstream readership anyway). But just as with humanity (apart from Freud of course) existing in more spheres than merely the sexual so too might the consciousness of Pandora exist in more spheres than simply the directly connected neural net – possibly inclusive of every quantum particle on and directly surrounding the planet.

    This is not an alien perception to some human societies where rocks are considered equal relations to human beings on the Earth. I believe there is a germ of a rationale for pursuing this embryonic concept of Pandora’s extraterrestrial Gaia-like consciousness into the realm of thought where ever part of Pandora is alive and fully participating in Pandora’s awareness and being, including what we consider “inanimate objects.”

    This would, of course, preclude the Na’vi from considering rocks and arrows and spears as simply “material” with which to attack the human invaders. It would require careful consideration and communication with Pandora. This, of course, flies in the face of our modern materialistic tendency to enslave or conscript anything alive or not in our endeavors to conquer or make war, let alone “make a living.”

    Just another mind-stretcher and anti-stereotypical thought-buster engendered by the story.

  23. Tdawwg says:

    I’d have liked more anthropological, mythical, etc. data on the Na’vi. And something better for Jake than the ten-minute “this is a montage of the hero learning how to do tough shit” sequence where he learns Na’vi ways: movies always do this, making learning look easy.

    A sense that the Na’vi aren’t just peacable folks when the humans are away would have been good, too: like most tribal societies, there are reasons they all don’t live in a big polity, and it would have been fun seeing the Na’vi disagree, fight, war with each other. Jake’s mighty Lawrence of Arabia warband is a bit much.

    Oh, and genociding the humans at the end would have been a terrific downer ending, kind of like Aeneas stabbing Turnus, fade to black, the movie’s over kids.

    But I think magicbean’s right in that a lot of the film’s power for me came from the stripped-down, simplified story.

  24. Anonymous says:

    He could have used an original plot…and not taken one from “Call Me Joe” and a couple of other stories.

  25. Anonymous says:

    What storytelling risks could Avatar have taken? None, because when you come right down to it, Cameron has never had an original idea. All of his films, while visually exciting and blessed with great performances, top-notch directing and production values (even the low-budget Terminator), are derivative, cliche-ridden and preachy. He’s been repeating what is essentially the same old message (“make love, not war”) since he exposed frame one.

    I like his films. I’ve seen them all (and own the DVDs) and I will probably see this one, but I have no illusions that Avatar is anything more than a shiny technology demo. The key thing to me is that almost everyone says it doesn’t play as well in 2D. Isn’t that a sign of weak storytelling, when the medium is more important than the message?

  26. chip says:

    Make the aliens ALIEN. What’s the point of all this CGI wizardry if the computer generated aliens could easily be replaced with Blue Man Group and nobody would notice? District 9 did this fairly well, making the aliens not only frightening to look at, but also dumb. This makes it less obvious that these are the plucky underdogs that you’re supposed to be rooting for.

    And by all means, don’t stop with their physical appearance. Their behavior should also be truly alien. Maybe they eat their young. Maybe they lack a social taboo against bestiality. Maybe their religion dictates that all war heroes should be burned alive after a battle, as a reward fro bravery. Something to make them a bit less cuddly and make the decision to defect a bit more difficult.

    If it was “Dances with Cthulu” instead of “Dances with Smurfs”, the film would be far less predictable.

    • weatherman says:

      Dances With Smurfs; brilliant.

    • Anonymous says:

      you can’t very easily expect an audience to sympathize with a race of aliens that looks nothing like a human, who have behavior unlike any normal human– there would be nothing incommon with the humans for them to have any sort of connection to. that would have thrown off the one of the major intents of the film entirely, or at least made it that much more difficult to interpret.

  27. Anonymous says:

    James Cameron is just a lazy story-teller; either that, or he has no confidence whatsoever in audiences. I mentioned to my friends the three reasons I wasn’t going to bother with Avatar: (1) H. Beam Piper, Little Fuzzy and Fuzzy Sapiens; (2) Lloyd Biggle Jr., Monument; and (3) Alan Dean Foster, Midworld.

    Dances with Wolves, The Last Samurai, and now Avatar: too bad for those poor savages that they didn’t have one white soldier to lead them into battle, or else they would have won. Except that half an hour with Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs, and Steel dismantles that whole idea in a heartbeat. And besides, it ignores the fact that from Croatoa to Wounded Knee, there were white people, many of the combat veterans, who “went native.” One “white hero” more or less can’t overcome significant technological advantages backed by an insanely lethal plague.

    So if we’re going to tell stories about sympathetic but low-tech aliens overcoming Terran military/corporate oppressors, and we want those stories to be even minimally plausible, the story is going to have to offer some more feasible way for them to win than to make friends with or attract a single white soldier to teach them how to fight.

  28. edgore says:

    During the movie I could not help but think they were killing all these aliens just to make Oakley Sunglasses. Kind of pulled me out of it…

  29. smapte says:

    Remember in “A New Hope” when Darth Vader considered joining the Rebels? Remember in “Die Hard” when John McClain considered betraying Al and joining Hans Gruber? Remember in “Aliens” when Ripley thought Carter was a pretty upstanding guy? Remember in “The Matrix” when Neo had to fight Morpheus to the death to prove himself?

    No? Oh right. None of those things happened.

    There’s a reason these epic films resonate with us. The classic framework of “the chosen one” story is familiar and loved partly because we can predict the arc. The enjoyment is found in the world-building and the way the expected elements play out in new settings with new characters. I’m not saying Avatar’s script was perfect. Far from it. I certainly would have liked to have seen more internal struggle in Jake as he chose between two lives. I would have liked to have seen Parker show a more realistic range of emotions rather than a bland concoction of corporate-fatcat stereotypes.

    But these are small wants. Ultimately the simplicity and classic elements of the plot are what will make this movie a classic. The small gains to be had by tossing out a throwaway line like, “Is that what they told you when you quit Venezuela?” would do little to improve the overall takeaway of the viewer’s experience.

    Risks aren’t always a good thing when you’re telling an epic tale. Take the classic story framework and build an apocalyptic vision around it and you get “The Terminator.” Work too hard to turn those classic elements on their ears and slip in a risk here and a twist there and you get the cinematic abortion that was “Terminator Salvation.”

    • melaniezen says:

      @smapte. I registered here just so I could agree with you. I think you get it nail on the head. That is exactly my take on it too, but you put it very well.

      To add further, I think the simplicity of the plot is actually a strong point. I will (have already) watch this movie again and in the future not to rediscover the sudden plot twists and reveals, but to relive the world, the discovery, the flight.

      Are there plot points that could have added without detracting? Possibly, but to add the plot twists suggested above (while inventive) would undermine from the force of the ‘legend’ unfolding and make the story less believable.

      I’ll just pick a couple examples. Starting with the first suggestion (Jake betrays Na’vi), sure it’s obvious from scene one that Jake will ‘fall in love’ with “Pandora, The People, you” but let’s face it, you know before you even see scene one of the Terminator, Lord of the Rings, Star Wars… that yes, indeed the hero-protagonist is going to kick butt and survive/triumph against all odds. The point is enjoying the journey (along a well worn path).

      Would Jake’s betrayal improve? Remember, we know in advance that Jake is going to side with the Na’vi, that’s the insight and burden of being a well-informed narrative consumer. (This reminds me calculating a statistical event in which the probability of B’ is altered given A’ has already occurred.) Jake’s betrayal would only insult the audience, as far as I’m concerned. It’s not believable for a second. If I were presented with a Jake betrayal “plot twist”, I can promise you I would turn-off immediately and begin doubting the faith of the director in understanding the value of elegant storytelling over cluttering our way with circuitous detours. It’s just a waste of time.

      Already, this post is too long, so perhaps I’ll leave it at that. But I’m probably going to continue blogging about what’s wrong with these suggestions. Before leaving though, let me add, this is a terrific idea for a post. I like the idea of contributing a few plot points, but not these.

      • SaschaS says:

        you know before you even see scene one of the Terminator, Lord of the Rings, Star Wars… that yes, indeed the hero-protagonist is going to kick butt and survive/triumph against all odds.

        I think you are making a good point here, but actually against Avatar, as all these movies either have non-triumphant hero-protaganists or at least a far more interesting journey for the hero.
        As in Terminator I, Kyle Rees dies, and Sarah Connor survives, but it is not really a triumph, because she loses her love-life and the last scene sees her head off into a bleak future. Terminator II is more streamlined, but still has the interesting (within the limits of the genre) journey of a machine discovering humanity and finally coming to the conclusion that it must be destroyed itself in order to protect humanity.
        In LotR a major point is the fact that Frodo fails in his quest: He is not able to destroy the ring when he arrives at Mount Doom, and for Aragorn the ending point of his hero’s journey is the realisation that he cannot win the war, but that he must sacrifice himself and his army in order to (maybe) buy Frodo the time he needs to destroy the ring.
        As for Star Wars, if you talk Prequels, it is evident that none of the hero-protagonists triumphes. As for the classic trilogy, Luke does eventually triumph, but after a journey which makes him realise that his hated arch-enemy is in fact a part of himself, and he does not triumph by strength of arms either, but by throwing away his weapon.

        Compare that to Avatar: The hero joins the good guys, leads them to fight against the bad guys, takes on the main bad-ass 1o1, and wins. He gets the girl and is the celebrated hero among the good guys. End of story.

        And that is my personal gripe with Avatar: It is an entertaining visual joyride, but with just some little investment in the story, it could have been a great movie. Instead it is so shallow that movies like SW or Terminator, none of which are very profound themselves, easily surpass it. What the heck, even decent computer games today come up with stories that are more engaging than my plot outline of Avatar above.

    • melaniezen says:

      One more thing (since I hit submit a little to quickly there)

      If not that, then believe this: ‘Jakesulley’ (though his heroism predetermined) he is hanging by a thread most of the movie. Though we suspect he is going to join the rebel alliance from the beginning, his character is really not believable in that role. Sure, the director can do it, but we have to be convinced. As a marine whose spent most of his grown years fighting in war or recovering from it, as a dreamwaker/skyperson who comes with no concern or knowledge of the Na’vi, he is hardly worthy of the task. Even as it is, he is just barely able to overcome that bait-and-switch. Remember what he is giving up: money, a leg, his species, probably his life–since survival as a rebel is improbably. And for what, a girl, some tribal brothers who aren’t keen on you, and a new land that requires him to survive on his adrenaline-pumped Marine training 100% of the day? Like his fall through the forest, Jakesulley just manages to make it to the ground (where, yes, we all knew he was headed) intact. If Jake had betrayed the Na’vi later on (aside from his initial betrayal by imparting the knowledge to take-down their home tree) it would have been neigh impossible to recover. As it is, I think his recovery from the initial betrayal was generous— ‘You helped destroy our whole village’s home in the most vile, apocalyptic and near genocidal site we’ve ever seen, but hey, I guess bygones are bygones’.

      True, Jakesulley was pulled as if by gravity towards his inevitable Na’vi conversion, but leading us in a small circle with a second betrayal would serve only to cause deep sighs in a thoughtful audience and, second, prove a reconciliation towards his eventual heroic climax completely unbelievable.

      Nice challenge post!

    • randalll says:

      I just saw this last night, and there is no way this is going to end up being a classic. It’s just not that good. The visuals are cool, but the movie will be forgotten the next time a good filmmaker puts out something beautiful to look at.

    • Anonymous says:

      And remember how much the third and final Matrix movie sucked? Precisely because they tried to tamper with the tried and true formula. After movie three, I wanted to leave the theater cheering the ultimate triumph of humanity over machine. Instead I was left with, what, certainly a plot that took risks, and didn’t follow the formula, and a movie that sucked.

    • Anonymous says:

      Remember “Star Wars”? The aliens wore old horror masks. And nobody said anything about it.

  30. Anonymous says:

    I thought of the Ferngully connection, too. But actually another film came to mind for me: the first Star Wars movie. Nothing particularly revolutionary there storywise, but it undeniably reinvigorated the stale sci fi franchise at the time and helped set the stage for the universe of storylines to come as well as eventually ascending to the level of myth in our own culture. Avatar seems a worthy start. I would have loved for it to take me down the rabbit hole like The Matrix did, but it also could have been a lot worse. I found it very satisfying. (Though I have to agree: how about a climax that doesn’t involve a war? Now there’s a way to stretch some boundaries!)

  31. Anonymous says:

    I have to say, i was most annoyed and distracted by the lack of creativity in the little details. Unobtainium? Are you kidding? ANYTHING would have been better. Pandorium. Mineral 246. Every time I heard the word unobtainium I exited the world of the movie to think about how stupid it was. And how come the horses looked so much like horses? They couldn’t have ridden the crazy panther things? Or even JUST the smaller bird/dragon things? 6-legged horses is about as uncreative as you can get. The storyline was, as everyone said, simple and predictable. For such an expensive movie, it really should have been outrageously good. It wasn’t an 11 out of 10. it was an 8 out of 10.

  32. yvgeny says:

    Jake’s brother could have already been killed by the Na’vi or at least by something else while trying to work with them. It would have given Jake some internal conflict in working with them as well as more motivation (retribution) for going to Pandora in the first place. He would have felt even more of an outsider with the science team. The betrayal angle could work into it. Then, the transformation would have had more significance.

    The danger posed by the Na’vi or its animals was never clear even though the colonel drones on and on about it. His scars and some arrows in the tire of truck is not enough. Giant scary animals are too obvious. There should have been a sequence where the Na’vi posed a real threat to humans. Or where Jake is nearly done in by unfamiliar flora and fauna which doesn’t seem so menacing at first.

    Don’t have everybody be a snide old-timer who has to quip at everything with a smirk as if they always know something no one else does. “Hey fresh meat!” “Where’s my damn cigarette” “You’re not in Kansas anymore” It gets old really quickly.

    Again, it’s the jocks over the nerds in this movie. Some ignorant schmoe who has no idea what’s going on waltzes in, runs roughshod over everything, and takes over the whole show. Through no effort whatsoever he becomes the expert and lead guy for everything. I understand the American appeal of an outsider rebel who beats the system but this one was just annoying.

  33. Anonymous says:

    Cameron should have taken a page from Mel Gibson’s playbook and had all the dialog spoken in Na’vi, without subtitles. I think the story still would have been perfectly comprehensible.

  34. woid says:

    Movie plotting is never as neat and tidy in the process as it may appear to be in the final product.

    The first cut of the movie ran something like four hours. There’s a huge amount of story that was cut out in getting it down to 2:45 or so. The only detail I know is that there was a subplot about the school that the Sigourney Weaver character runs for the Na’vi — it’s mentioned very briefly at one point in the finished film. That subplot would explain one question asked by Jake (and the audience) but never answered: how is it that some of them speak English?

    Agreed, the plot is the weak part, but until we get the director’s cut, who knows what could have been different? Movie making is like sausage making — they both have a cutting room floor that you might not want to know about.

  35. migigawa says:

    The movie could have started out with shots establishing that the Earth, while technologically sophisticated, was really an ecological hell-hole. The crematorium could have had a picture window view of a sulfurous, smog-chocked wasteland, or a vast tangled riot of technology. Or Jake could have been shown wheeling himself to the crematorium through the teeming bowels of a Blade Runner-esque city. That would have made the ecological bankruptcy of Earth more prominent and heightened the contrast with Pandora.

    But then again, it’s hard to imagine that a star-faring civilization would not have solved the climate problem first, like the 23rd century world of Star Trek.

  36. Anonymous says:

    Jake shouldn’t have become their leader. It makes it look so easy, to just slip on the skin of another species and end up like you’d been one of them your whole life. It cheapens the experience of the Na’vi, of their identity.

  37. Ehkzu says:

    Here are the storytelling risks Avatar could have taken:

    None.

    As #s 41 and 84 pointed out, unless Bill Gates whips out his checkbook a $300M film must be a blockbuster to make a profit for all involved.

    That’s impossible for a film that just shows domestically. It has to be a world blockbuster. It has to be PG-13 for all those conservative countries, and it has to have an easy to follow good guys/bad guys plot for all those lower middle class moviegoers in Lahore and Belo Horizonte and, and, and.

    Of course Princess Mononoke was vastly deeper. It could make a profit on domestic Japanese sales alone. Ditto various Japanese anime series.

    Ditto, for example, the scariest, most morally complex vampire film ever, the Swedish shocker “Let the right one in.” Which had virtually no special effects and no name stars…and which, I’m sure, could make a profit from domestic Swedish sales alone.

    And ditto another film you could compare Avatar with, the Finnish/Russian collaboration “Cuckoo.”

    OTOH making the Na’vi look/act so much like us might have shown a lack of imagination or simply needing to make the film fly in the world market, but it made sense biologically. Actually I objected (on scientific grounds) to the Na’vi being as different from us as they were: erect bipedal hominids aren’t going to have tails. Nor blue skin. And the huge yellow eyes–you’d see that in a nocturnal animal, while the Na’vi were diurnal. The hairy USB port thing was magic with a sci-fi gloss.

