James Cameron’s Avatar created so much hype over the past couple of weeks. Some called it brilliant and praised its effects, while some criticized it due to its ‘very thin’ storyline. MTV reported that the film earned $75 million; holding the top spot at the box office for two weeks in a row. After reading and hearing and watching other people’s comments about the film, I decided to watch it myself and see what the fuzz really is about.
While watching, I could not help myself notice how the film writers’ ideas were heavily influenced by the world’s issues and debates, some current and some long-standing. This blog is about my interpretation of how the writers wittingly meshed these issues into a fantasy movie.
- THE INVASION
Avatar’s story mainly revolves around the humans’ ‘mission’ on Pandora- a place inhabited by creatures known as the Na’vi. This mission was originally for scientific/educational purposes as a team of researchers were investigating the biological structure of the place and the people and their way of living. However, as Pandora was discovered to have a large deposit of a precious mineral, the Corporate Heads in this assignment created a plot to drive the Na’vis off of their natural habitat.
I couldn’t help but compare this story plot to what’s going on in the MIddle East. America (humans/corporate heads in Avatar), invading Middle Eastern countries (Pandora), scaring the locals (Na’vis), in an attempt to steal their oil (precious minerals).
The human mission to Pandora in the story could be interpreted as the Western world’s attempt to impose Western culture into other countries. In the story, part of the scientists’ mission, headed by Dr. Grace Augustine (Sigourney Weaver), was to educate the Na’vis, and one way they did this was to teach them English. Sounds familiar?
Also, the Na’vis were often referred to by the military as ‘the natives’. From my interpretation, the military did not like the Na’vis because they are different. They d0 not speak English and they do not live their lives like ‘normal’ human beings do. Again, does this sound familiar?
2.WOMEN AND THE PHYSICALLY CHALLENGED
The lead character Jake Sully is a paraplegic marine officer who enlisted in the mission with a hope that through driving an avatar (a genetically formed human-Na’vi hybrid), he will be able to ‘use’ his legs. Being disabled and untrained for the job, he seemed unlikely to be the one who can make the mission work. But he did, through his intelligence and recklessness.
As Dan North pointed out in his blog, Cameron’s feminist ideals are on display in the movie, making the women do as much action as the men. Also, Dr. Grace Augustine, a female scientist, is the head of the research. There is a balance between women’s and men’s roles on the film.
3. RELIGION and SCIENCE
The rise of Science and the ever growing popularity of Darwin’s Theory of Evolution in our society continues to fuel the long-standing debate between science and religion. Avatar’s writers cleverly included the importance of having a belief for the supernatural in the story.
In the story, the Na’vis are a very cohesive group of individuals who believe that a special tree (Eyra) holds very special powers similar to our idea of a ‘god’. This tree hears prayers which it sometimes answers and sometime does not. It has the power to transfer one’s spirit from a human body to an avatar’s (playing on our idea of Cartesian Dualism, and hence could spark some debate about it). Also, the Na’vis’ belief in rituals and rites of passages are also comparable to those of people who have religions.
In the end of the story, when the humans are winning the war and a lot of Na’vis are being killed, a group of thick-armored animals came to help. To this, the female character (Neytiri) said ‘Eyra heard you’ to Jake Sully, the lead character.
This scene was pivotal to the story’s conclusion because if these creatures did not arrive, all the Na’vis including Jake Sully and Neytiri would have died, and hence there would not be a happy ending.
Such a scene could make one believe in the power of divine intervention, and hence believe in Supernatural beings.
Some might argue that with the inclusion of these topics into one film, we could call it brilliant. But how many other films are there that we can think of that includes the exact same topics with even better storylines? A lot. So much hype surrounds this movie but only its brilliant special effects separates it from every other fantasy movie. After watching the film, all I said to myself was: That’s it???