Avatar: Plausibility and Implications

by Paul Gilster on December 24, 2009

by Larry Klaes

We continue Larry Klaes’ look at the James Cameron film Avatar, noting the technology with interest, but also examining the people involved and the always relevant question of how we deal with other cultures. How plausible are the creatures depicted in the film, and what sort of artistic choices forced Cameron’s hand? On a broader level, what sort of a future will humans make for themselves if and when they develop interstellar flight?

The starship that transported our hero, a Marine named Jake Sully, to Pandora made only a brief appearance at the beginning of the film. While nothing much was really said about this vessel, it did at least bear a resemblance to a craft that might actually operate in space at least during the next few centuries. This is in opposition to the starships of Star Trek and Star Wars, which often tend to be ‘sexy’, sleek to the point of being needlessly aerodynamic in the near vacuum of space. I do not recall the type of propulsion used by the starship in Avatar, but apparently it could attain high relativistic velocities, as the crew was in suspended animation for just over five years, which would be just about right for traveling from Earth to the Alpha Centauri system. Now whether we will have such a starcraft or any kind of manned starship by the year 2154 when the film takes place is another matter.

Now about the humans in Avatar: It seems that 150 years in the future people haven’t changed all that much, even though they do have some expectedly neat technology. But the people themselves don’t seem all that transformed by it, either physically or socially. This future society does have the means to repair major injuries, apparently – if the one injured can afford the care – and they do have the Avatar Program which allows people to place their minds in a genetically formed body of a Na’vi. But otherwise they seem to be a lot like us, which will probably remain true if we don’t do anything radical to ourselves over the next few centuries. Plus, just as with the aliens in Avatar, I realize the filmmakers didn’t want either party too different from their human audiences of 2009, for otherwise they would risk causing viewers to become unable to relate to the characters, even though ironically they have attended this film knowing they will be transported to what is supposed to be an alien world.

The Plausibility of Aliens

This brings up another point: Just how possible are the Na’vi and their environment? Will we find other alien intelligences who are even humanoids, to say nothing of having thought processes similar to ours? Or will evolving in similar environments bring about similar physiologies? Note how there are many different types of creatures in the oceans of Earth, but their liquid ecosystem brings about similar physical features across a wide spectrum. Perhaps we might expect to find similar looking organisms swimming in the global ocean of Jupiter’s icy moon Europa. I must admit, however, that once I got past the exoticness of being introduced to Pandora in 3-D, I was a bit disappointed at how familiar many creatures seemed, such as the animals the Na’vi rode: They bore more than a little resemblance to Earthly horses, just as those doglike creatures which attacked Jake early on resembled wolves or hyenas. I still have to wonder how anything complex could live on Pandora so long as that moon remains so close to its huge parent planet. By all rights the little moon should be suffering massive quakes and eruptions of lava, but I saw no evidence of such activity.

The ‘goddess’ Eywa, the complex biological organism every creature on Pandora seems to be a part of, had potential to be more interesting as a type of serious Gaia concept. However, much of the biology of Eywa was lost in the spiritual and New Age aspects the film emphasized. While it is certainly understandable that beings like the Na’vi might only see Eywa as a deity, I found it a shame that the concept and entity could not be further explored in a more scientific manner, but then I suppose that would turn Avatar into some kind of nature documentary, albeit fictional.

A Realistic Human Future?

My next point is the motives for humans being on Pandora. While the need for resources and land and the removal of any group that happens to be occupying the place where those resources are by a stronger group is an unfortunate but age-old reality on this planet, how plausible will it be once our civilization expands into the galaxy?

I was disappointed that Cameron made it seem that most of humanity occupied one planet, the one it came from, when it was obvious that the society of 2154 was a spacefaring one. The presence of manned starships would presume a serious colonization of the Sol system, yet we are told that Earth (meaning human society) is in trouble if it doesn’t get its hands on a mineral called unobtanium, which costs ten million per kilogram. Well, that price is understandable if one needs to haul a precious mineral across 25 trillion miles of deep space! It also seems fairly ridiculous for a society that should be occupying much of an entire solar system, where there are plenty of planetoids and moons and certain planets whose resources can be exploited.

I know the whole premise of Avatar is to teach present humanity about taking care of Earth’s environment and respecting other species of all intelligence levels, but as both a long time space buff and science fiction fan, having Earth remain the focus of humanity to the point where if things go wrong there all of humanity is doomed while at the same time the race possesses the ability to explore and colonize other star systems seems incredibly narrow-minded to me. However, I have to keep in mind that Avatar is designed to appeal to a wide common denominator. Folks like me who nitpick may be acknowledged at best, but in the end the most relatable story rules the day. Again, this is why those who care about the public comprehending real science need to latch on to the themes in Avatar and utilize them to explain how certain things really work in our world.

Motives for the Great Voyage

So this leads us to the ultimate question: By the time we are ready to explore the stars and colonize alien worlds, will we actually do so? Will it be necessary to spread out into the galaxy? I think so, but I also have to wonder if the ones who do such actual interstellar exploring and colonizing will be very different from us, certainly much more different that the humans in Avatar. Will this mean that such encounters as depicted in the film will not happen, because the beings that do leave Earth will not be much like us, if at all? And the aliens we come across may not resemble much at all certain native peoples of our planet’s past and present.

The point that is often missed in plans for interstellar exploration and colonization is this: Whether we go into the galaxy with peaceful intentions or for reasons of empire, the odds seem good that the intelligent species out there may have serious difficulties in relating to us in any meaningful way, and we may have similar issues. Will it eventually lead to new understandings on certain levels, or will we ignore each other, or actually try to destroy one another either from fear or a lack of awareness of the intelligence of the other?

It will be very interesting to see what really takes us to the stars. We hope it will be for science and expanding humanity’s frontiers of knowledge, but just as with Apollo, science may have to hitch a ride with the plans of politicians and corporations which have other agendas than advancing human understanding. This may explain why we have yet to find others in the Milky Way galaxy, either nearby or far away.

One thing is certain: The Universe itself has its own agenda, consciously or otherwise. We may hope not to act as the company did in Avatar when it comes to other less advanced species, but at the same time we should consider the possibility that someone out there sees us as potential prey. Or random non-biological acts such as supernovae may threaten us with their arbitrary methods of destruction. We need to be ready as a society and a species to truly wake up to the fact that we live in a massively large Cosmos that perhaps has not destroyed us yet by the mere fact that we got lucky when it comes to rolling dice with reality. Hopefully one of the goals from our cosmic awareness is to respect other species no matter different they may be from us.

Avatar might just be another popcorn flick with more expensive special effects. Or perhaps it might be the film that inspires members of its audience to turn the dream of interstellar travel into reality. As with so many things in our existence, that choice is up to us.

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{ 99 comments }

Terraformer (a.k.a Tobias Holbrook) December 31, 2009 at 7:55

Athena,

Surely you jest? Or are you being obtuse on purpose? There is no apparant ‘White messianic complex’ written all over Avatar. The Na’vi reject him, until they realise that they know nothing of what the humans are capable of. If they’d known the human camp, they would have tossed him aside like a rag doll. It was an exchange of knowledge – Jake Sully, ignorant of the Na’vi, and the Na’vi, ignorant of the humans. They tried to attack the humans on their own and failed… because they didn’t know what they were up against.

I never consider my teachers ageist because they know more about a particular subject than me. Likewise with Avatar. The plain fact is, Jake Sully knew what needed to be done. The Na’vi didn’t, *because* they were not humans.

Honestly. If a conquistador had aided the native culture in South America, they would have stood a much greater chance of survival, because they would have had insider knowledge. That’s not being racist, despite what you may think.

Case – Alice in Wonderland. For some reason, it’s been Freudianized. However, most people wouldn’t, after reading it, think ‘oh, he had some sexual ideas in there’. Likewise with Avatar and it’s supposed ‘racism’.

bigdan201 December 31, 2009 at 11:02

lol @ mighty whitey. You may have a point with that, although I feel I’ve said enough on this debate.

I just wanted to add, while that technically does happen in Frank Herberts’ Dune, a creation of that magnitude should not simply be thrown in with those other movies. Dune is primarily a book series (and my favorite one), the movies were made out of its popularity.

Athena Andreadis December 31, 2009 at 11:16

Dan, indeed. However, patronizing in such circumstances is racist because it strips the other side of human complexity and individuality, whether it considers them Noble Savages or merely Savages. I wrote about this in And Ain’t I a Human? This streak runs in most Hollywood films dealing with other cultures, starting with Lawrence of Arabia (as Winchell noted above).

DR, there are sins of commission and sins of omission. Both end up maintaining the status quo. You’d be surprised at how unperceptive people are, even (especially) in self-labeled progressive communities. I had several brushes with the phenomenon: Is It Something in the Water? Or, Me Tarzan, You Ape.

However, Cameron was aware of the several subtexts of his film. Hoping to give him a long rope on intent (which would still leave willful cluelessness), I read several of his interviews about the film, including the one where he said that he “knew” the Na’vi were not mammals — so much for reproductive and behavioral compatibility — but put breasts on Neytiri anyway to get the boys to drool. His words, not mine. And his designer said (as I already mentioned earlier) “We made the aliens blue instead of red or black, so that we could do a feel-good Tarzan movie without all them pesky PC worries.”

Athena Andreadis December 31, 2009 at 11:54

Dan — Dune, patronizing as it is, does differ in one aspect: Jessica (and, through her, Paul) know that the Bene Gesserit have planted and cultivated the prophecy of a messiah, and they use the superstition to survive when Leto’s rule is overthrown on Arrakis. So they’re aware of the manipulation, the guilt involved in it and the jihad it will unleash. The sexism in Dune, of course, is breathtaking — from the treatment of Irulan to the “fact” that women cannot become the Kwisatz Haderach (just like they can’t attain nirvana in Buddhism). That little missing knob, ya know… decisive! Even in cultures that can change body physiology and regulate reproduction.

bigdan201 December 31, 2009 at 17:05

I’m pulled back in again…
You have a point with that. Tribal cultures were often not at all ideal or utopian, and their portrayal as such is unrealistic and possibly a reverberation of racism. Still, I don’t believe all films do this with the intent of condescension – it’s more a self-perpetuating pattern which started off on white guilt and has built its own momentum. I’d have to look further to determine whether the intent of Avatar is really as you describe, but the presence of ideological bias didn’t detract too much from the film – for me anyway.

Dune? PATRONIZING? Wait just a minute. That book series is anything but that. What I was saying was that technically Pauls change to Muad’Dib could fall under the Mighty Whitey pattern, but as you said, it was different because of the Missionaria Protectiva. And sexism in Dune? No way. Herbert was a feminist. I don’t know if you’ve read the series, but when you consider the abilities of the Bene Gesserit, and later the Fish Speakers (and Leto IIs justification for them), and later the Honored Matres, along with the important female characters throughout the story, Dune is anything but sexist. And it’s not patronizing – its world-building and ideas were nothing short of epic.

Athena Andreadis December 31, 2009 at 18:27

Dan, before I say anything more, please understand that I liked Dune overall and I also liked the mini-series with Alec Newman and Saskia Reeves. It was surprisingly faithful to the book and much, much better than the execrable MacLachlan film (bleh).

Mind you, the worldbuilding of Dune is not as earthshaking as all that: Herbert didn’t work out the ecosystem at all (his giant worms lack the food chain infrastructure that would make them possible) and the Fremen are an mishmash of Arab culture from an orientalist viewpoint. I grant you, however, that Dune was a standout given the era in which it was written.

That said, sexism is splattered across Dune proper (I haven’t read the weak sequels and don’t intend to). If you look at it from a certain angle, much of the plot arises from the simple premise that women in that universe cannot wield direct power. Powers/schemers behind the throne, soothsayers or concubines, yes. Rulers of houses, leaders of armies, emperors or messiahs, no. Worse yet, it is posited as an intrinsic physiological limitation, not a cultural one. And the Fremen women are not much better off than chattels, showcased by the fact that Paul “inherits” the wife of the man he killed in his proving duel.

As for Star Wars, which you mentioned earlier: We Must Love One Another or Die.

bigdan201 December 31, 2009 at 20:22

The only weak links in the Dune series is anything by Brian and Kevin. The 6 book series by Frank Herbert is epic throughout.

The ecology of Dune was very well thought out. According to the book, small sandtrout seal off water, which leads to a pre-spice mass which erupts to the surface, and the sandworms scatter the spice, which apparently feeds sand plankton, which the sandworms eat. And not only that, but the ecology and geology of Dune was very well done, with different types of desert, coriolis storms, and more.
The Fremen are based on the Beduins to a large extent. But thats merely one part of a large universe with CHOAM, the Spacing Guilt, the Corrino Emperor, the Great Houses and Landsraad, and those are just the major players in the first book. There are many other institutions and cultural traditions mentioned, as well as various technology and detailed history.