    I say this because sci-fi fans generally suffer from what I call the “Star Wars Cantina Syndrome.” They assume aliens will look/act alien unless proven otherwise, as in Arthur C. Clarke’s Rendezvous with Rama, where everything to do with the aliens was at all times inexplicable.

    But science has a great rule of thumb principle called the Assumption of Mediocrity: we assume what we see and know is par for the course unless proven otherwise.

    Moreover, you can see the convergent evolutionary forces throughout nature–and I’ve seen nature at its wildest, most diverse and fanciful, because I’m a veteran scuba diver who has dived from Indonesia to Canada to the Caribbean. It all seems like a hurricane of life forms at first, but later you discover there’s a reason for everything.

    And erect bipedal hominid is the ticket for a dominant tool using terrestrial lifeform.

    The hexapedal animals, pollen sucking horse equivalents and other stuff was a lot less likely. Didn’t interfere with repaying that $300M investment, but it lessened my own buy-in. One of most powerful evolutionary forces we’ve seen is the one forcing down the leg count on terrestrial animals above the scale of one with an exoskeleton.

    If you want to see a fairly recent sci-fi film with an actually interesting plot/characterizations/moral complexity, see “Serenity.”

    All that said, however, I saw “Avatar” yesterday, in the company of three other long-time sci-fi fans, and we all enjoyed it. Do get there early enough for seat in the back half of the theater on the centerline, though. We were on the side and suffered accordingly.

    There’s no use to watching Avatar and thinking about how it should have been adapted to the viewing desires of an educated minority. As one commentor said, just wait for the technology Cameron pioneered to become available at a lower cost.

    Then it will get very exciting. But for now and forever, the most cutting edge films will always be lowest common denominator crowd pleasers.

    Except, of course, for “2001.” I’m still amazed Kubrick was able to get that financed.

  38. AdamantFire says:

    It was a fairly safe movie, but it was also a long movie that was really tight. A lot of things were left out, yes, but I think a more realistic, more foreign culture would have made the film a more interesting anthropological exercise.

    I would have also preferred a lot more realism in approaching the Na’vi’s very existence. For all of their talk about their spirits and gods, no one brought up what could have been a very interesting storyline about how finding another humanoid existence would suggest design in the universe, which would have made studying the Na’vi much more vital to humans.

    Instead, the planet is a brain. It’s good, but it was a plot device that went no where.

  39. Anonymous says:

    Why not just say “Blackwater”?

  40. greengestalt says:

    Sorry, but Avatar due to expense needs the “Epic” treatment… Once that technology matures, we can have cheaply made movies with ‘real’ stories.

    I have some ideas for what I’d like to see filmed, using modern technology to make them cheap and easy to make. Relatively speaking, of course, but in the $10-$60Million range.

    The $60 million one should be Tim Vigil’s “Cuda”… Cool barbarian thing, have it full of raw gore, sex, ghoulish black magick, etc. No holds, holes or axes barred! Conan meets Caligula meets Crowley! Time to break the “MPAA Ratings system” the way Stan Lee broke the “Comics Code!”

    And then, for the kids, “Chakkan, the forever man” animation. Underground comics character, more known for one of the most difficult -and best- Sega16 games.

    For the more mature adult tastes, have Croneberg do “Cities of the Red Night”, another Burroughs work to adapt:-)

    Myself, I’m conceptualizing an ‘alternative’ Pirate movie, based on a book by Peter Lamborn Wilson.

    BUT-there is a movie worth the full $ treatment, one that by far needs to be made: Jon Carter of Mars – by Edgar Rice Burroughs.

  41. Anonymous says:

    Not a plot point, and perhaps they did it and I missed it, but when Jake & Neytiri have a love scene their tentacles should have merged, although maybe that wouldn’t suit the rating…

  42. Anonymous says:

    I didn’t mind the simplicity of the plot, understanding that easily digestible elements resonate the most. What I noticed though, was that it was actually 2 movies smashed into one. The first half was about Jake and his evolution as a mystical warrior, second it was about the conflict between two cultures. About half way through the story Jake became paper thin as the plot focused exclusively on cultural battles. This could have been a “Star Wars” or a “Dances with Wolves”, but ended up becoming a “Stars with Wolves” smashup. My theory is that the end became dominated by a committee decision making process, thus the degeneration to the typical “might makes right” climactic conclusion.

  43. Jon says:

    Check out the differences from original script:

    http://chud.com/articles/articles/21969/1/PROJECT-880-THE-AVATAR-THAT-ALMOST-WAS/Page1.html

    A lot of the suggestions noted in the article and the comments here were actually in the original.

    I especially like the additional of a previous Avatar controller who fell in love with a Navi and then died. Then he died in his avatar which leaves his human brain all screwed up. It’s Jake’s story gone wrong!

    • KCinQC says:

      This is the link I was going to mention as well. Using the original script the movie would have been much more violent (an Avatar driver experiencing being eaten alive as his Avatar is killed *shudder*), have more twists and turns, more fleshed out characters, and easily been a better experience for Cameron fans, and sci-fi fans in general.
      But you have to know that the movie would have been way too long, require an R rating, and would not likely be approaching 3/4 of a billion dollars after being in theaters for less than 2 weeks.
      There was no way Fox, or any studio, would have green-lit a film like the one in the original script and pay the $250,000,000+ required to get it done. With that much cash at stake, they have to make their money back.
      I strongly suspect the Avatar sequel(s) will be more in line with the original script. Cameron’s first priorities with Avatar (after developing his own patented cool movie magic technology for this and future films) was to return the studio’s money, and establish a fan base.

    • vinegartom23 says:

      I really like the “Project 880″ changes mentioned in the scriptment originally intended to be Avatar. If movie making weren’t so damned lucrative for some folks, Cameron would make a decent print author. As it stands, you can’t fit what’s there into a film of a watchable length. A miniseries perhaps, but not a film.

  44. Anonymous says:

    Marcos, FARC, and The Shinning Path are using FernGully as a grow op for an exotic new drug. Soon these blue Smurfs will be stoned and pole dancing for sex tourists. All in 3D.

  45. Anonymous says:

    remember when they were talking about how there had only been five of the giant flying birds that had been bonded with? i totally saw that part coming where he did…

  46. Sekino says:

    Aside from all the inanities already well covered, Neytiri is yet another generic, stock female character except she’s blue and doesn’t have a Jennifer Aniston hairdo. You know, that sexy, competent, smart female sidekick who is only sexy, competent and smart because she’s the character the main guy sleeps with (and he, of course, has high standards and can handle a ‘strong chick’, blah blah).

    Neytiri’s basically a Disney princess. She’s smart and blue but couldn’t be a totally strange, or truly ALIEN character with her own contributions to the plot aside from falling in loooove with and helping Jake… Because then Jake wouldn’t have sex with her and, in that case, she might as well be a male character.

    I’m not usually the type to shoot down everything that doesn’t have a good female character in it, but it’s getting to the point where I can hardly identify with ANY female characters in ANY movies or TV shows. I would have expected a blue, alien chick to be a bit less predictable and typical.

    I’m beginning to seriously worry about how Cameron will handle ‘Battle Angle Alita’, one of my very favorite graphic novels series. A huge part of why ‘Battle Angel’ is amazing is the character development and Cameron is showing weakness in that department. Oh well. At least we know it will probably LOOK amazing.

    • blueelm says:

      “but it’s getting to the point where I can hardly identify with ANY female characters in ANY movies or TV shows”

      Getting to that point? Hehe.

      When I was younger I didn’t realize I was supposed to relate to the female character. I always related to the male and then got frustrated with certain areas. You know like, this was ALMOST something I could relate to but then they had to throw this or that in to make it obvious that it was a boys only thing.

      Hell, I still tend to relate to the male characters. Why? Gender issues? Probably. I dunno. Or it could be that most female characters are females from a male perspective. So yeah, they’re projections. Not that chick flicks don’t have their share, but women in chick flicks are usually more disgusting and obnoxious than the eye candy in most action films. The only thing worse than male projections of females, is sanitized sanctimonious female-centric drama that plays to the “strengths” of arbitrary gender roles.

      Not without my BABIES!!!!! etc.

      But yes, she’s a disney princess. A warrior princess but a princess at heart and she even found her man and stuck with him through thick and thin!

      • Sekino says:

        Getting to that point? Hehe.

        Hm… Yep, I did say that wrong. I rarely could identify with female characters, but I only recently became aware of it.

        Or it could be that most female characters are females from a male perspective…

        …but women in chick flicks are usually more disgusting and obnoxious than the eye candy in most action films.

        Most female movie characters seem to be suffering from a painful lack of creativity on the part of both male and female writers. Okay, okay; I guess male protagonists also tend to be awfully cliched but at least they get to be in charge and blow shit up ;)

  47. Anonymous says:

    I think there were plenty of opportunities to make the story richer/contigous in many frames of science.

    Anthropologically the Navvi were almost too human and predictable. I think everyone above agreed that the “noble savage” card has been played all too well. From two Navvi kissing to the thinly veiled sex scene everything was avoided that could have defined this alien culture as alien and the focus was put on what made both cultures (babies, mammalain breasts, four-limbs ect.) simliar and in my opinion boring.

    Biologically the Navvi did’nt really fit in with the rest of their world. As MANY people mentioned they lacked the ventral breathing holes, split faces, and six limbs of their fellow mammal-like creatures had. Apparently they must reproduce to some effect where there is an ovum that splits as human ovums and dna is involved. Buuuuut it is not neccesarily sexual reproduction as that part was omitted. Exchanging strands of DNA through the ponytail usb? who knows? But it would certainly be interesting to find out.

    Mostly I can say that as we get older we take less risks. So this was definately the no-risk cut with most standing hackneyed plot points from every action movie.
    I’ll be waiting in line to see the uncut version just like I watched the five hour uncut version of Dune.

  48. Anonymous says:

    For me, the most disappointing thing about Avatar’s plot was that it missed its own point. The story is fundamentally about internal space; about how our physical experience influences our notion of identity and self.

    As a proof-of-concept, the movie was a beautiful success, but as a narrative it missed this obvious and potentially wonderful opportunity.

  49. willhopkins says:

    I would have liked some risks in the film. More depth to the Colonel would have been a nice way to give it dimension. Or, do more with Neytiri. She really didn’t have anywhere enough personality. Other than being huntergirl.

  50. rabbitfnord says:

    Until reading this post I hadn’t known I actually was a bit disappointed with this film, and confused.
    Why did the Na’vi have earth like accents? At first some Native American sounding, others Jamaican?

    Michelle Rodriguez character the pilot couldn’t stomach killing the Na’vi, but in the final battle scene she could turn sides and kill all those people in her own military so easily?What is that?!

    The character Norm seemed to be thrown away and almost forgotten in the plot. Once Jake revealed to the science group that he has been taken under the wing of the tribe for a right of passage training to become a warrior, Norm becomes instantly jealous. Why didn’t James Cameron take this further, with a betrayal twist. It so hinted that Norm felt that it should have been him and not Jake. What a waste.

  51. Anonymous says:

    I think the whole idea more or less was to show the importance of the balance between right and wrong. If money is a necessary evil than so be it though this did not seem to be the case. Just like when Jake’s girl killed all of the animals that were attacking him she only did because he had a pure soul but then said if he was not so inmature than she would not of had to.. So in other words if you have to kill to survie than so be it but just for sport(or to make money) than not such a great idea.

    But because the Na’vi people respected nature this is why the animals came to their rescue in the end of battle.

    I really feel like a lot of people are over thinking this. There will always be good and bad in this world. No one is free from sin. A point more or less being if you do sin why is this? Why not only sin and never do good? Another point is we all do what we have to do but if we at least make the effort to do what is right than our souls will be pure in the world after this one. Also another way of of looking at it if you are deceiptful in this world than no one will trust you and if you do not have peoples trust then eventualy you will no longer be able to make money. So it might be argued that by intentionally doing wrong only for self gain will only screw you in the end.

  52. Anonymous says:

    Personally, I rather enjoyed the movie, despite its short comings, and I consider myself to be something of a movie snob when it comes to likes and dislikes.

    For its length and enormous budget (and such risk involved), I’m really not surprised that it wasn’t as gritty or complex as it could have been. Other posters have said pretty much everything I could have added, so I won’t bother to reiterate all the bits about mythic story telling, Star War comparisons, etc.

    I have to say, though, that I’m a little disappointed in the quality of some of the negative critiques (and the positive ones too, but less so). I too had issue with some of the evolutionary impossibilities, some “huh?” story decisions, etc, but its hard to take these issues seriously when the people posting them drop little asinine lines like “fire by definition requires oxygen”, when talking about the Pandoran atmosphere. I don’t know about you folks, but last time I checked, my gas grill didn’t burn oxygen. Several other posters seem to have forgotten that Jake’s opening narrative explains how he was paralyzed (he even explains why he’s in a wheel chair, even though the technology exists to fix his spinal injury), and apparently someone has never heard of unobtainium used as a generic sci-fi metal (I’d always understood it to be the futuristic equivalent of fantasy’s mithril). For that matter, the super-generic name should have tipped the audience off that it was just a story telling element.

    To conclude: For as much as I love trippy out-there movies, twisting plots, and deep thought provoking issues, I feel that once in a while its just better (and more enjoyable) to have a relatively simplistic and straightforward plot.

  53. Anonymous says:

    Avatar was a exciting colorful movie.Something new to think about. Well done with new thoughts of what could be in other worlds besides ours. These movies raise our levles of maybe it could be and all movies have to have a plot and a ending,never pleases everyone.I for one am tired of gangs,guns and brutal type movies.This is one to admire!!

  54. SifakaMon says:

    The only positive item among the 11 things that I took away from Avatar (more: #avatarspoiler tweets) is that it could possibly be depicting a prosperous post-singularity era, in that the Na’vi Gaia/world-mind appears to be the huge self-aware interconnected [usually "artificial"] intelligence we’re always warned about. Compared to nearly every other scenario of a tattered post-apocalyptic wasteland, it was kind of nice.

  55. Anonymous says:

    Alien Neytiri should have made out with the human Jake Sully. Hmmm, fanfiction…

  56. James Ivory says:

    Imma let you finish.

    But James Cameron had one of the best movies of all time.

    Storytelling be damned and exalted.

    Is the storytelling in the film so simple-minded? Well, yes. When you have a massive investment in a film, numerous marketing campaigns (McDonald’s doesn’t really have anything to do the Na’vi), and a story (that would make Joseph Campbell blush) that is pretty universal. Note: Titanic made more worldwide than it did in the US.

    The Hero’s Journey is no small task, and Jake Sully pulled it off. He did it. Oh, and in a brand new world. The brand new world being the experience of watching the exploration of a world being rapt with the experience. I remember, as a child, seeing “An American Tale,” and being so involved that I was Fievel. The same thing happened when I saw “Ferngully.””Avatar” made me feel the same way. So when I say that Jake Sully did it, and I mean to say that we all did it. Through a universal avatar, the perfect medium, we can all share in the triumph of Jake.

  57. Anonymous says:

    1. Unobtanium was not going to save earth.

    2. This is only movie 1 people. Stop moaning about not seeing more of pandora or what risks he’s taken not taken, it’s movie 1! there are 2 more, you might see earth! yey..oi..

    3. No one will ever be happy with a movie. No matter if it is the best int he ENTIRE world someone will always not like it.

    4. If your ideas are great then why don’t you put some money down and make your own movie/book/ ect. Why bitch about it when you can write something better? Just DO it. Tell me when your done.

    5. Also: The Na’Vi do NOT reproduce using their queues (hair tentacles) This, though highly erotic is not the means of reproduction. This is the way for the Na’Vi to form an emotion bond that lasts a lifetime. The Na’Vi HAVE genitalia. FYI What we saw in movie was Jake and Neytiri bonding emotionally, learning from the core of who they are. Which must had felt really F****** good.

    How do I know? Cause I got the book in front of me ^^

    6. Also to those wanting to know why the cheap simple storyline. Did you even think that maybe JC wanted to go slow, get everyone introduced to pandora first BEFORE shoving a whole CRAP load of info down their throats? Get the public interested first. if the movie bombed that he STILL got to somewhat throw his vision out there. But if it was successful and the people got a simple taste of pandora they just might hunger for more?

    As seen in Project 880 JC had loads of ideas that didn’t make it, either due to being rushed or money issues ect. Give him time to flesh everything out before you jump down his throat. As said before, this is movie 1. He’s already said there is plenty he will be using for 2, this is a TASTE. I’m sorry you all are disappointed in now getting the main course off the bat. But it’s called patience. Have some. Breathe…

    Most of you liked the movie and it’s fine to have issues with a film, but don’t rip in in half before you’ve seen the entire thing..

