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Old 07-22-2010, 11:30 PM
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Default Pandora - The Return Of Wonder To Sci-Fi.

This started out as a response to another thread. But since it got so long, I thought I'd make an article about it.

One of the scenes that affected me a lot was the very first time we see the planet Pandora.

It is strange. I have all seen hundreds of alien planets in the numerous sci-fi movies and series.

I have seen great civilisations, I have seen barbarian worlds, barren wastelands, garden worlds, war torn planets, cities in the clouds, city wide planets, dead planets and many more.

But nothing I have seen in any other sci-fi film was more wonderous than the sight of Pandora. With it's shades of green and blue it looked so like earth, and yet so different at the same time. Compared to Pandora, all these other planets we have seen appear almost mundane, uninteresting and above all else, souless.

Because Pandora has what no other sci-fi planet has. A true soul of its own.

When we see Pandora. We see it through the eyes of humans who are still exploring, like children in a big new world. In reality, Avatar represents what we always believed sci-fi should be. The excitement of coming across the unknown and the undiscovered. The beauty of a whole new living planet, which is yet so different a so dangerous. And the proof that we are not alone in the galaxy, whether we talk about Earth as a living planet or humans as a sentient being.

This was what sci-fi was meant to be. But somewhere along the line we lost our way. Star Trek started off "Going where no man has gone before". But with Star Trek and other sci-fi, we didn't discover anthing new. All we found were more great civilisations, many of which were one dimensional, and which are generally similar to the human race. Star Trek, and many that came later, go lost in technology and souless aliens without allowing us to experience the wonder of something truly new.

In the Utopian sci-fi we find that the human race is one of the most enlightened race in the galaxy. We discovered technology that allows humans to do whatever we want and go wherever we want. The aliens depend on us. They may hate us or they may love us, but in the end they will always respect us because we defeat them decisively. There is no beauty here. Only the satisfaction of being the best.

In the distopian, sci-fi all is dark and cruel, filled with only death and destruction. There is no beauty here either, only grim survival and the satisfaction of destroying your enemies.

In most sci-fi, there is no wonder. The truth is, there never has been. We are all two de-sensitized to admire an alien world any more. It is all too familiar. We have seen too many.

But Pandora has brought the wonder back. When we see Pandora we get an idea of what we would feel if we really did see an alien planet. In Avatar, we get to see what humanity may be like in the infancy of space exploration. Which is important, because it represents the infancy of human development as a whole.

In Avatar, humans are seen a petty, selfish and small. Despite being on a wonderous alien planet, humans are still self-obsessed. They have technology, but they do not have the wisdom to use it. The wonder and beauty of Pandora is all around, but they just don't "see" it. All they see is death and fear or an opportunity for greed and amition; a reflection of their own souls.

The truth is that the the average RDA employee feels as little wonder about being on Pandora as most of us feel when watching other sci-fi.

It is ironic that Pandora is full of mosters and ferocious beasts. Possibily some of the most convicing creatures ever shown in fantasy and sci-fi. But the biggest mosters on Pandora are the humans themselves. And it only demonstrates their ignorance, that none of the humans on Pandora actually realize this.

But there is hope. Some humans do recognise the wonder of Pandora and struggle to protect it. And that struggle represents the struggle for the human soul as a whole.

Pandora is beautiful. Pandora is magical. Pandora has a soul, and so much more. To such an extent, that for many of us Pandora almost seems real.

Even at the end of the movie, it is still mysterious. There is still so much we want to know. We want to find out more, both about Pandora and about ourselves.

There is no other planet that I know of in sci-fi that is so enigmatic and wonderous as Pandora. Pandora has brought wonder back to sci-fi. The way it should be.

Last edited by neytirifanboy; 07-23-2010 at 06:24 PM.
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Old 07-23-2010, 12:16 AM
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I agree completely. It's almost like sci-fi has too much science and too little fantasy. Avatar is a wondrous adventure, a remarkable display of human imagination. Something sci-fi has a chronic lack of these days.

The moment I saw that moon, it hit me that this was very inconsistent with ordinary sci-fi films. Ordinarily we would just see some barren, orange planet that bared a striking resemblance to Mars, with a couple of trees and a rather underdeveloped , one dimensional alien race. That's how it usually went. Pandora was different. When the shuttle landed in Hell's Gate, I had this preconceived notion of an unremarkable world. What followed was amazing.
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Old 07-23-2010, 12:33 AM
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Brilliant article, thanks for posting it. It reminds me of a review I read in the Los Angeles Times a few days before the movie came out, saying that many Hollywood films of the present day have lost their ability to give a sense of wonder and awe to the audience. Avatar restores that sense of awe for so many of us. I hope other filmmakers are aware of what you wrote about and plan on making their own movies that involve exploring the unknown. That stuff can be truly exciting.

