Avatar has been hailed as a visually stunning and emotionally powerful film. Directed by James Cameron, the film is set in a distant future where humans have depleted Earth’s resources and are now seeking new resources on other planets.
The film’s portrayal of the conflict between the humans and the Na’vi is also thought-provoking. The humans, driven by greed and a desire for resources, are portrayed as the aggressors, while the Na’vi, living in harmony with their environment, are portrayed as the victims. This serves as a commentary on the destructive nature of human greed and the importance of preserving the natural world.
The exposition and world building set the scene for Pandora beautifully. We also have backstory in abundance. The film is a technical marvel, with stunning and immersive visuals. The film’s use of 3D technology to portray the planet and its inhabitants is a breathtaking feat in itself.
Jake has an element of everyman about him which helps the audience connect with him early on. Jake is discovering the world of Pandora at almost the same rate we are. The avatars, the environment, the politics and the technology.
All performances are in this film are strong which is something rarely picked up on. Giovanni Ribisi is essentially Burke from Aliens (1986). Alongside the presence of Sigourney Weaver there are a few subtle references. (Michael Biehn was considered for the role of Col. Quaritch. James Cameron rejected him because he’d already cast Weaver, and he didn’t want people to think it was Aliens all over again). Michelle Gomez playing Michelle Gomez in another solid Michelle Gomez performance.
The design of the planet Pandora and its inhabitants, the Na’vi, is heavily influenced by the work of artist and designer H.R. Giger, known for his work on the Alien franchise. The use of exosuits and the mining operations of the humans on Pandora are reminiscent of the mining colony in the 1986 film. Aside from the references mentioned, Avatar contains a few nods to other franchises :
The floating mountains and the floating “Hallelujah Mountains” in the film are also reminiscent of the floating rocks in the film The Last Airbender and inspired by the floating rocks in Dune. The design of the giant trees and the floating mountains were also inspired by the floating islands in the Studio Ghibli film, Laputa: Castle in the Sky.
Pocahontas On A Different Planet
The film shares a number of similarities with Pocahontas in terms of themes and characters. Both films deal with the conflicts that arise when two different cultures come into contact with one another, with focus on the relationships with members of the other culture.
In Avatar, the main character, Jake Sully (J.S.), is a human who is sent to the planet Pandora to help mine for a valuable mineral called (ironically/unironically) Unobtanium. Initially, Jake is hostile towards the indigenous Na’vi people, but as he begins to learn more about their culture and way of life, he starts to form a connection with them. Eventually, Jake comes to understand the importance of preserving Pandora‘s natural resources and joins the Na’vi in their fight against the human mining company.
Similarly, in Pocahontas, the titular character is a Native American woman who forms a relationship with the English colonist John Smith (also J.S.). Initially, there is tension between the two cultures, but as Pocahontas and John Smith get to know one another, they begin to understand and appreciate the other’s way of life. Pocahontas ultimately becomes a mediator between the two cultures, helping to prevent a war between the English and the Native Americans.
Both Avatar and Pocahontas deal with themes of environmentalism and the importance of preserving the natural world. In Avatar, the mining of Unobtanium is portrayed as a destructive force that is destroying Pandora‘s delicate ecosystem. The Na’vi people’s connection to the natural world is presented as something to be revered and protected. Similarly, in Pocahontas, the Native American way of life is portrayed as being in harmony with nature, while the English colonists are portrayed as being destructive and exploitative.
I’ve always found this film interesting, at least from a perception point of view. Anyone I’ve ever talked to has held the belief that Avatar was a solid but overly-aggressive-middle-of-the-road (and slightly bloated) film. A decent movie, but not on anyones “must see” or “top 5” lists. When Cameron announced his plans for a potential 5 films in the franchise it seemed slightly ambitious, but then again we did get a Final Destination (2000) cinematic universe, and Avatar is still raking in money to this day…..
Avatar is a good film but that’s about as excited as i’m going to get about it (outside of the Florida theme park theming and ride). I will of course relent that it is visually stunning, but that alone is not enough to carry the film. I look forward to seeing what the sequel brings to this table.
Bonus Nerd Content : The Na’vi Language
The Na’vi language was created entirely from scratch by linguist Dr. Paul R. Frommer. James Cameron hired him to construct a language that would be easy for actors to pronounce but would not resemble any human language. Frommer created about 1,000 words. Here are a select few to get you started:
Kaltxì (kal-tsee) – Hello
Oel ngati kameie (o-el nga-tee ka-me-e) – I see you
Ngaru lu fpom srak? (nga-ru lu fpom srak) – How are you?
Aylì’uf (a-yee-luf) – Thank you
Nga sewiyu (nga se-wi-yu) – I love you
Tsamsiyu (tsam-si-yu) – Goodbye
Srane (sran-e) – Yes
Kame (ka-me) – No
Nìwotx (nee-wot) – Excuse me
Uniltìrantokx (u-nil-tee-ran-tok) – My name is…
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