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
(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
how do those mountains float around in midair? Anyone with
plausible theories can e-mail us at
(Also feel free to criticise us for our lack of basic science. We can take
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
featuring alien planets with pine tree forests populated with
human-looking aliens are actually scientifically accurate and
Avatar isn’t! Yelp!