Thursday, February 2, 2012

I Like Avatar - Unobtainium

People love to hate "Avatar". Whatever their reasons for hating it I could care less because for me movies are not about hitting lofty goals and predetermined expectations. They are about having fun, seeing cool stuff and enjoying myself.  I am not snooty enough to try to tear this movie down over criticism based on depth, plot, or even political undertones. It's a movie. I see it for what I want to see in it.

I remember coming out of a showing of "5th Element" and some dude complaining about the lack of plot and story and really just wanting to turn around and bark something to the tune of, "If you wanted plot you should have seen 'The English Patient'". I mean come out it was a movie about a guy in a flying cab trying to stop an evil planet from destroying the Earth with the help of half naked genetic super weapon and an androgynous media star.

Avatar is like that too. The plot's not deep and the characters aren't bubbling pools of stunning characterization. It is cool visuals, fancy toys, neat monsters and a lot of action. Sure it has some thinly veiled political and social comments made in the movie, but is that all that new for science fiction? 

Anyhow, rant over. Let's have a look at one of the most griped about bits from the movie - Unobtainium.

Now, I am not an expert on the movie, but it seems to me that these reactions are a bit knee-jerk. From my recollection, the actual word "Unobtainium" is only used once in the entire movie and that is during the angry tirade by some corporate VP with a point to make. If you think about it, there is nothing in the entire movie to lead you to believe that the mineral's actual name is Unobtainium.

Isn't it just as likely that this jerk of a corporate stooge is just hand-waving the real name of the mineral because he can't be bothered to use it's real name. How often do you use the technical name for everything in your job? Seriously, I know I don't!

Somewhere this thing has a real name. Maybe it's something like "pyrolitic carbon"? Check this blog post out for a look at the relation between pyrolitic carbon and Unobtainium.

Take care,



  1. Couldn't agree more, Eli. Why not just watch a film for the fun of it, rather than having to tear it apart and analyse it ad nauseum? Just enjoy something for what it is!

  2. It was never the "unobtanium" bit that bugged me about Avatar - it was the final battle.

    Suspending all disbelief and sticking just to the story...
    -It was a corporate-funded expedition.
    -The expedition was successful. The Na'Vi were driven away from the lode of unobtanium, and mining could commence.

    At this point, the corporation would assign a security detail to protect the miners... just a patrol to warn of any Na'Vi raids and a response force to keep them away. Instead, we see this corporation spending all the money on ammunition, fuel, and equipment maintenance (let alone lives) to assault the Na'Vi at their new location. It gave us the huge final act of the movie - a climactic sci-fi battle scene. But it simply made no sense after the corporation had already achieved its objective.

    Just my two cents. :)

    -Chris K.

  3. If it had been JUST a corporate thing, sure. But, instead it was a corporation, far from home with a psycho commander at the head of a very big private security contractor unit.

    There was also a fair amount of racism and underestimation depicted in the views of military forces and the corporate head.

    What should have been a simple go blow up their holy place mission turned upside down on them real fast. Warning off the Na'Vi would have never worked after they destroyed the tree.

  4. And that big shebang of a battle would happen eventually. So why not hit the natives while they're still trying to stage their forces?

    I liked the film too. Interesting visuals, vistas, things and tech. Though by far, I'd say the best part of the flick (IMO) is when the natives are shooting arrows at the aptly-named Dragon gunship, to which commander man scoffs at the idea of being 'under fire'.

    And I couldn't agree more about the Unobtanium issue. Even if that is its real name, well, I find the self-lampshading humorous.

    If I had a peeve with that film, it would be the end when everything is said and done, and the company people are sent packing. Even Sully feels the battle's won. So, where does that ending leave us?: sequel potential, AND "I say we take off and nuke the site from orbit, it's the only way to be sure..." I mean, yah, sure, celebrate, but they'll be back and packing in at most a decade's time.

    Either way, can't wait for another new flick to sate my appetite. Prometheus should be awesome!

  5. Unobtainite provides us with anti-gravity when a galvanic charge is passed through it. Handwavium provides intense heat when immersed in an acidic solution. This heat requires no oxygen in the cycle, and is often used to generate steam for power. When attached to a galvanic generator, it can create the proper current for unobtainite to operate.

    Don;t you people ever read my blog?

  6. Yup and in my universe they use Gravicite in anti-gravity drives or the more refine version of Gavosene which can be used in more compact contra-gravitic drives.

  7. "I tell you, that gavosene stuff is dangerous! It'll be outlawed, just like alternating current."
    -Thomas Edison


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