Thoughts on Avatar

Based on the review by Christian Simpson who was moved to tears, my son and I ventured forth in the sub-freezing weather to the local cinema to view the second in the series…the way of the water.

There are many levels to this film.

Firstly, there was a mantra or prayer that all the water folk knew.

“The way of water has no beginning and no end. The sea is around you and in you. The sea is your home before your birth and after your death. The sea gives, and the sea takes. Water connects all things – life to death and darkness to light.”

~ Avatar II, the Way of the Water

It is like many of the indigenous peoples from around the world: they are connected to nature and the life force of all flora and fauna.

You can also recognize this feeling of the oneness of life in the ancient Greek text of the New Testament.

No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit.

~ 1 John 4:12-13

We see how the characters relate to their world and their world, though some of it is quite scary and dangerous, it is still beautiful. It is heartbreaking to see that the first thing the people from Earth do is destroy the forest and kill all the living creatures where they want to set up their command center. They don’t see that in claiming this world and taming it, they are doing exactly the same thing they did to their home planet. They’re like locusts.

Secondly, they originally were mining “unobtanium” which is a substance they can’t obtain on Earth. It was supposed to be a source of power for the Earth as it has used up all its resources. (So, used up the sun, the water, the air… then they overcrowded the planet.) This time they are planning to colonize the planet and they’re killing the big whale-like animals for a substance in the brain that gives allllllll these people (who can afford the $80 million per vial) the ability to live forever. In all, the invaders decide they will take what they want from the primitives if they have to destroy the planet, then make their people live forever and MOVE ALL OF THEM TO THE PLANET THEY JUST DESTROYED TO MAKE THEIR MONEY. I would guess they’d move all the people that could afford to PAY to the planet, not everyone. This would leave the Earth in a mess without resources and without a way to survive.

We’re the cockroaches of the universe–we’d find a way. If these evil people leave and take their toys with them, it wouldn’t take too long for all the plant and animal species of the earth to take back their planet. Disease and starvation would reduce the human population and predatory animals would reduce it further.

The point of this rant here is that greed and short-term consciousness makes for horrendous long-term damage. LT? These locusts would already be inoculated with the life-extension substance, so they wouldn’t be able to sell any more of it. And if you’re living forever, why have kids? If they mine all the unobtanium from the floating mountains, they wouldn’t float. I would think that would be a bit unpleasant. They’d have to build workers to do the unpleasant tasks. Then they’d develop AI so you don’t have to tell your robot what to do all the time. Then the robots would take over…

Thirdly, the plot:

In Avatar, there are 3 elements: The bad guys invade the peaceful planet. The main officer is seeking revenge against the human who becomes part of the people he was supposed to evict and decides he likes the natives better and fights the officer. He has to sacrifice himself to save the population of indigenous inhabitants.

Evil invaders seek to take beautiful land and peoples and twist them into ugly landscapes and dehumanized creatures.

  1. Lord of the Rings: Sauron uses technology to mass-produce badly-made weapons and armor for his twisted and ruined creatures. He’d rather rule an ugly world populated by evil and cruel hominids than a beautiful land with amazing flora and fauna that have successfully survived millennia. For example: Orcs are former elves that have been mutated into evil, corrupt, and cannibalistic beings. Another example: The scene where they uproot an ancient tree in order to feed the forge to make (badly) weapons and armor. And last: they repair their wounded by riveting metal plates to their heads and attaching ill-fitting prostheses that look like leftovers from a body-building competition for morons.
  2. Harry Potter: Voldemort seeks to use evil to twist men’s souls so he can rule the world. He lives in a world of death but seeks every opportunity to escape death. Even when surrounded by his followers, he is still self-absorbed and relates only to his pet snake. His loyal followers do not like him much, though they worship him. As a follower of Voldemort, Snape, the headmaster after he murders Dumbledor, focuses on punishment for even the slightest infraction and imposes a slave-like or robot-like culture in the once-beautiful school. There is a decided lack of color.
  3. War of the Worlds/Signs/Independence Day: Aliens attack and try to take over the world because they used up their worlds and this looked like an easy mark. They decide to eradicate all humans.

The underdogs must confront and serve as cannon fodder in order to allow time for the hero to defeat the enemy. They go up against a superior force with bigger technology or numbers.

  1. Lord of the Rings: Aragorn, the king, exhorts his followers to fight the hoards in order to give Frodo the time to destroy the ring and therefore Sauron. There are no deserters, and they all fight until the minions turn to dust.
  2. Harry Potter: They enlist the teachers, the students, and all the statuary to fight off the evil wizards so he can find the last of the vessels containing Voldemort’s soul. They all believe in Harry and have a definite dislike for Voldemort as he likes to kill people.It costs them many lives, but they are encouraged by another July boy to fight for their values and their beliefs. The deserters are those in the school whose parents are followers of Voldemort, though one of them died in trying to kill Harry because he didn’t know how to wield his spell and it backfired.
  3. War of the Worlds/Signs/Independence Day: The common people rise up and fight hand to hand, or the brave soldiers go to save the day even though they know it’s a hopeless battle. They believe there’s a plan in place and will give their lives to save their families and communities while the plan is in effect.

The hero has to be willing to die to save the day.

  1. Lord of the Rings: The fellowship of the ring decides to fight a much larger opponent with no compunctions about self-preservation. 4 hobbits, 1 elf, 1 dwarf, 2 humans, and a wizard lead men, elves, and dwarfs, against Sauron and his uncounted minions. Our hero, Frodo, has to sacrifice himself to get the ring to the mountain to destroy it. He loses a finger and almost his life and destroys the ring, but loses a part of his soul. (And they win.)
  2. Harry Potter: Voldemort and his ADULT FOLLOWERS attack a school full of children in order to kill a small boy (who doesn’t know much magic) because of a prophecy that says some child born in July will kill Voldemort. 3 teenage children (one of them is Harry) systematically destroy the vessels containing the parts of Voldemort’s soul and then Harry is brave enough to offer himself as a sacrifice to save the school children. He gets murdered by Voldemort but doesn’t die. They destroy all the vessels and Harry gets into a duel with a fully grown, expert wizard without a nose, and beats him. (And they win.)
  3. War of the Worlds/Signs/Independence Day: Our heroes have to find the weakness in the aliens and be willing to sacrifice themselves in order to save the planet. (And they win.)

Avatar, then, is just a retelling of a Hero’s journey, but it is beautiful and creative. It is a three-dimensional portrayal of the characters and a message that isn’t preached at the audience but implied. Everyone gets a differing interpretation as to the moral of the story, but that’s ok because it speaks to the person’s inner voice and that is unique among all the individuals in the theaters.


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