Dune is certainly not sexist. While male characters wield the most power early on, the Bene Gesserit is still very capable, and have impressive mental powers. While it is true that in God Emperor, the capstone of the series, *spoiler alert* the male Leto II is the most powerful character of all as God Emperor, Siona played a very pivotal role in the story and the Golden Path. And Leto II has an all-female army of Fish Speakers, and he states that women are better for defending life than a male army, making them better suited to carry out the Golden Path. In Heretics and Chapterhouse, the Bene Gesserit and the Honored Matres (and their female leaders) are the main players – the Honored Matres being a violent, militaristic force of women who use the tactic of enslaving men with sex to consolidate power! */spoileralert*

A proper reading of the Dune series will dispel any accusation of sexism.. although I don’t think you’ll like the Tleilaxu.

ljk January 1, 2010 at 1:56

Well, if HE liked Avatar, then it must be okay:

http://movies.msn.com/movies/article.aspx?news=449592&gt1=28101

Happy New Year Everyone!

Athena Andreadis January 1, 2010 at 12:40

Same to you, Larry!

Dan — I actually read all of Children of Dune and bits and pieces of the other four. I restricted my comments to Dune because the rest are best passed over in silence. Many besides me have noted the rampant sexism and homophobia of Dune, which get worse as the series progresses (Leto II becomes a god… his sister Ghani wanders about with her memory wiped and gets handed around in marriage just like her Fremen foremothers). You forgive that in the first book because it’s interesting otherwise. The rest are so shoddily constructed and boring that their defects glare too harshly to ignore. Like many others in SF/F, Herbert succumbed to sequelitis megalomanica.

bigdan201 January 2, 2010 at 0:54

Well, we have differing tastes. But I would say that the whole series is epic. Also, God Emperor is the intellectual crown of the series, with its breakdown of the Golden Path and many other ideas. Dune is about science, religion, history, civilization, power, society, human nature, and how all these interact in a different world.
But of course, differing tastes.

Athena Andreadis January 2, 2010 at 13:11

Dan, I agree that tastes differ. So do viewpoints, which are informed by personal experience that includes exposure to different cultures and domains of knowledge, including familiarity with the domains that you list.

bigdan201 January 2, 2010 at 20:02

I have alot of historical knowledge.. I’m pretty well read. And I’ve had a bit of personal experience too.

By the way, the Golden Path can be summarized as the survival and continuation of humanity.
[spoileralert] This was accomplished by Leto II, as he intentionally set the stage for the Scattering, in which people moved to the cosmos outside the Imperium. And he bred Siona into existence, with her prescience-cloaking genes that would ensure that no other superhuman ruler that could see the future would have dominion over the entire human race. The apparent alternative was genocide by Ixian machines.[/spoileralert]

Basically, scatter people throughout space so that all of humanity will survive and not be subject to a single political/ideological/military force. Which is very fitting for Centauri Dreams, as the real-life equivalent to the Golden Path would be space colonization. A situation like the Cold War couldn’t threaten our survival and civilization if we’re living on other planets, especially if we get to other stars.

Athena Andreadis January 2, 2010 at 23:45

While reading, you must have come upon the fact that the idea of scattering humanity and other terrestrial lifeforms in the universe didn’t originate with Herbert and that there are no prescience-cloaking genes.

bigdan201 January 3, 2010 at 11:45

No it did not, but his presentation of the idea was original and awesome.

There are no prescience-cloaking genes, but there’s no prescience in the real world either (and if there is, even the best psychic is nowhere near Dune prescience).

Also, I forgot to add economics to my list up there. The Spice plays a pivotal role throughout the story. (Leto II used it to consolidate his power, for one thing).

Athena Andreadis January 3, 2010 at 14:34

Out of curiosity, Dan — how old are you, and what is your occupation?

bigdan201 January 3, 2010 at 20:58

22. college student, studying polisci.

bigdan201 January 3, 2010 at 21:25

Oh, and heres my visage, if you want a peek at the god:

http://i49.tinypic.com/ofvq08.jpg

Athena Andreadis January 4, 2010 at 13:49

Well, Dan, if you’re curious in return, here’s a brief blurb on someone who may or may not be a god but bears the name of one (and would probably act very differently if she were called, say, Doris). Click on “Show full bio” — there’s more below the cut, including representative links.

bigdan201 January 4, 2010 at 18:38

Highly impressive.

I’m surprised Athena is your real name, I assumed it was a moniker. It fits, though!

I’m fascinated by genetics, in spite of the stigma placed on it by Hollywood and the history of eugenics. Genetics is a highly important area of research, and it presents many future possibilities – everything from curing hereditary disease and disability to bringing back extinct animals.

bigdan201 January 4, 2010 at 18:41

Also, related to this site, genomes could be used on a generational starship to create a larger and less inbred population.

Athena Andreadis January 4, 2010 at 20:23

I never used a pseudonym, even for my book, although I was advised to do so, having no tenure. Anonymity on the ‘Net (except in cases where use of someone’s real name would jeopardize their well-being) makes people loud and uncivil; it also makes it hard to figure out their objective and subjective context.

As for starships, gene engineering and speciation: Making Aliens, 6-part article series thatstarts here.

bigdan201 January 6, 2010 at 14:53

That is true.

Great link, I’ll reply over there.

Feel free to get the last word, ma’am!

Gary Allen January 7, 2010 at 2:16

Larry Klaes said:

“I was disappointed that Cameron made it seem that most of humanity occupied one planet, the one it came from, when it was obvious that the society of 2154 was a spacefaring one. The presence of manned starships would presume a serious colonization of the Sol system, yet we are told that Earth (meaning human society) is in trouble if it doesn’t get its hands on a mineral called unobtanium, which costs ten million per kilogram.”

That was bouncing around inside my head as I was watching this stupid movie. “Avatar” should have been a once-in-a-decade classic science fiction movie (the raw talent and funding was there) but failed because James Cameron wanted to make his political statement. Cameron tripped at the finish line. All he had to do was leave his politics at the door and focus on telling a good science fiction story. What a disappointment!!

Athena Andreadis January 7, 2010 at 12:28

Cameron didn’t trip at the finish line, Gary. He stumbled all along the entire movie. He tried to present several deeply reactionary positions as progressive. In short, he treated his audience as reflex-driven idiots.

Gary Allen January 7, 2010 at 18:17

Athena Andreadis said:

“Cameron didn’t trip at the finish line, Gary. He stumbled all along the entire movie. He tried to present several deeply reactionary positions as progressive. In short, he treated his audience as reflex-driven idiots.”

I won’t disagree. Judging from the movie’s popularity, Cameron’s assumption that his audience were drooling idiots may have been correct.

The ironic thing is Cameron could have pursued his political agenda and still produce a classic SF movie. If his over riding goal was to engage in anti-war polemics, all he needed to do was base his plot around Joe Haldeman’s “Forever War”. That’s a first class SF novel that would have easily lent itself to the advanced computer graphics used in “Avatar”. Unfortunately, Cameron was too focused on scoring points in the Hollywood liberal cocktail circuit. He had to push all of the well known political buttons in a way that even the most brain damaged moonbat could easily recognize.

ljk January 7, 2010 at 20:58

James Cameron did not adapt The Forever War for film because Ridley Scott (of Blade Runner fame) is already doing it, in 3-d no less:

http://sffmedia.com/films/science-fiction-films/339-ridley-scotts-forever-war-to-be-3d-author-joe-haldeman-enthusiastic.html

Gary Allen January 7, 2010 at 21:59

ljk said:

” James Cameron did not adapt The Forever War for film because Ridley Scott (of Blade Runner fame) is already doing it, in 3-d no less”

This is excellent news! Ridley Scott is probably a better director for “The Forever War” than Cameron. It’s less likely that Ridley Scott would corrupt the script to pursue a private political agenda. One wonders if Ridley Scott could have secured the funding for this movie without Cameron first doing “Avatar”. It’s still a shame that Cameron made a mess out of “Avatar”.

Administrator January 7, 2010 at 22:36

Scott is tremendously talented, and like Gary, I’m looking forward to what he will do with The Forever War. Hadn’t known it was coming along — leave it to Larry to have his finger on the pulse!

DR January 8, 2010 at 2:30

Gary, Athena,
I’ve seen “Avatar” 3 times, and I intend to see it once more. The first two times I saw it with my 80-year-old mother (who insisted we go to see it for a second time), and we went with my aunt and uncle who are determined to see it again. The third time, at the end, a few of us stood and applauded. The 30-something man next to me turned my way and said, tearfully, “This time the good guys won…This time they united all the the tribes…the Native Americans weren’t able to to that, and that’s why they were defeated”. I asked him, “Do you think we could do something similar on earth today?” He answered, “We have to try”. At this last showing, I took a 65-year-old friend of mine who wants to go see it again.

So, here are at least 5 people in my immediate orbit who were moved, even deeply, and in different ways, by things they see in this movie which you appear not to see, or choose not to see, or if you see them, dismiss them out of hand. My mother is so moved by it that she wants to step out into the world and find some way to take on the biggest problems. I have, in previous posts explained what I saw in the movie. My 65-year-old friend feels very much the same way.

I will say this in all seriousness — It appears that “Avatar” is not for cynics. As I understand it, cynicism is “an attitude of scornful or jaded negativity, especially general distrust of the integrity or professed motives of others…” As someone in another discussion of this movie pointed out (and this is someone who has been fairly critical of “Avatar”), cynicism can also explain how someone has become deeply disillusioned for any number of reasons, and no longer can uphold ideals they once had. I think that pretty well covers the definition.

I don’t know if in part or in whole this definition applies here. But, I do know that his movie has been confronted by cynicism and cynical contempt on numerous fronts. It has also been embraced. There is a battle being fought over summation of “Avatar”.

So, Gary, this is a “stupid movie”. And, it “failed because James Cameron wanted to make his political statement…All he had to do was leave his politics at the door and focus on telling a good science fiction story”.

And, Athena, “He tried to present several deeply reactionary positions as progressive. In short, he treated his audience as reflex-driven idiots.”

Then, Gary, again: “I won’t disagree. Judging from the movie’s popularity, Cameron’s assumption that his audience were drooling idiots may have been correct”.

Starting from the top: This was not a stupid movie. That it had significant problems with plausibility and implications as pointed out in Larry’s article, and as discussed in the threads, is a given. I would hope that while pointing this out, and trying to reach some kind of working relationship between artists and their cultural works, and the various sciences, that cultural works should seek to reflect more advanced understanding in some circumstances. But to insist on this rigidly would be to take away from art some of the license it needs to “tell its tales”. The stick has to be bent. Art is higher than life. It can approach ideals more imaginatively, and give us different ways to see, hear, dream. Whether Cameron has aspired to this, and/or achieved it is open to debate. I affirm it on both counts.

“(Avatar) failed because James Cameron wanted to make his political statement…All he had to do was leave his politics at the door and focus on telling a good science fiction story.” Well, question: Do politics demean art? Or is it “Cameron’s politics”? As to the first question, there are all kinds of politics in every kind of art. I would think that nobody would insist that politics of any sort should be absent from art. It might even be impossible to insist on such a thing.

So, is it Cameron’s politics? “He tried to present several deeply reactionary positions as progressive. In short, he treated his audience as reflex-driven idiots.”

I will answer this with Cameron’s own words when questioned about his intentions with Avatar: “…maybe it makes you think a little bit about the way you interact with nature and your fellow man”…”the Na’vi represent something that is our higher selves, or our aspirational selves, whe we would like to think we are” (and that even though there are good humans within the film, the humans) “represent what we know to be the parts of ourselves that are trashing the world and maybe condemning ourselves to a grim future”. And from “The Australian” 12/11/09, 9:02 am: while implicit criticism of America’s conduct in the War on Terror is not the main point of “Avatar”, Cameron said that Americans had a moral responsibility to understand the impact that their country’s recent military campaigns had had. “We went down a path that cost several hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives. I don’t think the American people even know why it was done. So it’s all about opening your eyes”.

So, the above, then are reactionary positions masquerading as progressive?

Instead, I offer this: James Cameron, with “Avatar” has taken us 150 years into the future, and 6 light years away, to a world of his own creation, to open our eyes, to give us a wake up call to a world (our Earth), that is in danger, imperiled by forces that are driving us to self-destruction. He calls those forces out. He poses a different way people could be with one another and their planet (in absolute opposition to the way things are, and are headed), and he calls on people to “unite the tribes” and derail the juggernaut.

And, it’s as Jake says at several key points along the way in “Avatar”: “Sooner or later, you always have to wake up”. You might wake up resigned to the deadening realities of a heartless life as Jake does at the start of the movie. Or, as he does in the middle to forces inside him and all around him, tearing at his loyalties and allegience. Or, as he does in the end, transformed and inspired to seize upon the greatest of challenges, and the most liberating of possibilities. Evidently, this has been lost on some people, but I am sure there are many others who “get it” and who walk away from “Avatar” with the “scales peeled off their eyes”. To the others, I can only hope “sooner or later, you always have to wake up”.

