Hollow Avatars

Avatar is a very pretty movie.

Overlooking the story, my issues are with the avatars themselves and the program surrounding them. A lot just didn’t make sense to me. Think back to the first Terminator movie, where we learn only items surrounded by living tissue can time travel. But in Terminator 2, the liquid-metal T1000 was able to time travel as well. If the T1000 can’t create complex chemicals (such as a bomb) or moving parts, how does it simulate skin and clothes? Either Kyle Reese is wrong in T1, or the hero T800 is wrong in T2, or both. In much the same vein, I had some problems with an otherwise decent movie.

Are the avatars brain-dead? The avatars appear to have physical brains, in order to control the bodies. But are the brains empty shells? Are they in a coma when not occupied? This is not altogether different from a question regarding full-body cloning: is your clone brain-dead? Should a life (and a clone is living) be created for the purpose of harvesting parts? Is a clone “better” than an animal or pet? Does it have “human rights”?

And speaking of occupied, what mechanisms are used to actually control the avatars? What kind of hardware, presumably in the brain? It’s convenient that the electromagnetic flux that prevents the human’s missiles from being guided, do not interfere with the avatar remote control. What is the nature of the link? Once established, there appears to be no time lag between thinking an action and performing it. Is the consciousness transferred (no), and how does one overcome dual sensations between the “real” body and the avatar’s?

Why do the avatars have five fingers? (The Na’vi have four fingers.) A fine feat of melding human and Na’vi DNA allowed every other physical aspect to be identical except the hands. Since humans want to blend into Na’vi society and gain trust, there is no reason for having five-fingered hands. The only reason I can determine is it’s a convenience for us, the audience. It was a very jarring break from suspending my disbelief. This aside from the compatibility of human and Na’vi DNA, interbreeding (if Neytiri and Jake have children), etc.

Pandora’s biosphere is compatible with human DNA, allowing Dr. Augustine and Jake to transfer their consciousnesses to their avatar bodies? It was obvious from Dr. Augustine’s remark the biosphere is a neural network, how Jake would get to walk again.

The RDA corporate stooge (Selfridge) was a total copy of Carter Burke from Aliens. I almost prefer seeing Paul Reiser reprise the role if that was the intent.

The exoskeletons come with larger-than-life knives? Really? Seriously?

It’s too bad not to see the Na’vi use human weapons. Our male Avatars have avatar-sized guns, but there are only two? Some kind of expositional refusal by the Na’vi would have been nice.

That’s enough to think about, aside from the movie’s themes of corporatism, greed, terrorism, biodiversity, and other plot points that balance the movie toward Pandora’s indigenous life.