  58. hbl says:

    I can live with the shallowness and predictability of the plot, but the only thing that really irked me about it was how they kept banging on about how dangerous Pandora was, and you didn’t really get to see why or how. It didn’t look much like a ‘hellhole’ and Jake fighting off the cyberdogs, or being chased by the big beast thing never felt all that threatening. All it needed was to place higher stakes on that first mission – rather than being recon, they needed to get something, or rescue someone, and (like in Aliens) they just get torn apart, and Jake gets physically removed from the group and gets rescued by a ton of Na’vi (not just one with a temper). That way at least you get to see how hostile it is to the Na’vi as well as humans, and Jake grudgingly respects them.

    @randall – I don’t think a crappy story tacked onto a beautiful looking film will prevent it being deemed a ‘classic’. Bladerunner is a dreadful mess of plot and dialog, and it’s still one of the best films ever made. (talking of Ridly Scott, Cameron has made it very difficult for him to make The Forever War).

  59. Anonymous says:

    This was two hour and forty minutes of crap. Sure the neon plants were pretty, but it was predictable and the audience laughed aloud several times. We get it. Sigourney weaver no likee dumb wheelchair vet but will be proven wrong because he shags a wild native and gets access to the tribe. Why spend all this money to prove a 3D film can be made? The only good thing about it was the guy who played JP in Grandma’s Boy was in it and he’s awesome.

  60. Anonymous says:

    when i am in possession of a reusable space shuttle that can fly from orbit to surface and back, then definitely and whenever possible, i should plot flight plans that cause me to maneuver it between trees in a jungle. did no one think of perhaps gaining a bit of *altitude*, and descending to drop height from above via vtol jets?

    logically of course, you would use orbital bombardment if at all possible to accomplish that type of mission. if it is argued that guidance systems would be fooled by the electromagnetic flux, then the next most logical argument would be a single kamikazi attack. far less wasteful of human resources than deploying your infantry on the jungle floor with bandanas instead of kevlar helmets.

  61. thatbob says:

    not enough elvensong :(

  62. Flying_Monkey says:

    Like Star Wars, Avatar is a load of undemanding, fun but hokey old shit for kids and nearly kids. Neither Lucas or Cameron has a tenth of the imagination, understanding of character, or narrative ability of the average SF writer, let alone a good one. They just both have good technicians. Lucas had Walter Murch for a start, from whom he got a lot of the sonic and visual distinctiveness which characterised THX-1138 and which he just imported wholesale into Star Wars, and Cameron has a whole army (or several armies) of computer game designers and visual FX people.

    And if Cameron’s been working on this for 30 years, it has been largely on the level of doodling on restaurant napkins as far as I can see. Same as Lucas’s supposed coherent 9-film story arc, which has also turned out quite clearly to be bluff.

    I couldn’t help thinking not only of Princess Mononoke, but also of Mary Doria Russell’s The Sparrow – it would have been interesting to have that filmed: well-meaning assorted good guys go to planet to investigate the beautiful songs of what they hope will be a peaceful, god-fearing new species, and end up being captured, mutilated and turned into catamites of the brutal singers (who, for good measure, also eat the other intelligent species on their planet).

    SF film has never approached the coherent creativity of SF writing. It continually raises hopes and lets us down. But never mind the story, look at the pretty (3D) lights, people…

  63. Takashi Omoto says:

    I think if anything else, they could portray Na’vi princess Neytiri a somewhat less plain character. She is a passable love interest for Jakesully, but she never strikes me as a compelling to the viewer. I was more than once recalled of a NPC in a video game, always giving helpful hints, but never performing an action of her own volition.

  64. boxlightbox says:

    honestly, the plot could’ve been whatever it wanted to be, a rip-off, throwback, whatever, clear good vs. evil is great for an effects heavy movie like this, no risks needed. But they could’ve spent more than 10 dollars on the script. That friggin military gunman saying “GIT SUM!” 800 times in a row was just the saddest thing I’ve ever seen. And every line being pulled badly from another movie, not as reference either, but as a cheap easy way to make a point to an idiot audience.

  65. mtgradwell says:

    The real big risk would have been to spell out exactly what goes into making one of those avatar bodies. Since they combine human and Na’vi DNA, each of them must have a Na’vi parent. What part did those parents have in the process? How much say did they have? Who are they, and where are they now? Jake, not knowing who his Na’vi parent is, could easily engage in incest without knowing it. How wrong is that?

    Also, apart from Jake who took the place of his deceased twin brother, each of the avatars was the offspring of its controller. If the transfer of Grace’s consciousness had succeeded, she’d have become her own mother. How wrong is that?

    Also, are the minds of the avatars really as blank as is made out? Can they never exhibit any autonomy? What has to be done to the avatars to ensure that their minds are blank and will remain blank in the absence of a controller?

    As for the other so-called risks, though:

    1. I think it’s spelled out to Jake beforehand about what will happen to the Na’vi if they don’t cooperate; and yet he provides the company with all the info it could dream of, about Na’vi vulnerabilities and about how they won’t cooperate. In what way does he not betray the Na’vi?

    2. Pandora isn’t “red in tooth and claw”. Presumably all predators, not just the Na’vi, can empathize with their prey, since they all have USB. They kill only because they have to eat. Non-meat-related conflicts would typically be resolved by empathy rather than fighting to the death.

    3 The savages show how smart they are by avoiding getting to grips with the tech, which they do not need and which is antithetical to their way of life.

    4. Quaritch has hidden depths. He’s not just a villain. He seems to genuinely care about people in his charge, keeping them as safe as possible (until he thinks they have betrayed him) and looking after their needs, e.g. arranging for Jake to “get his real legs back”.

    5. Way to go: Cut down on the accusations of rehashing old movies, by reprising what happened in Aliens.

  66. Anonymous says:

    Best comment on Avatar was by Aaron McGruder (Boondocks creator) on his twitter page @aaronmcgruder

    “‘Avatar’ is truly groundbreaking. Finally we can see a white guilt fantasy in 3D!!”

  67. Anonymous says:

    I would have liked to have seen more explanation about the death of Jake’s brother. Did he also run into a moral quandary with his participation in the Avatar program? Were the circumstances of his death even slightly suspicious?

    Why didn’t the Na’vi seem the least bit curious about the sky people? I’d think a warrior culture would have been asking questions about their numbers, capabilities, tolerances…

  68. Matthew Miller says:

    On one level, the story is basically every liberal American white-guilt schoolboy’s fantasy: wouldn’t it have been _awesome_ if the Indians had gotten their $@% together and beaten the cowboys?

    Except for _me_ — I’d somehow get to be one of the _real_ good guys (and marry the native princess). This makes the ending ring false; in reality, we know how the story goes: the ghost dance shirts don’t stop bullets, and the “sky people” may be beaten in small battles, but they just keep coming.

    Making the ending darker would help significantly. And, it’d also improve the movie on one of the other levels where it already succeeds — as an inverted version of the Alien movies. Maybe saying it literally would have been too blatant, but couldn’t _someone_ have at least alluded to “I say we take off and nuke the entire site from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure.”?

    • Tdawwg says:

      Not to get all fanboyish, but the Na’vi aren’t exactly Native Americans: I too would have loved a greater sense of tribalism, factionalism, etc., but the Na’vi do have an entire planet ultimately backing them up, whereas the Native Americans have mythology and natural lore and learning, but couldn’t have made the animals attack the European settlers. And it seemed clear that the miners are part of a desperate attempt to save a resource-depleted and dying earth, and not the tip of the spear of European migration and conquest, as in the American nineteenth century: the colonel and the miners are all that humanity can send, was my sense, rather than an unstoppable wave. And maybe they didn’t think to take nuclear weapons? (Indeed, a weakness that needed to be addressed: maybe the radiation would render the unobtainium unusable?)

      On the liberal-guilt idea: To me the film was more of a white-progressive fantasy of power: imagine, there’s a world where I’m free to act on impulse, can integrate seamlessly with native societies, and lead them in glorious battle! Oh, and get laid whilst doing so! But I thought embedding this in Jake’s narrative was a deft twist: we see the film less as Lawrence of Arabia, with an effete scholar dilettante becoming a warrior-king of a mighty people, than as a grunt’s story of loss and recuperation, endurance and triumph. As in, Jake is the macho-yet-sensitive, unschooled-yet-intelligent “avatar” of all the guilty book-reading progressive trypes in the audience, on whom we can project our fantasies of being asskicking rebel types. Just my $.02.

      @Takashi, indeed: it’s a shame that for Zoë Saldana, her two breakout roles this year essentially required her to be a handmaiden-helpmate for aggro, chest-thumping alpha males.

  69. Anonymous says:

    Ewoks!!

  70. aelfscine says:

    Have Jake not be white. :)

    Have Jake (and his avatar) be a girl, and otherwise keep the entire plot the same.

    Have the entire cast have Southern accents, but otherwise keep the entire plot the same, and make no mention of the accent.

    Not kill Ana Lucia, after foreshadowing her death a jillion times.

    Jake takes the bullet instead of Grace, and the rest of the cast must carry on without him.

    Norm does something useful. Anything.

    Not use the sci-fi falacy that a region of a planet represents the entire planet. If they really really wanted that special metal, they could have just gone somewhere else with fewer natives, somewhere on the THOUSANDS AND THOUSANDS of square miles of the planet.

    • Anonymous says:

      If you consider Jake’s whiteness to be an issue because of privilege, remember that he’s working-class and disabled, which makes him pretty darned oppressed even though he’s a white guy.

    • Tzctlp says:

      There have been many non white heroes in many movies by now, that is no longer an issue.

      As for Southern accents, most movies nowadays make as much money outside the US as there, so the supposed irony would be completely lost to most viewers, even native English speaking ones in other countries.

  71. Anonymous says:

    This is perhaps the most important film of the last decade. It has a simple, powerful ecological message that will reach the widest global audience possible. It will help to further the focus on saving our own planet. While a more complicated plot would have had greater artistic merit, it may have clouded the message that was intended. You must admit that it has worked.

    This is also a Canadian film, based on the history of the Hudson Bay Company and Northwest Company promoting intermarriage between their staff of European extraction and First Nations. Their children, the Metis, provided a bridge between cultures and helped to mediate between the companies and the aboriginals. Both these companies and the First Nations, regarded these marriages as a way to influence the other culture. James Cameron is from Canada, so it is quite obvious that he borrowed this storyline from our nation’s history.

  72. hagbard says:

    Sometimes we make a new story; sometimes we re-tell an old story. I felt like Avatar had a perfectly fine re-telling of a meat-and-potatoes plot.

    The idea of having a Miyazake treatment where there’s no real villain and no clear right answer is very intriguing, though.

    The way I see it, the animism of many traditional cultures is repudiated by Avatar, in that the story posits an actual, scientifically-measurable biological network between the humanoids, the animals, and the plants. Here on earth it’s “just” a philosophical way of relating to the world around us, and we are freer to ignore our interdependence with the rest of the biosphere (until too late?).

    I like to do what I call active suspension of disbelief; using my imagination to fill in the blanks left in the story as told. How/why would a planet evolve so many different species which are also interconnected? Why are the humanoids so humanoid, with only four limbs and no spiracles? Because the whole planet is bio-engineered by the Pandorans’ ancestors, whose homeworld is elsewhere. Are the ancestor’s still around on the home world? Will they intervene to protect their Pandoran children? Is the planetary network processing the meaning of life, the universe, and everything?

    Fodder for sequels.

  73. Roach says:

    One suggestion I heard was to have a threat to the Na’vi people or planet that only Earth technology could stop (an asteroid – played-out, I know – or some such thing).

    You could also pull a twist like in Philip Jose Farmer’s Flesh, where to be a war hero amongst the Na’vi means that they sacrifice you at the end of the war, and Neytiri is the one who does it.

  74. Anonymous says:

    No investor wants to gamble a $400 proof-of-concept movie on risky story telling. The Ewoks better win or the audience will demand their money back.

  75. Xopher says:

    little asinine lines like “fire by definition requires oxygen”, when talking about the Pandoran atmosphere. I don’t know about you folks, but last time I checked, my gas grill didn’t burn oxygen.

    They’re wrong about Jake not being able to light a fire, but not for your reason. Your gas grill burns gas, but oxygen must be present for that to work. In an oxygen-free environment your gas grill wouldn’t light. (Oxygen isn’t the only gas that things can react with that way, but if the Pandoran atmosphere were rich in fluorine the humans wouldn’t be going out with masks…or if they did there would be little left of them after a few minutes.)

    No, the point is the film says the atmosphere is toxic, not that it lacks oxygen. There are points in the movie that contradict what they say, but Jakesulli of the Jarhead Clan lighting a fire isn’t one of the problems.

  76. Anonymous says:

    “The difference between fiction and reality? Fiction has to make sense.” – Tom Clancy

    Why do futuristic movies always seem to point way back to a well archived and preserved past that causes no threat and lends itself for an easy adaption?

    The further we reach into an uncertain and discomforting future the more we seem to long for the comfort of our own history {even though it might not be so comforting after all}. And the more our real lives get complicated, disorientating and scattered with many equally valid alternatives and constant information overload, we tend to rejoice in clear structures and predictability.

    For another take on processing the Avatar experience and “In the year 2154 {or the World according to James C.}” visit this post:
    http://fabagit.wordpress.com/2009/12/31/flying-with-the-military-clans-and-other-hybrids/

  77. Anonymous says:

    haters galore. the movie rocked…

    • Xopher says:

      Some haters, yeah. But criticizing something doesn’t have to mean you didn’t like it. I really loved it, and will see it many more times, but I see its flaws. And making a good thing better is part of what criticism is for.

  78. Anonymous says:

    when you spend millions of dollars on visual effects to support a weak or mediocre story, it’s like building a high-rise with a flimsy foundation.

  79. Anonymous says:

    For all though suggesting the plot needed to be more adult. It’s much harder to make your 400Million back with an R rated movie, than with a PG-13. My 8 year old saw and understood and liked Avatar. I remember how cool Star Wars was when I was 12… But I don’t expect it to be Academy Award winning storytelling…

  80. Anonymous says:

    Two additional observations, possibly already mentioned:

    1. Where was the corporate accountant refusing all this expenditure on an unprofitable high-stakes expeditionary military gamble? In fact, unlike ‘Alien’ with its constant over-the-shoulder-spying Corporate Big Brother, the company apparachik has an astonishly free hand to act on behalf of the company without any board meetings. This suggests ‘unobtanium’ isn’t that rare after all.

    2. The Na’vi should have kept the human hostages to secure a surface battle over the next engagement. Otherwise the company has been left with a super-easy option for Avatar2: “nuke the site from orbit, it’s the only way to be sure.”

  81. RozK says:

    I am surprised that no one here has considered the possibility that Pandora is an artefactual, post-technological world. After all, if the Pandorans’ ancestors had decided to go back and live on the land, it would make sense to provide them with a universal neural net, into which they can plug, a net which also absorbs the memories of the dead, including dead aliens. And talent spots aliens who might be useful and makes it clear that they have found favour with it…

  82. Anonymous says:

    You ripped me off James Cameron!!

    -Kevin Costner, originator of Dance wit Wolves!!

  83. Tabbybadger says:

    I had problems immediately with the fact that the Na’vi seemed to be the only denizens of the planet not to have six limbs. The six limbs seemed to be a defining characteristic of Pandoran fauna, except for the Na’vi. Why should they have evolved differently from all the other creatures?

  84. peterbruells says:

    Personally, I waited for one of the less important humans to fall down like an Na’vi avatar, when the robotic policemen of Sigma Centralis decided that the humans are to be dealt with, shortly before a battleship the size of a small moon rises from behin the gas giant.

  85. Anonymous says:

    I don’t think I’ve ever seen a movie with such bad dialogue, to then talk about plot twists doesen’t seem necessary.

    There was alot of eye candy for sure and it’s a marvel in it’s own but you would think they could have employed a writer with that kindof dough

  86. Anonymous says:

    The thing that immediately bothered me was that the Na’vi allowed the remaining humans to leave the moon alive. That is just bad strategic thinking. The humans know too much, and are bound to come back with reinforcements, or maybe just nuke that world mind singularity place from orbit (it’s the only way to be sure).

    Its not necessarily unrealistic for the Na’vi to have been so peaceful and compassionate, but it would have added a much needed edge to the movie if the Na’vi had exterminated the remaining humans, or at least forced them into re-location camps.

  87. Anonymous says:

    Make the Navi the Apache rather than the Navajo. They could fight smart. They could fight pre-emptively. If there ever was an “exhaust-port” level weakness, it has to be not being able to breathe the atmosphere.

    Have the build of the story be. Humans kill some Navi. Navi gas some humans by sabotaging climate control in a base or ship. Back and forth. Back and forth.

    And our hero Jake is caught in the middle, trying to figure out what the right thing to do is. So that his choice isn’t easy or expected. Which is really the problem with the movie. There’s not an unpredictable moment in the entire story.

    What a gorgeously predictable film it was.

