Actionscifi's Blog

Jim Schembri’s lame Avatar “plot holes”

Really, I’m not obsessed with Avatar and will be moving on to new movies shortly, but I couldn’t resist this lame piece of work from Jim Schembri, who has allegedly poked 20 holes in Avatar’s script. I’m on record as saying that Avatar’s storyline is not great, but it doesn’t excuse this piece of trash from Schembri. But then again, maybe I’m biased. Schembri, who writes for the Age newspaper in Melbourne, Australia, is exactly the kind of person who gives movie reviewers a bad name among the action/sci-fi set. He wouldn’t recognise an A/SF movie if it delivered a spinning back kick to his head.

I’ve listed Schembri’s 20 “plot holes” in bold, but you can read the full article here: (the shorter print version is here:

* Why use avatars if you’re not going to keep them secret?

It seems like a fairly reasonable anthropological tactic: the Na’vi are 9 feet tall and move like the wind, you can’t breathe the air, and it’s incredibly dangerous out there, so you could get killed by any of the many animals you’re unfamiliar with. The avatar allows you to keep up with them, breathe and not die if you get into trouble. Seems like a very good idea to me, Jim.


* If the Na’vi know from the get-go that these “Dreamwalkers” are biological shells remotely controlled by humans, why do they trust them?

Well, generally it seems they don’t. They’ve come to trust Dr Augustine (Sigourney Weaver)’s avatar over time, but even after his initiation some of the Na’vi have suspicions about Jake Sully (Sam Worthington).


* What is the deal with the Eywa? Shortly after Sully (Sam Worthington) and Na’vi girl Neytiri (Zoe Saldana) meet, these spirits of the forest float down and determine that Sully, despite being human, is pure of heart. Then he tells his commander (Stephen Lang) about how to destroy the sacred Hometree, thus proving the Eywa are lousy judges of character. Yet the Na’vi, knowing all this, stick to their beliefs. Why don’t they take the Eywa back to where they bought them and demand their money back?

Eywa sees Sully’s good side before he sees it himself. The true test of any oracle. Sully saves the Na’vi, Eywa is proved right.

Remember, had Sully not gone to the Na’vi in the first place, Quaritch and Selfridge would have blasted them out anyway.


* Why, exactly, is the Unobtainium so valuable? It’s never explained.

The way that Cameron handled the state of Earth was one of the things I really liked about the script. Earth is dying, it’s lawless (Jake’s brother was knifed there for “the paper in his wallet”) and it needs unobtainium to survive. We simply don’t need to know any more than that. It’s a pretty basic tenet of tight storytelling.


* Why send in avatar ambassadors to negotiate and “make friends” with the Na’vi if you’re just going to go ahead and bulldoze their forest anyway?

I thought the tension between the do-gooding avatar program and the evil corporate arm was pretty clear. As I said in my review, it’s a little like an anthropologist working in the Niger delta with Shell. The anthropologist is the veneer of goodness that will be cast aside if self-interest deems it necessary.


* During the Hometree attack chopper pilot Trudy (Michelle Rodriguez) opts out and flies off. Why doesn’t her crew object?

It’s possible that her crew have similar feelings (did she have a crew? I can’t remember).

Possibly a reasonable point.

* Why doesn’t anybody give chase?

People have been deserting in the heat of battle for as long as there has been war. Their colleagues are often quite distracted at that moment.


* And why doesn’t the commander, who has just lectured us about how highly he values loyalty, tear her a new one?

Aha! I agree with this because, surely once the dust has settled, someone would have noticed. But then again, it was such a rout that it’s also possible that no one would have noticed because – let’s face it – the job could have been done by one person, so accountability may not have been high on their agenda.

A good point.

* This makes her appearance in the brig to free Sully & Co implausible.

You’re just making the same point in different words.


* And when she steals the helicopter, why doesn’t anybody chase her?

They try to shoot at her as she’s getting away. Obviously it would take a while for anyone to actually scramble another helicopter (it took her a fair while), by which time she would have been clear of the base.


* Though central command can tell when she turns the helicopter on, they somehow can’t track where she goes.

Maybe it’s a stealth helicopter, maybe this is a legitimate gripe. Either way, it ain’t exactly Watergate.

Possibly a good point.

* Or determine the location of the portable lab she picks up.

The fact that they aren’t followed up there is explicitly explained – it’s just too dangerous. That’ll do for me.


* After Sully is put into his Avatar body he runs out into the compound, where we see a whole lot of other avatars. What happened to them?

I thought they were actual Navi who were being “domesticated” or similar. Colonisers have engaged closely with natives for as long as colonising has been going on – there are always native turncoats. Remember, some of them were kids and there were no kids in the avatar program, so my explanation clearly makes more sense than yours.


* Why does the company maintain no control over the Avatar program, even though they own it?