I’m sorry if I and the others that “see” “Avatar” in this way may appear as some sort of aberration, or anomaly among the “reflex-driven idiots” that Cameron supposedly targeted with “Avatar”. Forgive me, forgive us, if we go on to strive for something better in this world, and “wrongfully” assume that “Avatar” has helped us to do this. Really, I don’t think he would mind one bit. Because I don’t think he’s guilty of any kind of cynical manipulation. In fact, I think he’ll probably be there on the front lines of any such changes, filming away with a Na’vi war cry on his lips.

ljk January 8, 2010 at 3:24

If Athena doesn’t mind, she posted a link to a page on her blog that talks about Cameron’s early treatment of Avatar when he called it Project 880 that makes one think he was not wholly reesponsible for the diluting of a film that could have been even more better and even edgy.

Read here:

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

There is a very good reason why nothing has ever matched Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, though there have been a few contenders but most of them were in the pre-Star Wars era.

Athena Andreadis January 8, 2010 at 10:35

DR, I have written too many articles about the need for humans to strive and achieve, starting with my award-winning essay The Double Helix, to go into additional explanations here. I also come from a culture where art is always politically engaged and artists were often imprisoned and tortured by dictators. If you browse my blog you will find out that I’m 1) an unrepentant liberal who views current US political stances as way to the right and 2) a hopeful romantic.

Avatar cannot be judged by what Cameron says in interviews, but by what it shows. And Cameron, who spent 10 years and a quarter of a billion on an ego-driven derivative extravaganza, is not an agent for change. What you saw (expressed even more clearly in my review of Avatar) is not cynicism, but profound disappointment because he has both the ability and the clout to really make a difference — but opted for a feel-good video game instead.

Gary Allen January 8, 2010 at 14:49

ljk said:

“There is a very good reason why nothing has ever matched Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, though there have been a few contenders but most of them were in the pre-Star Wars era.”

That’s the root of my frustration with “Avatar”. I was so hoping to seeing something in the same league as Kubrick’s “2001″ or Ridley Scott’s “Blade Runner”. Instead “Avatar” was more of the same old tired Hollywood junk. There are so many excellent SF novels out there that could be made into classic SF movies, for example: “Ringworld” by Larry Niven, “Gateway” by Frederik Pohl, “The Man in the Maze” by Robert Silverburg, “To Your Scattered Bodies Go” by Philip Jose Farmer, “The Foundation Trilogy” by Asimov, etc. I could fill up this page with classic SF titles that are orders-of-magnitude better than “Avatar”. I’m so tired of watching garbage when I know that excellent material has been out for several decades.

ljk, are you implying that “Star Wars” has damaged Hollywood’s ability to make decent SF movies? Although “Star Wars” is not really SF (more fantasy like “Harry Potter”), I liked the original “Star Wars” (now called “New Hope”). However I can see how the “Star Wars” and “Star Trek” franchises have so dumbed down people’s tastes that they are no longer receptive to decent science fiction. In order to enjoy a George Lucas movie, I’m required to turn-off my brain and just passively watch the thing. For me, the hall mark of a good SF movie is I’m actively analysing the movie as I’m watching it. I was actively analysing “Avatar” before it made me angry with its cliche plot and brain dead political commentary.

Athena Andreadis January 8, 2010 at 15:14

Gary, the Star Wars prequels and the Star Trek movie franchise have damaged the likelihood and expectation of intelligent, coherent, even mildly original SF films. They encourage worse than passive acceptance and avid consumerism (plastic toys, lunch boxes, video games). They promote inhibition of normal thought processes and emotional reactions. Blade Runner and Serenity might not be made today, given the prevailing climate. More thoughts on this:

We Must Love One Another or Die: A Critique of Star Wars

Science Fiction Goes MacDonald’s: Less Taste, More Gristle

Athena Andreadis January 8, 2010 at 15:30

And I forgot the obvious link: Set Your Transporters To…

Gary Allen January 8, 2010 at 22:23

Athena,

Our tastes in science fiction are remarkably similar. I agree with your high opinion about “Serenity”/”Firefly”. I have all of the “Firefly”/”Serenity” DVDs and my kids were watching it just the other day. Although it’s not in the same league as “Firefly”/”Serenity”, another TV SF series that I liked is “Stargate SG-1″ (I own the first 8 seasons in DVD). It was a clever plot device of using a stargate to travel to different worlds (minimal fiddling around with spaceships) and then using ancient gods as villains. The stargate concept was actually invented by Philip Jose Farmer and appeared in his “World of Tiers” series. The “World of Tiers” series is certainly not deep science fiction but good lite entertainment. Have you ever read Jack Vance, Alexi Panshin or David Lindsay? Joe Haldeman is rightly famous for “The Forever War” but he also wrote “Mindbridge” which in my opinion is his best book. Another excellent book by Haldeman is “All My Sins Remembered”.

Athena Andreadis January 8, 2010 at 23:34

I have read Panshin, Vance and Haldeman, Gary — but they didn’t leave strong marks in my memory except for Panshin’s Rite of Passage (which I think outlines a very good way to socialize teenagers). I also have the entire Firefly DVD series — which, incidentally, I saw after I watched Serenity. I don’t have cable TV, so I’ve only caught bits of SG-1. I agree that the conceit is interesting but what I saw seemed very uneven in execution.

ljk January 9, 2010 at 11:29

DR, of course you and others are entitled to feel as you will about Avatar. I was certainly moved and entertained by the film, even though I had some issues with it during viewing and more as I thought about it while writing my essays. Obviously I admired the technical effort that so clearly went into making Avatar; I just wish the plot and characters had been given equal quality treatment instead of something very by-the-numbers and familiar.
The pre-film buzz about Avatar certainly led me to expect something more and different.

If Avatar were a total piece of crap, I don’t think any of us would be here bothering to write much of anything about the film. However, it has enough flaws and enough influence to warrant criticism, which should not be taken as outright hatred of the film or a demand that no one see or enjoy Avatar.
Consider it more as disappointment about what could have been had Fox Studios been more daring and enlightened.

Cameron did seem to have at least a somewhat better script in mind if you look at my above link to Project 880, but someone watered things down along the way and what could have been a far more epic experience was turned into a simplistic black and white drama.

As the prime example, certainly I was moved when the humans destroyed the Na’vi’s Hometree and sacred places with their machines and weapons. However, Avatar might have been more interesting and less cut and dry if they had shown more about Earth in 2154 as a rapidly unbearable place to exist and why the humans had gone 25 trillion miles to Alpha Centauri to mine a mineral that was vital to their civilization. I am not saying their actions excuse destroying another species and its culture, but most of the characters in Avatar were not terribly complex and as most films do, we were manipulated into feeling certain ways. And as we will one day venture to the stars and interact with what is out there, this serious future issue should have been handled in a more demanding light rather than a recreation of what happened in human history.

