Lana and I watched Avatar finally last night. She brought home a copy from the library. I hear all the time people telling me that you have to see “X” on the big screen. Well, I figure Avatar would definitely have been better on the big screen. It seemed made for it.
As for the movie, here are my thoughts. First, outstanding digital effects. I expected that. Second, the story was good, although certainly not original. I finally gave up counting the number of crystal clear influences that I could see, but some include the “Pern” novels by Anne McCaffrey, and the Horseclans stories of Robert Adams, Lynn Abbey’s work, and very strongly, the Janus novels by Andre Norton, including Judgment on Janus and Victory on Janus. There were also heaping helpings of Heinlein and Clarke.
In addition, the story is embedded in lots of human myths and/or misunderstandings. There’s the noble savage idea, the concept of the chosen warrior (used also in The Matrix, of course), the Gaia concept of the living earth, the conflict between nature as good and civilization as evil. I was a little disappointed in how blatant these were, and a bit disappointed that the Navi were so closely based on a kind of mythic idea of the Native Americans. This made the story very predictable.
I know everyone borrows and I’m not troubled particularly by that, although I might have liked the borrowing to have been transformed a bit more. Obviously the story resonated with a lot of folks, and that’s quite likely because it touched on so many myths and feelings that we modern folks hold. I was telling Lana last night that one thing I hoped people watching it wouldn’t do would be to assume that this material is all new and original. The ideas and themes in Avatar are much, much older, and in many cases were barely altered from their roots.
None of that means I didn’t enjoy the movie and that it didn’t hold my interest. I’m glad I finally saw it.