  88. tomboing says:

    A lot of good ideas here. I think it means some of you might be good storytellers and could write your own big story. I hope some of you do, especially if they are as powerful and interesting and thought-provoking as Avatar. Or one of the Aliens stories. Or the Terminator stories. Or The Abyss. Or Titanic. Or True Lies. Or Strange Days. Or the second Rambo.

    Even if your story is one fifth as good as any of those, I’d like to read or watch it. Really.

    Any work of art could have been done differently. No law against trying to improve on Cameron’s work, but why not do it as a work of your own? His version of Avatar is published and done. He’s not taking suggestions or votes on a re-do. Seems to me that when artists do that, you get worse art, not better — I’m thinking of the test-marketing, committee-built appoach of some movie studios.

    If you like the movie at all, don’t forget to also just enjoy it and be grateful for it.

    Speaking for myself, I think it was easily worth the price of two or three Big Mac meals.

    I guess there were some Egyptians who thought the Great Pyramid wasn’t all that great, since it was after all just a bigger pyramidical pyramid, not one with a ball on top, or upside-down in the ground, or round, etc.

  89. brianary says:

    I’m still not sure about the uniting-armies-montage. Wouldn’t Jake be forced to adopt more guerrilla tactics, and wouldn’t this prompt a better discussion about totalitarianism/asymmetric warfare?

  90. Anonymous says:

    I Loved the movie,
    I think with 30 years of planning (or whatever it was)
    any bugs regarding the mechinics of the planet would have been thought through, don’t you?

    1.
    I would have enjoyed it more if there had been more of the interesting planet and people and less of the hollywood style war games at the end. not all dangerous situations end in battle, and not all interesting, engaging and satifying movies/stories do either.
    2. if we are looking at other things to add to the plot to see if we can invent a more interesting movie, what about this one:
    Norm was in love with Jakes brother, who was gay. So he’s not quite sure how to respond towards Jake.. creating intersting tention and deeper charectors. (probably get too complex though) but taking that a step farther, then when Jake becomes the avatar, he is gay – because it’s his brothers avatar not his.. so he inlove with pretty blue girl as human jake, but his body won’t let him do anything about it as blue jake..

    all sort of things could be thought up, but I think, it was very pretty and goes to my list of top films.
    (PS sorry about my spelling)

    3.
    what if the reason the Na’vi have noses while the other creatures don’t is they have gentically engineered themselves… by the same beings who genetically engineered humans long ago.. and these beings have a liking for bipods in humaniod shapes?

    4.
    Did any-one else feel they had been to Pandora before? that it was familar rather then alien?
    What if it’s a real place, in another dimention that some people can visit in the dreams or in trancelike states?
    James C. might or might not realise this..
    just a idea to get you thinking :)

  91. Anonymous says:

    In reply to #46

    The atmosphere is unbreathable. It doesn’t mean that it contains 0% oxygen. Only that an element in the air renders a human unconscious then dead. It takes TIME to kill a human (I think the movie said like 4 minutes?). That in and of itself says to me that there must be SOME breathable matter in the air.

  92. Fuaim_Catha says:

    I enjoyed Avatar as a visual spectacle… but found the script laughable. This colonialist fantasy has been told ad nauseum: Dances with Wolves, Last Samurai, etc. But now it’s 3D and in space. Thanks for the lightshow, James Cameron, that’ll be all.
    The twists and turns Rob Beschizza (& others on this post) suggest add complexity–but don’t do anything to save the story from tanking. It’s not a myth, and it’s not important enough to become part of any oral tradition. (Part of the pop-cultural moment, certainly, but that’s it. No one will ever describe Avatar as “a story that had to be told.”) It’s not that Avatar is merely unoriginal in its storytelling, it’s that it’s totally derivative.
    Here’s a question for you: What if Jake wasn’t the Na’vi messiah? Why is it that hollywood fantasy and sci-fi epics always need a “chosen one?” What if they told a story about a person, or group of people, struggling to effect change without being mystically preordained to do so?

  93. sleze says:

    I don’t know about all that. This movie came off as a sort of fantasy/sci-fi fairy tale. Any one of those changes would have made it more of an adult film rather than the family film that it is.

  94. floraldeoderant says:

    Here’s my input:

    1) Major plot alteration: Why did the Colonel’s robot have a giant K-Bar on it? Was it really necessary, when making giant machine-gun-toting robots that they have huge knives on belts? REALLY?!

    2) Already stated, I think, but… The Na’vi kiss just like humans do? And the women-Na’vi cry, but the men-Na’vi bellow instead? Alien-anthro was just PAINFUL. (They also missed a pretty golden opportunity of adorable awkwardness when Jake kisses Neytiri the first time, for her to have a “wtf?” reaction. And if they really wanted to have teh makeouts, she could have then decided, “Well… Alright then. This feels quite nice.”)

    3) This one’s not really a risk they could have taken, but all the same, should have been corrected… They have a huge cavalry charge through dense, lush forest, straight at a firing squad of machine-gunners? At no point did anyone of the Na’vi or Na’vi-allied humans (or Cameron’s assistants) go “Guys, this is probably the stupidest idea we have ever had?”

    4) Biggest possible risk? Really want the audience to work out their allegiances? Na’vi suicide tactics. That would’ve taken it about 12 shades darker than just the “kill off the requisite few main characters (father, competing love interest, tough but noble human), 1/2 the side-yet-somehow-special othertribe’s leaders (like bone-nose guy. and red-painted flier lady)” ever could.

  95. warreno says:

    The problem I see with the objection that the movie is supposed to be “mythical” is that it’s set in a presumably realistic universe.

    There are no Lazer Swordz and there is no Scwartz binding the galaxy together. (The dim planetary sentience that passes for a “force” is only barely tolerable; while I consider such a thing extremely unlikely, I’ll let it slide, since if you really do have a sentient world-spanning forest, you might have some interesting side-effects.)

    You can’t have it both ways. You can’t have something that tries to have hard SF in it – and fails – *and* have it be “mythical” as well (and fails because of the infantile nature of the myths it’s pushing).

    You have to choose. Cameron didn’t, and that’s why “Avatar” failed in several significant respects.

    For starters, absolutely no one, anywhere, in the existence of humanity, has ever been anything like the Na’avi were supposed to be, living in perfect harmony and peace with their world, etc.

    Certain doe-eyed cretins say so of American Indians, and they’re wrong. Entire herds of bison were chased over cliffs to feed a few dozen tribespeople. There were constant internecine and intertribal conflicts. Scalping wasn’t invented just as a way to punish white men, after all.

    Yet this oversimplified, foolish vision was foisted onto us by making the Na’avi into (largely) touchy-feely New Agers with oomph. I couldn’t buy it; in fact, it offended me and insulted the intelligence of the audience.

    Then there’s the question of biology. Okay, so the Na’avi have tentacles they can use to communicate with other organisms. Fine.

    So why do they have tentacles contained inside *braids*?

    How did those braids develop? Do they actually have trunks with hair growing over them? If so, how does it get the braided look? Or do they instead have long tentacly things that just happen to co-grow with their hair? If so, why is no other animal on Pandora haired?

    And what about the six-limbed horse analogues? Interesting way they breathed. Why do the Na’avi, then, have noses? Why not ventral spiracles like the “horses”?

    And why only four limbs, not six? How is it they managed to convergently evolve like humans? Is it because of the forests? Is there something about forests that makes upright bipeds have a survival advantage? Why not toss off three sentences of dialogue early in the film to answer this single point? (Because we were too busy being told how sweet the Na’avi are and how bad the corporation is, that’s why.)

    Either the Na’avi and their “horses” are diverged from a common ancestor, or they can’t communicate with one another, because the biological differences are too great. (The disparity between reptilian and mammalian brains is absolutely enormous.) One or the other, not both.

    Finally, all right, so the atmosphere on Pandora is unbreathable to humans.

    Well, how the hell does Jake light a match?

    You cannot start a fire without oxygen. Fire, *by definition*, requires oxygen. The presence of oxygen suggests the atmosphere being breathable to humans.

    These things just don’t work.

    I realize I’m getting pretty deep into analysis here, but I have a right to; after all, Cameron set it up to be a film that was to contain believable story elements and technology.

    I think what frustrated me the most was how close he got it, so often, but always *barely missed* reaching the goal.

    • warreno says:

      Anent my own comments, I did a deeper review of the movie here:

      http://indigestible.nightwares.com/2009/12/31/camerons-avatar-a-big-blue-meh/

      Why I was not impressed is detailed there. It’s basically the same set of objections I raised, but with a bit more background.

      Avatar could have been a hell of a good story. It wasn’t.

    • DrOct says:

      “You cannot start a fire without oxygen. Fire, *by definition*, requires oxygen. The presence of oxygen suggests the atmosphere being breathable to humans.”

      I’m just quibbling here with this one point, I think on the whole you have some good points but… I don’t recall anywhere in the movie them saying there was no oxygen, just that the atmosphere was toxic to humans. So… yeah there might be oxygen (in fact I’d guess there is), but there’s something else in the air that is toxic to humans.

  96. Anonymous says:

    Please remember this is just one story. I hear there are at-least 2 sequals planned, if they use up ALL the plot lines in the 1st film there will be nothing left for the sequals – give it 10 years, THEN complain about stuff they’ve left out!

  97. Anonymous says:

    The only twist this atrocity required was pistol whipping of Cameron with Tiger Woods’ john thomas on PBS (they need the ratings). Seriously, I mean Titanic was nauseating enough, but this was lion king meets the smurfs. just a cliche on top of an archtype surrounded by a “Dah!?” this should of been a disney feature at best…

    And, ok the graphics were alright but no where near the level creativity you would expect at this stage of the game, and with that amount of PR…

  98. 2k says:

    Sheesh. You might as well have asked a bunch of sci-fi authors if they thought the grandfather paradox was worth consideration!

  99. Anonymous says:

    Among whatever other changes I would have enjoyed seeing, those that stand out to me the most are:
    What if Jakes avatar had a conciousness when he was not inhabiting it, and thus every time he transferred to it, he interrupted his avatars life, and permanently transferring would, in effect, kill his avatar?
    Also, what if all lifeforms (or even just the Na’vi) on Pandora had been engineered by humans? This could explain how they all interconnect and stuff – I can imagine a human would love to build some system like that if they could. Maybe before humans arrived, (which could have happened only a few decades ago, or maybe hundreds of years ago (possibly forgotten by the modern humans)) Pandora would have been a dead/less exciting moon, and the whole place is covered in human fingerprints.

  100. Anonymous says:

    “something he approached with a caution only $400M buys”

    Where do people get these numbers from?
    More like $237 mil.
    http://www.the-numbers.com/movies/2009/AVATR.php

    Anyway Avatar is a trilogy.

  101. magicbean says:

    I am only 70 percent sure the article I’m thinking of from the New Yorker is called “Twilight of the Books”…but it’s missing some of the references I was making, so I’m sure there was some additional article I read at the same time…I recall reading (aloud, no less!) a great explanation on literacy/post-literacy and why Americans find Bollywood films so schlocky. Regardless, that article is interesting and relevant.

    Thanks for the compliment wwaren. That’s well worth considering, that what Cameron aimed for was not a myth, but a blockbuster with lots of dollar signs appended.

    But I think he pulled it out anyway, Whether by accident or design.

    I tend to suspect in the Joseph Campbell tradition that what we recount as myths are patterns so coded into our way of seeing the world by virtue of being human that we can’t help but express them. Very interesting about the volumes of design that Cameron put into Avatar. Had no idea. Perhaps Cameron just hooked a good myth on the line by sheer accident, having no idea what he’d actually caught.

  102. wylkyn says:

    I liked the movie, and I tend to be fairly hypercritical. Yes, there were many flaws, but come on…this is Cameron we’re talking about here. Do you all go in with such high expectations? Really? That’s like going into a Disney ride expecting to watch the Mikado. You guys must be disappointed in everything. Reading this thread has been like reading 50 versions of the Simpson’s Comic Book Guy rhapsodizing on how horrible everything is.

    I was amazed by how much I liked it *despite* the fact that the plot had been done to death, many of the characters were shallow, the sci-fi was more fantasy, blah, blah, blah. It’s one of the few movies recently that I left the theater wanting to see it again. Perhaps I’m just a sucker for an old tale retold. It’s not as if the characters in Star Wars were all that complex or innovative. If the teller is eloquent and has a beautiful voice, even a cliche can be amusing. I wouldn’t claim it’s the best movie ever, but holy crap was it entertaining! If that forever denies me authentic movie critic cred, then so be it.

  103. slamorte says:

    1. Sully tries out for full tribal membership… and fails. Tribe sees his value as a turncoat anyway and uses him for intel. Tribe saves itself.

    2. Planet attacks at the end, but with plants instead of animals. Spores attack the flyers, vines grow into the tarmac, machines sink into the soil.

    3. Get some depth/backstory on the army dude and the base admin dude. Why does the general hate the planet so much? Did he see some close friends die? Did he fall in love with a native and have to kill her?

  104. Anonymous says:

    Went to the movie. It is clear where ALL the money was spent. It wasn’t on the script or an original story. Instead of Indians versus Cowboys, it was Indians versus the MARINES. Good golly Miss Molly.

  105. Aggamemnon says:

    Two things I would have liked to have seen….a little bit of a sense of WONDER from the people who had just been awakened from 5 years suspended animation…something like “HOLY SH*T!!! Look at that ginormous planet floating in the sky!!” and also…why didn’t they just fly their dragon’s up to the dragon breeding grounds?

  106. solarsailor says:

    I loved the film for the rich and sumptuous visual feast it was and for what portends for the future of cinema. Concentrating on all the beautifully thought out and often peripheral details allowed me to overlook the weak and predictable story line. Did anyone else get a sense of ash actually falling in their lap when the hometree was burning?

    Could it have ended differently to having the civilised, in-tune-with-nature (kill only out of necessity and respect your prey) Na’vi learning to wage ferocious, all-out, technological-style war? I think so.

    How about:-

    On the eve of battle, Na’vi infiltrate the human compound and sow seeds of fast growing vines which have choked the machinery of fliers and exoskeletons by daybreak; they dust the compound with spores of a fungus that feeds on explosives reducing them to inert powder; in the ensuing hand-to-hand combat shoot the soldiers with tranquilising darts and infect/implant them with a seed/organism that requires some unique product of the Pandora biome to keep at bay for the rest of their lives thus binding them to the planet and the health of its ecosystem (we’ll gloss over the arguments against xeno-organisms being able to use terrestrial hosts); and to keep a modicum of big screen action the Na’vi fliers could drop boulders through the turbofans of the giant bomber as it makes its final run perhaps rescuing and resuscitating Colonel Quaritch after the crash.

    In short, if environmentalism and in-tunedness-with-nature are the message then reinforce it by demonstrating its value and eventual superiority. Still corny I know, but a tad more consistent.

  107. MomentEye says:

    The risk i was looking for was for there not to be a blindingly obvious dragon the hero could jump on to turn the tide.

    As a message it suggests that problems are best solved by bold, poorly thought out one-shots rather than on-going ethical behaviour.

  108. Neytiri says:

    Jake became a para in combat, a clue is in his line about being sick of doctors telling him what he CAN’T do. Most disabled people know exactly what he meant. Getting his legs back was hugely motivating to Jake (plus he also may have got some other motor abilities back, ahem) and falling in love with these abilities, as well as with another person, combined with being unplugged randomly, challenged to learn a ton of cultural material in three months, and being chased by crazy
    things would have made anyone a little disoriented (don’t forget the light year lag as well).
    Anyway, it is his experience of disability, including that of being a Na’Vi with a human past,
    that puts him between worlds in a special way not directly depicted in the film but crucial
    nonetheless. And perhaps he was saved only because of this being recognized on some
    level from the start. Unlike Yoda’s “Try, there is no try”, Jake does try, and, as truly an Avatar
    he connects with Eywa, the mother goddess subsuming consciousness of all the planet.
    Perhaps it is the background of his own mental imagery as a human and soldier that
    caused Ewya to mount a counterattack in the way we observe, rather than as others have
    suggested (magentic storms or whatever)?
    The layers of myth therefore carry the story beyond it’s superficial “plot”. As for additional
    twists that may have helped, what about if his deceased twin had been his sister, hmmm?

    • tigtog says:

      Neytiri #155

      As for additional twists that may have helped, what about if his deceased twin had been his sister, hmmm?

      If the deceased twin had been his sister, then they would have to have been fraternal twins, which means that their DNA would not be identical, and thus Jake’s nervous system would not have been compatible with her Avatar body.

      If the Avatar bodies could be connected with persons with non-identical DNA, then there would be no justification for Jake having been recruited in the first place.

