Saturday, January 09, 2010

James Cameron's movie Avatar

Yes, I was among the throngs of folks who have seen the movie "Avatar." We went yesterday. There were three choices-- a regular screen, 3D, or 3D with iMax. The time slot that fit in the best with our plans was the 3D showing so off we went. We sat halfway up in the bleeder section and put on our special plastic 3D glasses. As it was a Friday afternoon, the theatre held maybe 12 people in all. After returning a stale popcorn for a fresh bowl (to discover that the freshness of the popcorn did not improve the flavor much), we settled back to a long line of previews and a few which included 3D movies in the offing.

The movie Avatar was full of 3D effects-- many of which appeared to be happening in front of our noses. I enjoyed the forest on the planet Pandora. I especially liked the very realistic looking ferns, the giant-sized fiddleheads, and the white jellyfish-like seed pods floating in the air that were being released from the mother tree. Ah but here I am getting ahead of myself.

Sam Worthington plays Jake Sully, twin brother of a dead scientist named Tom. Because Jake's D.N.A. "matches" that of his dead twin, he is recruited in Tom's place to go to the alien planet Pandora and act as the human control for an avatar which looked somewhat like the cat-tailed natives of the planet. The plan was for the human controls to lay in isolation pods and have their "nerves" (nervous systems?) connect with the "nerves" of the artificial avatars who would then go off to explore Pandora and befriend the primitives. The indigenous race on Pandora lived smack dab in the middle of a site where it was determined that a mother lode of the element Unobtainium lay. The mother tree of the tribe also grew there and her roots were described as forming neural networks with the roots of many other trees on the planet in a number exceeding those connections in the human brain.

The plan hits a snag when Jake (who is paraplegic possibly acquired during his career as a Marine) revels in the avatar's ability to walk and so Jake the avatar escapes and goes native. Going native involves falling in love with one of the savages after she teaches him the local lingo. Jake the human neglects to shower and has to be cajoled into taking enough time to eat. There is a showdown at the end of course. The natives triumph over the bad humans who are sent packing off to their abused home planet Earth.

I especially enjoyed the performance given by Stephen Lang as Colonel Michael Quaritch. The Colonel is pure Marine, driven to fulfill the mission assigned to him. His acting was most convincing to me. I found myself hating his character halfway through the movie. Sigourney Weaver was less convincing as Grace Augustine, the scientist who comes to believe in the Mother. She started off with a bang as a bitch who had little to no use for Jake Sully. The script had her too quickly deteriorate into a gentler kinder human sort. I have to believe that her unconvincing transformation was a fault of the writer, rather than of her own fine acting.

The movie Avatar borrows heavily from other science fiction pieces, notably from Asimov's Foundation series with this whole business of a planet being seen as a living, breathing Gaia (yes, you folks who believe that, your belief is rooted in stories). Also present was shades of Anne McCafferty's Dragonriders of Pern and also influences by David Brin. The science in this science fiction piece was notably lacking. The one thing that I especially did not care for was how the group mourning scenes were portrayed-- the natives sat cross-legged moving their upper torso in ever-expanding circles. I was also perturbed when once again an atheistic bitch scientist yields to the throes of religiosity, a theme that I watched in some other movie portraying the world ending whose name escapes me at the moment.

The most significant thing about the movie "Avatar" was the decision that I made after seeing it. I've decided to donate my whole body to science and not just any organs needed for transplant. I figure that if there are any gods hanging out in the afterlife, they will have to deal with my lack of a corpse in a creative manner. Folks here on earth need my body more-- whether it's my retinas, heart, a kidney or two, skin. Or perhaps my earthly remains can help teach some future surgeons how to make those precise cuts. After watching the aftermath of the death scenes in Avatar, (yes those funky scenes where the natives sit cross-legged while moving their upper torsos in those ever-expanding circles...) I figure that our remains are wasted by being allowed to rot in expensive boxes in cemeteries. And cremation does not allow for full use of the shells we leave behind.

While it's nice I suppose for some people to have a spot to go to in the middle of a wide expanse of lawn in order to remember me, I would prefer to be the eyes for one who can now see or the new skin for a burn victim.

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