Friday, January 22, 2010

A Thumbnail of the Future: Thoughts on Avatar (movie)

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A Thumbnail of the Future

Most of us do realize that environmental destruction is real, that global warming is more than a green political rhetoric. The Earth is crashing down at a rate faster and deeper than at any other point in history, and it is exactly because of this prolonged fall and unfathomable depth that we are bereft of inspired action.
Yesterday night I went to the cinema with friends and saw Avatar in 3D. I thought it would just be another humdrum doomsday flick playing on human vulnerabilities by the forces of nature. It was, in fact, the opposite. It wasn’t nature picking on man. Viruses didn’t convert homo sapiens to homo ergmonsters or the quakes flattening the White House. What was portrayed in Avatar is nature, which is a mother, someone who does not take sides, preserves balance, and lives with and within harmony. For those who have seen the movie, or even just the poster, might have predicted the end in the first few minutes of the movie. The plot is easy to regard as linear, yes. I thought it was. But I also thought that Avatar knows exactly what it is and what it wants to convey to the audience sans the convolution of artificially concocted cerebral conversations. It mission is clear and it did not let even the most brilliant visual effects overshadow it.
Avatar is another wakeup call to those being called but are still walking half asleep. For this reason, films with environmental undertones should never be dismissed.

For two and a half hours I ran throughout Pandora, meeting creatures modeled after civil savagery (in which description humans fit hand in glove), seeing bioluminiscent trees whose roots have grown deeper than my thoughts, meeting Jake and Grace reminding me that even the most callous ecological plunderer could put a stop to the death of birth. It was a long rough run but it was nothing like treading on a thin fracturing crust for three flat hours or escaping a humongous tornado that seems to possess a face recognition technology. While watching the movie, my seat was converted into an avatar capsule, merging me with the movie and the symbolisms it holds. First, there are the Na’vis, people of Pandora. They are the Tutsis. The Aetas. The minority. It is in their land where a mineral called unobtainum that sells for 20million USD can be mined. The Na’vis believe that every single creature is connected by a force called Eywa. And there are the humans who, after killing their mother, are now living in space in constant search for energy. Trite as it may seem, the plot just revolves around how humans can drive away the Na’vis from their ancestral land in order to obtain the unobtanium (sounds pretty much like the article “Dam Nation”). In order to avert conflict between the two species, Grace, a senior scientist, created a Na’vi that can be neurologically linked with a person. Instead of a human walking through the unwelcoming forests on Pandora, the Avatars, physically stronger and abler than a human body is, are sent instead. The paraplegic Jake Sully was given his late brother’s avatar and was sent onto a mission to gain the trust of the natives, with an ulterior motive of persuading them to move out of their ancestral home. Jake had to learn the culture of the Na’vis. He spent three months in the forest and has successfully went through a number of rites of passage. Eventually he developed a strong affinity with the Na’vis. He gave up the mission, even if it means not being able to get his legs back. As it became for him, his life as a human is the dream and living as a Na’vi is the reality. He found his self in his avatar.

About Pandora
In Avatar, the Earth was not portayed as a fickle-minded mom that just kills on a whim by splashing its babies with lava or throwing at them flying kisses at 400 kilometers per hour. The Earth just restores balance. That means balance should first be offset and only then will nature act to reverse a tremendous pollution, or in the case of the movie, to suppress the mechanized warfare initiated by the humans. Eywa possesses a power to do that. Toruk, the huge predatory bird effectively embodies nature’s impartial and benign destructive power, and that which Jake harnessed to lead the war against the humans, and that which he let go of after the war has ended.

About the Love Story, Life, and Death
-Neytiri should not have had mated with Jake because she was already binded with another man. I suppose there should also be a ritual for that (arranged marriage). Given that there is, then she she must have violated Eywa’s biddings. One more thing, it was under an “Eywa” tree that they did ‘it’. >.< So yeah, a little bit of uneasiness in there.
-It is defensible to kill another living thing in self-defense, but it is never a reason for joy that the other has survived. Perhaps the attacked has placed himself in direct opposition to an erstwhile unaggressive yet territorial creature. Remember, human encroachment to forests and habitat destruction result to a cobra-infested sofa.
-At first, I felt that dying was not given its due ceremonial response in the movie, and the feeling was reinforced when Tsu’tey was shot and fell off his banshee. Was it easy to just rub off characters in the movie even if it occurs en-masse? And then I realized the movie does not focus on individual lives being reclaimed by Eywa, but about life that all sentient creatures on Pandora share. The death of the Tree and of any grander cause must be worse than any individual death that has ever occurred in the encounter.

I felt quite disturbed when the humans were exiled from Pandora (back to where they came from perhaps) because I thought greed stops at nothing. If the humans are after an energy source then that means the humans on Pandora aren’t the only ones left. They must be supplying a population that’s large and is militarily ready to strike the Na’vis back in a moment’s time. Do you think the humans would assail Pandora again? Or would have they learned an invaluable lesson about harmony and life?