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Flags of our fathers... and our brothers _ 11/10
Written by James Cameron
Directed by James Cameron
Sam Worthington ... Jake Sully
Zoe Saldana ... Neytiri
Sigourney Weaver ... Dr. Grace Augustine
Stephen Lang ... Colonel Niles Ouaritch
Joel Noore ... Norm Spellman
Giovanni Ribisi ... Parker Selfridge
Nichelle Rodriguez ... Trudy Chacon
Laz Alonso ... Tsu'tey
Wes Studi ... Eytukan
CCH Pounder ... Noat
Jake Sully: The Sky People have sent us a message. That they can take whatever
they want, and no one can stop them. But we will send them a message. You ride
out as fast as wings can carry you, you tell the other clans to come, you tell them
Toruk Nakto calls to them, and you fly now, with me, brothers, sisters, and we will
show the Sky People, that they cannot take whatever they want. That this... this is
Special viewing note: Yesterday, January 19, 2010, would have been my brother,
Forrest's, 59th birthday. ! attended Avatar with my mother partly as remembrance of
his noble soul, and it turns out ! could not have picked a more Forrest-worthy film...
particularly its magical message of love and respect for all living things. !ndeed, at
several points-notably when the "seeds of Eywa" float like fireflies in the Pandoran
night-we felt his presence.
The word avatar means 1) the embodiment of a quality or concept, 2) incarnation of
esp. a Hindu deity in human form (from Sanskrit avatarah: ava, down + tarati, he
crosses). The combination of the two standard meanings applies to the central plot
element in this truly epochal movie. Like a flag, an avatar may be a real thing
symbolizing a country and its core ideas. Or the avatar may be a clone in which
another's consciousness is represented.
Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) is a wounded Earth soldier who has been rehabbed in a
futuristic vA hospital, yet remains a paraplegic. He learns that his twin brother, Tom, a
scientist in a high-level secret corporate-military project, has died. The executives of
that project ask Jake to take Tom's place because of his genetic identity as Tom's twin.
Jake agrees. !n the faraway world of Pandora, an Earth expeditionary force run by the
Resources Development Corporation (RDC) has established a presence with the purpose
of extracting an extremely valuable mineral to solve Earth's energy crisis. A native
humanoid population, the Na'vi, stand in the way. The Avatar Project, that Jake is now
part of, is to bond with the Na'vi, learn their ways, and negotiate peaceful access to the
The head of RDC, Parker Selfridge (Giovanni Ribisi), is the corporate official who makes
all fundamental decisions for the expedition. The head of military operations, Colonel
Niles Ouaritch (Stephen Lang), and leader of the Avatar Project, Dr. Grace Augustine
(Sigourney Weaver), both report to Selfridge.|1| We learn quickly that Grace's project is
one of discovery and Ouaritch's objective is military conquest. Which will the Slime
Poobah Selfridge choose? Duh. Yet the Avatar-Project side of the story provides all the
wonder, drama, and romance. Jake's avatar (JA)-which Jake's consciousness inhabits
via a special mind-meld pod-is finally ready. By accident, JA is stranded in a Na'vi great
forest, home to the Omaticaya. He is discovered, later befriended and beloved, by
Neytiri (Zoe Saldana); he becomes drawn into their culture, then identifies with their life
force. Conflict ensues toward a final showdown.
James Cameron's Avatar is a masterpiece, not only of cinema, but of literature. The
breadth and depth of his conceptions-the symbolism, the insights into the human
condition, the tension between machinery and living organisms, the grand vision of a
benevolent (yes, natural libertarian) future, not to mention the everlovin' technology and
its execution-are simply overwhelming. They take my breath away. ! could not do
justice to this magnificent creation with a 100-page treatise, but let me try to sketch a
few key impressions.
The Technical Area
Ny guess is most of the commentary from the film community will focus on the
revolutionary technical breakthroughs of Avatar. You can look at the this technical side
from two perspectives: the technology infusing the characters' world and the creative
technology of the filmmakers. Both are astounding. As a dedicated futurist-though not
a "technopolist"-! can tell you what we see in the movie is readily extrapolated from
current capability... from 3D holographic instrumentation panels to cryogenic
preservation of bodies waiting for cures.
