Random Thoughts on Avatar

4 01 2010

Some of you may have noticed that Avatar secured the #1 spot on my recent list for the best movies enjoyed during 2009. My wife and I both found this film to be utterly engrossing and the 3D visuals actually enhanced the experience for us. While I saw some problems with the script, I fell head over heels in love with the world of Pandora. “I want to go to there,” I said to my wife when the floating mountains were first shown.


Amazing. I predict this movie will be remembered as ground-breaking because of the new generation of SFF fans it will inspire.


Since seeing the movie, I’ve been reading many critics weigh in on the film. Many of them make valid points. Yes, this film is Dances with Wolves with Aliens. I, too, have grown weary of the tired concept of evil corporations as antagonists. Don’t get me started on the over-the-top Dr. Strangelovian Gung-Ho military dude who wants to blow crap up simply because he can. With all my friends and family members who have served proudly in the armed forces, I find fault with that particular military stereotype. So, yes, I agree the villains were one-dimensional in a lot of ways.


Yet, those minor flaws took nothing away from my enjoyment of this movie. After seeing it, I walked out of the theater excited and dreaming of another world. I was reminded of how I felt at five years old after seeing Return of the Jedi (the first Star Wars movie I can remember seeing) in the theatre.


Besides, think about it, how one-dimensional is the character of “The Emperor” in the Star Wars franchise? He’s just evil. No reason is ever given. He is just a power hungry villain because that is how he was written in the script. Nothing more, nothing less. All of the characters in that film are archetypes. The Star Wars film series is nothing more than Joseph Campbell as filtered through the golden age of science fiction.


Thin plots are nothing new to SFF.


In my opinion, to really judge the value of a SFF film or book, look at how it performs with non-SFF people. My nephews are typical teenage kids. They saw Avatar and loved it. I’ve known young women who are far removed from the world of SFF fandom who have loved this movie. The way I see it, the sheer amount of box office receipts would indicate the film is a benefit to the field of SFF.


SFF fans are always talking about how our field is dying. Really? Look around you. How much money has Avatar made as of the time you are reading my silly little blog post? James Cameron made a huge gamble and it seems it was a very good gamble. He’s laughing all the way to the bank while the SFF world continues arguing about why SFF is dying. This is just silly.


Perhaps the real problem is that we in the SFF field sometimes take ourselves too seriously?


I read that SF is dying because SF authors no longer write in enough hard science. I have seen harsh criticisms of the science of Avatar despite James Cameron’s protests he based his world-building on real scientific theories. I recently even read a serious article from The Huffington Post claiming that the Bush administration was to blame for the dearth of hard science in science fiction. Seriously? Bush may have done a lot of things I disagree with politically, but can we really blame him for that author’s perceived lack of quality in the field of SFF? Is a lack of hard science even a problem? In all honestly, one could argue there is actually more “hard science” in science fiction today than there was in the golden age of science fiction.

Yet, here’s the thing, folks. If I want hard science, I read a science book. Nonfiction. Not fiction.


While inspired by science, what Jules Verne and H.G. Wells wrote about was fiction. They were fantasies. Yes, some would point out, their technologies became real. But they were not real when they were written. What those authors did is stir imaginations. Those imaginations began to wonder “What if?” and “How?” Those imaginations began to work out possible scenarios and then work out mechanics. Some of those imagined technologies became real (the submarine, flying machines, a man on the moon, etc.) while many others remained fantasies.


Avatar left me wowed and inspired. It awoke the proverbial child inside me and made me want to visit unseen lands. For that reason, if nothing else, I call it a huge success of a film.


After reading some of the criticisms of Avatar coming from those in the SFF community, I can’t help but wonder if perhaps some of us have grown jaded and simply forgotten how it feels to let go of our prejudices and simply enjoy the sensation of being inspired by new worlds? 


What do you think?




2 responses

5 01 2010
Rae Bryant

Heh. Can we really blame W. for anything bookish? Ba dum dum. Sorry, couldn’t help myself.

Yes, I need to see this movie.

5 01 2010

🙂 – That’s pretty much how I felt about it, too. Yes, you definitely should see it while it is still in theatres. The new 3-D technology actually worked! (I’ve always been unimpressed by 3-D in the past.)

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