Monday, January 18, 2010

AVATAR'S Grace Augustine

Here's a link to Amy Julia Becker's blog entry on the transformation of AVATAR's Dr. Grace Augustine. It's a good piece. Amy was reaching out asking for reaction so I set about to comment in the blo's com box, but I couldn't help resist a little elementary instruction about myth to the previous comments. James Campbell and Christopher Vogler write well about myth... oh, yes, almost forget -- there's J.R.R. Tolkein.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

AVATAR: Regardless of the politics, the moral premise is true.

Director/Writer: James Cameron

There have been numerous articles about AVATAR's political bent.

I'm politically conservative, and the bias in AVATAR was more than obvious. The movie was filled with political over generalizations that would make me shutter as a storyteller.  But, the movie is true. No, I don't think it was true politically, but it was true morally. And it is the moral truth of a story that is at the fundamental heart of connecting with audiences. I loved AVATAR for that reason..well, okay, I'm also a sci fi buff and the special effects were wonderfully convincing. Loved those transparent computer screens and pads.

But, regardless of whether or not you embrace Cameron's political bias, AVATAR is true at the level of the moral premise, which can be expressed like this:
Greed, abuse and disrespect for life and creation
leads to dread and destruction; 
but generosity, kindness and respect for life 
leads to hope and progress. 

To the extent that European settlers came to North America and "conquered" the land out of greed, abuse and disrespect for life, they could expect some dread and destruction as a result. And to the extent that the Indians were greedy, abusive, and disrespected the life of the new comers, they, in turn, could likewise expect some some dread and destruction.  But to the extent that either side respected the other, progress and hope would be the result and there are numerous stories on both sides that indicate such.

The same can be said of both sides in the various wars we've been part of of as a country, as well as the current Mid-East conflicts. Both liberals and conservatives are, at times, guilty of greed and abuse by disrespecting the other side and refusing to seek truth together, and both liberal and conservatives are, at times, seeking truth in a respectful and cooperative venture with wonderful progress benefiting all of mankind as the result. But the moral premise of AVATAR is true, regardless, in all of our lives -- it's a natural law of the universe.


I took "liberal" notes during my first exposure to the film, and I could write a lot about it if I had the time. But for now let me point out Jake's Moment of Grace... that moment 1/2 way thorugh the movie where the protagonist makes a major shift in thinking about whether to accept or reject the truth of the moral premise. By my stopwatch the story portion of the movie is 2 hours 34 minutes long. That means, if Cameron followed a natural story plan, the main character must come to some realization that shifts his motivation at about 1 hour 17 minutes.

According to my notes, in the minutes leading up to that point, Jake is led to and chooses a dragon as his own. And with Neytiri he has a wonderful time riding the skies of Pandora as he literally makes connection with what is true about Pandora. It's a mind opening experience for him. And then he's back in his real world, and one of the first things he says, in a daze is: "Theirs in the true world. In here is the dream." My notes claim that comment comes at 1 hour 17 minutes.

From that moment on Jake begins to see Pandora and the Na'vi differently.

Ah, I could go on. The movie is expertly structured. Jake's outward goal is to do something that allows him to have his legs back, and thus the Avatar gives him that freedom and joy of being whole again. Right after Jake's MOG, just described, the evil Colonel Quaritch pays him a visit, and perhaps sensing Jake's recent embrace of the Na'vi way of looking at things, the Colonel offers him his real legs back. But there's another way for Jake to realize his goal, as the movie reveals.

My suggestion is to look past the political slant of the movie and enjoy it's true moral premise. It's a great ride, and further reinforces my contention that the best movies are longer than 2 hours. Pam and I both thought the time just flew by.