To See, or Not to See?
That is the Question!
January 16, 2010
Richard J. Garfunkel
My wife Linda and I, along with our friends the Habers went to see Avatar in 3-D in White Plains. It cost $15 per ticket. The question is, was it worth it to see the film, apropos of the price, or not? One thing is for sure, that if you go to see it, see it in 3-D. If one needed a primary reason to see the film, it would be the special affects, and its sheer majesty. The incredible vistas, the flora and fauna and the animation are quite unique and incredibly enhanced by 3-D.
But, over the years there have been other films that used special affects and combined with an engaging and worthwhile story. Certainly, 2001, A Space Odyssey, Star Wars, Superman, Batman, Spider Man and the new Transformer movies have broken incredible visual ground. Even the little regarded Starship Troopers achieved an incredible, but gory level of special affects depicting violence and a war against an advanced-level of aggressive giant insects.
In reflecting on Avatar, I came to some conclusions. One is the thought that the general premise of the film was not really explained. Here are some following questions that I had about the film:
a) If Earth was dying, why was a corporate entity handling this effort to colonize and exploit the mineral reserves of Pandora?
b) This effort had been going on for many years, why, if this effort was so critical, it was undermanned? Wouldn’t a world-wide effort been mobilized?
c) What was the importance of this mineral, and if was indigenous to Pandora, why was it located in one place? (It seems illogical!)
d) Had the other areas of this large planet been explored for this mineral?
e) Why were there so few people on this planet? (One would feel that they had been around for countless generations and their population would have been a great deal more significant. In 1492 when Columbus reached the New World, it was estimated that there were three million Native Americans living above the Rio Grande, and multiple millions living in Mexico and to the south. It was also estimated that Native Americans had crossed the Bering Strait land-bridge between 12-15,000 years ago. As to all of North America’s indigenous population, in the 1890’s, an estimate of 1 million was published by one James Mooney. Later on in 1965 and in 1982 the estimates were risen to between 10-12 million, and then to 18 million.)
f) Assuming that this effort had been an ongoing one for many years (it takes place in 2154 CE) why weren’t there many more colonists?
g) The creation of the “Avatars” took years and a great deal of money, why did the corporation allow this incredible expense and give it such a short time to work?
h) The Na’vi or – blue people, knew of the “Sky People,” did they have any clue of who or what the Avatars really were?
i) Historically indigenous native peoples, all over the world: Native North Americans, Moros, Micronesians, Aborigines, sub-continent Indians, Aztecs, Incas, Maoris, sub-Saharan Africans, Indo- Chinese and others have been by easily dominated by technologically superior peoples with populations that were much, much smaller. In the Indian sub-continent, the British Raj dominated, the population was over 200 million and it remained in that range from 1800 to 1858 when the Raj affectively consolidated power. In 1861 there were 41,000 British civilians and 66,000 military personnel. Why was this historical scenario so different?
j) How could the long bow be effective against modern 22nd Century armor? (Medieval long-bow weaponry had the range, 165-200 yards, and was used with a great deal of affect when used en masse against unprotected soldiers or cavalry. But this type of weaponry peaked in the Battles of Crecy (1356) and Agincourt (1415). Even in an atmosphere thinner and with a gravitational field much weaker than Earth, could bow and arrow penetrate a modern air ship-of-war? During World War I, in the first era of modern aerial warfare, the ability of high-powered Vickers 7.7 mm machine guns to hit one another was questionable. Most planes had to line up directly behind their target and even with a minimum range of 1500 yards the movements of both planes made accuracy questionable. This range was minimally 5 times greater than a long bow!)
k) How could any animal (the last charge from the armored triceratops) survive the fire power of modern 22nd Century ordnance launched by high powered multi-chambered and barreled guns? (This ammunition could penetrate the skin of many WWI tanks and possibly lighter tanks of WWII.)
The film portrayed the corporation as obviously American, and the indigenous Native Peoples, the Na’vi as colored, aboriginal types that communed with nature, and lived off the forest. One never sees their societal infrastructure, their system of justice, how they ate, how they lived, and what they did as a people. The symbolism of the picture was not the survival of the dying planet Earth, but the greed of a corporate entity, to rape a planet and the destruction of its people. Was this depiction a reflection of European colonial policies all over the world in the 16th through 19th Centuries, or modern America’s struggle against regimes who shelter and sponsor terrorism as their way to strike back at soc-called economic exploitation? In this modern age, one could easily blame the local regimes for exploiting their own countries mineral rights and wealth. I felt that both the disabled Jack Sully, the US Marine, who was recruited to help in this effort and the scientist, Dr. Grace Augustine were poorly supported by the script. Sully’s lines were sophomoric and his demeanor and build were uncharacteristic of a US Marine. He was disabled as a result of combat and left without rehabilitation. We learn that he cannot afford to have his legs rehabilitated because of the prohibitive cost in 2154 CE, but the stereotypical Colonel Miles Quaritch, who is the military commander of this multi-trillion dollar effort, promises him a “spinal treatment” if he performs to the level of the Colonel’s satisfaction. On the other hand, Dr. Augustine, who has spent years of her time and high intellect developing new Avatars, at the cost countless millions of corporate monies, is only given three months to succeed with her agreed to policy of social infiltration. If she cannot convince the Na’vi, with her cloned Avatars, to abandon their homes, their religion, and their way of life in 90 days, her effort is to be terminated, and their military arm will take immediate action, resulting of the destruction of the Na’vi! Who was this corporation responding to, public opinion back on Earth? It is hard to believe that a dying planet Earth would care one iota about how intergalactic politics were played out! At the end, after the victory of the Na’vi is achieved and former Jack Sully is transformed permanently into a Na’v1, the captured Americans- Sky People are marched into captivity to be sent back to Earth. How would they get there? Wouldn’t others follow with greater weaponry and a more aggressive attitude?