WHEN: January 12, 2014, 4:50 pm. (Week 3, Jan 12-18.)
WHERE: In my apartment in Portland, ME.
FORMAT: DVD on a 19” AOC LED computer monitor/Digital Download on an iPhone 3.
PHYSICAL AND MENTAL STATE: Stuffed from a large dinner.
IT’S A (LITERAL) JUNGLE OUT THERE:
The Avatar program is full of dangers, or so we are told. It would make sense; you’re linking your neural processes to a giant blue Franken-baby. Yet, despite all the warnings about the process doled out by Dr. Augustine and team, we never see any consequences. What’s with that?
Within the first minute of his life in a Na’vi body, Jake is already ignoring safety advice. The scientists are trying to make sure that the link has been successful. This would seem to be a pretty important part of the process. If the link to your brain isn’t working correctly, that’s a big damn problem. Your legs you can live without; your brain, not so much. So when the lab workers tell Jake to come back, it would seem pretty important that he do so! But no, instead he just frolics around like a jackass.
“Fuck caution! I’m gonna jog in a garden!”
Even worse, when Dr. Augustine runs into him a few minutes later, she just shrugs and lets him go on with his day. Jake is never sent back to complete his checkup/calibration. I guess it wasn’t that important after all.
Then there’s the matter of the freaky Na’vi hair dongle. When Augustine catches Jake fiddling with his in the bunk house, she warns: “Don’t play with that, you’ll go blind.” Now, it’s possible that this is just a dumb masturbation joke, but there’s no way for Jake to know that. He still has a bundle of exposed nerves poking out of his braid. In an alien body, on an alien world, you might think he would be careful. For all he knows, he could very well go blind.
“Big bundle of nerves that connects to my brain? Probably no big deal.”
So what does Jake do? He sticks it into some freaky horse. Obviously.
“Weird-ass horse? I’ll stick my hair-dick in it!”
So, does he go blind? Does he go horse-shit crazy? Nope. He’s fine. No worries. Hell, he then goes on to mash that whosy-what into every damn thing he comes across: dragons, trees, probably Neytiri. Anything bad ever come of it? Nope.
When the science team moves to the mobile base in the mountains, Augustine makes an offhand remark about how some of the links are “glitchy.” Holy shit! Again, this is plugged into your tender pink brain! What the hell does “glitchy” mean?
“There’s a 20% chance you’ll forget everyone you ever loved. No biggie.”
Well, never mind, the glitchiness is never mentioned again, so it must be fine.
Later, much is made of the danger of shutting down the links prematurely. “You can’t interrupt a link in progress. It’s very dangerous!” Norm says. Yet, after a handful of these dangerous shutdowns, we see no ill effects. So I guess it wasn’t all that dangerous. What was supposed to happen? Were their brains in danger of being garbled? Did they get migraines later? Was the danger that their avatars might fall down or something? Whatever it was, that bullet seems to have been dodged.
The danger is… narcolepsy?
Dammit. Are all the scientists’ warnings empty threats? Sure seems like it. Goodbye credibility.
WHY IT’S HAPPENING:
There are large chunks of the film consisting mostly of scientists tweaking the settings on avatars. Much of this is essential exposition, so it can’t be cut out. But if the audience has to wait almost an hour before they get any action or adventure, they’re not going to be all that happy.
“What’s with all this boring shit?”
So, how do you liven up the sciencey bits? Well, adding a hint of danger isn’t a bad idea. It raises the stakes, and adds some suspense.
WHY IT’S IRRITATING:
The problem is that this technique loses its bite when it doesn’t have a payoff. If you say, “The linking process is dangerous,” but no one gets fucked up, the audience is going to be less inclined to believe you next time you make a threat. And as the number of unfulfilled warnings piles up, the audience’s tension sags, and their patience wears thin.
By the end of the film, it feels like there is no reason to listen to the dialogue. The movie has set up so many empty hazards that the only thing I can trust is what I actually see happening. That’s why I don’t give a shit when Neytiri warns Jake that Eywa doesn’t take sides. Maybe she does take sides. I don’t know. Nothing anyone says means anything.
“Oh, what was that? Eywa took a side? Ho-hum. Not surprising.”
Don’t run! Don’t shut down your avatar incorrectly! Don’t shove your hair-dick into a wonky horse! Whatevs. No biggie. Walk it off.
This movie sucks.
Unless Avatar 2 shows Jake dealing with brain damage and hair-dick chlamydia. Then I would fully endorse the whole franchise.