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Avatar is a science fiction story written and directed by James Cameron and starred by Sam Worthington as Jake and Zoe Saldona as Nyetiri. It describes the conflict between utopian and dystopian societies in the American culture. The film is set in Pandora garden which is highly idolized and is inhabited by humanoid beings, and beastlike animals. The film connects two different people into a love affair that brings victory to the whole community against their enemies. The role of women in our culture and the myths surrounding our lives are clearly indicated. The victory of becoming one and the beauty and harmony we achieve by connecting with nature.To understand the intriguing American culture as illustrated in Avatar, we must analyse the whole movie and identify some of the most important aspects linked to the present day America.
The setting is in Pandora, inhabited with Na'vi, warriors who hunt and fight using bows and arrows, with no gender discrimination. The na'vi have an intense connection with nature, (both plants and animals) as they are able to link their consciousness with that of the animals and plants using the ends of their plaited ponytails which contain filament like fibres that ensures this connection.
The movie begins with Jake (Sam Worthington) being convinced to perform a task of spying on the Na'vi, for an exchange of an expensive surgery that could see him get back his leg. Jake is paraplegic, and for the honour of his deceased twin brother, together with the need to get his life back to normal, Jake agrees to perform this task. In order to interact with the Na'vi, humans must consciously connect to their respective "avatars", which are test tube born and bred bodies of the Na'vi (Parenti 174).
The film setting is in Pandora, a highly idolized and dangerous place where the Na'vi s lives. The Pandora forest is filled with strange looking beasts that kill anyone or anything that comes their way and the air is so toxic that breathing turns out to be problematic. Jack is sent there to learn their ways and help evacuate them. The company, (RDA Corporation) that sends Jake is particularly interested in "unobtnanium", a rare mineral that goes for millions of dollars in the market. Unfortunately, "unobtanium" is found under the Na'vi home tree and to get to, they will disrupt their normal life. Grace, a leader with the company object to the distraction of the tree as she realise it will disrupt the lives of the Na'vi, who wholly depended on it. This, she was able to find out as she interacted and connected with the Na'vi. Grace is injured and an attempt to transform her human body to avatar is futile as she succumbs to the illness and dies.
Jake is accepted by the Na'vi as one of their own, and he chooses Nyetiri, a Na'vi who saved his life, as his mates. They fall in love and Jake seems to forget his initial mission to Pandora. He fails to make a clear decision about either being loyal to the state or pursuing his personal desires of being a na'vi. Nyetiri guide Jake through their normal everyday life, till the day he confesses his true mission in Na'vi. She accuses him of betrayal, and to gain Nyetiri and the other Na'vi's trust, he connects with a Toruk, a dangerous feared and untamed predator, which accepts him eventually. Soon after, a war ensues between the science company RDA Corporation, and the Na'vi. Nyetiri's father, together with many other Na'vi's are killed, leaving the whole community sad and enraged.
The climax of the story is a battle between the Na'vi and the state, leaving most Na'vis dead. The day before the battle, Jakes divine intervention from Eywa by interceding for Na'vi's victory over RDA Corporation. When they were just about to loose the battle, pandoran beasts came to their rescue to help fight the humans who were heavily armed with machine guns. The beast helped Na'vi win the battle, and this, according to Nyetitri, is a sign of acceptance from Eywa, who has answered Jake's prayer for victory. Jakes human body is disconnected from his avatar body by Quarithch, (one of the members of EDA corporations), in order to let him breathe the poisonous Pandora air. As Jake gets weaker, Nyetiri comes to his rescue, killing Quaritch, and saving Jake.
With the help of Eywa and the sacred tree, Jake is successfully transformed into an avatar, and abandons his human body. He lives with the Na'vi as one of them, sharing the victory of their battle.The tribal culture evident at Pandora is amazing. This society is idolized as extremely harmonious with no human conflict. The only conflict is human -animal, and human-environmental. Despite this conflict, which only occurs as self defence strategy, Pandora is peaceful and a beautiful place to live in. Children are obedient and loved, food is adequate, everyone loves everyone, and generally, life is easy and fun filled. Even at the time of the battle, there is no individual interest as we see them moving in crowds, and those who need protection are collectively protected. Their faith and spirituality is strongly linked with nature.
The archetypes identified in the film are those of Grace Augustine and Jake Sully, colonel Quaritch, Pandora, and Nyetiri, among others.
Jakes Sully original body is that of Jake as a paraplegic, who use a wheelchair as he is unable to walk due to an accident. This is the archetype of Jake, the avatar who goes to Pandora, and falls in love with Nyetiri, fighting a battle against his fellow humans and eventually resolving to be an avatar.