Regarding the Native Americans, in addition to being fellow human beings and not any more angelic or savage than other people on Earth, different tribes reacted in different ways to the migration of Europeans to the New World. Some fought the white folks, other tried to ignore or avoid them, and some actively worked with the whites, including helping them defeat and destroy enemy Native American tribes. They were not all one type any more than Europeans or Asians are all one type of people and culture. Note that the Na’vi were also separate tribes and the ones were saw had a warrior culture, which existed long before the Sky People showed up; this means they likely fought each other as well for reasons I bet were no different than how and why humans have treated each other for ages.

Gary, yes I am saying that Star Wars did a lot to ruin not just science fiction films, which before then had made some great headway in terms of good ideas and plots, but perhaps films in general. I know, maybe if Star Wars hadn’t come along something else would have done the same to cinema, but list how many good SF films existed before 1977 and then list all the good ones that came after Star Wars began. As for the second list, I can think of Blade Runner, Aliens, and 2010 off the top of my head, but it pales compared to the pre-Star Wars era.

Avatar continues to be part of the Star Wars legacy. 2001 had shown such promise, but Hollywood never really followed its lead and I see little sign of any more change in the near future with films that cost hundreds of millions of dollars to make (and need double that at the box office just to break even) and the demand for “perfect” special effects.

Besides, Lucas and Cameron are much too busy counting all their loot to really care what some science geeks like us have to say about their work. All we can do is offer an alternate voice and save a few from their nets.

Athena Andreadis January 9, 2010 at 16:12

Larry, your post made me curious. So I toddled over to Wikipedia and made a list of good SF films before and after 1977. Well, let me rephrase that — films that engaged me visually, emotionally and intellectually, aka films that are likely to be remembered past the moment they finish their multiplex run.

Before 1977, I counted ~20. After 1977, I counted ~40 — and bear in mind that my list does not include SW (beyond V), ST (except II and IV) or any Spielberg SF, all of which I detest. But there’s a serious fall-off around the early nineties and it gets worse the nearer we come to the 2000s.

So SF films have gone flat all right, but the flatness took some time to spread through the film industry.

DR January 9, 2010 at 18:14

ljk, thanks for the link on project 880. I went through the synopsis and found it totally engrossing, and yes, wishing that “Avatar” had given us some more of that. But, I maintain he gave us quite a lot of good stuff.

Athena, thanks for your responses all along. Many of them have helped me look at things I hadn’t been. But, we are looking at the movie from two different perspectives. Not sure they can be reconciled, but who knows? Just to let you know, at your suggestions, I have read your “Double Helix…” essay. It was very moving, eye opening, and it resonated with me in some important ways. It’s funny, and please don’t take offense, but after reading it, I want to say “I see you”, as the Na’vi might actually mean it. I’ve also rented some movies over the past 2 weeks: “Dances With Wolves”, “Grey Owl” (this at my mom’s suggestion), and, last night we both watched “Princess Mononoke” (which you have been recommending).

We both loved it. And we both still love “Avatar” in spite of the differences between the two.

I also intend to read “The Word for World is Forest”, but first I have to finish “Guns, Germs and Steel” by Jared Diamond, which has relevance to discussing “Avatar” as well (don’t know if others have been inspired to dig into that book off of themes in “Avatar”, but I was. And that’s a good thing, no?) And, I intend to go back to LeGuin’s “The Dispossessed” as well. It’s been quite some time since I read it. But, there are, as I recall some VERY important and relevant questions being wrangled over in that story.

So, here’s what’s nagging me about what you’ve been saying: “Avatar” cannot be judged by what Cameron says in interviews, but by what it shows. (I think both are important); And: Cameron … is not an agent for change. (I disagree). In looking at anything like this we should be asking what was intended, and to judge based on that. We should also be asking what the effects were, and judge based on that. We should be asking about outlook and methodology, trying to apply science to it. Cameron has made clear his intentions in communicating the themes (as I’ve cited). In this world, if we don’t start looking at least in a fundamental sense in that direction (and urgently!) the impending doom he envisions is, likely inevitable. Such is the trajectory of current dynamics on planet Earth. And, people far and wide need to “wake up” this. People in their millions, even billions. This IS Cameron’s motivation in the conveying of the themes. I fail to see how some of us can miss it, or to even swipe at it behind, what I would consider to be secondary (and I even agree very important) problematical approaches standards, and, yes, even motivations (i.e. ego, money, pitching it to young men by sexualizing it, sticking with, and hence reinforcing, more or less standard archetypes). All of these are important, and should be taken to Cameron, if at all possible. But they have tended to get blown out of proportion, relative to what it is in essence. It is a wake up call. And it is a call for change.

Athena, here, I think is the rub, and I say this to ljk, Gary and anyone else interested in this discourse: Anyone who hasn’t should read Athena’s essay on “The Double Helix: Why Science Needs Science Fiction”. In it is a powerful polemic which advocates for popularization of all the sciences. I loved it. There is a tension between upholding standards (and raising them!) and popularizing. Both, as Athena has fought for, must be done. And her battle in that arena has focused on the need to popularize. She makes this, righteously, an imperative, and has gone up against an entrenched hierarchy in doing so. In the course of popularizing, some very complex matters will need to get boiled down. It is both possible and necessary to do this. There will be some oversimplification, and perhaps leaving out of nuances in the presenting of a higher understanding. But, it is critical to humanity as a whole to do this. And in doing so, standards more broadly will be raised.

I would argue that the same approach should be taken toward cultural works. It won’t do to beat up works such as “Avatar” with what are standards (even though they are the higher standards, say for films), if those standards are rigidly held in opposition to the artist’s striving to, say, deliver a “wake up call” far and wide.

One of the best discussions of this tension (raising of standards/popularization) in works of art, can be found in “Talks At Yenan on Literature and Art” by Mao Zedong. While I don’t agree that there is “class truth” or “proletarian truth”, as he in some ways presents it, there is, a very good fight he is engaging cultural workers with. He, too is trying to break down some rigid and difficult standards that have prevented the people broadly from being able to have access to art and culture.

Sometimes, as he says, we should put flowers on the brocade. Sometimes, we need fuel for snowy weather. Cultural works can do many things in different ways. I love much of Kubrick’s work. I do, Cameron’s as well. Neither are the other. Neither of them are mutually exclusive.

Que viva “2001: A Space Oddyssey”! “Que viva “Avatar”!

