Bangkok Adrenaline

Watching this B-movie now, was “released” on torrents a couple of days ago.

No replacement for good old Tony Ja action wise, crappy sound, often even not synced, but there’s minimum of The Beach/Bangkok Dangerous stereotypes. If the script is from some novel, it was NOT by a guy who lives in Nana Plaza.

Refreshing indeed. Sometimes funny, and it’s about our city. Where’s the smiley for “I love Bangkok” on wordpress?

I’m waiting with apprehension for Kevin Bacon movie where he plays Soi Cowboy bar owner. Not bar scene again, please.

Oh, and check out the latest South Park episode, “medicinal marijuana”. The part about Stan’s Dad trying to get cancer was hilarious. Don’t let the children watch it, though. Thais can take a lot of South Park but this one was really graphic.

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Avatar review

Avatar is by far the must see movie of 2009. It’s simply mind blowing.

I’ve watched it twice already, first in regular 3D and then on “proper” Imax, both at Siam Paragon.

No idea how it would look on a non-3D screen, I suspect a lot of visual appeal will be lost. Imax also had superior sound with chairs literally shaking during heavy machine gun fire. On the other hand, the 4:3 screen ratio on Imax was disappointing. I’ve seen a blurb somewhere that Cameron thought cutting off sides would be better for 3D viewing but in my opinion there’s so much more detail on a wide screen that 4:3 cut takes away a lot of wow factor.

Either way, visually it’s a feast, especially the Pandora itself. From floating rocks to seeds of the sacred tree to animals and insects, it’s just awesome. I’m going to watch it again at least once before it goes off the screens – it won’t be the same on the TV once the dvd/blueray comes out.

Having said that, there were several let downs. Cameron is a great director but his stories don’t live to to his technical skills. I won’t judge if this story is as emotionally compelling as Titanic, it certainly has its tear jerking moments, but it could have been so much more. Once the emotional high has passed and I started to think about it rationally it looked shallow, boring and predictable.

Without giving the plot away beyond of what is in the trailers, the decision to fight the earth army back was clearly a rather childish kindergarten sandbox reaction. At first I thought Jake Sully had a real plan for this conflict resolution, for two sides getting a solution based on mutual respect but no, he’s just a marine, they don’t do thinking and negotiations even if the basic conditions are there – after all the “skypeople”, the earthlings, wanted the resources that natives didn’t use themselves, surely they could have found a way to co-exist and maintain the same “balance” that Ewa, some sort of Pandora deity, was so much concerned about.

It wasn’t even the Earth army, it was a private security force for a mining company, any win would be only temporary, skypeople would surely come back and put the native rebellion down. Bows and arrows and local wildlife can save the day once, maybe twice, but ultimately they are doomed anyway. They are fighting progress, and progress is unstoppable.

That brings us to another aspect – “paradise” vs “progress”. The story assumes that paradise is better, that Pandora should be left alone, that it’s perfect as it is, that once you get to know it, like Jake did, you’d appreciate its beauty and even fight to protect it. One problem, though – in order to fight you need some sort of a progress anyway – you need better weapons, better organization, and you need strong passion and propaganda machine, you need to compete with other civilizations. Once you start on this path your paradise is as good as gone.

It’s nice to be a “self-sufficient” hunter on some little known planet but only if that planet has been designated and protected as a spa resort or a monastery, not if it happens to be on the front line of human endeavor to conquer the nature. Greens might rage against it all they want but it’s a fact of life and they’d better learn to live with it, and so do Na’vee Pandorians.

That brings us to the culture of Na’vee themselves – what do they do with their lives? What do they do beyond eating and procreating? What makes them different from the animals they hunt? They all, Na’vee and the animals, seem to be equally aware of “Ewa” and their places in the “balance” scheme of things, so that’s nothing special either. In fact Na’vee seem to be aware of the concept of “progress” and their elevated status among species on their planet, they are essentially at the stage the Earth civilization passed through thousands if not millions years ago and as such they don’t offer any alternative modes of development.

Surely we can learn something from them but it’s not going to change the essence of what our civilization is all about, and one remarkable thing about it is that it’s very adaptable. Even if skypeople come back and conquer Pandora, the episode will be registered and our civilization will learn from it and be more considerate next time. I bet “we” are even more concerned about preserving places like Pandora than Pandorians themselves. They just go to war, provoking destructive forces they can’t stop, and they risk losing the whole planet to their little emotional outburst. Savages, indeed. They yet to learn to control themselves when passions rise. We had a lot more experience with wars and their outcomes, they should learn our history if they have nothing to relate their situation to.

About “savages” label – while only war mongering skypeople used the term in the movie, Jake Sully, the convert himself, related to them like to savages, too. He had no second thoughts in treating them like a clueless tribe that had no idea what they were getting themselves into, he knew that Na’vee had to be saved from making fatal mistakes, but eventually he also gave up and resorted to war, and, for all their assumed enlightenment it that was apparently the only option they could think up themselves, too.

That brings us to “Ewa” and its role in this mess. In Na’vee’s words Ewa is a combined consciousness of all living beings ever lived, in science words it was a network of whatever Pandorian trees have for brains, and it has more connections than a human brain (the whole planet beats one single human brain? Duh). In Na’vee’s words Ewa is interested in maintaining the balance, it doesn’t take sides. Fine, but then it was clearly a local phenomenon as it didn’t take into account the existence of skypeople and their aspirations, it clearly took sides when the battle started. A bit disappointing, religion wise. Here, on Earth, we have a concept of God that rules the whole universe and every living creature on every planet, and, as such, if he is interested in maintaining balance he’d have no problem in settling Skypeople vs Na’vee dispute. I could say that in the end the war mongering skypeople got what they deserved by OUR God rules, not by Ewa’s, which makes Na’vee alleged superiority questionable again.

Also it was no problem for an earthling to achieve highest position in Na’vee society in three months but I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t work the other way. So here the Earth is superior again.

I think the main lesson we should learn from this story is something along the lines of responsibility and sustainable development, not about bliss of sitting under trees and singing Kumbalaya.

What if we compare this story to the West vs Thailand? Well, for one thing, Thais have learned how to walk the fine line and have the best of the both worlds. When colonial powers came knocking on Thai doors, Thais have managed to placate them and save their independence, and so far they seem to resist “soft” colonialism rather well, keeping their cultural identity under the onslaught of all things “farang”. They were smart enough not to go to war they couldn’t possibly win, and they are smart enough to maintain their “privileged” status now, though at times I think they are paying only the lip service, equally to “imported” development and homegrown Buddhism.