by James Cameron
The reason that Sully is needed is because Augustine's pet project is something called the Avatar program wherein they grow bodies in test tubes mixed with human DNA so that they'll grow to resemble the indigenous population. Sully's brother's avatar looks just like Jake because they were identical twins and as the smarter Sully was stabbed during a robbery, Augustine and co. are going to have fill Jake in pretty quickly if they want him to make use of his brother's maturing body. The locals, called the Na'vi, are a species that are essentially humanoid despite being ten feet tall, having tails, four fingers and, inexplicably, blue skin. I say inexplicably because there are environment is just as green as any jungle on earth and furthermore the Na'vi are hunter gatherers with living habits more in common with jungle cats than homosapiens, so their pigmentation makes no sense. They appear to be mammals and possess red blood like people, so why shouldn't they resemble people in other ways? Being blue buys them nothing as predators as it isn't for the sake of camouflage. It looks the planet is populated by the children of Mystique from X-Men. Anyway, Augustine's plan includes hooking up people to the brains of their avatars to control them remotely from pods. How this works is something James Cameron didn't even bother to work out because it's fucking ludicrous.
So, these avatars exist so that they can negotiate with the Na'vi so they can peacefully leave their Home Tree, which is where the big supply of unobtainium is located. Augustine has literally no trouble getting Sully used to his avatar body and soon he's in the jungle helping collect samples. Now most of what I just explained to you is in the first ten or twenty minutes. The next hour is like one boring-as-shit fake nature show like the ones the Discovery Channel used to run after the success of Walking With Dinosaurs, only somehow less fun and more idiotic and patronizing. Jake meets the local Na'vi who live at home tree, becomes ingratiated into their society, makes nice with the chief's daughter, passes his warrior training and then fucks it all up when the military gets antsy for a blue man Jihad and decides Augustine and her avatars can go fuck themselves. So, if you haven't guessed the plot by now or on the off chance you're one of the few people who hasn't seen this movie yet, we have to learn just what Sully and his few friends are going to do to retaliate against the military led by evil Colonel Quaritch. Oh and just wait until the third act when the earth attacks the army (or gets revenge as some might say). That's right! For one glorious minute Avatar becomes the most expensive rip-off of Day of the Animals in history.
Before I continue I should contend with the ever-popular 'just a silly action film' line. I'd buy that if I was able to enjoy any of Avatar. I couldn't and didn't. Maybe because before now James Cameron had dedicated himself to raising the action film to heights beyond what the lowest of Hollywood lows could produce. Knowing what James Cameron is capable of I won't settle for anything less than Aliens, an admittedly flawed film, because it rose above its station and gave action films a good name. So, no, it's not just an action film and that argument has no weight here. So what caused my eyes to scan the roof of their sockets so furiously? Many people will tell you that it's a mathematical certainty that somewhere in the universe there is a planet with life identical to that on Earth. That said I'm going to wager that it's a mathematical impossibility that this planet is within the reach of human beings, no matter how advanced their spaceships have become in the unnamed future that Avatar takes place in. Furthermore that these creatures would not be exactly like human beings but lie just to the left evolutionarily (they reminded me so much of Futurama's martian natives that I seriously wonder if James Cameron isn't a fan and confused homage with stealing. Matt Groening even made the link between aliens and native americans. The episode in question also has the same narrative trajectory, though it's clearly a nod to Dances with Wolves. If I were Kevin Costner, I'd consider a lawsuit. Stephen Spielberg also has the law on his side as Cameron lifted the sound of his velociraptors from Jurassic Park and used them for his alien bird-horses. Same sound, I swear to god). Ten feet tall cat people with blue striped skin who have become as evolved as Native Americans in the life-age of the planet. How is that not slightly improbable (and condescending)? That means that there is no greed, no ambition beyond following orders and no genocidal tendencies in these essentially human creatures. Yeah...Fuckin'.....Right! Also Cameron seems to have reasoned that because his movie has an environmental message, he has carte blanche to be as ignorant as he likes. For example, the Na'vi have a perplexing mixture of Native American and African culture and mannerisms. They do a lot of war whooping and speak in a few different dialects of broken english. It's offensive no matter how you look at it and I'd be curious how the world's former colonized and subjugated are taking this....cause I'm thinkin' it's racist. Cameron's message is one of hope but he does it at the expense of giving his subjects any respect. In fact one of the feats Dr. Augustine, who is one of the unconditionally good guys, did before Sully's landing on Pandora was to set up a school to teach the Na'vi english. That is some left-wing, hypocritical bullshit right there. The only reason they do this is so that the whole movie isn't in their made-up language. And really the only reason that they have to do the avatar thing is so that it isn't weird when Sully and his blue girlfriend have sex. If Augustine knows their language and they know she's not one of them, what does being blue buy them exactly? Nothing. Except an iridescent, PG-13, CG sex scene.
What really drove in the final coffin nail was the fact that Avatar is simply an environmentally friendly, teenager-pandering version of Aliens. Sully is Ripley and Hicks in one body, a grunt and a real person in two different environments he doesn't understand, Dr. Augustine's motherly relationship with Jake mirrors that of Ripley and Newt, Michelle Rodriguez is just Vazquez with Ferro's job, privates Fike and Wainfleet are Frost and Crowe and Parker Selfridge is Carter Burke, the wormy evil capitalist, they even have surnames as first names. Quaritch could be said to be an approximation of Sgt. Apone but really he's Lt. Coffey from James Cameron's other family-oriented sci-fi film, The Abyss. Also carried over from Cameron's other movies is his constantly inventing jargon and devices, then coming up with nicknames to go with them, something I wager he enjoys more than writing dialogue. Not since the Star Wars prequels have I encountered someone so in love with his own mundane creativity. I don't really care about the boot-camp regiment for avatars or the super clever names you've given the minerals or fake animals who have pelts that don't make any sense given their environments. I would have preferred if you'd dreamt up a believable and not insultingly over-used story rather than twenty nicknames for tribes that don't get introduced until the last twenty minutes of the movie. What he wanted to do was make a nature show spliced with what I'm sure he considered to be awesome battle scenes. But really his nature stuff doesn't make any sense (how does an island floating in space manage to maintain a running stream of water big enough to keep a water-fall perpetually flowing?) and the battle scenes aren't awesome, they're predictable and based around the acrobatic maneuevers of two or three people instead of say the gigantic army you just raised for the sake of having a climax in the first place. Sully does cartwheels and back-handsprings on ships in mid-air so he can throw grenades down exhaust pipes and other Rube Goldberg-esque devices that end in the destruction of everyone except Quaritch because there needs to be a big showdown (or boss fight as anyone who's played Megaman X calls it. Notice the similarities between Quaritch's robot and those from this or any number of computer games. Key difference: plausibility. How fucking sad is it that game designers from fifteen years ago have a better grip on reality than James Fucking Cameron, who spent the last ten years making expensive documentaries). But really that's a big, stupid let-down too because he's fighting in a giant robot that has that George Lucas complex where it has far greater maneuverability than it ever would considering it's size and looks stupid because it's nakedly a computer generated effect. Also, Quarritch's last line is "how does it feel to betray your race?" to Sully before his robot knifes him (...?). Does he mean white people? Homo sapiens are a species, not a race, so....