I just stepped out of James Cameron’s Masterpiece and I still can’t believe that was the script he put forward after twelve years. Twelve years. TWELVE. YEARS. Now, let me get a few things out of the way first. Avatar‘s visuals are positively stunning and I’m going to give Cameron the pass on his Na’vi treading dangerously close to the uncanny valley, because the environments were really, really cool to watch. However, there are several issues in Avatar that need to be considered. All in good fun of course–I’m not even going to pretend that this won’t make money or that we won’t be seeing sequels–but twelve years? Really?
I’m just saying that if a filmmaker of Cameron’s caliber is working on a script for twelve years, it should be better than this. I came away with so many questions about character motivation, unexplained plot devices, and generally not remembering the names of anything, that I was confused about whether or not I even liked the damn thing. However, we at Needcoffee realize this problem might be widespread, so we are going to answer many questions about the plot of Avatar by answering one of the biggest ones:
[ad#longpost] What is Unobtainium anyway?
For those of you unfamiliar with TVTropes, I shall enlighten you with the Wikipedia entry on the subject: “Unobtainium is a humorous name for any extremely rare, costly, or physically impossible material needed to fulfill a given design for a given application.”
That’s it: it means it’s an impossible-to-get-at substance. And no, for those of you that are asking that question, not once do they tell us what the heck it is or what it does. This leads to a host of questions about the motivations of the human beings and what the crap they’re doing there in the first place. One explanation that I shall now put forward, however, simplifies things greatly.
Unobtainium is a drug. In fact, Unobtainium is the best drug ever. The humans are mining for the best blow between here and Alpha Centauri. Every single human being on Earth in the year 2154 is totally up to their nose in fine Pandoran bang-bang and they want more. If you explain Unobtainium as a drug you get all the explanation you ever need to a host of questions.
Why don’t the humans mine somewhere else for Unobtainium? The head honcho business man says the deposit under the Na’vi treehouse is “the biggest deposit in 200 clicks in any direction.” Now either James Cameron has no idea how far 200 kilometers is (not an inconvenient distance, by the way–I routinely drive from the Cleveland suburbs to Columbus, Ohio, which is about 30 miles further than 200 kilometers) or we’re dealing with a bunch of Unobtainium fiends who can’t conceive driving more than two hours for a fix. This explains why the military tactics used against the Na’vi don’t make any sense: they’re being executed by a bunch of junkies. That would also explain the generally antagonistic attitude toward any human being that makes any sense at all for more than two seconds. I just wish it had been included in the movie… maybe a message from the President of Earth as he does a line of Unobtainium offering up his sentiments that the miners are having trouble but hey, his stash is running low and they need some of this shit YESTERDAY. This also explains why they didn’t follow Cameron’s own advice from his film Aliens: “I say we take off and nuke the entire site from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure.” One can imagine the insipient little toad of a man that they all work for mumbling, “Man, whathefuckever just go down and get the damn stuff, I’m jonzein’ here.”
A drug addicted society also explains the strange reason the mecha the marines bring with them actually carry guns. For those readers not familiar with basic mech design principles, your end result should look like a pile of guns with some legs strapped on. No need for anything like, oh, say, a big glass open cockpit that allows the natives to smash it with arrows. Also–spoiler alert–there is no reason any mech needs to carry a knife. A society with a drug addiction would also go from caring a whole bunch about the wellbeing of a couple trillion dollar piece of scientific equipment like an avatar to being ready to blow all of them up. Only a junkie nation would put main character Jake Sully to sleep for six years and not give him any kind of education on the planet he’s going to. (Reason being: they don’t have the smack to sustain him for six years.) Actually smack seems too earthy, maybe we could call it “Tain.”
I could go on all night about the glaring inconsistencies… (Why does the Earth army consist of a bunch of white people, one black guy, and a latina chick?) …and things that a man who’s done the quality of work Cameron has should have fleshed out a bit more in more than a decade of working… (They’re called the Na’vi. I’ll bet five bucks up until he started filming the script said “Natives” and he just deleted some letters) …but I will close with this thought of Cameron’s own from a recent Playboy interview:
CAMERON: Right from the beginning I said, “She’s got to have tits,” even though that makes no sense because her race, the Na’vi, aren’t placental mammals.
That’s really interestingâ€¦because all the Na’vi are shown to have not only “tits” but navels and umbilical cords as well, which are ONLY found in placental mammals. Apparently Cameron spent as much time working on his tenth grade biology homework as he did revising his script. Again, I’ll hand it to the man, the stuff is nice to look at. Happy Avatar days everyone!