Don’t get me wrong…I like James Cameron’s Avatar. I mean, I didn’t get depressed when I found out Pandora wasn’t a real place. Nor do I think it’s the Best Movie of All Time…heck, it’s not even in my Top Ten, or even my favorite Cameron flick (that honor goes to Aliens…with Terminators 1 & 2 comfortably back leading the pack). But it’s a mostly decent film; from a technical standpoint, it’s amazing, what with all the gorgeous CGI, flying dragons, deadly jungles, floating mountains, etc.
One thing, though, has always bugged the crap out of me, a great big gaping hole in the plot that you could run a Pandoran rhinobeast through. Something I just cannot get past. WARNING: If you like Avatar the way it is, don’t read any further. Seriously. There are things you can’t un-see once seen, can’t un-know once known.
OK, given that you are Giovanni Ribisi, acting for a ruthless corporation, eager to mine the magic rocks (call it ‘unobtainium’ if you must…it’s still just ‘magic rocks’) no matter what, since you came all the way from Earth at a significant cost. Standing in your way is a low-tech native population who are sitting on top of the magic rocks in their magic tree (I’m not being perjorative…for all intents and purposes, just call the “science-we-don’t-yet-understand” by its old name, “magic”). You have access to Stephen Lang’s strong military force…but they’re handicapped because their high-tech gizmos tend to get a bit wonky around the magic rocks. I guess the best way to get what you want is a frontal assault, using the doctor Sigourney Weaver and your (useless) spy Sam Worthington among the natives as a distraction, trusting in superior (you believe, anyway) military might to win the day, right?
WRONG. You have spacecraft, idiot…you send one of those into the local system, find a good-sized rock (one about the size of a VW van oughta do it), and nudge it just the right way. It falls out of the sky WHAMMO! right on top of the magic tree. The resulting kinetic blast blows up a huge chunk of the surrounding landscape. Benefits:
- No tech required. Once you gave it the properly calculated push out in space, it’s just a falling boulder. No magic-rock wonky-ness to worry about.
- No troops in harm’s way. Just the spacecraft crew on a routine mission, nothing difficult like crossing light-years of open space. Non-nuclear too…miners move right in, no fallout to protect against.
- The tree is GONE. Plus all the native opposing force. Plus several miles of jungle and very dangerous wildlife (think: instant landing field). Oh, and you managed to get a good start on your magic rock mining operation, too…it’s a big hole.
- Plausible deniability. Swear the spacecraft crew to secrecy and hey, it was an act of God. Rocks fall out of the sky all the time, look at the Moon. Shrug your shoulders, roll up your sleeves, and get to work digging.
See what I mean? Why wouldn’t Giovanni do it this way? It’s literally all pros, zero cons…you were gonna kill the blue folks anyway. All the Marines have to do is go in, take out any survivors (probability: slim), and make sure there aren’t any big sinkholes in the new Rhode-Island-sized crater. Easy peezy, lemon squeezy.
I never could get past that huge plot hole. But I like all the set pieces of Avatar: big blue people; jacking into dragons & flying around floating mountains; a living, thinking ecosystem, digitally connected; even the part where Marines in cool tech fight it out with the natives. I could even forgive the impossible (under current theory) divergent evolution, with four-limbed bipeds and horse-things existing alongside six-limbed jungle beasts and dragons. But I couldn’t forgive missing out on the drop-a-rock solution; just seemed too obvious. So how to reconcile all this?
Simple…drop the rock!
Follow me on this one:
- Giovanni & Stephen tell Sigourney & Sam to convince the natives to leave, while setting up the whole drop-a-rock plan.
- Sigourney finds out & runs to tell Sam, only to be mortally wounded in the process.
- Sam uploads her to the magic tree, with the rock already on its deadly path out in space.
- Pandora, the self-aware world, ‘hears’ Sigourney and does something to stop the rock. Doesn’t matter what…sends up bio-laser blast, moves mountain overhead, generates bio-forcefield…since the tree/Pandora is “magic” (i.e. Clarke’s “sufficiently advanced technology”), it can do whatever is necessary plot-wise to stop the rock from destroying everything.
- Stephen & Giovanni get to chew up the scenery blaming each other…and then go with Plan B, aka ‘Send in the Marines’.
- Sam organizes the natives (and Pandora sends in the beasties)…battle ensues, just nearer the human base than right outside the magic tree.
- Blue folks still win…all is well with Pandora (not so much for the Marines).
This should preserve all the bits of the movie worth keeping, including the Big Battle between Pandorans & Terrans. Maybe Sam even shoots Giovanni for war crimes when they take the base over. Maybe it’s just me (probably just me…note that James Cameron can fund going to the very bottom of the whole ocean with his equivalent of the change found in the couch cushions, after Avatar & Titanic) but I feel better having ‘fixed’ the plot now.