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THE NITPICKER'S GUIDE TO AVATAR
 



 

We senselessly nitpick a movie we gave three-and-a-half stars out of four because . . . well, that’s just the sort of people we are . . .

[Warning: This article contains spoilers and you shouldn’t read any further if you haven’t already seen the movie.]

You’d think that you’d be a bit more groggy and disoriented after spending six years in suspended animation. Not to mention stuff such as muscle atrophy from long-term inactivity and so on . . . But hey, at least Cameron has the budget to show that there’s, gasp!, zero gravity in space and we see people floating round in 3D!

Just where is Pandora exactly? Pandora isn’t technically a planet, but a moon orbiting a gas giant like Jupiter in our own solar system. The star closest to the Earth (except for the sun of course) is Proxima Centauri which is 4.22 light years away. That means it will take a beam of light 4.22 years to travel that distance. Problem is that as far as we know the nearest planet outside of our own solar system orbits Epsilon Eridani, a star which is the tenth closest star to Earth. It is also 10.5 light years away, which means that if it takes humanity six years to reach Pandora that:

(a.) There actually are planets orbiting Proxima Centauri after all and we traveled there at speeds near those of light.

(b.) The same folks who still use bullets instead of ray guns have somehow invented faster-than-light space travel. (An impossibility in the first place, remember?)

(c.) We folded space using handy wormhole “portals” like the ones they use in the Stargate TV series to somehow zap instantaneously across enormous galactic distances.

"We don’t even want to go into the whole interspecies sex thing here!"

(c.) is the most plausible explanation story-wise, but now only one question remains: why didn’t we put the portal closer to Pandora but still take six years to get there?

Anyway, space is big, very big as Carl Sagan once intoned and one supposes that we should be glad that Cameron is trying to bring this reality across unlike those countless Star Trek episodes in which Kirk and company effortlessly zip across the vast expanses of space in a shorter time than it takes you to make your daily commute to work . . .

If it ain’t broke, then don’t fix it. Some folks have complained that Sully (Sam Worthington) still uses an old-fashioned wheelchair instead of something more, well, modernistic. Just what were they expecting? A hover chair like something out of an X-Men comic? Point is that the design for prescription glasses are basically the same as when it was invented hundreds of years ago in the Middle Ages. Same goes for the format of the old-fashioned book made out of paper – despite what you as Amazon.com shareholder may believe about the Kindle . . .

Which makes more fiscal sense: paying for Sully’s operation and getting his legs fixed so that he can return to active military duty? Or leaving him on permanent disability pension? Still, this is the military we’re talking about here . . .

Michelle Rodriguez’s helicopter pilot character refuses to fire on the Na’vi’s giant tree, declaring aloud that she “didn’t sign on for this shit.” Yet she isn’t thrown into the brig along with Sully and the others for insubordination and refusing to follow orders. Later on she rescues them instead. One can only assume that discipline must be really lax at this particular military base . . .

Which brings us to Miles Quaritch (played by Stephen Lang), the gung ho Colonel in charge. We are told that Pandora has low gravity, which makes sense as it is only a moon and not a “full” planet. It also explains why the Na’vi grew to be so tall. (Even Dustin Hoffman would grow up to be tall if he had grown up on, let’s say, Mars with its lower gravity instead of Earth.) Point is we however never see any people loping round like we see astronauts do on the moon. And all that weightlifting we see the Colonel do doesn’t seem so impressive in retrospect either.

Just how do those mountains float around in midair? Anyone with plausible theories can e-mail us at scifimoviepage@yahoo.com. (Also feel free to criticise us for our lack of basic science. We can take it.)

We don’t even want to go into the whole interspecies sex thing here. Even if it is with ten-feet tall, blue-skinned aliens with a passing resemblance to actress Zoe Saldana . . .

And this is where things get un-PC. Pandora is a hostile environment, yet the Na’vi – improbably – lives in perfect harmony with nature and their environment. Their “carbon footprint” as they say is practically zero. Yet many commentators maintain that this aspect of the movie is a fantasy inspired by white guilt over the Native American genocide: the Na’vi are a metaphor for Native Americans (the movie has been likened with Dances with Wolves) and wrongly asserts that Native American tribes had no negative impact upon their environment before the arrival of Europeans. This, they say, is untrue as recent evidence shows that Native American tribes actually caused extensive environmental damage in the guise of deforestation. What do we believe? That if we were to live on a planet filled with nasty vicious man-eating predators, we’d invent gunpowder as quickly as possible! But that’s just us . . .

Which brings us to . . . during the first military encounter with the Earthlings. the Na’vis’ arrows just bounce ineffectively off helicopter hulls and windows. In the final climactic battle they somehow penetrate the no doubt strengthened windows of mecha suits. Was there an overnight revolution in Na’vi arrow design?

Humans cannot breathe the air on Pandora, but does that mean that any other animals or humanoids can? Sure, we can’t breathe underwater but fish can. However while we obviously know nothing about life on other planets, there is a scientific theory that says that life will probably much evolve much the same way on other planets as it did on Earth. This makes a kind of twisted sense when you think about it. It also means that all those episodes of Stargate: Atlantis featuring alien planets with pine tree forests populated with human-looking aliens are actually scientifically accurate and Avatar isn’t! Yelp!
 


 



 

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