You might’ve been under the impression that James Cameron’s Avatar By James Cameron was a good film. I mean, it had loads of CGI, and it’s still on in the fucking cinemas, so someone’s watching it. Thing is, anyone who claims it was anything but pure eye-candy for the easily-amused is surely a mental. Are you one of those people? If so, chin up – we’re going to tell you about our three easy steps towards making Avatar significantly less dull, then you can regurgitate it to all your intelligent mates. READ ON:
1. Make sure the main character’s moral dilemma is actually a moral dilemma.
Jake Sully – the film’s protagonist, for those who didn’t bother to learn the characters’ names – can’t use his legs. So it’s a dream come true when he gets to control an incredible alien body that’s basically better in every way to a regular human – never mind one that’s lost the ability to walk. So when the evil military guy says he can restore Jake’s legs as long as he makes sure the na’vi abandon their sacred tree… well, it’s not much of an offer, is it? It’s presented as if Jake’s meant to have this internal struggle over deceiving the na’vi and getting his legs back, or not being a total dick but remaining a cripple forever. But that’s not really the case, because Jake’s spending most of his time as a massive bipedal cat. Granted, he doesn’t know if he can spend the rest of his life controlling his na’vi counterpart, but I’m willing to bet he was past caring after about five minutes. And it’s little surprise at the end when it turns out he can permanently become a na’vi, thus removing any gravity from his decision to help the them. No loss, no tragedy, no emotional weight.
What they should have done, is made it really clear that by helping the na’vi, Jake was definitely going to have to remain crippled, forever. Then not allowed him to permanently transfer over to his na’vi body at the end. Then had the evil humans abandon him on Pandora, with only his wheelchair and a flashlight. Then included an extra 20 minutes of excruciating footage where he attempts to live on the alien world without the use of his legs. One particularly haunting scene would involve Jake’s beloved Neytiri helping him to do a shit up a river. It would be beautiful.
2. Don’t make it for idiots.
A lot of people like to make themselves sound clever by harping on about Avatar being a massive rip-off of Dances With Wolves, or FernGully. They’re not wrong, either. Except it’s also a massive rip-off of Princess Mononoke – a film that, while heavily featuring the ‘man versus nature’ theme, had the decency to avoid making any of its characters into obvious villains. There is no right or wrong – just two groups with different, conflicting viewpoints.
Avatar, on the other hand, dumbs things down by making it pretty clear that the humans are the baddies, and the na’vi are all totally great. This wouldn’t have been difficult to fix, either. Just change it so that the humans’ reason for seeking out the ‘unobtanium’ (for fuck’s sake) was actually a necessity, rather than greed. Suddenly, things get a lot more interesting. Better yet, approach the problem from both angles – make the na’vi less likeable by having one of them savagely bumrape one of those massive alien horses. EASY.
3. Make it a video game.
As in, one that isn’t shit, like the actual Avatar game was.
One of the most irritating things about Avatar is that the real star of the show, more so than any of the actual characters, is the world of Pandora itself. The creatures, landscapes and plant-life all combine to make a world that is begging to be explored. Except you can’t explore it, because it’s a fucking film, and films need to be paced in a certain way in order to hold the audience’s interest.
Games, on the other hand, can let people do stuff in their own time. This makes them great tools for exploring fictional environments, which is exactly what Avatar (the movie) seems to want you to do. Brilliantly, the Avatar game missed the mark entirely by placing you in a massive forest, then only allowing you to proceed down one specific route through it. If, however, they’d made it a free-form game where the joy is simply learning to deal with the environment and get around without dying, a la the incredible Far Cry 2, it probably would’ve kicked the shit out of the actual Avatar game and the film. It could even have a bit where you link your hair with a sexy na’vi lady, while your human form withers and grows a massive beard in a futuristic shed 50 miles away. Imagine!
That’s pretty much all we can think of. Hey, does anyone have $500,000,000 we can borrow?
Sean can usually be found on http://darkzero.co.uk/ where he does an excellent podcast with our very own Andi Hamilton, who is just as prolific there as he is here. You can also find Sean on twitter at http://twitter.com/MrMelanin. Go say Hi!