The world that the scientists like Dr. Grace and associates of our protagonist Corporal
Jake Skully inhabit ! expect 10-20 years from now will probably be very close to what
we will see in General Hospital: The writer/director is a life long science fiction fan, and
no doubt the fortune he's made with his Hollywood creations-chiefly Terminator
(198+), Aliens (1986), The Abyss (1989), Titanic (199/)-assures he has access to any
knowledge or capability that interests him. There is no question in my mind that he
understands the Singularity, as articulated by Ray Kurzweil.|2|
"Human society and human consciousness are evolving before our eyes in an
unprecedented, historic way as we adopt and integrate with our machines. Typically,
people don't know when they're making history, but we are definitely making history
right now... for better or worse." - Playboy !nterview with James Cameron, December
Cameron ratchets up the military tech as well. Remember the scene in Aliens, where
Ripley straps herself into a hydraulic loader that magnifies Ripley's body motions and
gives her a couple of effective right hooks at the "Oueen Bitch." Well in Avatar, you have
ANP suits, just like Ripley's loader except they're 30 feet tall and used as a soldier's own
personal armored walker. The guns, gunships, and other aircraft are straight from the
pages of Apocalypse Now on steroids... believable, though insane and hellish.
Then, of course, the contemporary technology used to make the film is a little science
fiction film of its own. |On cable these days, you can see a half-hour documentary on
the making of Avatar. (And !'m sure when the DvD comes out in, what, five years?, the
bonus features will be loaded with that kind of information.)| Cameron and Co. break
new ground like there's no tomorrow:
in animation-you will immediately believe the Na'vi (or the humans) are actual
living beings captured on film.
in 3D-yes, it's cool, but for me only a marked improvement in my normal
viewing experience in a few scenes (the glasses seemed to dim the screen and !
constantly noticed their black boundary on my periphery).
in special effects-Avatar's creation of the world of Pandora will leave you
sighing ecstatically like a child who has seen his first big fireworks display or
experienced the landing, on a nearby twig, of his first rainbowed butterfly.
in the destruction of battle-an "ANPed up" combination of the aforementioned
Apocalypse Now and War of the Worlds, gives new meaning to "Hell is coming
for breakfast" (great combination war movie and antiwar movie).
in sound and music-admittedly, being so overwhelmed with the visuals and plot,
! wasn't properly attentive to the score or to the soundtrack in general. But it's
unique and properly unobtrusive, majestic when it needs to be.
And ! haven't even mentioned the bells and whistles that make the avatar universe work
so seamlessly. For those who look at technology as a "good" thing, consider that when
Jake inhabits his avatar, he's no longer a paraplegic. Then also realize that, according to
Kurzweil and others, full-immersion virtual reality (vR) is probably less than a decade or
two away. No, not quite the same potential-the avatars of Avatar are completely real
tho separate from the mind-donor body-but one can definitely envision a Natrix kind of
artificial world that could mitigate a lot of real suffering... plus think of the whole realm
of vR pleasures.|3|
The Human(oid) Element
Not only does James Cameron nail the dark "Soul of the Aggressor State" forever to the
"Wall of !nhumanity" (! suppose in this case, the "Wall of !nhumanoid-ity")-and does
so by explicit connection to the modern American engine of wanton martial murder and
slaughter for the benefit of fat, sleazy corporate shit-bags-he brings to wondrous life a
land and its "people" full of enchantment and exquisite joys. Black and white. ! can't
think of a modern work of fiction in which the lines of morality are more clearly drawn.
And accomplishes it not by means of the stuff of technology, rather by an epic
human(oid) story expressing the ultimate family values.
"Ultimately, audiences don't give a rat's ass how a movie is made. When people see the
movie, the story will be about the world of the planet Pandora, the creatures on it, the
characters-such as the former Narine and amputee |paraplegic| played by Sam
Worthington-and the huge conflict between the humans and the inhabitants of
Pandora. How does it move you? How emotional is it? !t's pretty damned emotional and
dramatic. That said, ! think we certainly exceeded our expectations in making these
characters feel real." - Playboy !nterview with James Cameron, December 2009
Well put. As ! stated above, Avatar is as much great literature as it is great cinema. As
with the writer/director team in Dances with Wolves, Cameron has crafted one of the
most sensitive treatments of an unspoiled race we are likely to see for some time. The
Eastern spirituality shines through, bringing up images of another animated-though
wholly computer-generated-sci-fi epic of a decade ago, Final Fantasy: The Spirits
Within. Just as Final Fantasy had its Earth Spirit, Gaia, from which we are born and to
which we return, the Omaticaya have as their living spirit an Earth Nother, Eywa, from
which all comes and is ultimately drawn back within.
