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Analysis of James Cameron's Avatar

Essay by   •  June 5, 2017  •  Book/Movie Report  •  1,767 Words (8 Pages)  •  274 Views

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This paper is an analysis of James Cameron's Avatar, a massively successful film that has managed to gross, so far, a half billion in revenue. With its popularity and mass appeal, it has also incurred a considerable amount of criticism from a variety of sources, targeting a variety of topics of the film, from its presentation of alien natives and a colonial corporate military, to race issues and a depiction of simulation. To the extent of human science, Avatar the film is similar to such a variety of others, it is basically grounded around the fact that the more mechanically propelled society is endeavoring to uproot an indigenous society for the purpose of its very own and monetary profit. In this essay, I will attempt to explore ethnocentrism in the film’s story, I will analyze how Avatar is equally a reflection of and an active influence on contemporary culture, and will also provide the allegory of the Avatar story to Native Americans and the similar treatment they received by European settlers. First lets look at the plot, production and reception of the film.

In the year 2154, the RDA Corporation plans to explore Pandora, an earth-like moon situated at a distant galaxy for its rich abundance of unobtanium - a valuable mineral. The planet is inhabitant by Na ‘vi, a blue skinned species which are human like with feline characteristics. As Pandora’s atmosphere does not any human survival, scientists create human-Na’vi hybrids known as Avatars. These avatars are controlled by genetically matched human operators. Jake Sully was sent as a replacement for his identical twin brother who was recently murdered. Jake is a paraplegic war veteran. Dr. Grace Augustine who is the head of the Avatar Program appoints Jake as a bodyguard. In Pandora, Jake escorts Augustine and biologist Norm Spellman. The group was attacked by a large predator and eventually Jake gets separated from his team. Later, he was rescued by Neytiri, a female Na’vi. Hse took Jake to their clan where he was given a warm welcome. Back in the camp, Jake was identified by the leader of RDA security forces colonel Miles Quaritch who promises Jake to get back his real legs in exchange for intelligence about the natives. He was also appointed a task of making the Na’vis to abandon Hometree which was situated above a large deposit of unobtanium. In the meanwhile, Jake grows close towards Neytiri and her clan Omaticaya. Jake started enjoying his life through his avatar and eventually tries to stop his people to destroy the Omaticaya’s peaceful life on the Hometree. Selfridge then decides to destroy the Hometree as he was convinced that the Na’vis will not come accept any other their given negotiations. But Augustine argued that destroying the same might cause problems in the atmosphere of Pandora as all of the living beings are entwined with each other. Selfridge gives Jake an hour’s time to convince the Omaticaya to abandon the Hometree. When Jake tells the same to the Na’vi clan they accuse Jake to be an imposter and put him as well as Augustine in prison. As Jake’s time ran out to convince the natives, Quaritch’s men destroy the Hometree killing Neytiri’s father and other group members. As Jake and Augustine were about to escape, Quartitch shoots Augustine. Jake to save Augustine goes back to the Omaticaya and convinces them about his innocence. Then, Jake along with Neytiri and Tsu’Tey – their new leader, attack the human race. While they were about to lose the war, Pandora’s wildlife attacks the humans and they drove out the human race apart from Jake and his close friends. Jake eventually assimilates into their culture and ends up staying on Pandora.

Avatar takes place in the virtual world of Pandora, created by Cameron withdigital technology and colonized with fantastic creatures and an indigenous raceof tall blue aliens called the Na'vi. The film is presented in three-dimensions, atechnology that has been around for some time but this is the first time it seemsto be used without reference to novelty. In this way Cameron and Twentieth CenturyFox made a film, or rather an experience, that cannot be pirated; a considerableamount of its revenue is from viewers paying extra to watch it in threedimensions, undoubtedly multiple times, on a monolithic IMAX screen.The virtual world within Avatar is closely reminiscent of virtual spaces likeSecond Life; in both environments, individuals use avatars to plug into the space,roam around, and act in pure virtuality. Cameron's avatar takes a step further,and is able to fully transfer his consciousness into his secondary being, gettingrid of his fragile and disabled body in the last moments of the film. This nexus between body and avatar, real and virtual spaces, is present in Avatar despite thefact avatars and humans, the fantastic and the technological, occupy the sameplane of existence.Avatar adopts and reinterprets a variety of film genres and styles. One ofthem is the cowboys versus Indians narrative, although it is ideologically similarto John Ford's The Searchers than the classical Western. Avatar is undeniably aproduct of post-colonialism: it casts the Na'vi as the relatively harmless yetenvironmentally respectful indigenous population, while the humans are a corporatemilitary who left their dying planet to mine the resources of Pandora. The filmpresents an anti-militarism narrative, portraying the soldiers as cruel, violent,and brainless brutes, intent in only chasing the company dollar and perpetuatingthe myth of the resolute warrior. All of them are males, except for a femalehelicopter pilot, who ultimately defects to the good side after rejecting violentaction against the native population.Gender in Avatar is a topic fairly unmentioned by critiques, but it deservesmention. The main character, Jake Sully, is a male Marine; due to his status as aprotagonist, and his avatar, he is able to negotiate between the masculinemilitaristic and corporate structure and the more feminine sphere of science andnature. The main scientist is played by Sigourney Weaver; it is her cigarettewhich is the subject of some of the less relevant attacks on the film. As abiologist, she is more interested in gaining samples from Pandora and interactingwith its natives in a pedagogical role than Sully approaches the world in naivewonderment, playfully touching and punching his way through. In a way, he is theavatar of the audience, guiding them through the world, and learning about it asthey do. His guide within the film is a female Na'vi; Sully enacts machoantagonism with the male Na'vi, which are presented as militaristic, vengeful, andquick to action.Not only is Sully and his avatar initiated into the tribe, but he quicklybecomes the most capable of them. This narrative is reminiscent of the films TheLast Samurai and Dances with Wolves, and is often described as the "white savior"theme, where a member of the dominant race, often rejected by his own kind, provesto be the best subaltern. At one point the Marine commander asks Sully (who areboth white men): "How does it feel to betray your own race?" In the end, asmentioned before, Sully chooses to permanently change species, which is epitomizedby a more conservative critique as the myth of being able to change races within a

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