Another dominant archetype is that of Grace Augustine. Grace is the lead scientist at RDA corporations, who, together with his seniors, convinces Jake to fill his brother's position and become a spy in exchange for his treatment. The other archetype of the avatar Grace, who goes with Jake to pondara to convince the Na'vi to vacate, and unfortunately, loses her life in the process.
Avatar as a film and story of human interaction and community revolves around certain myths that governed their lives and maintained their social stability. The lead myth at Pandora is Perfect harmony, respect for life, and the belief of oneness. This is seen as a myth because in the real life, these are virtues impossible to find in any community. To be human is to be inherently selfish, especially in terms of life threatening situations like wars. Therefore this myth is a lie as no one society can practice it as depicted in the movie. The Na'vi as we see, extremely values human life. The attempts made to pray to the almost dying people in order to bring them back to life is amazing, and the fact that everyone gets involved in this prayer, is also baffling.
Closely linked but different myth in Avatar is the connection and relationship to nature and earth. In real life, it's impossible to have this form of connection with nature and be able to have such a relationship. Humans are cognitively different from animals, and so it remains. There is also no circumstance when we connect with plants in such a higher power as to understand each other. The cultural myth of identity in Pandora is the colour blue, which seems to be their skin colour, plaited ling hair and ultimately their tall catlike physique. This is a unique culture that serves to identify them.
Avatar ties gender to culture. In Pandora, women equally carry bows and arrows which they use to hunt and fight, just like men. Women are nit discriminated at all by being given sub roles. Nyetiri is an accomplished warrior who defends her home land in the battle and seems to be a respected member of the Na'vi. There are other female actresses given important roles in Pandora but one that specifically stands out is that of a woman leader, who is the only one capable to communicate with Eywa and request for favours. She is able to interpret Eyways' messages to other people. This is not a small role given to a woman. And this shows lack of gender binary in Pandora.
This film, according to Cameron, criticizes the role of the U.S in the Iraq war. Just like the N'avi defeated the company despite their prior preparation. U.S should be warned of a possible defeat with the Iraq war. It teaches amoral lesson not to underestimate your opponents' capabilities (Sonia & Jack 156).
The movie reveals certain aspects of the American society. A society divided into class structure, with high, middle /working and low class structures. The high class rules the country's economy and controls the overall operation of the country, while the middle class serving the high class and the low class serving the middle class, the major asst of the low class is their labour. In the movie, The Government authorisation pf that evacuation is referred to as the high class, RDA Corporation is the working class, while the N'avi is the low class, who are subjects of the high class. It also displays America's exceptional nature especially with the economic abundance. To produce such a movie, a lot of money needs to be injected for its success. Despite that outward explanation, the movie explains what the availability of money can attempt someone to do. RDA corporation was evidently economic abundant. They had heavy machines for storing the avatars, and the guns they use were nothing compared to what the Na'vi had. Because of their money, they thought it easy to invade and evacuate The Na'vi from their homeland. America is also geographically isolated from other countries. This is clearly shown by the geographical location of Pandora. Reaching Pandora is problematic as it is far from normal human settlement (Ray 89).
In summary, the movie avatar is slightly disappointing but intriguing at the same time. Considering the amount of publicity it received and the evident amount of money invested in its production, it is slightly disappointing as it is too fictitious and difficult to understand. One could easily conclude that the Na'vi were primitive beings, which is not the case. They are more liberalised and open in their operations that one finds it difficult to trace the hierarchical chain of command that is definitely there. This could be the life we could have lived if we integrate certain elements of politics in our societies. No discrimination of whatever sort, people living in harmony and everyone being able to afford the basic necessities of life. However, because of imperialism and capitalism, our societies are tarnished by discrimination and poverty.
Avatar follows a story of good versus evil in our societies and constant search for money and power. RDA Corporation would stop at nothing including killing innocent children, in order to get what they wanted. This individualism is what has become of our societies, everyone serving his/her self interest, without giving much care about others. America should learn from the movie and work towards promoting peace and harmony at all times for its citizen. The American citizen, together with everyone who watched the movie should get the moral of patriotism for their homeland. You should be ready to defend your homeland with courage, even when faced with death. This courage found with the pandorans is encouraging and gives hope that though considered weak, you could win a battle. The making of avatar was to illustrate the above aspects of the American society, with leadership and citizen. The focal part of the movie however is the new found love between two very different people.