WHEN: January 5, 2014, 11:50 am. (Week 2, Jan 5-11.)
WHERE: In my apartment in Portland, ME.
FORMAT: Blu-ray on a Vizio 47″ LCD HDTV.
COMPANY: Cinemanaut Bill.
PHYSICAL AND MENTAL STATE: Would have preferred to have been watching something else.
A BIOLOGICAL ODDITY:
Hey, you know what really bugs me? The Na’vi only have four limbs. That might not seem so odd; four limbs is pretty standard for many aliens. Spock, Chewbacca, and E.T. all have two arms and two legs, so why should I give the Na’vi shit? Well, after taking a cursory glance at the other life forms on Pandora, they just don’t seem to fit in. The Na’vi have just four limbs, when it seems the standard is six.
Pictured: second-pair-of-arms envy.
THE LOCAL FAUNA:
To get an idea what I’m talking about here, lets take a look at who the Na’vi share their world with.
There is some kind of wonky thing that Dr. Augustine describes as a lemur. Each of its arms split around the elbow, resulting in four upper limbs.
I really hope some space marine has one of these guys mounted on his window like a suction-cup Garfield.
The hammerhead rhino has six legs as well; again, two sets are in front, but unlike the lemur, they appear to be separate all the way up to the shoulder.
“Ha ha, did you see the seventh leg on that thing?” – Some douche on Pandora.
The thanator (that big freaky flower-headed cat) has two pairs of front legs separated at the shoulder.
Also, it appears to have a beaver tail.
Perhaps for all the mud slapping it does as it builds its dams?
Who the fuck knows.
There are six legs on those jackal things as well.
Is that a Houndoom?
Yep, on the horses too.
I’m out of six-legged animal jokes!
Even duckface goat has two sets of front legs. Again, that’s six legs total.
You can’t see the legs here, but you can see it making the duckface.
Here’s duckface goat, dead (as it should be). Note the legs. The six dead legs.
Stay dead, duckface goat, please, please stay dead.
After staring at banshees for I don’t know how long, I can make neither heads nor tails of their bone structure.
Were all those wing struts once arms? Fingers? What? Eh.
So, summing up, we’ve got a planet where all of the ground-dwelling animals, except for the Na’vi, appear to have three sets of limbs.
AN EVOLUTIONARY MYSTERY:
So, from an evolutionary standpoint, did our Pandoran humanoids drop a pair of limbs at some point in their development? Do they descend from a completely separate branch of Pandora’s evolutionary tree? What’s going on here?
Right off the bat, I’m disinclined to believe that the Na’vi’s origins are too distant from the critters listed above, since they share one very specialized organ. Namely, that freaky bundle of brain connectors that they keep hidden away in their hair.
Ooh yeah, Jake, link to that horse.
Now I’m no Pandoran zoologist, but I’d assume that the development of a vastly complicated mental USB cable would have developed after… legs. I’m not saying it’s impossible, it just seems more plausible that somewhere along the line the Na’vi’s ancestors just lost those extra arms. But to what advantage? Did they keep getting in the way? Everyone else on Pandora seems to get by with six.
I’m sure I could go on all day thinking of possible reasons four limbs might provide evolutionary advantages. BUT I’M NOT GOING TO. Why? Because I have a sneaking suspicion that the Na’vi’s bodies are the way they are for reasons entirely unrelated to Pandoran evolution.
FROM A PRODUCTION STANDPOINT:
Pardon me for not delving into their potential evolutionary origins, but the fact that the Na’vi look exactly like humans with cat tails and noses is just too convenient. In all likelihood, it was an intentional design choice intended to make them more relatable to the audience:
Catface = Likable. Catface with wonky extra arms = WTF?
Any goddamn questions?
Furthermore, if the Na’vi had two limbs that humans do not, it would probably complicate the avatar training process. How does Jake adjust to having a whole new set of limbs? They’d have to devote a scene or two to talking about it, and as it stands, the film is already intolerably long.
Oh, also, if the Na’vi had four arms, they would kind of look exactly like the Hindu god Vishnu.
Would totally fit in on Pandora.
Alright, that’s all there is to that. I’m sure that one or more of those production-related reasons is why the Na’vi are missing limbs. Does that make me feel any better? NO. I’m going to be ticked off about this all year. Try and stop me.
[Note: After some cursory research, it would appear that yes, James Cameron did have Hinduism on his mind when he created Avatar. The reason for the missing arms, however, appears to have been a purely practical choice: “The decision was made that the actors wouldn’t be able to physically perform their characters effectively if they had extra arms, that the animators would have to step in and change the performance too much.”- James Cameron]