Gary Allen January 9, 2010 at 20:39

Athena said:
“I don’t have cable TV, so I’ve only caught bits of SG-1. I agree that the conceit is interesting but what I saw seemed very uneven in execution.”

Interesting “whole word typo”, i.e. “conceit”=”concept”. I’m glad I’m not the only one who does that.

When the family moved into our current home, one of the first things I did was take down the television antenna from the roof and remove the cable television. The only television that my children watch comes from DVDs purchased by my wife and I. Fortunately for my kids, they have a huge collection to chose from that is dominated by science fiction.

My perception of the people writing scripts for “Stargate SG-1″ is they were essentially “bottom feeders” with minimal original creative talent. Their standard operating procedure was to “mine” good ideas from the reservoir of science fiction material produced for television and movies. They took proven plots and repackaged them under the assumptions behind Stargate. The concept worked brilliantly which is why the television series lasted for over a decade. I would say about 2/3 of the first eight episodes from “Stargate SG-1″ were very good. Where the “Stargate” franchise got into trouble was after they exhausted the reservoir and were required to actually innovate. After the first eight seasons, it was obvious that they were tired of the whole concept and running out of ideas. What makes this interesting, is that “Firefly” was contemporary to “Stargate SG-1″. The people behind “Firefly” had real talent versus the folks doing “Stargate SG-1″ who were merely skilled technicians.

Gary Allen January 9, 2010 at 21:07

Ljk said:
“.. yes I am saying that Star Wars did a lot to ruin not just science fiction films, which before then had made some great headway in terms of good ideas and plots, but perhaps films in general. I know, maybe if Star Wars hadn’t come along something else would have done the same to cinema, but list how many good SF films existed before 1977 and then list all the good ones that came after Star Wars began. As for the second list, I can think of Blade Runner, Aliens, and 2010 off the top of my head, but it pales compared to the pre-Star Wars era.”

The Space Program and good science fiction had a symbiotic relationship. The Space Program hit its high water mark in 1968 and went into serious decline after 1973 (Viking and the Space Shuttle were last gasps from the Apollo Program). The collapse of science fiction maybe more connected with the decline of the Space Program versus the appearance of space fantasy movies like “Star Wars”.

ljk January 9, 2010 at 21:48

I didn’t mean to be quite so knife-like with when I found the science fiction era to be downsliding since Star Wars, but it has lost its potential made in the era from the late 1960s to the early 1970s when studios went for flash over substance.

Gary, most filmgoers lump anything with even a little technology and science in it into the science fiction category, so I don’t expect them to make a major distinction between 2001, Star Wars, and Avatar. One needs elves and Hobbits to be considered fantasy these days.

Athena et al, here is a bit more evidence that Avatar was watered down to get as many monetary targets as possible:

http://io9.com/5439885/deleted-avatar-sex-scene-opens-up-some-serious-bestiality-issues

DR, I reread your experience of seeing Avatar with your comapanions and I must say it struck me very much as if you were having a religious experience. Most interesting.

ljk January 9, 2010 at 22:24

Gary, you make a good observation about the space program and contemporary science fiction films. In the early days when we were getting ready to send humans to the Moon, there were several films such as Countdown from 1968 which was barely SF in regards to a US plan to use a modified Gemini to beat the Soviets to the Moon, which was seriously considered by NASA for a while.

Now the closest we have come in the last two decades is Apollo 13 from 1995, a nostalgic look back at what we once did and could have continued. Now we don’t even know if we’ll have humans anywhere past LEO in the next 40 years. Well, not Americans via NASA at least.

DR, no one is arguing with Cameron’s request to treat indigenous cultures with respect and humanity (even the alien ones :^)). What is being argued is how such events in human history were portrayed in Avatar. I found one found it rather one-sided to make the Na’vi all saints and the non-No group is that pure. It flattened most of the characters as a result.

ljk January 9, 2010 at 22:28

Whoops, I really screwed up the last bit in my last paragraph.

I meant to say that I didn’t care for the Na’vi to be all saints and all the humans other than the scientists to be villians. Not realistic I don’t care what species you are.

What would have been interesting and daring was to make the aliens really alien. But the studios weren’t willing to risk their investment as we have seen.
And the one billion plus dollars they are getting from Avatar won’t change their minds any time soon.

Athena Andreadis January 9, 2010 at 23:04

Gary, your point about the Space Program is well taken. There is also the universal that when people feel themselves insecure or besieged, at the twilight of their culture’s dominance, they tend to grow insular and conservative — and they revert to fantasy, which is inherently more conservative than SF.

What you say about SG-1 versus Firefly makes abundant sense. Whedon, uneven though he is and with his inevitable blind spots (Inara in Firefly, a good deal more in Dollhouse), never succumbs to groupthink — and his thoughts tend to be original. When you consider how many influential series he has created, and under what adverse circumstances he developed them, you have to admire his creativity and stamina.

DR, I’m touched and flattered that you read The Double Helix with such an open mind. Guns, Germs and Steel and The Word for World is Forest are indeed directly pertinent to this discussion. Le Guin is a national, an international treasure — she should be given the title the way the Japanese award it to their top artists and artisans. I have a few more reading suggestions. If you send me (helivoy@gmail.com) your e-mail, we can discuss this further without boring the other readers here.

As you can tell, the question of how to ensure that people fully think/feel (the two are inseparable) and take good care of themselves, each other and the planet has been on my mind for a very long time. I’m a Westerner, a scientist, a technophile. I have felt the bone-deep thrill of solar sails and of the genome decoding, I’m profoundly aware of the value of antibiotics, vaccines and contraceptives. I know, too, coming from a very old culture, that many traditional customs are best left behind. At the same time, as a biologist and a member of a species that evolved on this planet, I recognize how much we’re violating our inner and outer environment, pinning our hopes on an infinite positive gradient of technology.

I wrote an article on anime, much of it focused on Mononoke Hime (The String Cuts Deeper than the Blade, http://www.starshipreckless.com/blog/?p=58). It’s an useful exercise to compare Mononoke to Avatar, because it bears on what you said in your last post. Mononoke has no monochromatic villains, no easy solutions. The struggle is between incompatible ideas about what constitutes “good” — a complex, nuanced world. And it doesn’t shriek clichés. It illuminates, it whispers, and you bend to listen, because it’s so compelling. That’s true magic. True teaching, too. Cameron must be held to high standards, because we know he can do it and so does he. As they say in Spider Man, with great power comes great responsibility.

