The Top 10 Nagging Avatar Questions of the Decade

Before we lock ourselves into a coffin-like pod and emerge, moments later, in the 10-foot-tall body of a blue-skinned contrarian ready to swat away a swarm of bioluminescent helicopter bugs because their incessant roto-fluttering is just too damn magical, let's get this out of the way: We enjoyed Avatar. Greatly. It restored the childlike wonder of the moviegoing experience, we smelled colors and tasted music for hours afterward, etc yada. But this is not to say that upon emerging from our three-hour, $17 ride in our AvaTours host-body we were left two-hundred percent satisfied with everything we'd just experienced. We had questions. Questions that nagged at us a little, even as we spent the rest of that dizzying afternoon trying to plug the business end of our new genitalbraid into an outstretched branch on the Grove Christmas tree, yearning for soul-melding union with whispering, holiday-season moviegoers from eons past. After the jump, we explore some of the issues that will gnaw at our brains until our next viewing of The Titanic Game-Changer That Changed The Game Forever. [WARNING: SPOILERS ABOUND.]

1. Why hasn't future wheelchair technology advanced at all from our present-day wheelchair capabilities?

Our hero, paraplegic Marine Jake Sully, spends all his non-Na'vi-romping time rolling around in a wheelchair no more sophisticated than one you could pick up at your local Sav-On pharmacy today. No heavy-duty tank treads, mag-lev hovering, not even a simple electric motor. Is Sully just too macho to avail himself of a less self-powered conveyance? Is the future military too cheap (see below) to provide him with something motorized? The most advanced thing about Sully's chair is its fashion-forward yellow paint job.

Similarly unadvanced aspects of the Avatar future: Persistence of meathead tribal tattoos, cliched Wizard of Oz references, clunky wheels used to scroll hologram maps that otherwise seem to be manipulated through in-the-air gestures.

2. Future military benefits are so bad that a soldier paralyzed in the line of duty can't afford an operation that could potentially put him back on the battlefield?

We're reminded of that perfect line from Thank You For Smoking, where Rob Lowe's superagent character explains how the power of exposition can effortlessly erase any plausibility problem: "It's an easy fix. One line of dialogue. 'Thank God we invented the... you know, whatever device.'" In Avatar, the Whatever Device is the military's baffling unwillingness to pay for spinal restoration surgery, which conveniently allows Quaritch to hold hostage the possibility of walking again (with his human legs) unless Jake plays ball in the Na'vi's potential destruction. In the future, your co-payment is genocide.

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  • ENTROPYpro says:

    We've been using guns since the mid 16th century and we'll continue using them in the distant future. They are a lot more effective and cheaper than say a nuclear powered plasma weapon that can cause a lot more damage than intended.
    "Also, when JakeSully's Avatar is in it's "womb" it had short hair...then when alive it was waist length!" You probably didn't notice the 'queue' or ponytail when he was in the womb because it was floating under him.
    Jake Sully's friend, I presume you mean Norm, survived but his Avatar died from gunfire. You must have mistook him for another Avatar. Remember the two avatars playing basketball? Yeah I wish that they fleshed them out more into the narrative.

  • Mary L says:

    I believe the floating mountains were a result of the fact that the planet they were on was only a moon around a gas giant planet. They mentioned that the floating mountains were at the point where the gravity of the moon was defeated by the gravity of the gas giant, which caused the features under the influence of the area between the two conflicting gravities to fall "toward" the gas giant will still held in place by the moon, thusly floating in mid-air.

  • joebanks says:

    Actually, unobtanium is the real-life name for a hypothetical product which does exactly what the real unobtanium in the fictional movie is supposedly able to do. So it's really the correct name.

  • joebanks says:

    "Why, Jim? I think if having 6 legs was an actual advantange then we would see such things in the world today"
    But, you know that it's not the same planet as ours, right? I mean, if life evolved on another planet, it would evolve based on the planet it was on (actually, in point of fact, the planet and the lifeforms would evolve together). And, moreover, we don't know how long life has been evolving on that planet, so the fact that the animals have a more recent common ancestor than ours is plausible enough.

  • A says:

    "Pandora's wildlife was designed to be internally consistent"
    Right, except for that whole breasts thing. Cameron specifically defined the Na'vi as non-mammalian and then gave 'em breasts anyway. Because obviously logic must bow to the power of the boobies.

  • Sam says:

    I think the point being questioned was "Where did the water come from?" - as there was no water-source on the floating islands.

  • Nathan says:

    Could be that the floating rocks are also rained on. Plus, clouds hanging between the rocks could condense right onto the top of the rocks.
    I did find the waterfalls to be quite excessive, but then again, in the 24 hours after rainfall, known waterfall locations can go from no flow to a lot of flow. 😛
    to Mary L.: the rocks floated mainly due to the Meissner Effect and the fact they contained a lot of Unobtainium. It's the same effect that let Selfridge's expensive toy rock float around; here it ripped giant chunks of mountain out of the ground and keeps them in the skies, lifting up as high up as gravity will let em.

