My thoughts on Cameron’s Avatar:
A lost opportunity recovered.
January 10, 2010
James Cameron, Writer/Director
I viewed AVATAR last week and found it a towering technological accomplishment. The plants and landscapes are stunningly beautiful. The research and imagination of the beasts is most impressive. The acting was excellent and convincing. The online interviews indicated your remarkable commitment and integrity.
You fell down, however, by delivering a predictable plot that missed a great opportunity to offer hope to your audience of Earthians who are on the verge of REALLY losing their planet’s vitality and ability to support many life forms and life styles as we know them. This is in part because of our focus on using force and building ever more sophisticated weapons and weapon delivery systems.
With your personal brand recognition and popularity, you have a unique opportunity to deliver enlightened insights to an eager audience. Instead, you have given us a space-western. In this one, it’s not the Indians relegated to a trail of tears, but the corporate and military invaders.
I understand that Dances with Wolves was one of your references. DWW was effective in presenting a comprehensive view into a rich, but unknown culture, as well as the narrow mindedness and barbarism of our average-American military forces. The ending, offered a dim glimmer of hope amid impending doom.
At the beginning of the sequel, perhaps Eywa the Pandoran mother goddess recognized and relates to Gaia, mother goddess of Earth as she is experienced in the spirit of Grace Augustine.
The Spirits Eywa/Grace/Gaia visit the evacuation scene. They inspires compassion and a blossoming of understanding among the Na’vi and an openness among the Earthians to learn from the Na’vi.
What was not know of the Earthians is that they are desperately seeking a new home. The sequel is titled: THE REVENGE OF GAIA*. Gaia, the living earth, has been reacting vengefully to all of the destructive activities of humans over the past 2 centuries.
On EarthDay, 2110 shamans from around the world simultaneously have the same vision, like a live news report: Along with oceans and temperatures rising, beetles begin attacking not trees, but wooden structures in the major cities, sharks are aggressively threatening anyone foolish enough to venture into the water, flocks of birds are descending on the fields and devastating food crops. Pods of whales surround diminished fish species and attack fishing ships. Groups of whales rise powerfully from the depths and capsize giant floating fishing factories.
Earthquakes have torn up and mangled major bridges. Hurricanes and tsunami waves are destroying both inland and coastal communities. Disease vectors that were under control are mutating and wiping out hospital populations. Something is in the air. Toxic dust from industrial farming is poisoning both country and city dwellers. Big dams are collapsing under surging forces, flooding populated valleys and returning them to their water-filled origins. Pockets of carbon monoxide are collecting along roadways instead of dispersing, creating a deadly fog. The visions are different for each shaman, reflecting their specific region. Pieced together, like a jigsaw puzzle, they patch together a picture of a horrific apocalypse.
It seems as though the earth is on the offense after centuries of abuse by humans.
The vision is of Gaia no longer gently supporting mankind with a dependable homeostasis. She appears to be bent on eliminating a species that has become, like a virus, wreaking damage on the earth’s complex life support systems.
The very winds are making ominous sounds. Some can perceive a voice, rather like a woman in pain and rage. Forced by the media, world leaders are listening and, chaotically, moving into action.
Is it possible to deal with this projection of Gaia’s revenge? Scientists, academicians and political leaders are meeting all over the world. Archeologists and historians can find nothing in man’s past that relates to this crisis. They are even reaching out to the few remaining leaders of ingenious peoples they can find, as well as spiritual leaders, worldwide. Many of the indigenous leaders have anticipated this response to human abuse and exploitation of Gaia’s beneficence.