Now !'m thinking of the tribute to the Great Spirit in Last of the Nohicans, early in the
film as Hawkeye and his brother and father stalk and kill an antelope. !'ve mentioned a
few movies in this review that come to mind in with Avatar: Dances with Wolves, Last of
the Nohicans, Final Fantasy, Aliens, Apocalypse Now, The Natrix. There are others. Let's
not forget Starship Troopers, especially the book of that name. ! suppose some will look
at these associations as amalgamated borrowing, and there could be some basis for
that... if the story weren't so originally conceived and tightly built. |And all writers
compose from their experience; what Cameron calls up are key, pertinent parts of those
!ronically, the Na'vi world Cameron extols as spiritually uplifting is as free of
"technology" as its creator (Cameron) is overflowing with it. ! put technology in quotes
there because ! don't mean to suggest that the Omaticaya lack the tools to flourish in
their land of natural magic. On a different note, this movie can stimulate a spirited,
healthful social debate on 'good' technology vs. 'bad' technology that can really make a
KevoIutíonnry FoIítícnI Impnct...
When was the last time you went to a war movie and actually rooted against the
American forces? Okay, yes, Dances with Wolves (1990). Good answer. !n Avatar, the
armies aren't strictly speaking American... but the Allied Earth Narines seem about as
American-military dominated as the so-called Coalition Forces were in Operation !raqi
Freedom. And when the Shinola hits the rotating blades of the gunships, the crowd in
our theater erupts in applause.|+|
There is no doubt that James Cameron is sending a message loud and clear to all of
humankind: "Have courage. Rise up and defend your humanity and its sacred spirit
against the 'Unspeakable.'" The analogy of that corporate-state Unspeakable: from the
extermination of the American !ndians, to the wholesale American-'government' rape of
vietnam and Southeast Asia, to the worldwide C!A/Pentagon's late-20th-century killing-
and-plunder fields, to the aggression in !raq/Afghanistan, to ongoing, numerous, less-
obvious atrocities (from all modern corporate- or socialist-state origins of any nation) is
Yes, Avatar frames the quintessential left-libertarian message...
|Avatar is a dagger to the heart of the N!C|5| and what ! call the Kleptocons. !t
strikes at that emotional-perceptual level; the billions of people who will probably
see the movie will come away with this profound feeling of antipathy for anyone who
has the same psychological DNA as Parker Selfridge, Niles Ouaritch, Dick Cheney,
Barack Obama, all the members of Congress (except for Ron Paul), or any power
person with pond scum flowing through his veins. !'ll write more on it later,
augmenting the review. But for the time being, ! predict Avatar is not only a game
changer in movies, it's a game changer for Liberty by identifying its priority enemy
as our own corporate-state Natrix and inspiring the heroic, human, spiritual,
Finally, on the deepest level, Avatar rocks because it identifies with the true patriotism
of our colonial founders, and then the people in our families who did fight for liberty...
or at least had a reasonable belief they were doing so. Thanks, Father. Thanks, Brother.
You are the flags, the real symbols of what war, peace, and life are about, the avatars
of our brave free world, our holy land that we shall fight for and win.
Jim Cameron et al, thank you, thank you, thank you!
|1| Selfridge is the name of a very important Air National Guard base in Nichigan,
named after the first US military officer to die in an aviation incident.
|2| The Singularity is Near: When humans transcend biology, by Ray Kurzweil. The
Singularity is essentially a concept created by Kurzweil to denote the point at which
"man" and "machine" become complements to each other. For example, consider how
computers and the !nternet have changed human consciousness.
|3| ! know what you're thinking. !f Junior can put on the vR suit and become Johnny
Handsome hosted by the high-school cheerleader sleepover, then when's he going to
get his homework done?! Well, !'m not too concerned about vR addiction for a couple of
reasons: a) by that time, real reality (RR) will have become as attractive as vR-
capabilities, health, beauty, intelligence, prowess, etc.-and it will be real, and b) we'll
have advanced, in general, spiritually to let go of addictive behavior.
|+| There were only a dozen patrons at the matinee we attended; at least half
applauded the native Na'vi forces in defending their property, no one clapped for the
|5| military industrial complex
2010 January 21
Copyright © Brian Wright | The Coffee Coaster™
Avatar | Antiwar Movies | War Movies | Spiritual Freedom | Cameron
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