  • Robert says:

    It's not just the lack or improbability of the water source its why does the water fall and mountains are suspended???

  • Heath says:

    A sincerely odd thing that has bothered me since TRULY A GREAT QUESTION;
    How come when Na'vi, mainly as a whole, know that these "Avatars" are "DREAM WALKERS" and not actually part of a Na'vi tribe. For example, at one point the "psychic queen" says the "Sky people" cannot learn our ways, and says this to JakeSully's Avatar, as if she knew HE was a "DREAM WALKER" inside the avatar and not actually a Na'vi. BUT when JakeSully inherently "dies" out of the avatar because the (big red button) was pushed, the entire Na'vi tribe sees this and GASPS, saying, "see! it was a fake! it was a demon!" As if they didn't know that before...
    Did they really know these fake Na'vi look-alike Avatar's were really being controlled by the "sky people" ?
    That my friends, is a question that continues to bug me.
    I'll be back to this page to see if anyone has an answer.

    • Brian says:

      The Human Avatars give away the fact they are not "Na'vi" by there underlying core "ethos" actions and there hands have 5 fingers instead of 4 ,
      The fantasy na'vi people are also "aware" due to Graces school about how a human driver "sleeps in a linking box and controls a Na'vi like body , hence the name Dream-Walker
      like many things in Avatar dreamwalker also has a deeper symbolic spiritual meaning
      reflecting on aspects of root "transformation' in Jakes life
      The Psychic Quean ,, or more correctly said clan mother shaman Mo'at was told a human Avatar was brought into the village by her daughter, jake was is a stranger there why would she not know, it does not take empathy to see that , the na'vi in the films story have been interacting with human Avatars for quite some time and had a human school in there village no one in the Na'vi village was not aware the human Avatars were controlled by humans they where aware from past interaction and questions asked
      and where aware the Avatar body's where controlled by human hosts.

  • Achelea says:

    Familiarity will turn a blind eye to the obvious. Before he was taught their ways, they knew of the 'dream walkers' but had never seen them, or rarely seen them. But being in their village for 3 months, he became nothing special to them. Just some one who didn't know anything, has a goofy face, and extra fingers and toes.
    You notice earlier in the movie, that they had the Avatars lay down on beds and locked the gate before they 'logged' out of the bodies. My guess is so they could pull their mind from the avatar comfortably. When they hit the big red button, it was a shock to them, Kinda like walking into broad daylight from a dark hole, or going into a dark room after being in a bright one.
    As for why they gasped when he 'died'. When they were in the tanks, the bodies were moving, and were alive. I think that the Avatar body goes into a slumber when the person withdraws, essentially a coma. So when he was standing there trying to talk, he just fainted. We would do the same if a speaker suddenly fell over.
    About the Mechs: The hands make more sense than claws would I'm guessing they would have a computer to keep the arms from colliding with the cab. But it would take less training to teach some one to use the hands rather than claws or clamps. Besides, with the company bankrolling it, I guess they could afford what ever they wanted. As for the giant knifes, it seems goofy, but if you took a mech against a Mech, you'd want the 'pilot' to have familiarity to work from, and the knife is easy to teach with. Besides, a blade as big as that, it would make combat against vehicles like trucks and tanks easy, as a knife doesn't need to be reloaded.
    On his spine: Surgery is expensive. Even now days the smallest surgery is almost prohibitively expensive. So I couldn't imagine the cost of rebuilding a spine. They would look at the cost effectiveness of it. Is 1 PFC worth several million just so he can walk again? I could see a commanding officer, because experience is irreplaceable.
    Wheelchair: Jake didn't seem like the the type to be extravagant. Sure, they might have hover chairs, but why bother with something overly complex that he might not have the knowledge to fix? A wheel chair is simple, light weight, and cheap. If it ain't broke, why fix it?
    The thing that got me wondering was what is the atmosphere on the planet like? ammonia? neon? It obviously wasn't cold there. Everyone was in T-shirt and shorts.

  • Heath says:

    Hey Achela, i appreciate that, and it did some help to me acknowledging what it could be. Brought some peace at mind some may say to a dawn-ting question that is very concerning to them. It make good sense, but not complete sense.
    As for the people being dreamwalkers, in avatar's, to the na'vi they knew that they werent of the same species, im positive of that. They knew that they were using engineered bodies to avatar the na'vi. So in that way, they had more fingers and slight differences that were apparent to the na'vi. In my question still, how come the na'vi would act like they didnt know someone was controlling the body aka "demon possessed" from the beginning because they acted like they forgot the avatars were being controlled by the sky people, when Jake Sully was "red buttoned" out of his avatar and the na'vi prince guy (forgot his name) like suddenly realized the truth, when from the beginning they already knew...

  • If Harvard scammer Wheeler was in truth reallly Harvard Law material, the guy would presumably have invented a better hoax and wouldn't have gotten un masked.

  • Maybe if Harvard liar Wheeler was reallly Harvard Law material, he would've used a more intelligent hoax and wouldn't have got sussed.

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    Asking questions are truly nice thing if you are not understanding something completely, but this post offers pleasant understanding even.

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