*The title is adopted from a book by James Lovelock, the British Scientist who, in the ‘60s and early ‘70s, observed Earth to be a living megasystem, comprised of a multitude of lesser systems. From Wikipedia: The Gaia hypothesis is an ecological hypothesis proposing that the biosphere and the physical components of the Earth (atmosphere, cryosphere, hydrosphere and lithosphere) are closely integrated to form a complex interacting system that maintains the climatic and biogeochemical conditions on Earth in a preferred homeostasis. Originally proposed by James Lovelock as the earth feedback hypothesis, it was named the Gaia Hypothesis after the Greek supreme goddess of Earth. The hypothesis is frequently described as viewing the Earth as a single organism. Lovelock and other supporters of the idea now call it Gaia theory, regarding it as a scientific theory and not mere hypothesis, since they believe it has passed predictive tests
Back on Pandora, as the invaders are making their exodus, a new Earthian leader, Athena, comes forward. Grasping the entire circumstance she is able to inspire an awaking conversion and a beginning cognition that they also are one with the living system on their own planet, as much as the Na’vi are on Pandora and our own Neolithic ancestors were, many thousands of years ago on Earth. The Earthians observe the inherent wisdom of the Na’vi and their intimate linkage to their moon…as well the parallels to their own ancestors on Earth.
They endeavor, with great intensity, to learn from the Na’vi. One of the Na’vi, in acknowledgement of the strength and leadership of Colonel Quaritch shares his physical body with the spirit. Before the merger can be consummated, Quaritch undergoes a process in isolation in a clearing, something like an exorcism, performed by Pandoran spirits.
A glorious pyrotechnical show is created by sending all of their munitions to explode above their moon.
Your challenge is to write a new script of hope and possibility. I acknowledge that it is much harder to invent a compelling (and mass marketable) story of how these two species bridge their differences and share their best learnings for the benefit of all.
What good is unobtanium? Perhaps a fuel for space travel? How do they work together to restore and perhaps improve the living shelters on Pandora? The Na’vi help obtain unobtainium and share it with the Earthians. They build a bridge of communications between two space civilizations.
A very serious challenge is how to reconcile technology of a neolithic culture, living in harmony with it’s lunar life support system with a highly mechanized technological system that has exploited the vitality of it’s planetary life support system.
What is urgent for the human species here on Earth is to initiate and explore paths to a higher consciousness rather than trod again on the warn paths that appeal to and feed our reptilian brains. Our survival as a species on Earth is dependent on our learning to respect and live in harmony with the living Earth – GAIA.
One challenging confrontation would be the return to Earth. Upon return, their ship lands amidst interminable waring in the middle east, with ambient temperatures of 1400 F. How do they bring their enlightened vision to suicide bombers who rigorously maintain a 7th century worldview in the 22nd Century? The expedition team has destroyed all of their weapons. And, having spent time in the Pandoran environment and eating there, they have mutated. They have a blue tinge to their skin color. Fortunately, they retained their ability to negotiate Earth’s environment.
Jake and Neytiri are among them. Jake had described the miserable state of Earth’s forests and oceans. With guidance from Eywa, Neytiri collects seeds and spores to bring some of the Pandoran forms of flora and help restore balance of life forces of sister Gaia.
Neytiri is enthused by the beauty and wonder of the oceans and their myriad creatures and wants to work in them. They discover that the high level of toxicity of the oceans is especially hazardous to Pandoran lifeforms, unused to their extreme levels of man-made chemicals.
With Neytiri’s influence, another woman from the expedition comes forward. Al-‘Uzzá, named for an Islamic goddess, is able to intuit and anticipate plots by the tribal leaders. The enlightened ones create a holographic learning environment that bridges and integrates the richness of the 7th century culture, a living Earth, the oneness of life sustained by Earth, and a technological culture of the 22nd Century, and the spirit and essence of Pandora. Subsequently, the energies expended on centuries old hostilities are being joined with a global effort for survival of humanity in the context of Gaia’s hostility.
In addition, a group of 6 Pandorans, interested in discovering Jake’s planet and it’s technologies, join the crew. They provide some light moments. They encounter and ride horses by leaping on them from overhead as they gallop by. They have another experience attempting to leap onto a historic Segway personal transport. After a game to see who could toss more ice cream scoops into a partner’s mouth, they speculate how they can bring ice cream back to Pandora and infuse it with their own familiar tastes. They also visit a major zoo and are disturbed to discover that these are the very last of their species.
Intro to second sequel. How do the Earthians manage their confrontation with Gaia? Using unobtainum as fuel, where in the universe will Jake and Neytiri venture to promote peace and understanding?
Oh. And I envision a whole new way for gamers to interact.
© Marv Lyons 2010, San Diego, CA