  109. jinchoung says:

    i think it would have been interesting to start the movie on earth and show how destitute and desperate humanity has become and then contrast that to what pandora is in its lush beauty.

    this also really drives home the fact that despite humanity’s clear role as agressor here, jake’s action is indeed race treachery. his heroism may in fact doom humanity. a doom they have earned but still… it would have been interesting to make this conflict less b&w and make humanity’s dire need a “greying agent”.

    also, jake is basically a traitor throughout the entire movie – he betrays grace, then quaritch, then the navi, then humanity.

    and yet, he only reaps the emotional trauma with his betrayal of the navi. everyone is too NICE to him despite his treachery!

    it would have made the movie more engaging if there was more actual meat behind his own admission “what am i doing?”

  110. jimh says:

    I liked it, even though it was entirely and even embarrassingly predictable. It might have been more risky just to go without the voice over, and without subtitles. I believe storytelling is an art form that need not rely on having every bit of information handed to the audience.

    Now, about the use of Papyrus for the subtitle font, gah.

    • Anonymous says:

      I’m so glad someone else agrees that Papyrus was a TERRIBLE font choice. It’s not like subtitles have to be lame. Just look at Slumdog Millionare!

  111. Grumblefish says:

    All those saying he could have given it a morally ambiguous ending – don’t be so damn silly. You think he should have done it to be more realistic? Well, why don’t you try being more realistic?

    Just let the director have his vision? Sorry, Hollywood hasn’t worked that way in decades. The Godfather, Apocalypse Now – great films, morally ambiguous. But not the box office success of Jaws or Star Wars. And if you want to make a film that will require blockbuster grosses to recoup the costs, you’ll need to write a plot that will allow that blockbuster success.

    You have a great, morally ambiguous plot? The main character is not an out and out good guy? Maybe he even loses at the end? Great, and can you make if for under $30 million? Because you’re not going to get a £300 million budget for it until such films start making more than £300 million grosses.

  112. Anonymous says:

    Storytelling risks Star Wars: A New Hope should have taken…

    1.Luke betrays Obi-Wan and helps the Empire destroy Alderaan, this will give Luke some depth.
    2. Give Han Solo some balls, make Luke fight and kill Han Solo with his bare hands.
    3. Show a Tusken Raiders flying a tie-fighter and shooting down some X-wings, what-a-twist!
    4. The Emperor is too evil. Show the Emperors good side, like he is trying to take over the universe, but what he really wants is someone to love him.
    5. Kill Darth Vader in the end, instead he just fly’s off into space, borrrring.

  113. anansi133 says:

    Given that this is a story of genocide, a simplistic story is kind-of mandatory- unless you’re going to tell the perp’s side of it.

    In this world, the victims of ethnic cleansing have a very simple story to tell: They don’t want us here, so they terrorize us unto going someplace else. Really, how much room for nuance or subtlety is there with that kind of a narrative?

    Of course, the ones perpetrating the genocide have got many complex reasons for doing what they do, and there’s lot’s of room for sub-plots and twists. But of course then, the storyteller can’t help but identify with the whites.

    I don’t think were really having a problem with Cameron’s story: I think our problem is with the real-life history that the story is based on. We don’t want to think of ourselves as part of that slaughter, so we blame the messenger.

  114. Anonymous says:

    The movie also showed the old tale if the good old USA wants somthing no matter how far fetched just get your guns and take it or in this movie try to.Go blue people!!

  115. Anonymous says:

    Why couldn’t Jake have been female?

  116. Robbo says:

    What disappointed me the most was that the topping on my popcorn wasn’t real butter – but I was proud of the risk I took in eating it anyway.

  117. blueelm says:

    I like all of these except number five. I think that would have made it even more predictable and easy. Better yet would be to make him more likable and more sympathetic in some way and yet just as unresponsive to the concerns of the people.

    As it was he was the classic villain from old Westerns. I definitely was sad that they made Colonel Quaritch so flat, especially at the end. It would have been a lot better to me if killing him and seeing him lose was really a little painful and tragic in its own right.

    To me the thing that makes good tragedy is the old school quality of being led to bad ends by pursuit of valid and even good ideas. The humans in the film were wrong, we get that, so anything that increases the pathos of them is going to be tragic.

    What interests me is no one here had the end I was kind of hoping for in my sick mind:

    That he couldn’t actually become one of them, that he wouldn’t be able to enter the avatar and would be stuck depending on the technology to live his life or to die if and when that failed.

    But I like sad movies.

  118. Anonymous says:

    Michelle Rodriguez had the best one liners ever.

    If the hair was their sex organs, why did they wear cloths?

  119. Anonymous says:

    One thing I realized after watching, the humans (either in our current-universe future or in an alternate universe) had such advance technology in aerospace and “bio-engineering” but they couldn’t just send in robots to do the dirty work? Did our civilization or theirs just give up on robots (aside from the big suits)

  120. Anonymous says:

    For a movie supposedly attempting to be timeless myth, Avatar sure tried hard to date itself. Did anyone else groan when the colonel started discussing preemptive attack as self-defense?

    Good myths don’t have to have controversial plots, but they have to have an actual plot somewhere–and with no characterization and less good dialogue, you’ll never have more than a skeleton. Cameron tried to fill the body with pretty lights and noises, and dear possibly extant Gods were they pretty, but that’s supposed to be the skin, not the flesh, of this tortured metaphor.

  121. SaschaS says:

    Some ideas what could have been done “better” (from my POV, of course):

    1. Give the Humans some depth
    Instead of making the Humans all evil, give them some depth by making their exploitation of nature a necessity rather than a choice. You could even make a point out of it that the future Humans are forced to exploit Pandora because their ancestors (we!) failed to pull our act together in time and now they are stuck on a planet depleted of resources and with a broken ecosysteme and climate. The Humans could even be loathing what they (believe they) have to do in order to sustain their survival.
    A move like that would actually be quite interesting because it makes the Humans in the movie tragic (as they have little choice) while it also breaks the fourth wall and actually makes the audience the villain.
    A future human society actively hating their ancestors for destroying their world would also contract nicely with ancestor-worshipping natives.

    2. Make the ending “victory” plausible
    To me, it was quite clear that the Humans would just come back with bigger and better weapons (nukes, anyone?). For me, it would have rasonated better if Jake and the Na’vi realize that they cannot win by force in the end and have to adjust to survice.
    What about this one: Jake realizes their victory was phyrric and in the end, he goes back to earth to fight for the rights of the natives back on Earth, abandoning his girlfriend, his wholesome body, and his entire great life as hero and uncontested ruler for a wheelchair life loathed by many of his fellow humans on earth for changing sides, in order to serve his new people.

  122. Bloodboiler says:

    One of the Navi’s betraying his own would have been inconsistent to the idea that humans have absolutely nothing the Navis could want. I like to infer that the Navis are not even interested in recreational drug use (not because of some moral superiority but because they are an alien species) that humans could easily use to extort them.

    What I would have liked to see in terms of Navi intelligence is some back story on how the first contact went, how early cultural exchange (learning/teaching language) went, and why things got hostile. Hopefully there will be a Lord of the Rings style extended directors cut with all that too-slow-and-high-brow material included.

    Not killing Ana Lucia Cortez would have been interesting. I don’t know why, but it was obvious she was going to die.

    Not having the hero sleep with the princess, just before being outed as a traitor of the worst kind would have been nice. That was just too much of a douchebag move to “get some tail” while he still could.

  123. Neytiri says:

    The story that some complain about…to my mind much of what people recognize as predictable- the macho dialogue, the use of horsey creatures and whatever else has been picked at like loose threads in an blanket…is all there to provide something to hold on to – much like the bar on an old fashioned roller coaster. Letting go is okay.
    Letting go and finding a way to detach from concern and complaint about all the dualistic and cliche stuff, I believe, lends an attitude best receptive to enjoyment of the film as a whole.
    The word avatar itself has multiple meanings that all apply in the film; and yet, following the thread of the spiritual meaning and suspending disbelief for a time can be rewarding. For instance,
    the Na’vi themselves can be seen as having lost faith in the very things they practice in ritual form and give lip service to .
    If this were not so, they would not have been on an unequal basis with the humans from the start. It was Jake who – as the one with the fresh eyes and open mind of an outsider – actually as one
    who (literally?) has no standing made the effort to communicate with Eywa directly. That had not occurred to the Na’vi.
    Of Neytiri, she is more than what I have seen described on this
    forum. Do not forget she is the daughter of the shaman woman,
    and has the privilege and the burden of caring for the spiritual welfare of her people, at least when her mom can no longer do so.
    Has anyone asked what was she doing in the forest in the first place? No. But what then? I submit she was seeking what the avatar
    eventually came to find, a way to respond to the evil represented by the human’s destructiveness. Thus she was able to recognize in Jake this quality…only because she had it within herself. Indeed, her examples of loyalty are what orient the avatar to a way of seeing things, the only way of seeing things, so he would know what to be loyal to at all: Eywa, that which contains, supports, and yet transcends all loyalty, that which IS. Remember, he relayed to us at the beginning that he was dreaming – a Crazy Horse image,
    but also a motif used in many myths.
    And the colonel….what is the meta-meaning of the colonel? What does it mean that he does and says the things he does? Well,
    he is an extremist, a spiritual materialist, who projects his feelings of inadequacy onto anyone ‘weak’ (e.g. ‘unbelievers’). There seems
    almost to be a magic mirror reflection of him in of Osama Bin Laden and, strangely, Saint Sebastian. I mean, his place is called
    “the base”, for one thing. He is stuck on an illusion of “us and them”, and everything that follows from that, including seeking after something exclusive (a place in paradise, unobtainum. whatever), the pursuit of which is destructive on a planetary scale.
    Mohammad in the Koran is quoted to say,”persecution is worse than killing”, and it is this that seems to be mis-read by extremists as a justification for killing infidels. And does the colonel indicate he feels persecuted? Yep. The eerie camera work Cameron used to shift focus on the collapsing columns of The Home Tree was right out of 911′s footage of the towers’ collapse. Maybe he just found it effective to convey the scale of devastation this way and did not have any subtext in mind such as I suggest. But maybe not.
    Anyway, Avatar may yet manifest itself in the world outside of the theaters and pixels on such screens as these and perhaps bring about some positive, tangible results based on its power as
    metaphore, as myth.

  124. bevlan says:

    I am just wondering why when there are so many other movies with more depths that we need to single out this one with “cool new 3D effects” and come up with any plot device but the simple ones that were used. What is wrong with having a simple straight up narrative. While I definitely tend to seek out movies that stimulate my mind I do not need to have every movie be this way. Sometimes you just want to see cool shit. And given the success of Avatar some other creative team can now come along and say “Ok how do we tell this awesome story with these new visuals”.

  125. airshowfan says:

    Solarsailor, #48: “I loved the film for the rich and sumptuous visual feast it was. Concentrating on all the beautifully thought out and often peripheral details allowed me to overlook the weak and predictable story line.”

    I agree :]

    So first and foremost, the movie was beautiful, imaginative, and enjoyable. I look forward to more.

    The planet-consciousness thing reminded me a lot of a couple of Asimov stories. [Spoiler alert]. In Nemesis, all the microbes on the planet form a big consciousness, one that is smart enough to use cutting-edge [fictitious] physics to come up with a way to prevent a tragic imminent collision between celestial bodies (and to tell the humans how to do it, since the microbes are powerless to do it themselves). And of course, at the end of the Foundation series, the planet Gaia is a huge consciousness; even the mountains help store some of its memories and carry out information-processing, and the natural processes on the planet supply the humans (or are they robots? I forget) with electricity and other things needed for a comfortable life.

    Now, my ideas for making the story better? I’d say, incorporate these ideas from Asimov. Michael_GR in comment #8 already beat me to writing about my first idea: “I was expecting was some better use of the world-mind”.

    Have Eywa deliver a clear message to JakeSully, for example. Maybe even have the posthumous-Grace component of Eywa tell JakeSully how amazing it is for her to be alive within the network of trees, “seeing” through every plant. Or have JakeSully call the animals into the battle via this network. Or, instead of physically visiting far-away tribes to tell them about the battle, use the network. The presence of a Gaia network is full of storytelling possibilities, none of them really exploited in this movie.

    The transfer of consciousness from one body to another hints at the great power of this network. What if the Na’vi could temporarily transfer their consciousness to a large swarm of dumber animals, or to a single large animal? That would be an interesting analogue to the humans’ Avatars… except the Na’vi could fully leave their bodies and be incarnated in the alternate life form(s), and stay there if their Na’vi body is killed meanwhile. Maybe they could then, from there, re-re-incarnate on yet another animal… with some kind of interface to the Eywa network between each incarnation. Maybe they never die, and just move from one body/species to another. (This reminds me of the short story “Acephalous Dreams”. Do download the EscapePod episode if you don’t know what I’m talking about. It’s a great story. But actually, only the very end touches on the idea I mentioned here).

    One other idea:

    In some of Asimov’s stories, a society whose idyllic life seems primitive turns out to be extremely advanced and post-technological (I think I’m thinking of Gaia from Foundation again). RozK, in comment 129, beat me to writing something along these lines.

    It would be neat to have the Na’vi at one point lead JakeSully past some large industrial thing, be it a building or a large machine, that has been in disuse for a long time and is barely visible through the plants that have grown around it since it was retired. He could ask the Na’vi about it, and get a short answer that hints at how the Na’vi have abandoned a much more “advanced” way of life, since the planet’s biosphere supplies all that they need.

    SifakaMon takes this to an extreme in #141: “it could possibly be depicting a prosperous post-singularity era, in that the Na’vi Gaia/world-mind appears to be the huge self-aware interconnected (usually “artificial”) intelligence we’re always warned about”. So, for example, the interfaces between the Na’vi and their horses and pterodactyls (or whatever they’re called) could have been engineered rather than evolved… maybe the whole ecosystem, or the whole planet, might have been engineered by a fantastically advanced species (e.g. so as to compute the meaning of life, the universe, and everything, as Hagbard suggested in comment 89).

  126. Anonymous says:

    As a sometime consultant, the analysis the ‘Company’ will be doing today runs something like this:

    How much money were we spending on that security force? Ammo and food shipped from earth plus shipping the people there and back, plus the gunships, the fuel and the salaries? (See that story linked above that the point of the Avatars was to get the locals to work the mines because it cost so much to have human mine-workers out there – the cost of running a military as well must have really eaten into profits. )

    And that security detail was too small for regional hegemony – now we’ve started a war we’d need one several times as large, and how much would that cost? What will it cost to ship 3 or 4 more big gunships out there plus dozens of choppers?

    And that’s just one site – what if we want multiple mines? What if we want to start digging in other parts of the planet? What if we want one refinery and several mines within ore-transporting distance, all with convoys that need protecting? The original security force looked like maybe 500 men (in the evac scene at the end). Now we’re looking at perhaps 2k per site or more and with multiple sites we could end up with 10k men up there. All being fed with food shipped from earth?

    So just coming back with more men and guns might be totally unprofitable. The US cavalry were supported by railway, not a hideously expensive 5-year space-flight.

    What about plan B? Take off and nuke the site from orbit? Well, you’re assuming no political / PR issues (and we can be sure there’s a whole shitstorm about all these casualties already). And would it irradiate the unobtanium? How about the workers? We’ve had enough nasty surprises to last us a while, thank you.

    Besides, you can only nuke an area – you can’t sterilise the entire planet (at least, not cheaply). Any impact zone would be re-colonised by the local BigCreaturesWithBigTeeth soon enough – so that’s only a short term solution. An open-cast mine is a decades-long proposition – you might be able to drop a nuke and then build a mine in the crater, but what happens once the nasties are back on the perimeter?

    So we come to plan C: we now have a human (sort of) we can talk to. We come up with a list of sites and give him a veto. We go to deserts and polar regions. We can cut way back on the military budget – ideally, no-one will even know we’re there. Sure, we might end up extracting less unobtanium, but we can always charge more for it and we won’t have to worry about any unexpected downtime…

    Ultimately – it will all come down to the numbers, not pride. If there’s a way to run the mine at low cost and low risk, giving the locals a veto might be worth it.

    However, the one scientific problem we haven’t talked about at all is, what role does the unobtanium itself play in the planet? Does it power Eywa? Seems like an obvious plot point for the sequel to me…

  127. airshowfan says:

    And I feel like some of the comments here deserve replies.

    Aelfscine, #38: Nice ideas!

    Anonymous, #65: “Seems $300m buys exceedingly weak character designs … and they have cornrows? And they also look like blue Thundercats?”
    floraldeoderant, #132: “The Na’vi kiss just like humans do? Alien-anthro was just PAINFUL.”

    That to me was the worst thing about the movie, the one aspect that strained my suspension of disbelief beyond its tolerances. The people who designed the flora and some of the wildlife were far more creative than the people who designed the Na’vi and the horses. The Na’vi look and act a little less human than an average Star Trek alien, but only a little.

