AVATAR: Movie Review

I wrote this particular review right after seeing the movie Avatar in the theater. Thought I’d post it here in my Movie Review section.

Ok, let me tell you what I liked about the movie first:

1. the visuals. Wow. Rarely have I seen such beauty depicted in a movie. The world that they created was absolutely gorgeous and I would love to live there. The floating mountains, the dragon riding, and the glow-in-the-dark forest were just a few of the breath-taking visuals throughout the movie that I highly enjoyed.

2. the courage and curiosity of the main character. I loved watching him “discover” the world and attack every challenge with absolute fearlessness.

3) the dragon-riding scenes. I would love to do that. It was about the coolest thing I have ever seen.

That does it for what I liked.

Let me tell you what I didn’t like about the movie:

1. The plot and the overall storyline

To be honest, it felt as if James Cameron came up with the idea for this fantastical world and drew it up and created a race of aliens to live on it and then went… “Hm… someone tack a story on there.” Enter a story that is basically Aliens meets Pocahontas. The blatant plagiarism was almost as offensive as the agenda (but I’ll talk about that in my next point). It was as if they truly believed nobody would notice that this plot has been used already in: Pocahontas, Dances with Wolves, Last of the Mohicans, Fern Gully, and Aliens.

Basic gist of the story:

A group of humans has gone to a planet called “Pandora” to mine an ore called “Unobtainium.” The planet is dangerous and filled with an indigenous race called the Navi, who are tall blue people who wear very little clothing, have tails and shoot bows and arrows. They worship their goddess, Eywa, who is a tree, and every living organism on the planet is connected through this elaborate root system that they compare to synapses in a human brain. They can connect with animals via the braids on the back of their heads and that is how they tame creatures so they can ride. The Navi don’t really like the humans being there because they feel as though the humans are unable or unwilling to learn what is “important.”

The humans have created these “avatars” which can be controlled by a human who is placed in a kind of “bed” and hooked up to all kinds of monitors and wires so he or she can completely control the avatar body. The Avatars look like the Navi and are used to try to create diplomatic relations with the Navi.

The main character, a retired Marine named Jake who got paralyzed from the waist down and has to ride around in a crummy, falling-apart wheelchair (but they have the technology to create avatar bodies and fly through space… for crying out loud!), goes to Pandora to control an Avatar that was actually created for his twin brother, a scientist who was killed by a mugger. They get the Marine to come take his brother’s place because the Avatars can only be used by the person they were created for, based on DNA. Anyway, he gets to know one of the Navi and they teach him how to be one of them. He is supposed to be working for this colonel guy, who starts out somewhat normal and just gets more and more psychotic as the movie goes on. However, through his “training” he falls in love with the Navi people and ends up fighting alongside them against the humans.

2) The agenda… which as I said before, was so in your face that it wasn’t even remotely subtle and which was so ridiculous that it actually made me laugh during parts that I think were supposed to be taken quite seriously

The movie was replete with lines such as:

“There is no green left on our planet.” (referring to Earth, let’s see, message: environmentalism?)

“We killed our Mother.” (again, referring to humans, message: environmentalism again)

“You are like a baby.” (the Navi girl says multiple times to Jake, message: humans are stupid)

“Eywa, I see her, she’s real!” (referring to the Navi’s goddess, message: promoting the idolism of nature)

“Let’s fight terror with terror.” (said by the main bad guy who is attacking the poor Navi people to get at an ore that their “Home Tree” is planted on top of, message: anti-war agenda)

“They’ve sent us a message… that they can take whatever they want. Well we will send them a message. That this… this is our land!” (Jake to the Navi people about the humans, message: all white people are racists agenda)

“This is why we’re here, because this little gray rock sells for twenty million a kilo.” (said by the head of the human mining operation, message: anti-consumerism/capitalist agenda)

 And those are just the ones I remember off the top of my head.

At the same time that I felt the agenda was so obvious that it was laughable, it was no laughing matter. I am sick of being told by Hollywood and the Media that all white people are racists, that the terrorists are our friends, that by being alive I am killing all nature on planet Earth, and that America is everything that is wrong with our world and that we owe the rest of the world an apology for being successful.

3. the bad guys all being very one-dimensional. The colonel does not have any motivation for being evil and wanting to kill these people, he just takes over and decides that he is going to blow things up. As the movie goes on, he becomes more and more unreasonable and evil, and there seems to be no real reason for it.

4. the sex scene towards the end. While no, it wasn’t your typical scene because it occurs between two Navi people, it left very little to the imagination.

I do not appreciate being slapped across the back of the head with the agenda of the writer. Especially when that agenda is offensive to everything I believe in and to everything that I am, not only as a Christian, but also as a human being. The agenda of Avatar was every bit as offensive as The Happening, (a conversation for another time) it was merely packaged in prettier wrapping paper that wasn’t quite as horrifying to watch.

~ jenelle

WRITING FANTASY

How did I get started writing fantasy fiction? It all began with a door:

It never seemed fair to me that so much could be imagined and yet unattainable. As a child, I had an over-active imagination. My favorite thing to do was to play “make-believe” with just about anyone who would deign to join me. The title of this simple-sounding game encompassed worlds of opportunities, because the parameters of the game were as limitless as our imaginations. The game often involved components such as: pretending to be someone else; pretending to live somewhere interesting and unique, such as a sailboat or in a jungle; or pretending to have the ability to travel to other worlds. In the mind of a child, a bed can become a houseboat, a lilac bush is easily turned into a horse, and a fallen branch from a willow tree can serve for several days as a palace, a forest, a jungle, or a pirate ship, depending on the mood of its occupants. However, it was the times that we spent in Narnia that I will remember the most fondly.

