Sunday, January 3, 2010

Avatar's Tender Interlude

By now millions have seen James Cameron's ground-breaking new 3D epic,
"Avatar." Although it is a rollicking good time at the cinema, there
have been numerous criticisms, including its supposed admiration for
war and its simplistic and somewhat stereotypical quasi-racist
viewpoint (ie., the natives are nobler than the ruthless civilized
invaders, but once the white guy hero is converted, he leads them out
of their predicament).

I have to say I enjoyed it thoroughly, in the same vein as Lord of the
Rings, where it was necessary to rise up and kick evil-doers'
butts--more than once.

And, although the white guy hero Jake Sully did indeed lead the
natives to victory (albeit probably temporary), I think the movie
detractors have skimmed over the role played by his mentor in making
this an extraordinary tale of love and redemption. We've all heard that
behind every successful man there's a woman. In Jake's case, there was
Neytiri, a 9-foot tall blue woman who was more powerful than the
forklift Ripley used to beat up the Alien mother. Neytiri is destined
to be the next co-leader of her people, the Na'vi, and she reluctantly
agrees to teach him the ropes (literally).

Jake falls in love with Neytiri, and with her coaching is able to hold
is own with the other Na'vi warriors. He even is able to ride a flying
dinosaur that only a few natives have domesticated. Neytiri in turn
falls in love with Jake's Avatar, even though she knows he is not one
of their people.

One scene made the movie for me. Setup for the scene: The hero has been judged to be a traitor to the human race, and a battle with the Na'vi ensues. The military has been dispatched to seek and destroy the hidden encampment containing the capsule linking Jake's human body to his Avatar, tossing his body out into the unbreathable Pandora atmosphere.

During the battle, Neytiri sees her mate go unconscious. She has seen this before. She immediately assesses the situation and searches
for the human camp. Inside she spots the capsule. Beside
it is a small human who is suffocating. She recognizes him as Jake,
picks him up, and cradles him tenderly in her arms. She
administers an oxygen mask and hopes for the best. Instead of dying, Jake
revives and is able to rally his people and turn the tide of the

As in Titanic and The Abyss, this small scene demonstrated again for
me Cameron's mastery in portraying the faith and willing sacrifice of
true love. No amount of detonations or whizbang 3D effects can compare.