    MagicBean, #12: “The more subtle and complex it becomes, a story ceases to be a myth and becomes simply a story…”

    Well said! While I like most of the ideas on this thread, such as having villains that are easier to relate to and who have motives that are more noble, or Na’vi who do ugly things like kill their handicapped or their returning heroes, or other kinds of tough choices and moral weighings, I think it might be better to have the kind of simple black-and-white story that the movie had. (And, as many have pointed out, it makes the movie a safer investment and more broadly accessible).

    wwarren, #60: “It wasn’t until afterwards, when Star Wars became such a sci-fi hit with millions of ravenous fans, were a vast and complex universe and history created. It was eventually that “expanded universe” that ruined the prequels and somewhat tainted the original trilogy.”

    Interesting. I hadn’t thought of that. The flip-side of this is what Hagbard wrote in comment 89: “I like to do what I call active suspension of disbelief; using my imagination to fill in the blanks left in the story as told”. The more that gets explained, the less room we have to do this. And I think doing this is part of the fun when it comes to fantasy-like stories such as Avatar.

    Vnend, #116: “Just because they didn’t have a character come out and tell you on screen why the mountains float doesn’t mean they didn’t explain it.”

    Clever! I hadn’t thought of that. The explanation is briefly shown 2 or 3 times now that I think about it (including once in the preview). Very cool.

    Anonymous, #43 “The thing that immediately bothered me was that the Na’vi allowed the remaining humans to leave the moon alive.”

    That’s so that we can have a sequel or five. Duh!

    HBL, #33: “they kept banging on about how dangerous Pandora was, and you didn’t really get to see why or how.”

    Actually, that to me showed an interesting aspect of the mindset of the human characters. It is something I already see too much of today. Many people who grow up in cities are afraid of the wilderness. They think that when you go backpacking in the woods, or swimming in the ocean, or what have you, that every living thing you encounter is “out to get you”. Sure, there are some dangerous things you need to be aware of, but they are the exception rather than the rule. I recall an entry in that Free Range Kids blog that is occasionally mentioned on BoingBoing, an email written by someone who takes kids on trips into the wilderness; the contributor mentions how some kids have to be told that it’s not unsafe to sit on the ground. Some people today approach even the most tame hike through a park with a “Wilderness is out to kill you” mindset, and you can’t really enjoy nature with a mindset like that. What I saw in the movie was an extreme (even if perhaps less inaccurate) example of this mindset.

    Tabbybadger, #42: “the Na’vi seemed to be the only denizens of the planet not to have six limbs”
    Warreno, #46: “So why do they have tentacles contained inside *braids*? … Why not ventral spiracles like the “horses”? And why only four limbs, not six?… Either the Na’avi and their “horses” are diverged from a common ancestor, or they can’t communicate with one another, because the biological differences are too great.”

    I have much less of an issue with this. For example, the lemurs have six limbs, and they are very Na’vi-like already. So the loss of the two limbs is probably a relatively recent evolutionary change. Hey, all it takes is time. We are quite a bit less hairy, and MUCH smarter, than our relatively recent ancestors. So drastic changes are possible. Think of snakes, which lost all four limbs despite how this requires an entirely new locomotion mechanism. And think of all the marine mammals that have drastically relocated some of their breathing holes. Not impossible.

    As for the biological differences and communication: Every living thing on earth shares the same genetic code. Not the content of that code, but the code itself, its language. DNA, and the same base pairs, can be found in every living cell. Nucleotides code for proteins in the same way; the same three “letters” code for the same amino acids, in an alphabet shared by every living thing. You can take a gene (i.e. the “word” for a certain protein) from the most primitive bacterium and implant it in a cell of the most advanced mammal, and it will function! If this is the case, if fundamental similarities can survive billions of years of evolution, I don’t see why the connection between the Na’vi and their horses would be impossible. It’s probably neurons that commuicate by releasing and absorbing certain ions, and maybe these ions have not changed significantly from one species to another.

    (But the idea that the life on Pandora has DNA just like earhtly DNA, and that the Na’vi DNA matches human DNA so closely that a hybrid could be engineered… those, I don’t buy. Haven’t bought it since I started watching Star Trek when I was in middle school).

  128. Anonymous says:

    The fact that the film has evoked so much response should be some credit to its success.

    I saw this film twice and was twice blown away and twice cringed at the word unobtainium as well as the predictable plot.

    My biggest gripe with the film is something I think James Cameron probably struggled the most with, which is creating a culture that the audience can identify with and yet still look and feel alien enough. This is no easy task but I felt it could have been done better. In some ways not any more alien than the jungles in King Kong. From an artist’s point of view, more than once I wondered what the art direction was for the culture…”Ok everyone, I want a visual/physical metaphor for ‘foreign alien culture’ look at some National Geographic videos of various tribes and combine that with animal features. BTW make them blue because that’s just weird.”

    The six legged horses bugged me as well.

    I am for sure going to meet some of the artists who worked on this film at Nucleus on January 23

    http://gallerynucleus.com/event/232

  129. Anonymous says:

    Che wrote a very easy to understand book about how asynchronous warfare is conducted. It would have been nice if the Navi followed the rules and acted like real terrorists. For example, the weapons of their enemies would be valuable, so they would grab them every time they killed somebody. To me it’s was silly that they fought the invading power with no gameplan.

  130. Anonymous says:

    My favorite idea: Cripple the Avatar body, and give Jake’s real legs back. Then he has to make a hard choice, rather than just going with whatever everyone around him seems to expect at every juncture.

  131. Anonymous says:

    I don’t care that the storyline was simplistic. I loved the imagination that went into this movie. I’ve never seen anything like this movie. I enjoyed every moment.

  132. Modusoperandi says:

    Three words: Lavish musical numbers.

  133. Anonymous says:

    >Anonymous #3
    Geezzz Cheney

  134. Anonymous says:

    The movie was over 3 hours (not bothering with facts) and spanned over 3 months aparantly. This movie could of easily been split into 3 movies and giving the writers more time to play with. Personally I would of enjoyed the movie being much much longer.

  135. Anonymous says:

    What? NO no no no no! I’m really tired of people saying “They obviously are trying to save a war-torn/resource-less/dying earth. BULL.

    They say in the begining it’s for money. They allude to that through-out the movie. If the Earth was dying, they wouldn’t have some pussy ass fatcat and his band of rickety marines. They would have the entire government (at this point, probably a world government) funding this, if not actually in control of the entire situation. You think if we lost a couple hundred troops we’d just LEAVE if the Earth was dying? HELL no. We’d nuke the damn place.

    Now, I’m not saying that wouldn’t be a better ending. All I’m saying is that the Earth is not in jeopardy. The Earth is fine. Stop saying that the Earth was in need of this unobtanium. Because they just wanted to be rich as balls.

  136. Anonymous says:

    Or, then again, instead of doing the same old “different” tripe tropes here, why not do something new or innovative in the script, instead of just with the technology? Oh, but that might be hard, nevermind.

  137. prshanna says:

    Great ideas here, and I think that is what marks this is an incredible movie. True, the movie isn’t perfect, but the fact that it creates and introduces a world that can lead us to such speculation shows that it is a masterpiece of cinematic art. At least it’s not like star wars where they milk every possibility in order to create a new game and make just a little bit more money.

    Im just going to comment about previous statements as i remember them. I think its a great idea to allude to a dying earth. In the begining, it is just a corporation trying to make money. But then when jake talks to eywah through the tree of souls, he mentions an earth that has no more green. where’d that come from? develop it cameron! The evolution difference between the navi and the rest of the species is a good point, but that doesn’t bother me too much. I like the idea of them breathing through their necks much better than them having 6 arms. Just because he can light a match doesnt mean he should be able to breathe, even if there is oxygen there, there could still be some other gas that is toxic to humans.

    Everyone should remember, cameron planned on making 2 more sequels if this was a success. it was a success. so we can look forward to two more movies that are sure to elaborate on and create new possibilities. It was a good movie, with awesome graphics and a predictable plot, but it was thought provoking and opened many new opportunies for expansion.

    • fullerenedream says:

      “Great ideas here, and I think that is what marks this is an incredible movie. True, the movie isn’t perfect, but the fact that it creates and introduces a world that can lead us to such speculation shows that it is a masterpiece of cinematic art.”

      Thank you! It is SO nice to find that someone has written what I’ve been feeling but haven’t been able to express.

      Also: my husband and I figured out that the corporate guys hired Jake’s brother, killed him and replaced him with Jake as a way to get an ex-military guy into an avatar. Even better – an ex-military guy who wants very badly something that they can give him: working legs.

  138. micmac says:

    1. Terrible idea. Ruins the movie. Would have turned Jake into a puppet of the plot points and not a real character. More importantly – and this is a theme that really speaks to me, mentioned in another post – the turning point when Jake has to finally prove himself to Neytiri and the Na-vi is about how they turn their back on him even after everything he’s been through. He wants more than anything to be with them, but they shun him, try to kill him, and leave him for dead.

    2. Maybe a good idea if done right.

    3. Not a good idea. Major theme being that the Na’vi don’t want anything we have to offer.

    4. Maybe a good idea. I’ve been thinking about the Colonel a lot. Part of me thinks he’s over-drawn, part of me thinks him being over-drawn is a good idea. For the ending to work, Cameron needs to bring the audience over to side with the Na’vi against the humans. He needs to keep it simple, make that transfer easy, and make the killing of the Colonel very satisfying. Also, any doubts or demons the Colonel has would have to inform Jake’s character better and I’m not sure this post has really thought that through.

    5. Disagree on the premise. I don’t see a slimeball here. I see an obtuse businessman whose values are misaligned but doesn’t necessarily deserve to die. I think this post confuses the roles of these two characters.

  139. discontinuuity says:

    As for point #3, I would have liked to seen an expedition of the Na’vi go with the humans to Earth (or another planet), bringing along some of those jellyfish seeds to plant on other worlds. Sort of a reverse-colonialism thing. Then cut to shots of happy humans communing with Ey’wa and cleaned up industrial waste on Earth.

  140. Anonymous says:

    How about a climax incorporating negotiation and mediation, rather than warfare? That would have made it far more forward-reaching and futuristic than all the cool visuals.

  141. wwarren says:

    The problem with MagicBean’s well-written and intelligent break-down of what constitutes mythology is that it in no way applies to Cameron’s “Avatar.” He was never going for a myth and in fact did as much as he could to create something that wasn’t a myth. He’s been working on the story for almost 3 decades, creating volumes and encyclopedias of knowledge and background regarding every aspect of and creature on Pandora. He even created a comprehensive history of the humans up till that point in time. It has none of the simplicity and melodrama of myths, and it lacks the presence of any mythology by design.
    Warreno (no relation) hit the nail on the head when he said that “the problem…with the objection that the movie is supposed to be ‘mythical’ is that it’s set in a presumably realistic universe.”
    George Lucas, to a much larger and more calculated extent, intended his Star Wars story to be more mythological. His story borrowed heavily and intentionally from historical, literary and biblical archetypes and themes. It wasn’t until afterwards, when it became such a sci-fi hit with millions of ravenous fans, was a vast and complex universe and history created. It was eventually that “expanded universe” that ruined the prequels and somewhat tainted the original trilogy. In the case of Star Wars, it was a myth ruined and convoluted by forced complexity and melodrama. And while I won’t say Avatar was quite “ruined” by its lack of mythology (with the ambition of becoming a myth), Warreno was again correct by stating that by not placing itself in either the hard sci-fi category or classic film mythology, it failed on both accounts.

  142. Anonymous says:

    Loved Cameron’ subtle plot device of the Avatar tech being a human (mal-)adaptation of the actual functioning of Pandora’s global neural net on a lesser scale. This sort of back-and-forth syncretism and (mal-)adaptation across cultures is a decent critique of cross-cultural relations as are all the other stereotypical Tarzanesque plot devices employed to tell the story.

    Also I reject the criticism that Native Americans are as depraved as non-Natives in America when it comes to recognizing and ordering their lives and cultures around the concept of the interconnectedness of all things even if Native life is less than “perfect” as much as non-Native life. The culture gap between the comedic extremes of Parker’s corporate callousness contrasted with Na’vi concern is still a true verifiable paradigm when comparing and contrasting ALL non-Native American societies with the precious few remaining traditional Native American societies (many non-traditional Native societial values also embrace corporate callousness and sacrifice anything for monetary gain).

    So the obviously smurfs aren’t perfect or idealitically noble, but they sure are aware of their connections to their world, unlike the humans – even humans in real life. And I think that might be an overriding point in the story nomatter how the details work themselves out or the story ends.

    I believe a good plot device for any sequel would be contrasting how the Na’vi address repairing the devastation just done to a portion of their own world with the predatory methods of humans ransacking other worlds for additional resources. This “balance of life” issue was merely mentioned in this film. It was not really developed except as a plot device for explaining the limited actions of Pandora’s global neural-net. Further development of this singular concept in future sequels could provide a fertile ground for widely diverse storylines, inclusive of all the many fascinating plot-twist suggestions posted so far.

  143. Anonymous says:

    The film was successful enough to guarantee that Cameron will make his 2 sequels. Remember how simple and happy Star Wars was? Maybe Avatar 2 will be his Empire Strikes Back.

  144. Anonymous says:

    Seems like the Na’vi was base on old world African or American Indian tribal culture. That what I was reminded of when watching.

  145. NoahApples says:

    I kept waiting for the part where Jake loses his Avatar body and has to interact with the Na’vi/save the day as a broken, wheelchair-bound human, and it just never happened. It’s such an obvious, cliche place for the movie to go, but by the same token it just makes so much sense as an obvious source of emotional interaction and catharsis.

    Come on, tell me you would not tear up when Jake’s Ekran recognizes him even in human form, and the man who cannot walk takes to the skies to fight for what he believes in.

  146. EscapingTheTrunk says:

    Did anyone else immediately suspect that Jake’s brother was killed by the RDA so that Jake could sub for him and be the Marine they really wanted? Did anyone else expect that as a third-act reveal, or was it just me?

    Thanks Rob, for posting this. I honestly liked this film a lot better when it was called Princess Mononoke and had a hell of a lot more depth and nuance, and I’ve been trying to find a way to express my “quit chugging the blue Kool-Aid” sentiment in a constructive way for a while. You’ve nailed it — there were storytelling risks that could have and should have been taken, and were totally ignored in favour of telling a fairytale that everyone, everywhere, has heard before.

  147. Anonymous says:

    The biggest thing that bugged me about Avatar was the initial statement that gravity was considerably lower than earth normal on Pandora (said by Colonel Miles Quaritch during the weightlifting scene were he meets Jake), yet everything that falls, jumps, and walks appears to be doing so at 1 Gee. Why bother to set the scenario and then ignore it?

    I was also waiting for the obvious scene where the Na’vi bird riders take down all of the flyers by dropping large rocks into those unguarded ducted fans and tossing gravel into the turbine intakes. I guess Jake really wasn’t all that bright.

  148. boomer0127 says:

    Okay, my 2 cents worth of complaints.

    1) Why did Ripley have to smoke? Does smoking in the 23rd century equate to a woman being “rough and tumble” or something?

    2) Why did Cameron not pay 5 bucks for a biology-type grad student to show Ripley how to hold a micropipettor? That was just embarrassing.

  149. Anonymous says:

    there are a few comments about why they are mining the unobtanium because the world (earth) is dying. where is the reference to that? there’s no mention of it in the movie (that earth is dying), nor at pandorapedia. the rda corp wanted those rocks because they cost 20 millions per kilo… and that’s that.
    and according to pandorapedia (jan 2010), the united nations is still there in the year 2150, there’s still military and ever more weapons. that makes them (in 2150) no different from what they are today… corruptions, greedy corporations, etc.
    and looking at the picture of hell’s gate with multiple factories spewing out black smokes means there’s not a care for the natural environment or the climate.
    i guess we’re all typical humans after all, selfish, greedy and such. and like many (even myself), who wants and dream to be there at lovely pandora (given the chance), even thought they don’t welcome us… is greed… won’t you say?

  150. vinegartom23 says:

    Approaching this from a post-colonial theory perspective alone could add considerably greater depth to all sides. I think the conflict for Jake is largely explored in classic heroic journey fashion. It’s a stylistic trend that is so overblown in Hollywood these days that when anything breaks from it we laud the results- even if the end is just not a good story. Moral failure on his part takes a big risk at alienating the audience even if he is redeemed in the eyes of the Na’vi.

    Twists and turns for Jake aside, greater social complexity for the Na’vi would have been welcome. Even a simple internal conflict might have been nice. What they had seemed pretty minimal. On the other hand, this “neurological link up” may actually have eliminated that particular plot point in a way we as individual human beings would be incapable of understanding. Who knows? Whatever happened would have to be explained in some detail to keep the link idea clean for whatever final conflict would take place (at least if the conclusion were to stay the same). And as for aliens using human tech, while it might be interesting it’s the kind of kitsch Michael Bay has been mass producing for years now (i.e., the alien that raps, learns human culture, or is a gag machine for the comical sidelines created in such interaction).

