Thursday, 25 November 2010

Avatar vs. Dragon

I was reading SFX magazine today and apparently, James Cameron is going to future-proof the next two instalments of Avatar so they will still be ahead of all the rest technically.

Now it may be because I only watched Avatar last week, in 2D at home on the telly, but what impressed me wasn't the technical part. Yes, the visuals were pretty and the world was big and shiny, but I wasn't bowled over. Like most reviewers, I was incredibly underwhelmed by the 'dances with smurfs' plot line. A nice enough flick, but hardly the future of film.

What I liked were the details of the environment. This movie, combined with my imagination full of a Peter Hamilton reading marathon I recently completed, makes for a fascinating world which I wish they'd explore in future films. The corporation exploiting Pandora for financial gain - including the military trappings, cool armoured suits and insidious plots to either ingratiate the natives or cow them into submission - reminded me of Fallen Dragon, a great early Hamilton. While in Avatar, the corporation is simply shoved into the 'baddy' slot of a simplistic nature=good, capitalism=bad setup, in Hamilton's book, they have another side to them. Hamilton's corporation uses a capitalist method to achieve the humanist goal of improving the human condition. Whether those goals justify the means is left open to interpretation.

How about showing us the more human side of the corporation in Avatar as well? Why are they mining unobtainium? Perhaps it is needed to provide resources to an overcrowded and miserable planet Earth. Perhaps they use it to build ftl engines to start an era of expansion and progress. Clearly, the world they are from is far from perfect. For example, the treatment Jake needs to repair his legs exists, but is not available to all. But perhaps the economic benefit of unobtainium would actually improve the living conditions for all humans. We don't know this, but there's two whole films in which we might find out.

In Fallen Dragon a completely alien being with huge reserves of intergalactic knowledge encounters people and adapts its own and human technology to fight off the threat posed by the returning invading corporation. In Avatar the scene is set for a similar development. A human element has been introduced to the mother tree on Pandora, and if that planet has any sense, it will prepare itself for the return of the corporation with even more impressive military force than those uber-cool armour suits.

I'm interested in seeing what Pandora is capable of. Is the planet as a whole sentient, or is it a network more like 'the internet' with no particular goals or will of it's own? Is all communication 'wired' through the connecting plugs found on most creatures and plants or is there some kind of wireless connection as well? How aware is Pandora of what goes on on the surface? Given the response of nature during the final battle, it would seem there is a form of sentience or direction to Pandora, but it was not something even the Na'vi had seen before. Perhaps human elements like free will, adaptability, a scientific mind, bravery, or a sense of discovery entered the fairly stable but stagnant planet 'mind' as a result of the downloading of Grace and Jake? How much more might it change? How powerful is it? What are it's weaknesses?

What's very important is that this all-natural environment is not portrayed simplistically as entirely good and filled with noble but misunderstood savages. Even the scary predators were only hated by the human invaders because they had no 'understanding' of the way of life on Pandora. What rubbish. Tribal societies are no nobler than any other. Nature isn't moral at all. Plenty of things are not good about life on Pandora. For example there seems to be a rigid inescapable social structure. Let's see some of the limitations and downsides as well. If this film is meant to be future-proof, it better become a lot more morally ambiguous and interesting, besides being visually stunning.

No comments:

Post a Comment