Archive for January, 2010
This is a fantastic story of the Lover/King archetype. The metaphor of being on the top of his game, in the prime of his power with his biggest goal (sense of meaning) in life being the accumulation of 10 million travel points. Here he is at the point in life where he has mastered the Hero’s journey and faces the challenge of learning to form a realtionship with others and he fires people for a living and gives motivational talks that inspires people to avoid responsibility and connection to others.
How great is it when his world gets threatened by Ms. Keener’s idea to use the internet to fire people thus threatening his points accumulation and the busy-ness that keeps him from needing people. The frequent flyer points are a brilliant metaphor for striving for something that is ultimately empty.
But I can’t help but feeling the transformation happened offscreen or before we got there.
Three things could have made this good movie truly great.
First, when Natalie is killing his life, why does Ryan embrace helping her right at the airport, volunteering to give her the pearls of travel wisdom? Why not have her ask a bunch of annoying questions that he finally answers to show he is smarter than her? Why does Ryan inquire about Natalie’s work rather than having her sell it to him when he is a captive audience on the plane? What happened offscreen that made him start helping her?
Second, the sister tells us Ryan has been a completely neglectful brother all his life but I don’t see it. From the moment he was asked Ryan starts putting himself out to support his sister’s goofy wedding request. He kindly offers to walk his sister down the isle and I just feel bad for him when he gets shot down. If he had not bothered to take the pictures and then tried to step in as the father figure, it would have carried weight. They never let him be a schmuck onscreen before he became a good brother. I think we needed to see the importance of the pictures to the bride and groom, especially if he chose not to participate. What is the point of him participating and then getting a response of , “oh just pin them up on that neglected board over there.”
The motivational speech to talk the groom into walking down the isle lacked heart. Don’t think that would have done the job.
When Ryan decides to give the wedding couple the points it could have shown his transformation from being a shmuck (and it would have helped if we knew there was a cost to his 10 million club). This would have been a big plot point. Why didn’t we get to see him follow through?
Third is the quest for the points and his relationship with Alex. What a great irony that when Ryan finally decides to risk connecting with someone, he chooses himself with a vagina. And it doesn’t go well, which is great. But I could not stop wondering why he wouldn’t tell Alex what the point target was. Ryan told Natalie pretty quickly. Alex could have understood the value to Ryan. He could have practiced his acceptance speech to impress her. Then Ryan wouldn’t have had to say the cheesey line “do you know how many times I have imagined this moment and what I would say”?
I’m going to go out on a limb and predict that these plot flaws will keep George Clooney from the Oscar podium. Too bad because it is a great theme and he is perfect for the role.
I’ve heard people comment that Avatar is just the same as Pocahantas. I would agree. There is a strong archetypal core of a hybrid Hero and a Virgin in this movie, just like Pocahantas and Mulan and Spiderman and Smallville have. That’s what makes this film so compelling!
Here is a summary of Avatar with the Virgin beats highlighted. WARNING: IT INCLUDES SPOILERS . I’ll leave it to film buffs to go through and pull out the Hero beats. You’ll see there are two drives woven into the movie. The desire to bring his true nature to life, as seen in his dream of flying (Virgin) and the drive to selflessly save his village (Hero).
Here we go…
When Jake’s twin brother dies Jake is offer the chance to replace him as an Avatar where his essence can be placed in a Na’vi body (3). Jake Sully is a parapalegic marine who arrives on the planet Pandora where he depends on Colonel Quaritch to be able to find a place for himself as a military man and have the operation that will return the use of his legs (1). Quaritch wants Jake to use his position to gather information on the Na’vi that will help remove them from a rich deposit of unobtainium (2). On his first mission Jake is separated from his group, saved by Neytiri, a beautiful Na’vi woman, and invited to live among the Na’vi including dress like them (4). Jake moves back and forth from the world of the Nav’ri, learing to understand a deep connection with nature and how to live in harmony with it, to the world of the mining company where he reports the inner working of the Na’vi to their enemy (5). Dr. Grace discovers Jake is reporting to Quaritch and moves the team to a remote location (7). As an Avatar, Jake learns to connect with a dragon-like creative and flies (5). Gradually he is turned upside down as the life he leads as an Avatar is the most meaningful to him (6). After joining for life with Neytiri, the bulldozers move in destroying the sacred tree they are sleeping under. Jake instictively disables the machine revealing to Colonel Quaritch that he is no longer a team player (7). Jake tries to convince the Na’vi to move and alientaes his new wife Neytiri (10). The mining company burns and bombs the hometree and the Nav’i flee for thier lives as Jake and Dr. Grace are tied to stakes (10). Neytiri’s mother cuts them loose and implores Jake Sully to help them (12). Quaritch shuts down Jake and Grace’s Avatar forms and places them in prison (10). Helicopter pilot, Trudy, and the scientists help them escape and transport them to a remote loction where they can safely become Avatars again (12). Jake decides he will fly the great dragon and go to the Na’vi and offer to use his power to fight the mining company (11). Jake becomes one of the Na’ve and humans learn to value nature or be sent back to their dying planet (13).
The situation arises for the Virgin to reveal her inner potential. The Opportunity to Shine is a compelling event that will not threaten the Virgin’s Dependent World, so she goes for it. It may come through an act of fate, by active pursuit, a wish fulfillment, a response to someone in need or a push from the Crone.
An act of fate…
Think of Ever After where the Prince steals the horse and drops coins in Danielle’s lap to compensate her. Suddenly Daniel has the means to buy back Maurice by acting on the principles of Utopia which are her passion.
In Billy Elliot, the mine strike puts the ballet class and the boxing class in the same building, introducing Billy to dance. In Precious, the school finds out about her pregnancy and Precious is offered a position in a new school.
By active pursuit…
Tess has had enough of being pushed aside, pimped by her co-workers, and the final blow, having her ideas stolen by her boss. When her boss is laid up in a hospital in Europe Tess decides to step into her boss’ life and pitch the ideas herself.
A wish fulfillment…
In Angels in the Outfield, Rodger is about to be given up by her father who says they have as much chance of being a family as the Angels baseball team has of winning the pennant. Roger shows his gift for believing in people by wishing on a shooting star and real angels start showing up at the games.
A response to someone in need…
Mulan is working hard to be a dutiful daughter but when her father faces almost certain death, she acts on her instinct for strategic action and takes her father’s place in the Emperor’s army. In Wedding Crashers John is motivated by the genuine nature of Claire to give her the love she needs.
A push from the Crone…
The Virgin may be pushed beyond her fear or her desire to please others by the Crone who is set on causing people to get on with what is good for them, whether they want to or not. In Maid in Manhattan, Marisa’s best friend hands in her application for management even though Marisa was only going to talk about it rather than rock the boat with her mother.