Monday, January 4, 2010

Random Thoughts on Avatar...

Plot Devices from Other Movies/Stories
  • From Harry Potter and The Matrix - Story of someone normal living a dreary life who turns out to be quite exceptional and finds happiness there instead of his old dreary life. 
  • From The Matrix - Virtual interface to an Avatar complete with multiple frames of reference for consciousness and for fight scenes.
  • From Lord of The Rings - Epic Battles where the creatures help the good guys.
  • From Braveheart - Moving speeches from a single charismatic leader in blue paint (skin) who invigorates a listless people to protect their home and your land from an aggressive invader. 
  • From Dances With Wolves - a man of the appalling "civilized world" who discovers the noble values of the tribal people.
  • From Al Gore - dreams of a world where the "people" live in balance with the planet with no technology and minimal modification to the planet.
Things I thought were good about the movie
  • The visual design and effects were stunning:  think huge trees, black-lighted and vivid neon dream worlds, exhilarating flight scenes on dragon-like creatures.
  • The main character earns his place in the tribe through things that are bona-fide values:  survival skills, etc.  The character is on a journey of discovery.  He starts the movie somewhat dead inside and halfway dead physically.  By the end of the movie our hero is thriving (along with running, jumping and climbing trees).  This is a common theme in a lot of stories and it shows up a lot precisely because human beings need spiritual fuel to drive our lives.  We need good art and values or we wither and die, both mentally and physically.
  • That the fight is a fight of total war and they fight until the enemy is completely conquered.  On both sides.  This is how wars are supposed to be fought.  Short, decisive, destructive.  Destroy you enemy until you destroy the will of your enemy and they stop trying to kill you.
  • Planet as Internet and Database is kinda neat.  It's a different world with different rules and that really takes the air out of the tires of anyone who wants to take the movie as an ecological parable vs. being simply a good modern fantasy epic.
Things I thought kinda sucked about the movie
  • Charicature of American/Western/Earthling as military-industrial conquerors with values that include only exploit, lie, cheat, steal, kill, so long as you get your profits to the point that our planet is "no longer green".  Yes, the movie beats you over the head with its environmentalist message.
  • The over-the-top military dude (also a charicature) who just wants to kill, kill, kill and bombs an indigenous people while sipping casually on his morning cup of joe.
  • The close-up of the word "Explosives" (they beat you over the head with this one... really took me out of the moment)
  • Unobtainium?  *eye roll*
  • The fact that we're supposed to like the hero because he's a strong individual, but the only strong individuals in a tribe are leaders and warriors and everyone else - they're basically nobody.  It's a value dichotomy between individualism and tribalism.
  • The planet's creatures helping out in the battle = Deus Ex Machina (i.e. literary cop out).   They couldn't have won the war without the help of these creatures.  It wasn't a triumph of ingenuity and ability.  It was a triumph of faith.  This may help on Pandora but it won't do shit for you on Earth.  On Earth, it's guide your actions by your thought so that you can thrive or drift/flail randomly until you die.