3 Stars - Powerful
“Avatar” is amazing cinema. Melding the latest technology in cinematic animation with live actors, writer and director James Cameron also unites science fiction with mythology in creating a story that captures both our imaginations and our souls.
Some might say that Cameron has a political agenda, since he sets his story on a planet named Pandora where an evil corporation has gone to mine its natural resources because humans have killed “mother earth.” But to take such a simplistic view is to miss the vast array of ideas from science fiction and mythology that Cameron explores to tell his story.
In the realm of science fiction, the central idea is that scientists have discovered how to join human DNA with that of the Na’vi, a humanoid species that is native to the planet. What makes this tale different is that these hybrid creatures become avatars of the humans. Using an electronic sleep chamber that joins their nervous systems, the humans live through the avatars’ bodies.
In the mythical realm, the central focus is that the Na’vi live in direct union with the life force of their planet in which everything is connected to nature symbolized by their sacred tree. Similar to New Age belief that all of life shares Gaia, the earth’s life force connecting everything, on Pandora the scientists discover this as a measurable biological reality using electrical impulses. They also discover that the Na’vi have a port at the end of their ponytails that allows them to literally bond with the animals and trees on their planet as they attain a respectful dominance over their shared life.
But these two central themes are only the beginning. The story Cameron tells is full of love and betrayal, jealousy and greed, death and rebirth, incarnation and prophecy, ancestor worship and warrior rituals. The natives of Pandora walk a “trail of tears” as the evil corporate warriors devastate their home, and yet, when they battle against forces far more technologically advanced, their counterattack is savage in its retribution.
The two central characters are Jake Sully (Sam Worthington), a Marine who is confined to a wheelchair and is providentially given the opportunity to step in and control his deceased brother’s avatar, and Neytin (Zoe Saldana), a young Na’vi who is the daughter of the Na’vi clan’s leader. Their love is predictable yet fascinating as Neytin introduces Jake to the secrets and charms of Na’vi life.
The two supporting roles are Dr. Grace Augustine (Sigourney Weaver) and Col. Miles Quaritch (Stephen Lang). Dr. Augustine is a biologist who has come to understand the unique nature of life on Pandora. Col. Quaritch is an evil militarist whose love for violence drives the action of the evil corporation which has made him head of their “security.”
A lengthy film that nevertheless keeps your adrenaline pumping, the 3-D option is a worthy choice and the seamless interface of animation and live action is excellent. This expensive and entertaining epic film is worthy of everyone’s imaginative viewing.
Discussion for those who have seen the film:
The decision to incarnate Jake and send him among the Na’vi to get them to safety is a basic spiritual theme found in ultimate form in Christianity. Do you see Jake as a Christ-figure? Why or why not?
The disdain that humans have toward the Na’vi is reciprocated by the Na’vi toward the “sky people.” What do you believe is the basis of their mutual disregard? Where do you see this among humans?
Do you believe that all of life is interconnected in a singular life force that could or would engage in the conflict as did those living on Pandora? Why or why not?