A brief note on “I see you.” I considered that moment one of the few authentic ones in Avatar. Despite the Pietá/Niobe borrowings, it was nevertheless moving, it was true — a real First Contact. It’s the first and only time they meet in their own forms, and despite the differences they still consider and treat each other as a partner and companion.

That scene brought to my mind other movie scenes that touched this deep well of real emotion. Bruce Dern, near death, instructing the little robots how to keep the forests alive in Silent Running. Spock dying to save his fellow crewmembers, his hand mirroring Kirk’s against the reactor glass in The Wrath of Khan. The midwife’s conscious sacrifice and the spontaneous ceasefire that greets the child’s cry in Children of Men. Roy Batty’s final gesture of grace in Blade Runner. The lighting of the Gondor beacons in The Return of the King. The Storyteller at the end of Beyond Thunderdome, making sure that her people remember, and keep the city lit to guide the wanderers home.

These are all deep connections, where bonds are made or affirmed, when people become fully themselves — and then more than themselves. And from what you say, “I see you”, too.

DR January 10, 2010 at 0:31

ljk,

Don’t know about the religious experience. I don’t consider myself religious in any way, shape or form. And while I am not a “scientist” per se, in any of the sciences, I do believe that we should be scientific in method and approach, to reality in all its manifestations. While I don’t think, for example, that any religion I’ve yet come across, can explain any part of the real world, including its beginnings, I think the sciences have in fact done just that. Evolution, while falsifiable, has never been falsified. I doubt it ever will be. Cosmology continues to astound with every new discovery. And, I hope you all can realize your dreams of interstellar travel. In my mind, none of this has any supernatural impetus or “intelligent design”.

As for primitive peoples (in our Earth history, or as portrayed in “Avatar”, both similar in some ways, different in others), we should, as you have pointed out, not idealize or romanticize. Interesting, ljk, at the A.V. Club blogsite (“Going Na’vi: Why Avatar’s Politics Are More Revolutionary Than It’s Images”), I said almost the exact same things you did in your previous post. I see Cameron idealizing some kind of “primitive communalism”, and even “the noble savage”. It is a big problem I have with “Avatar”. This is how I stated it there: “In raising up the ideal of something totally different, Cameron gives us the Na’vi… He wants us to look to the Na’vi because they embody a different ethos, a different morality, than what we ourselves are largely defined by. Can some of this be found in our own primitive societies? To a degree, yes. EVERYTHING is contradictory. But many of those [primitive societies on Earth] had problems we’d likely not want to replicate in a better world. Some of them used up resources and didn’t have a clue how to renew or sustain them. [I will add here, that they also killed off numerous species of large mammals, that could have, in more advanced societies been domesticated]. Some of them practiced sacrifices (including human). There were tribal wars, which were brutal. So we may find some good material from back then, but as a whole, I don’t think any of it should be glorified or idealized… (and, even with the idealized Na’vi) a good part of the Omaticaya tribe are defined as “warrior”. We should assume that on Pandora there are tribal wars.

“Yet, with the Na’vi we ARE given SOME essential qualities and aspects of the kinds of beings we might aspire to become… But, anything similar we might bring into being would likely be much different. There are vast means and forces here that primitive societies cannot comprehend, yet which hold the promise of a much better world. But, they are in the clutches of, and at the behest of… a system beholden to shareholders, the bottom line, and the global imperatives of capital accumulation above all. This is what Cameron is getting at… It is my belief that these (vast means and forces) call out to be liberated so that they might become the common property of humanity as a whole, to be used only for the good of all, and perhaps eventually for worlds beyond. In the course of doing this, we might become a conscious, contentious, collectivity of mutually flourishing, freely associating beings who (in our dance of life with one another, and our home) are free of all the twisted constructs and killing realities that define the present day world. I have no idea if Cameron thinks this must be done…

“And to actually travel the road to this kind of future would involve revolutions, all the sciences, culture, the diverse mass of humanity, and tons of imagination.”

I would add here, that this also would involve conscious unity of purpose. And none of theses necessary ingredients can be comprehended by any kind of “primitive” beings.

So, yes, there is a problem here in the movie. And a number of characters are not as interesting or intriguing as they could be. But, strictly within the given plot line, here’s a question: The “Sky People” are defeated and sent back home to “their dying planet (Earth)”. Are we left to assume that even in defeat they have learned absolutely nothing? Even with Carter Selfridge, the 1-dimensional embodiment of heartless capital, there was no look of triumph or vindication as he witnesses in real time on the big screen the devastation of Home Tree, and the slaughter of Na’vi. Maybe some of the defeated will start growing consciences on the journey home and take part in struggles to derail the juggernaut there.

ljk January 11, 2010 at 1:01

DR said:

“The “Sky People” are defeated and sent back home to “their dying planet (Earth)”. Are we left to assume that even in defeat they have learned absolutely nothing? Even with Carter Selfridge, the 1-dimensional embodiment of heartless capital, there was no look of triumph or vindication as he witnesses in real time on the big screen the devastation of Home Tree, and the slaughter of Na’vi. Maybe some of the defeated will start growing consciences on the journey home and take part in struggles to derail the juggernaut there.”

If Earth is dying and there is no other alternative in their eyes to find any other solution than unobtanium, they might get desperate and go back to Pandora in real force to get rid of the Na’vi. Or they might just send one of their starship to impact the moon at relativistic speed. At that velocity, the kinetic energy from the impact alone would kill most living things on Pandora. Then they could just move in and mine.

As I said elsewhere, in a galaxy with 400 billion star systems and even our Sol system with available solar energy and lots of planetoids, comets, and moons to choose from for minerals, it seens crazy to rely on the rocks from a moon 25 trillion miles from Earth. However, this is the scenario set up by the creators of Avatar, so we shall see.

ljk February 25, 2010 at 23:00

The real Avatar: ocean bacteria act as ‘superorganism’

New Scientist Life

Feb. 24, 2010

Aarhus University scientists have found that sulphur-eating bacteria that live in muddy sediments beneath the sea floor may be connected by a network of microbial nanowires that could shuttle electrons back and forth, allowing communities of bacteria to act as one super-organism.

Analogously, in the movie Avatar, the Na’avi people of Pandora…

http://www.kurzweilai.net/email/newsRedirect.html?newsID=11865&m=25748

ljk November 17, 2010 at 2:38

Winchell Chung’s Atomic Rockets site goes into quite the detail about the starship seen at the beginning of Avatar:

http://www.projectrho.com/rocket/realdesigns.php#Avatar_ISV_Venture_Star

I dare say Cameron put more thought into the reality of the ISV Venture Star than he did the alien life forms on Pandora, though he may not quite see it that way.

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