    The character shifts I can flat out agree with are the ones involving the villains. They were very much one dimensional. The problem is when you are writing a story about conflict like this and at the same time exploring an enormous new world, how many stories can you tell in the span of a film? I mean “At Play in the Fields of the Lord” a film that shares roots with Avatar (as does Dances with Wolves, the Last Samurai, Shogun or countless other similar works), takes place in the jungles of South America- a place we know- and tells pretty much every side of the story imaginable. It caps out at 189 mins. Whose story are we telling here? You can only shoehorn so much into the suitcase. It’s an epic film, but there are limits. In the end I think Cameron did an admirable job for an appealing blockbuster- better than Transformers 2 anyway.

  151. grikdog says:

    Risk? Risk?? How about hiring Tom Stoppard to write the damn thing for $250 million.

  152. Mark says:

    The Science of Avatar, graded by a very smart science type guy.

    http://www.aintitcool.com/talkback_display/43440?q=node/43440

  153. Anonymous says:

    War war war, that’s always the solution. Why not have the aliens touch their ponytails to the soldier’s skin and convey empathy and spiritual life forces into their minds, defeating their will to fight. Change minds. Win hearts. Solve the problem. This was touched on in the film “Powder” where hunters, once they felt the suffering of their kills, could never kill again.

    Many wars throughout history ended when lowly foot soldiers’ morality overruled their general’s greed.

    Wars are never the solution, only a perpetuation of suffering. Empathy, compassion, mutual understanding and respect prevent war from ever becoming an option.

  154. Anonymous says:

    ‘Perhaps make the women completely subservient to the men.’

    Oh, wow, THAT’d be different! /s

    You sound like a creepy MRA. Ew.

  155. Anonymous says:

    @tomboing, you aren’t seriously comparing Avatar to the pyramids and calling out critics as philistines and then tossing in the fallacy of comparative ease (“if it’s so easy why don’t you do it?”) And “be grateful for it?” Are you joking? There are almost more bad ideas there than there are in Avatar, and that’s saying something.

    I left this movie furious. Seems $300m buys exceedingly weak character designs (cornrows? really? you have 10 years to design otherworldly creatures supposedly like nothing anyone’s seen before — like the cool undersear critters in The Abyss, for example — and they have cornrows? And they also look like blue Thundercats?), creature designs that seemed poorly thought-out (the aforementioned limb issue, and don’t get me going on those gills, which every creature on Pandora seemingly requires except the Na’vi), a story that’s trite and cliche in the extreme, dialogue often laughably horrible, and a world that reminds me of little more than old Yes album covers.

    Add in a leading man who’s like a less charismatic Mark Wahlberg, if such a horror can be imagined, and you have a B- picture at best. One with A++ special effects, to be sure, no faulting the execution of these ultimately flaccid ideas, but a D on the content at best.

    But derivative, puerile and predictable as the story is, that’s not what made me furious. Nor was it the discomfiting, Disney-fied white-man’s-burden-style depiction of tribal life and customs, complete with by-the-numbers faux-African score, vulgar as these were. No, what really pissed me off was that this ridiculous 300 MILION DOLLAR PRODUCT OF THE FOX CORPORATION all adds up to a half-assed, po-faced, ham-fisted, hypocritical allegory on the evils of capitalism and industry. Listen, I am as lefty as they come, but I really don’t like forking over 15 bucks for my dose of simplistic hypocrisy.

    But at least I felt all warm and fuzzy depositing my 3D glasses in a recycling container on my way out.

  156. Anonymous says:

    Suggestions #2 and #5 were not only in the original script, but actually shot. Perhaps they’ll see the light of day somewhere down the line.

  157. senorglory says:

    This movie is built to earn two billion dollars worldwide, and therefore has a storyline simple and straightforward enough to be universally translatable. It’s also got to sell plenty of toys, so can’t overshoot the kids.

  158. Anonymous says:

    Avatar clearly gets some of its inspiration from Vietnam, as well as many other peoples who suffered under colonialism. All sides lost in Vietnam. What ended that war was the media and people’s response to the horror and unfairness of the conflict. Where was the media in this film? They already have ftl communication in their ability to run the avatars in real time and through all magneto-electrical interference.

    They spoke of diplomatic solutions through the first two-thirds of the film, then dropped the whole idea except to show how bad the bad-guys were. Nope, it’s got to be about the glories of war. Wouldn’t it have been interesting if at least the Na’vi sought a genuine diplomatic solution?

  159. Anonymous says:

    Avatar is basicly a Sci-Fi version of pocahontas + blue man group. Nice colors simple love story.

    whats the deal whit them breaking up but when he comes back with a bigger bird everyone loves him agian?
    besides riding that bird wasnt that hard? any navi could have done it

    i like the biological internet the Nav’i have but i hate the lame way its used at the end to make Jake truly Nav’i why would they do that. Keep him jake, make it awkward.

    in the making of this movie no risks where taken and nothing was gained. Use the movie as advertisment for the possibilities with 3D and Animation combined with real image.

  160. Rindan says:

    I personally thought that Avatar was a fine and fully entertaining movie. It isn’t going to make any all time top 10 lists for me, but I don’t feel bad about plunking down the price of admission. The movie was a simplistic feel good movie to be sure, but when you spend the GDP of a small nation to make it, I am not shocked that you might have accessibility as being a high priority. So, I place no fault on the makers for executing how they did.

    All of that said, there certainly was a lot of room to be a little more risky.

    My biggest ‘want’ would be for them to make the villains folks you can identify with. In my opinion, the best villain is a villain you fully sympathize with. Magnito from the first X-men movie for instance was an awesome villain. The opening scene is his parents being dragged into a gas chamber and then fast forwarding 60 years into the future where he gets to watch a nation move towards repeating that horror. Anyone who can’t put themselves in Magnito’s shoes and sympathize with his views isn’t thinking hard enough.

    In Avatar, the villains are universally folks you have no sympathy for. The corporate guy is a traditional big ol’ evil corporate villain. The military guy is a psycho who gets his rocks off blowing up the natives. Eh, it isn’t hard to root for their downfall.

    There are a lot of alternative routs you could have taken to make the human villains more interesting. Simply having the humans driven by need instead of greed would have radically changed the feel of the movie. If the humans were trying to get minerals out of a sense of need for a greater good to save billions, it would have made them folks who you might not root for, but at least sympathize with.

    Hell, you could have made the humans more interesting and sympathetic without even changing the story. It is alluded to, but when the humans show up for the final battle what you really have are desperate and trapped humans on a world they don’t want to be on, not actually equipped to fight a real war, and terrified that they are about to be overrun and slaughtered by the native hordes. One tear filled message sent by a dock worker to his mom on earth before getting an improvised gun shoved in his hand and being told it is do or die time would have been enough.

  161. Anonymous says:

    6. The company would eventually learn that Pandora only had large deposits of “fool’s unobtanium” instead of the real thing and then they would just “cut and run”, leaving the aliens to rebuild.

    7. Jake would actually fall for the helicopter pilot, but she would only accept a relationship with his avatar, and he would oblige of course (come on, porn is always at the forefront of new tech and would definitely be the first use of alien body control tech).

  162. takeshi says:

    For starters, it could have taken the risk of actually HAVING a story. I know that I’m in the minority here, but I didn’t think ‘Avatar’ was anything special. In fact, I thought the entire thing was damned annoying. 2D, 3D… it just doesn’t matter. Stupid blue guys flying around on even stupider-looking CGI alien dinosaurs. I’m sure the little kids love it, and I probably would have, too, 30 years ago.

    James Cameron hasn’t made a decent movie since ‘Terminator 2,’ and even that was overrated.

  163. zeepoli says:

    wow there’s a lot here… haven’t read all but

    i think avatar – as the story of big oil and 911 took a huge risk by having the corporation take down the tower causing the war. and a bigger war that will probably happen i the sequel.

    is cameron saying the us government was responsible in one way or another for the twin towers demise?

    that’s sort of risky.

  164. tomboing says:

    Responding to #65, who wrote:

    —-
    @tomboing, you aren’t seriously comparing Avatar to the pyramids and calling out critics as philistines and then tossing in the fallacy of comparative ease (“if it’s so easy why don’t you do it?”) And “be grateful for it?” Are you joking? There are almost more bad ideas there than there are in Avatar, and that’s saying something
    —-

    Well, #65, you’re not reading my post very well nor thinking very clearly in your first paragraph. After that paragraph do make some interesting points.

    No, I wasn’t comparing Avatar to the pyramids. Or comparing anything, actually. I drew an analogy between the monday-morning quarterbacking on Avatar and the (imagined) m.m.quarterbacking on the Great Pyramid.

    I didn’t say or imply anyone was a philistine. In fact, I complimented the ideas people here (critics? that’s your word) were offering. In a nutshell I was saying that it seems odd to me to be unhappy with such a powerful work of art just because it wasn’t a different work of art.

    I didn’t use the “fallacy of comparative ease” or imply “if it’s so easy why don’t you do it.” That’s your own snarkiness seeing sarcasm that isn’t there. My point was, Avatar is a finished piece of work. My rhetorical question, put a little differently this time, was “Would’t you rather invest your imaginative ideas into a work of your own?”

    The rest of your paragraph beginning with “And ‘be grateful for it…’” doesn’t make any sense. How can you think the ideas of the readers are a reason not to be grateful for Avatar?

    You sound angry and hostile over the fact that this movie isn’t some other movie. Or maybe over the fact that other people like a movie you don’t. Either way, so what? Do you get mad that other people are enjoying a hamburger when what you feel like eating is a hot dog?

    Oh, boy…let me save you some time — I’m not comparing Avatar to hamburgers or hotdogs. I’m saying that getting outraged over someone else’s taste in movies is like getting outraged over someone else’s choice of lunch.

    I’ll go further and say your post sounds like you want people who like Avatar to feel like (to use your word) philistines.

    And, honestly, you didn’t find a lot to enjoy in Avatar? You didn’t find Avatar a visually beautiful movie? Didn’t find it unusually well-imagined and crafted in any area? Didn’t see authentic nuances of characterization in the acting of the male and female leads?

  165. Anonymous says:

    They could have explored the theme of balding more thoroughly

  166. dragonfrog says:

    Myths absolutely can have complex stories and characters. Check the Iliad – where’s the clear good-vs-evil plot line again?

  167. thinking.woman says:

    Overall, watching Avatar felt like watching someone else play a video game…the story was too thin, and it’s just not that compelling if you’re not the one playing.

    1. Give us, like, five or ten more minutes of Jake’s life on Earth. (This seems so obvious to me I actually wondered if the theater had started the movie in the wrong place.) This is a really economical way to (a) establish how devastated Earth is, which will make his attraction to Pandora all the more believable; and (b) set up his motivation to accept Quaritch’s deal to spy on the Navi. If Jake going to use the huge paycheck from this tour for his surgery, how is Quaritch’s offer not redundant? It’s more compelling if we know exactly what it is Jake is longing to be able to do again–I can think of a hundred reasons why an injured Marine would make a deal with the devil to be whole again, but for the purposes of this story, I want to know Jake’s, even if they’re obvious, because they tell me what’s important to the character.

    2. All the choices needed to be harder to make. For example, I wanted Jake to have something (or someone) back on Earth he was doing this for–a girlfriend, a kid, some goal he wanted to be able to do once he’d earned the money to get his spine repaired, something that made his choice to become Navi at the end more complicated. Also, what possessed Trudy to lead the jailbreak? Because suddenly, after being a military pilot for so many years, she gets queasy when ordered to napalm a forest? Trudy’s a secondary character–this is an easy fix. Since we don’t get enough time with her interior life for soul-searching to be very convincing, her motivation needs to be external. Give her a crush on Jake or Norm (or Grace, but Grace is one of the few characters with enough to do that we don’t need to pile on the role of lesbian love interest on top of it).

    3. It’s amazing that they live in this world where everybody so honestly reports their interior lives and intentions. I found I really wanted Quaritch to be lying to Jake about the surgery. Jake would discover this at the last second and this would become the spark that begins the mutiny, not the bulldozer incident (which just seemed a little under-compelling for some reason). Also, Jake doesn’t really lie to the Navi about why he’s there–there’s no sense of prolonged deception or inner conflict, which makes Neytiri’s tantrum seem like an overreaction; likewise Jake doesn’t lie to Quaritch to protect the Navi. (And producers, if you’re wondering why you’re having a hard time drawing the teenage girl/young female adult crowd: my tribe likes complicated, conflicted relationships, so you need to do a better job of building them.)

    4. A writer’s rule from the dawn of time: Show, don’t tell. The problem with relying on so much voiceover is that it’s hard to get attached to what’s being narrated. The most jarring example was that the manhood ceremony that Jake postpones his surgery for seemed to come out of nowhere.

    5. After the jailbreak, when Jake tells Dr. Patel he needs to stay behind because he needs someone he can trust on the inside…there needs to be someone on the inside he SHOULDN’T trust. Good: Dr. Patel betrays Jake and the gang. Better: Norm does, because he’s closer both emotionally and physically. Why would Norm betray Jake? Well, let’s go back to Trudy’s presumptive love interest. Maybe she’s into Jake, and Norm is jealous. Or maybe Trudy and Norm have been carrying on some secret affair for weeks and when she dies, Norm (not being a soldier trained to cope with the casualties of war) blames Jake and wants revenge. It doesn’t have to be the main game-changer, just a roadblock on the homestretch.

    6. All the Navi’s characters needed to be better developed except for Neytiri, who filled the bill pretty well as the feisty native princess. But what about her presumptive mate (I can’t even remember his name) whose place Jake usurps with a few impressive displays of the manly arts? I really wanted a lot more menace from him, but all I felt was petulance. I wanted him to turn Jake into a more divisive presence in the tribe, to sabotage him so when Jake ultimately does pull the tribe together to fight the humans, it’s a genuinely heroic accomplishment. But the Navi are so gentle and agreeable up to this point that when Jake and Grace are tied up while the bombers mass overhead just sort of seems like nothing more than a big misunderstanding, ha ha.

    7. So we get to the end and Jake has the choice to stay human or live in his avatar body with the tribe. As it is, this is a total no-brainer–Grace was so gravely injured when they tried it on her that I wasn’t convinced it might also fail for Jake, although that was very vaguely implied. So, either raise the stakes by emphasizing the risk, or change them entirely: Forget the possible risk of failure and just give the Navi a five-year life span (plant this in some throwaway dialogue early on, then remind us now). Now it’s more interesting: presumably the human Jake has a good 50 years ahead of him–does he trade that, and whatever possibilities for love and good health may come his way in those 50 years, for a couple of years of guaranteed good health with Neytiri? Choices are always more interesting when they’re both right (or both wrong).

  168. Anonymous says:

    One of my big issues with this story was the sheer incompetence of our protagonist, mister Jake Sully.

    By the time our big, climactic final battle begins, Jake has had time to acquaint himself with Na’vi military capability and compare this to what he knows of human technology from his military background. His final plan was fairly cute, with most of its advantage gained solely from momentary surprise, but it played out horribly. The Na’vi warriors on the ground and in the air were being slaughtered. Jake had no way of knowing the world-brain would actually come to support him, or in what way it would do so. He was a poor leader who must have known he was leading his forces into a disaster.

    A protagonist with a little more brains or strategic sense would have been easier to admire. Someone suggested earlier that the giant fans could have been sabotaged by dropping rocks in them. I would have loved to see an example like this where ingenuity triumphs over brute strength. Instead we saw the planet bring a stick bigger than the humans’ and bail out the tactical genius, holding back its miracle long enough so that hundreds of Na’vi can be shot to pieces.

  169. cha0tic says:

    No one mentioned that the film was probably a massive marketing video for the 3D technology company. Myself and the 2 pals I went to watch the film with were all blown away by the display screens in the command centre & on the aircraft.

    I got back and checked out the website for the 3D company. Entertainment is only one of their areas. They do all sorts of 3D imaging stuff.

    Did no-one notice the touch screen drag-and-drop to another mobile machine when they were looking at brain imaging? They were the things we were talking about when we left the pictures. I WANT that Map table.

    The story was fine, a nice fairy tale with broad brush characters and an acceptable story* with massive holes all over the place** The spectacle was awesome though, in the proper sense of the word. I’ll be going to see the film again so I can marvel at the 3D effects, hopefully in IMAX. I doubt I’ll get the DVD to watch at home…

    …Until they bring it out in 3D and I can get a cheap 3D monitor :)

    *I enjoyed ‘Alien Vs Predator’ Just enough plot to get the creatures together in a fight and KAPOW! I’m happy for a while.

    **No-one in their right mind would pit cavalry against automatic weapons; Drop shit on the rotors from above. All the usual ‘don’t go down the cellar with just a candle…’ cinematic bollocks.

  170. Vnend says:

    >chip | #15 |

    >Maybe they lack a social taboo against bestiality.

    That was in the movie.

    The ‘control/bonding’ tendrils? Those were the Na’vi sex organs, mentioned in passing early in the movie.

    So, yes, there was a reason why the banshees etc. only bonded with one Na’vi for life…

    Off topic, but:

    >warreno | #30 |

    >Scalping wasn’t invented just as a way to punish white men, after all.

