WHEN: October 9, 2014, 8:16 pm. (Week 41, October 5-11.)
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: Tired, but caffeinated.
MAGIC AND SCIENCE ON PANDORA:
Pandora is a magical place, where the Na’vi, the animals, and the planet itself are connected through a deep spiritual bond. Oh, wait scrap that. According to Dr. Augustine, Pandora is a scientifically fascinating place where the Na’vi, the animals, and the planet itself are linked through a biological function.
Blinkity, blinkity, science!
Avatar actually leans pretty heavily on the idea that all that seems spiritual on Pandora is actually perfectly explainable; it allows the film to use conventions of spirituality and mysticism without feeling hokey.
And let’s face it, this is in serious danger of feeling hokey.
But does it make sense? Really? It seems to at first. The roots of the trees are connected to each other in a massive neural net, and the higher animals can tap into it using the nerve bundles on their heads. The Na’vi have created a sort of religion based on Pandora’s intelligence and have named their deity Eywa. That’s cool. There’s no problem with that. But what about these little buggers?
Little critter, big problem.
SEEDS OF DOUBT:
Neytiri calls them the seeds of the sacred tree. Presumably the sacred tree in question is the Tree of Souls (it’s hard to say exactly, there being so many goddamn trees) which seems to be the central hub of Pandora’s intelligence. Anyhow, the little jellyfish thing floops its way down near Jake, which Neytiri takes as a sign from Eywa that she should spare his life. The intelligence of the floopy jelly-seed seems to be confirmed when they swarm Jake later that evening.
One hopes they are hypoallergenic.
At this point in the story, I guess we’re supposed to forget that Pandora’s neural network, as explained by the movie’s science experts, is an electro-chemical link between the roots of trees. Ain’t no roots touching those sacred seeds. So how do they know that Jake is such hot shit? Does Eywa have Wi-Fi?
“Psst, the password is Th4n4t0rR0kz69.”
I find this suspicious. It is not, however, entirely damning. It is conceivable that the seeds have enough intelligence to operate, for short periods of time, without being connected to the trees. Maybe Eywa sensed Jake strutting around, and told a tree near him to drop a floop-nut down to meet him. Seems iffy, but it’s certainly conceivable. But there’s still a bigger problem that we have to deal with.
EYWA EX MACHINA:
The Na’vi are fighting the evil human helicopter fleet. All seems lost, as the good-guy forces lose hero after hero. But who should come to the rescue but Eywa! Hordes of animals from all over the planet arrive and fuck shit up. Hooray! “Eywa has heard you!” Neytiri joyfully shouts. Alright, makes sense that Eywa would have heard Jake’s prayer. He linked his USB hair right into one of her tree-tendrils and talked right to her. Seems legit.
Are you there, Eywa? It’s me, Jake.
But, even though it makes sense for the message to have gotten from Jake to Eywa, does it make sense for the message to have gotten from Eywa to all those animals? In plants it seems that the connection can be made just from one tendril bumping into another, but with higher forms of life the linkage has been portrayed as somewhat more complex. Well, not that complex. Really they just have to stick their phallic hair connector cords into each other.
Aw yeah, sweet sweet hair connectin’ goodness…
The connection isn’t something that happens constantly, and we only see the Na’vi do it for some specific purpose (making love, talking to dead people, riding horses). So, if for higher life forms, the connection is deliberately established, and there is no constant connection with the world-brain that is Eywa, how did that vast consciousness get in touch with the animals to tell them to go fuck shit up?
Smash ‘em up, you fucking animal!
Sadly, we have very little information on how the fauna of Pandora use their brain-tendrils in the wild. We mostly just see them getting forcibly mind-controlled by the Na’vi for the latter’s personal gain. But unless Eywa shot a massive number of tendrils out of the underbrush and forcibly rammed them into each and every banshee, thanator, and hammerhead rhino, thereby giving them their marching orders, I cannot really see how such massive numbers of beasties could have gotten the message at the same time.
I mean, that’s quite a few dragon-birds, all things considered.
But, fuck, even this “multitude of brain-rape tentacles rising from the earth” scenario can’t explain the coordinated attack patterns that the animals display. There’s no way Eywa could have predicted the way the entire battle would unfold before she even roused the animal horde. I’m stumped.
A PROBLEM UNSOLVED:
I guess we’ll never know. There is no explanation for the jellyfish seeds; they are just a mysterious manifestation of Eywa’s power. The film just scoots over the hows of the animal uprising; we can only assume that Eywa just magically touched their brains and sent them marching into battle. And that’s okay. We just have to acknowledge that Ewya’s powers aren’t scientifically explained within the course of the movie. Pandora is not a world of science fiction, it is a realm of fantasy, of magic. And that’s alright. It just means that I can now say the following without any qualms: Avatar is some hokey-ass shit.