And perhaps the real genius of having a viewer explore Pandora on the screen is that (s)he becomes interested in exploring Earth off the screen.
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Old 07-24-2010, 12:16 AM
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I agree with neytirifanboy... I can remember when I was young, and scifi had a similar effect... Before everything became the same, and I realised they were just mirrors of a specific point of humanity (Romulans? clearly communists. Klingons? Clearly showing one of the hidden sides of human nature more obviously... Star Wars? They ARE human FFS )
Pandora, the Na'vi, are how things SHOULD be done... a place, a people, who are TRULY different, who show us another way.
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Old 07-30-2010, 10:04 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Empty Glass View Post
I hope other filmmakers are aware of what you wrote about and plan on making their own movies that involve exploring the unknown. That stuff can be truly exciting.
When you think about it, there is almost no contemporary sci-fi (that I know off) that invokes the early exploration of a planet.

In fact the only ones I can think off are Avatar, Alien (JC again) and the quirky Mars series.

Many sci-fi doesn't involve aliens or alien planets at all, concentrating on a future usually distopian Earth or involving averting a disaster.

The there are the the aline invader movies where we fight a technologically superior alien.

In most sci-fi where we are space-faring, we are usually an established space faring race. There is almost no sci-fi at least on TV where we are exploring. The exception is Stargate, but even then, what did they find? other humans. It would be nice where we find something totally different.

The unusual thing about Avatar is that it takes place in human's exploration period. Even in Avatar, humanity is relatively established in space travel, but it still takes place in that crucial first contact and early exploration period. Prequels can easily go back to the discovery of Pandora while sequels can discover more of Pandora or even address other exploration.

Perhaps more movie-makers need to think about a true first contact or exploration movie where we are the visitors and the aliens are not necessarily hostile (just as in Avatar). Because it is a theme that has been neglected, but has much potential.

Last edited by neytirifanboy; 12-09-2010 at 10:24 PM.
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Old 12-06-2010, 03:43 AM
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Ironic that you say this. Because the Na'vi clearly are based on humans--primitive, hunter-gatherer humans who still have an animistic world shamans. It shows the future, and yet it idealizes the past. This seems like simple nostalgia, yet learning from the past has been a viable strategy.

In Europe, when the Church's power started to wane, Renaissance thinkers turned to ancient Greek and Roman philosophers for inspiration. They took the old ideas and with them forged a new paradigm.

When the current paradigm has run itself into the ground, there are two places to look for alternatives: the past, and other cultures, sometimes both at once. We can't know the future, but human diversity and variability mean that many philosophies and social orders have been tried.

So now, the capitalist-materialistic order appears to be running itself dry; wrecking human lives, cutting the Earth--which we need to survive--out from under our feet, and threatening our children's future. To find an alternative we are consulting a very far past--the original knowledge.

About Original Wisdom

"Original Wisdom: Stories of an Ancient Way of Knowing" -- Thom Hartmann's Independent Thinker Review | BuzzFlash.org

So Cameron has returned wonder to sci-fi...by exploring the roots of what it means to be human.

Last edited by joeylovesgaia; 12-06-2010 at 03:56 AM.
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Old 09-08-2011, 02:15 AM
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In swoops Mr.Cynicism!

Really the Na'Vi are different? Uhh....no. They are one of the most effectively done alien races but still aren't really "different" from humanity. I am currently taking Native American Cosmology as my lecture elective. I spotted SO similarities between the Na'Vi and some of the Native cultures we were discussing I had to double check that I had not signed up for "Na'Vi 101." One of my favorite similarities was in a short piece written in the 1800's but....uh I forget the name. Basically he dismissed the "white man" of being "unable to see" and being "childlike".

So uhm yeah the Na'Vi are just like various previous alien races, they are just another interpretation of humanity and that interpretation is used to tell a story.

Also maybe its because I grew up with Bladerunner and other various "dystopian" Sci-Fi but I rather tend to like darker sci-fi. It shows us what we should avoid and the things we should try to change about human nature. While the overall world is dark "dystopian" works usually have a very positive message of change. If we avoid acting this way the world will change, for the better.
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Old 09-08-2011, 05:13 AM
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I guess whether or not the na'vi are like us is everyone's own opinion, however, I think the opinion reflects the opinionholder's optimism or pessimism about the human race in general. I believe we are like the na'vi, but a world of different history and circumstances have primarily made us different. Is that bad? It sure is right now, but deep at our core, I think we are like them
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Old 09-08-2011, 04:52 PM
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Yeah I am a bit more pessimistic. Humanity is violent, greedy, panicky, unintelligent, repulsive, cruel, vindictive, annoying, and just a plain old pain in the behind.

I'm waiting for the day when humanity looks up and shouts "Save us."
I'll look down and reply "Of course."
While humanity may be all the things I listed they can still change. Its not likely, but we have to hope. Wait that went from very pessimistic to optimistic...uuhmm hmm.
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Old 09-08-2011, 04:59 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by neytirifanboy View Post
Pandora is beautiful. Pandora is magical. Pandora has a soul, and so much more.
As a prospective writer of science-fiction, I love it when people say things like this. It's so easy to misinterpret.
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Old 09-09-2011, 08:48 PM
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They have capabilities humans never had and will only ever reach with the singularity. That's a guide for the future, not nostalgia
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Old 08-16-2017, 04:33 AM
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i love the part where it is said that Pandora has a soul. i so agree. i am looking forward to returning there in the near future. hopefully, we start to see some promotional materials and art, as the Avatar Sequels ramp up production.
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