OBJECTIVE: Watch Avatar once per every week of 2014.

WHEN: March 15, 2014, 7:21 pm. (Week 11, Jan 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: Feeling a little under the weather.

Jake Sully, quadriplegic ex-marine, is unexpectedly thrust onto the alien world of Pandora after his brother Tom’s tragic death in a mugging gone wrong. This is the basic exposition of James Cameron’s
Avatar, but is it all that it appears? Insidious (and boringly named) mining corporation Resources Development Administration or RDA, has little to lose and much to gain by replacing scientist Tom with combat hardened ex-marine Jake. So, is it ridiculous to suspect that the brainier brother may have been the victim of a sneaky corporate plot?


As opposed to a slapped together Cameron plot!

Let’s take a look at the evidence, shall we?

hen you look at it, the whole situation is overflowing with odd circumstances that RDA benefits from. The dead scientist just happens to have a twin brother, allowing him to use the hand-me-down avatar. That brother has a strong military background perfectly suited to assist RDA’s para-military security wing. This ex-marine has an injured spine that he can’t afford to fix (but which the company can, if he does what they say). And to put the cherry on top, this perfect candidate arrives on planet just as the mining equipment is in need of someone to infiltrate the hostiles’ camp. Holy shit, guys, RDA is the luckiest company in the world! Hell, Parker Selfridge (AKA corporate golf-douche) even mentions how lucky they are to have nabbed Jake.


You might say Jake was “a hole-in-one.”
(A bullet hole in one brother perhaps?)

Within the first minute of the film, Tom Sully’s death is already looking pretty suspicious. Jake and two imposing businessmen are standing over Tom’s body in the crematorium. As Tommy’s ashes return to ashes, the suits spring on Jake with their job offer.


Jeez, at least they have the tact not to ask him for a résumé.

In what has presumably only been a few days since Tom’s entirely unexpected death, RDA has been pretty busy. They’ve learned of the death, made the connection that Tom’s brother might work as a replacement, gone through the proper channels to get approval to hire him, done any background checks they intend on doing, and dispatched these two assholes to engage in an entirely inappropriate graveside recruitment operation. It could be just me, but doesn’t that seem like an awful lot for a corporation bogged down in bureaucratic red tape to accomplish in under a week? Sure, it’s possible, but it would simplify things if there was a planned hit on Jake’s brother. Then everything is already in place for these two cremation-crashers to saunter up and offer Jake the job. 

It’s always bothered me how little preparation Jake has for his position on Dr. Augustine’s science team. He doesn’t know the planet. He doesn’t know the language. He doesn’t even know the basics of the avatar-linking process. The film implies that he didn’t have time to learn any of these things. He was, after all, just plucked up off the street and shoved into a rocket ship to Pandora. But what is entirely ignored is the fact that this is a six-year trip. By all accounts, Jake should be able to beef up on his Na’vi and learn all those other useful skills on the road. All he has to do is wait a year or two before jumping into the freezing tube.


Welcome to Cargo Ship U.

If, however, the covert reason for Jake being sent to Pandora is a desire to utilize his military skills, keeping him in the dark during his voyage begins to make sense. If he spends time learning about the Na’vi people, he’s less likely to want to go all scorched earth on their asses.  

I’ve previously noted that Avatar has some serious time delay issues, namely, Sigourney Weaver’s Dr. Augustine seems to be surprised that Jake has replaced Tommy on her science team, despite the switch having been made six years earlier. But what if this isn’t sloppy writing, but a key part of a conspiracy? If Jake has been specifically chosen as a military infiltrator on Augustine’s team, it would make perfect sense not to let her know that he’s coming until he shows up at the front door. She is, after all, pretty quick on the draw. Immediately after she realizes Jake is working for the military branch of the company, she moves her whole operation into the mountains. Imagine what she might have done with six years to plan.


“I’m sorry, someone accidentally broke your avatar’s legs with a baseball bat. Oops.

Colonel Quaritch, head of mining security operations on Pandora, is awfully excited when Jake shows up. Perhaps too excited? When he proposes that Jake start making reports on the Na’vi directly to the para-military division of the company, he seems to have things pretty well figured out:


“The avatar program is a bad joke, a bunch of limp-dick science majors.
However, it does present an opportunity both timely and unique…
A recon gyrene in an avatar body, that’s a potent mix. Give me the goosebumps.
Such a marine could provide the intel I need right on the ground.
Right in the hostiles’ camp.”

In the context of a potential murder plot, the above quote seems a bit eerie. I could easily see our scar-faced militant using this same speech while proposing Tom’s theoretical assassination. Just add “all we have to do is kill Tom” to the end. Conclusive? No. Creepy? Well, yeah. Anytime someone describes a situation arising from the shooting of an employee as a timely opportunity, there’s reason to raise an eyebrow.

So, did the mining corporation send poor Tom Sully to sleep with the fishes to get their mitts on Jake? They’ve certainly got plenty of motive, and as a gigantic galactic corporation, I’m sure they had the means. It also covers up a couple of those areas where Avatar‘s plot gets thin. Yet all this still just adds up to a big maybe. It totally could have happened, but despite having brought it up, I have my doubts for one big reason: Avatar is not a subtle film.


Not pictured: subtlety.

If James Cameron had intended for RDA to be responsible for Tommy’s death, he would have ham-fistedly shoved it in our faces. This is a film where every plot point is crammed down our craws three or four times. Cameron seems to assume that the audience is so busy stuffing their mouths with popcorn that any given plot point is likely to go in one ear and out the other. Ah well, for me the film is improved by this little conspiracy theory, so I’m just going to work under the assumption that that’s how it went down.