    No, it was used by white men as a way of proving that an indian had been killed so the bearer could claim the bounty on them. It was practiced in ancient and medieval times in Europe, as well as in the New World.

    While I like some of the suggestions so far, there have been a few things that I caught that were ‘done right’ that I haven’t seen mentioned so far:

    The way that Cameron contrasted the Colonel and Jake (in his avatar); the Colonel’s introduction was a shot of his well polished boots walking on the floor. Jake’s first actions in his avatar body are delight in being able to wiggle his toes and moments later feeling them dig into the soil. These scenes set the characters at opposite and fundamental poles right from the start.

    That the Colonel was the first (of two) characters to see the potential of Jake’s skills in an avatar body (the other being the ‘chief’ of the Omatacaya).

    We heard it said on screen, but I don’t think most people realize how true it was: Jake, in his avatar body, was indeed a ‘child’. In his first ‘patrol’, what is the first thing he does when he gets bored with the ‘science’ the others are doing? He wanders off and gets distracted PLAYING with the local flora. And he keeps that ‘must touch everything’ through much of the movie (he is still tapping the plants after he meets Neytiri, and still doing it three months later when he is inducted into the tribe). I wouldn’t be surprised if that curiosity and child-like delight in the world was what cost him his legs back on Earth.

    (Countering that is an inconsistency in the writing: Jake and the Colonel discuss tours in some ‘bad bush’ back on Earth. But if they have both fought in some nasty jungles, then there is still greenery on Earth, and enough of it to fight in. Oops.)

    The thing I probably liked the most about the storytelling was its economy. Cameron didn’t over-explain things; he presented the info, sometimes as an aside or background dialogue, and let you connect it to the point it mattered. Things like what the ‘tendrils’ were for and why the mountains floated are explained in the movie… but he lets (makes?) the viewer make the connection rather than wasting time having one of the characters take up more screen time making the connection for you.

  171. Anonymous says:

    How about the ceremony that transfers “souls” from one body to another? When have the used that before, or was it just there waiting for some alien race to come with DNA grown hybrids that would one day require them to use it twice (once, to show us that it exists, and second, to finish the story)?

  172. Cowicide says:

    The blue people should have had a sense of humor. They were fairly humorless and one dimensional.

    Also, Samuel L. Jackson should have been in this along with some other actors I could think of to goose it quite a bit.

    The biggest problem I had with the movie (among udder things) was that in the beginning the blue people’s arrows couldn’t penetrate the glass on the warships. But, in the ending war the arrows go through them easily. WTF?

    Also… unobtainium? Seriously? If this was just a kid’s flick then I understand the cheesy name, but profanity like shit and fuck were scattered everywhere… so what the fuck is up with unobtainium? sigh…

    • allium says:

      At the final fight they were diving down on the gunships on their banshees; that added speed was presumably what did the trick. As for “unobtainium”, it has a long and noble history in the engineering profession and I will NOT see it calumnied :)

      Also to #30: Word of God (and the tie-in book I got for my lady friend’s birthday) is that the air has plenty of oxygen – plus enough carbon dioxide to be toxic to humans without suppressing combustion, plus some nice tasty HCN and H2S to really screw up the old Krebs cycle.

    • Jay Acker says:

      In the beginning they were just flailing away with their arrows, but in the final battle they increased their arrows effectiveness by first plummeting down on them from above and using that momentum provided by gravity to get extra force.

  173. Anonymous says:

    I absolutely love this movie!! I saw it the first time in 2d and the 2nd time in 3d….and plan to see it again. I do think the main reason that it was done was to show off what a 3d film could be….but it did a damn good job of doing so!! I’ve heard about 95 percent good from people and about 3 percent bad from people, and the other 2 percent haven’t seen it or won’t see it.

    Every last geek….everywhere….should be rejoicing right now. It’s not too often we get the light shined on science fiction and fantasy like this.

    One thing to say….is if there is a sequel and seeing as to how much money it’s pulling in(there probably will be)….Please James Cameron….please wait about 15 years to release it! And make sure it’s equally as good….not greater than the first and not worse!

  174. PeaceLove says:

    How about if Avatar was not been a dishonest piece of shit? As it stands it is a phony, pseudo-liberal piece of propaganda. It purports to be anti-imperialist and anti-war (and pretty explicitly references current American foreign policy) but it’s just another example of “the white hero comes in to teach the natives how to be good natives — and how to fight back.”

    The happy ending allows us viewers to feel good about ourselves; it absolves us of any responsibility for the imperialism and ecocide that is done in our names. And it hardly depicts the results of war with anything resembling accuracy. “A great war leaves a country with three armies: an army of cripples, an army of mourners, and an army of thieves.” -German saying.

    Notice how much more the natives (and the movie) grieve when Sigourney Weaver’s character dies than when the Navi king dies. Cameron shows clearly what he pretends he doesn’t — that white characters are more important than blue ones, even to the Navi.

  175. ian_b says:

    after they transfer jake to a na’vi body, they cook and eat him. instead of transferring him to his avatar, they combine the bodies into something that falls on the wrong side of the uncanny valley. jake tries to combine ponytails while they’re in bed, which is profoundly taboo. na’vi girl and human jake get it on, reverse cowgirl. na’vi girl takes one look at human jake and is like “ew gross”, cooks and eats him.

  176. Anonymous says:

    Two little details: I was culturally amused by the comment, “don’t play with that, you’ll go blind”; was slightly embarrassed by the fact that the colonel had to use the “zoom in and enhance that image” routine. Really appreciate the spirit of this post, and all the comments it has provoked.

  177. Elvis Gump says:

    I thought given Cameron’s previous films this one had so many plot holes, not the least of which is why do the soldiers even have to do all this sweep and clear stuff? Why not just do it by remote control and in the “flux” area just take off and nuke it from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure.

    And after the humans are vanquished, what was to keep them from coming back and nuking the place from orbit? Hell, nukes wouldn’t even be necessary. I’m sure humanity hasn’t lost the formula for Agent Orange, so they could just come back and drop it from a high altitude.

    It was all very feel good, shoot ‘em up action, but very silly.

  178. Anonymous says:

    “unobtainium” is actually an inside nod to engineers and scientists.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unobtainium

    most engineers (myself included) thought this was a cute little inside joke, informing me that james cameron actually had some scientists read over his script and give it the general “hollywood okay.”

    enjoyed the movie a lot. if people wanted to see movies with a great, original story, blockbuster would be filled with only three choices.

    • Cowicide says:

      I already knew the origins of the word. I just thought it was a childish term to use in a movie that was attempting to suspend some of my disbelief.

      Like I said.. if it was a children’s movie… I’d understand its usage more. Udderwise, I found it a silly distraction and well… childish.

  179. Anonymous says:

    Certain doe-eyed cretins say so of American Indians, and they’re wrong.

    Being hostile and insulting doesn’t mean you know what you’re talking about.

    Entire herds of bison were chased over cliffs to feed a few dozen tribespeople.

    There were plenty of bison when Whitey showed up. Now there are not.

    There were constant internecine and intertribal conflicts.

    Ooh, really? How horrible.

    Scalping wasn’t invented just as a way to punish white men, after all.

    No, it was invented as a way of documenting that you’d killed an Indian. You saved them up for prizes, like frequent flier miles.

  180. Halloween Jack says:

    I think that it’s a tribute to the movie and Cameron’s exercise in world-building that so many people have so many suggestions about things that they’d like to have seen or still get to see in future installments (Cameron has said that he plans for at least two more movies), but at the same time you have to acknowledge that, not only is not everyone going to get exactly what they personally want out of a particular movie (at least, not all at the same time), but that it’s a lot to expect out of an expensive movie that’s expected to be a franchise-starter. Anon #1 and smapte #16 have already made the point, but it’s worth reiterating: people tend to forget that both Star Wars (A New Hope, unless you’re oldskool, which I am) and the first The Terminator movie both had plots that could easily be summarized on the back of a postcard, at least if you can write small legibly. (No doubt people will disagree with me on this, forgetting that the perceived complexity of these movies has more to do with the subsequent elaborations of their mythologies through sequels, work in other media, and countless fanboy exegeses.) $40 million was considered a huge budget for a film in 1977, and even though The Terminator was made for a comparatively paltry $6.5 million, its director was given that money on the strength of having done Piranha II. Once Lucas and Cameron had proven both their storytelling and money-making prowess, they were given blank checks and accordingly delivered darker, more complex films.

    Cameron is in a similar position now: he’s already got the technology in place (which he developed, and can therefore license to others, or keep for himself and therefore stay ahead of the status quo), he’s got the background developed and in place, so he has a lot more money and storytelling “room” to play around with. So, the question isn’t what he should have done, it’s what should come next. Some of my ideas:

    1) Explore Pandora. We got a few glimpses of other environments on the moon, via the late-act meetings with other tribes of Na’vi. Cameron should take the opportunity to show us environments as rich and fantastic as the jungle or floating mountains. And for those who wonder why the Na’vi aren’t six-legged like most of the fauna: who says they’re the only sentient species on Pandora? Or even the dominant one? I think we’ve only gotten to see a very small part of the planet.

    2) Big Nasty Corporation will be back. They’re going to walk away from the huge amount that they invested in exploration and exploitation on Pandora? You mean, the way that Skynet stopped trying to change the past once the first Terminator failed? Oh, wait. An obvious ploy would be their trying to get at the unobtanium by tunneling, rather than strip-mining the surface. Maybe Pandora has subterranean lava people…

    3) The nature of the avatars. One of the major unexplained plot points was how the avatars worked, especially in that floating-mountain zone where wireless communications were supposedly impossible. Who knows how long Jake’s body can last? Might there be problems with a Na’vi and a human-Na’vi hybrid reproducing? Or, given that the minds of humans are projected into fully-functioning avatar brains, what happens if/when the brain starts to “reject” the alien consciousness?

    Lots of possibilities there. It’s going to be an interesting decade at the movies.

  181. salgood says:

    A missed opportunity that jumped out at me: you have a group of scientists who are openly not in agreement with the corporation working with them and also learning about the Na’vi. But rather than spend any time really exploring that in 3 hours, we only see them as dressing in the BG of Jake’s story as we fast forward through his acclimation and training. Where’s the moment of frank conversation around the proverbial campfire where we get to explore their conflicted rolls? All we get is scrappy Grace looking wistful at Jake’s inclusion in circles she failed to penetrate.

    Also yes, the Na’vi are far too idealized and simplistically represented. It makes them too transparent as a cypher for someone else. What they are of course but it would have been better if that was not so overt.

    Also, Jake becoming their leader is a bit much. T. E. Lawrence was seen as a great warrior by the Arabs. But no one made him king

  182. Prospero761 says:

    Cameron uses his stock characters to full advantage (Insane C.O., Empowered Latina; Corporate Weasel) while making ridiculous plot choices. Why is a botanist heading up a diplomatic program that uses genetically engineered Avatars? Just so she can study Pandora’s plants? And the floating mountains? We don’t have an explanation, do we’ll just say it’s an anomaly. Most egregious of all? ‘Deus ex machina’ saves the day. For a movie that is supposed to “Revolutionize Film Making,” there was nothing truly revolutionary, except from a technical standpoint. The plot was as creaky as an old boot and the characters might as well have been made by cobbling together traits pulled from a hat. Yes, I was entertained, but annoyed by minor details that should have not been over-looked in $400M movie. I suspect Cameron’s ego is so big, no one had the balls to call him on the obvious flaws.

  183. Anonymous says:

    One small point: Unobtainium, while making me laugh just because the name is soooo ridiculous, is an actual term that was used among physicists in the twentieth century for hypothetically posited elements that had not been discovered or made yet.

  184. Anonymous says:

    and make the movie even longer?

  185. Anonymous says:

    This movie was a Proof-of-Concept film. It was made to show what a quality 3D film can be, and I think, because of that, it needed to stay fairly tame in the plot twist area.

    • Tzctlp says:

      “Proof-of-Concept film”

      You must be joking.

      You don’t throw $300000000 to a proof of concept project.

      They simply got caught in the 3D paraphernalia and forgot about what movies are all about: telling a good story.

  186. _OM_ says:

    …Let’s face it, kids. Spielberg has his Pinocchio fetish, Cameron has a hard-on for the Smurfs. That’s all Avatar is – Dancing with Smurfs, which in turn is nothing but a mashup of a Smurf cartoon with A Man Called Horse.

  187. Anonymous says:

    Golly, how abpout ending the film with something… anything, but another war? So much imagination and beauty went into this, and we get the same old military ending. A fight, a war. Really? Is this our only choice? Bah Humbug.

    • partialobs says:

      agree completely, anything but the trite “final battle” construction for that last act. i was fully with the movie, linear plot and all, until the fleet of star destroyers took to the skies to bomb the Na’vi back to pre-consciousness.

      other annoying plot aspects:

      * foreign white man saves the day – how did the Na’vi survive on Pandora so long if they are so helpless? – why not have them come up with the solution and have Jake give the assist in terms of communication and implementation?

      * violence is always the solution – not just for the Na’vi, but in terms of the personal conflict between Jake and the Colonel – why not have Jake “turn” the Colonel in the third act and have them fight together against Carter and the corporate mercenaries? after all corporate loyalty is not the same as patriotism…

      * damsel in distress – after teaching Jake everything she knows, how does Neytiri become such a limp noodle – yes, she can and does fight and save Jake, but she contributes nothing to (1) battle for home tree; (2) escape to Tree of Souls; (3) strategizing to unite Na’vi and defend Tree of Souls.

      -partialobs

    • etho says:

      But… it’s an action movie. One of the key ingredients for an action movie is, well, action. If it were about a native tribe of land use attorneys, maybe we could have ended with some Hawt Courtroom Drama, followed by a nonviolent resolution to the dispute. But it was about tribal warriors, defending their homes from high-tech warriors, so having them talk it out over tea wouldn’t really make for a movie. Plus, the climactic battle basically put a stop to the war, albeit probably temporarily (gotta leave room for sequels). I realize that, in the real world, War Is Bad, but surely my fellow pacifists can put that aside for the sake of movies about blue people on pterodactyls fighting space marines.

      Anyway, The risks I think they could/should have taken are fairly basic. Making the humans a little more sympathetic would have been interesting. As it was, pretty much as soon as we met anyone that wasn’t a scientist, we knew they were the bad guys. If the Burke-type character had been motivated by something other than profit, like maybe the mineral they were mining is necessary to some sci-fi medical treatment or something, that could have been interesting. Basically if he was trying to do the right thing as far as he could tell, that would have added some interesting moral tension to Jake’s betrayal.

      The other thing I might have changed is basically the other side of that. Make the Na’vi a little less utopian. A little more vicious. If we found out they had captured humans and, say, waterboarded them to try and get information, that could make Jake’s decision a little more difficult.

  188. Anonymous says:

    >What storytelling risks could Avatar have taken?
    all of them!

  189. Jay Acker says:

    This is a long thread, but I gotta throw my two cents in:

    For all the people taking objection at Unobtanium: I never took it as the scientific name for the material but a joke about how ridiculously expensive and important it was. A joke I’ve heard before describing how expensive Rolex’s are they must be made of Unobtanium.

    Secondly I took several movies from it (Dances with Wolves and Dune) and while I love those, all those people that want more scientific description about the planet go read the novel because it doesn’t belong in the movie. Try to make a non fan sit through the four hour version of Dune and tell me if its really that good of a movie for the general public.

    However, I have to wholeheartedly agree with the suggestion to show more depth to the colonel’s character. That was a fascinating performance that I couldn’t have gotten more of and I never thought of him as a flat villain and wished he could have done more.

  190. Anonymous says:

    The film should have ended after the Navi victory, with the humans nuking the planet from orbit.

    Rain down that fire, glass the planet. Show the universe what happens when you resist.

    Leave the kids aghast, shocked, and possibly in a state of tears. Still, it’d make it a hell of a lot more powerful piece.

    • hungrylens says:

      Exactly what I thought when I was leaving the theater… however, napalm and defoliants would probably make future mining easier than nukes.

  191. brownhb says:

    I knew how it was going to end. BUT I was hoping it would end in one of three ways to make it more complex…

    1. Jake gets stuck in the Na’vi body, but his mate and the leaders are killed, the Na’vi world taken from them. He’s forced to live out his life in a homeless, beaten tribe, reaping what he helped to sow.

    2. The story is realistic: the Na’vi lose in the face of more and more troops and technology. Sad but true.

    3. The corporation eventually destroys the home tree trying to get to the unobtanium (ha) underneath. Only to find, when they do reach it, that it was inextricably linked to the life of the tree, and without it, the ore becomes useless.

  192. sunshinemug says:

    Great post. Especially like #3. I was starting to go there with a review I blogged at: bit.ly/4Ezmcb. But you hit the nail on the head with that simple yet radical idea.

Leave a Reply