I have read extensively throughout my life. Mostly I read adventure stories about fantastical worlds in which bigger-than-life heroes battle dragons for their beautiful princesses. I attribute much of my deep love for the written word to my parents. My parents used to read books out loud to me every night before bed. It was through my mother’s voice that I played with Laura Ingalls Wilder, and through my father’s voice that I entered into Lewis’ fascinating world called Narnia. It was not long before Narnia became a central figure in my games of “make-believe.” The adventures to Narnia began on a fairly average summer’s day.

“We can get to Narnia, I know it!” My cousin, Gayle, insisted. Kim looked a little suspicious, but I didn’t doubt it for a second.

“How?” Wendy asked.

I don’t remember how the conversation began. We had all recently become acquainted with The Chronicles of Narnia, and we were bound to begin discussing the stories at some point. It was about time for a round of make-believe to begin. We had already gone wading in the creek, “accidentally on purpose” as my cousins are fond of saying, played capture the flag, and pretended to be orphans (the basement had quite nicely accommodated our visions of a creepy orphanage and its various methods of torturing the inhabitants: being made to sleep on hard wooden shelves, getting locked in the “dungeon” otherwise known as the root cellar, etc). Now we had moved on to a new idea, one that was even more intriguing than the “evil orphan keeper” game. We were all fascinated by the idea of getting into a different world through something as ordinary as a wardrobe, and we had agreed that we should try to get into Narnia ourselves. However, our only problem lay in the fact that we did not have a wardrobe

“Look, we don’t really need a wardrobe,” Gayle said convincingly, “all we really need is a door.”

“But a door to where?” Wendy asked.

“A door that doesn’t lead anywhere,” I piped in. My cousins all stared at me as though I had suggested we run over to the Himalayas and attempt to scale Everest. But then a light appeared in Kim’s eyes.

“I know what door we need!” She exclaimed triumphantly. Leading the way, Kim took us up to the loft and started tugging on her bunk bed. “Help me move this away from the wall,” she said.

Mystified, we all helped and eventually got the bunk bed a sufficient distance away from the wall. There it was: the door. It was little more than a board that covered a hole that led into the unused attic space, but it could have been covered in diamonds and rubies by the way we gazed at it.

“It’s perfect,” someone breathed reverently.

Solemnly we slid the board open and stepped through into a different world.

***

My adventures in the world of the imagination have been many. Those times are some of my favorite memories. Some might question my sanity as a child, some might wonder if so much time spent in imaginary worlds could possibly be quite healthy, and some might even wonder if my time could have been spent in better or more productive ways. Well, perhaps. But then again I believe that spending so much time in my games of “make-believe” made me a more independent, more creative person. Because of the constant exercising of my imagination I was hardly ever bored. When I could not have friends over I did not resort to watching television or playing video games, but rather I traveled to Narnia or Care-a-Lot or Middle Earth; and when none of those places appealed to my mood I would make up my own world and act out my own fairy tale. Many of my adventures caused me to spend time outdoors, exercising my body as well as my mind. The time I spent cultivating my imagination is what helps me write. When people ask me how I come up with ideas for my stories the answer is simple: I have been making up stories my whole life.

I sometimes think that writing is my way of making up for the fact that I never really did go to Narnia. By creating new stories, new worlds that I hope will fascinate other children like me, perhaps I feel that I can even out the score a little. Maybe there are other worlds, fairy mists that we cannot penetrate, it is more likely that such ideas simply spring from our human way of trying to explain heaven’s existence, but whether they exist or not, the imagination can make them real for a time at least. I suppose I never truly believed that I had journeyed through those mists into another land. I could never really banish the persistent illusion of the world around me. But in my imagination, tall buildings and reality were mere hurdles.

Was it wrong of me to spend so much time in the imaginary? Even now, as I set aside time to delve into the world of fiction, both reading it and writing it, I wonder if it is altogether healthy. Then I look towards my Creator and I realize that it was His imagination that dreamed up everything I see, everything I am. My imagination was created in the image of His and I should use it to glorify Him. He is the greatest author of all time, and though we perceive it to be non-fiction, perhaps it is merely fantasy after all. And why should this life not be fiction? The Bible often insists that the “real” world is the one that we cannot see, the one that is hidden from our view except through our imaginations. One day, perhaps, we will find the right door and gain a glimpse of what is to come, or perhaps that door can only be found at the very end of life when we step out of this world and into the next one.

I believe that a story is one of the essential parts of life. Every moment is a story, whether it is spoken, written, or simply experienced. A story, then, is one of the greatest gifts that one person can give to another. The greatest gift that God ever gave us was this story, the one that we each live, and the hope and promise of a reality beyond the imagination that he made us capable of. To inspire that imagination is to open a door, like the one that my cousins and I slid open so many years ago, a door to new worlds ripe for exploration.

~ jenelle

Enter now for your chance to win a free book

I thought it might be fun to hold a little contest of my own here, since I entered The Dragon’s Eye into the ABNA and the second round of judging should be over soon here. (March 23rd)

You may enter my contest in one of four ways:

A) Suggest a new title for The Dragon’s Eye (or any of the other 3 books, if you wish)
B) Suggest a name for the entire 4-book series other than “The Tellurae Aquaous Series”
C) Write a one-paragraph (or 300 word) summary of an idea you have for a story
D) Just enter your name by commenting either here or on my facebook fan page


The winner of the contest will be determined by a random drawing on March 31st. The winner of the contest will receive a signed paperback copy of The Dragon’s Eye (unless you already have that and would prefer a signed copy of Dawn of the Dragon’s Eye, I’m flexible) :)

The contest is now open.

~ jenelle