Coming back to the analogy of the Shell anthropologist in the Niger Delta, of course they’d be given autonomy to do their boring do-gooding work. Quaritch, remember, is not the company. He is merely a foot soldier. Selfridge runs the company. And once Selfridge thinks the Avatar program needs to be controlled, Selfridge lets Quaritch shut it down.


* If Dr Augustine (Sigourney Weaver) is so intent on preserving Na’vi culture, why doesn’t she tell her corporate boss (Giovanni Ribisi) about the miraculous, money-printing healing properties of Na’vi medicine?

Jake is told that he can be sent back to earth to have his spine healed so that he can walk again. Sounds like the ability to heal someone is not actually a priority back on earth. Remember that the Na’vi couldn’t save Sigourney when she was dying, so the difference between their life-saving abilities and those back on earth don’t seem that great. The Na’vi are just cooler at it.


* Where are all the military drone weapons? Though humans can remotely control an organic being, they apparently can’t do the same with a simple gunship or walking tank.

The answer, obviously, is “remote-controlled machines mowing down natives is just not very exciting.”

A good point.

* Why do the walking tanks carry weapons with two arms, like a regular soldier? As Robocop, Terminator Salvation and Transformers show, they should have dedicated, in-built weaponry.

When your robot is 10 years old, you can retrofit the latest weaponry to him, thereby expanding his life very cheaply.


* In the film’s final battle, the big ship is said to be “four clicks” – that is, four kilometres – from target. The time it takes to cover that distance doesn’t match the speed we see in the film.

In imperial times, they used the word “ton” for a very large mass (about 2200 pounds). Then when the metric system was introduced they called a similar weight (1000kg)* a “tonne”. Then over time the word tonne fell out of use and now 1000kg is often just called a ton because it’s a much better word. Do you think it is possible that – by 2154 – the military might have a different use for the word “click”?


* And why do the Na’vi shoot arrows at the ships? Haven’t they figured out by now that they might need a bit more firepower than that?

Yeah, why don’t they build a factory and start making some real weapons? The fact that they sometimes manage to break windows or to hit soldiers who are hanging out of hatches is obviously beside the point.


* Knowing he’s not real, why would Neytiri have sex with Sully? Shouldn’t she have saved herself until after he had committed? Or is she the Na’vi version of a slag?

Trying to sound young, Jim?


Which makes 16 fails.

* Original post mistakenly stated “100kg” instead of “1000kg”.

submit to reddit

7 Comments so far
Leave a comment

i do agree that the majority of those are true (the plot holes, and your points about them)but i have a plot hole that seemed a little odd to me.
they took down the tree to get to the unobtainium, then just left it there. if you need proof, avatar jake wakes up in the burned remains of the tree.
did the unobtainium really not mean that much? their bulldozers and things should have been there, based on how close they were when jake broke the one’s cameras.
the army that was gathered only happened AFTER jake went AWOL and decided he wanted to help the Navi.
if you have any thoughts on this, or can explain, please let me know.

Comment by justin

Hi Justin,

I agree that you’d think that they’d immediately start clearing the site, but I guess you could make a case that they blew up the tree as a show of strength, and that they would come back the next day, or a few days later, to start the mining.

Comment by actionscifi

Yeah the main plot hole is definitely when she stops firing at the magic tree and leaves but suffers no punishment. People did notice so it didn’t really make any sense. I have a problem with this because it allows her to free the two prisoners. It makes their escape seem a little too easy and easily avoidable. Also they are seen escaping before the helicopter has even left the base and the colonel shoots at them showing he has no problem with killing them or damaging/destroying the helicopter. So they could have easily shot them down with the anti-air guns.

But most of Jim Schembri’s points seem more like knit picking rather than actual plot holes. The only other one i might agree with is that they feel the need to bring in Scully even though their seems to be loads of other avatars running around the base and Grace doesn’t even think he’s a worthy replacement. The reason I didn’t think this is mere knit picking is because the whole story revolves around him.

Comment by Matt Cuffe

Hi Matt,

Regarding the other avatars at the base, my thought is that they are actually real, live Navi. It has always been a standard colonial tactic to work with some natives so that they become your allies, and I think this is what’s happening in this case – some Navi are living at the base.

Comment by actionscifi

Your point about their being kids makes sense I just didn’t remember any.

Jim Schembri just wanted to tear apart a popular film without thinking it through. I see the appeal of doing that but it looks kind of pathetic when you fail.

Comment by Matt Cuffe

Agreed, Matt.

Comment by actionscifi

one of the avatars playing basket ball said ”u aint got no skills”, there’s no way thats a native. Those were also avatars, they went shown the rest of the movie because there’s nothing they could have done to help any one. Its shown during the movie that something happend between the native and they didn’t trust humans any more. Jake, and eventually norm and weaver, was the only avatar allowed in the village.

Comment by switch

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: