Jake Sully

Neytiri

Dr. Grace Augustine

Parker Selfridge

Col. Miles Quaritch

Trudy Chacón

Jake and Neytiri

Grace and the Tree of Souls

Quaritch in Cockpit

The Destruction of Home Tree

Pandora wild cat

REALM:

The moon of Pandora

CREATED BY:

James Cameron (writer, director)

FORMAT:

Film

SETTING:

Compound of human mining operation and the wild jungles of Pandora, home to the native Na’vi people.

STORY ARC:

A paraplegic ex-marine is recruited by an off-planet mining company to take part in a scientific project using genetically engineered avatars to reach out to the indigenous population on Pandora. His loyalties become torn when he is rescued in the jungle by a beautiful native woman and he begins to learn the ways of the remarkable Na’vi.

CHARACTERS:

Jake Sully, human ex-marine and avatar operator
Neytiri, Na’vi warrior, daughter of clan chief and spiritual leader
Dr. Grace Augustine, head of Avatar Program
Parker Selfridge, corporate administrator for mining operation
Col. Miles Quaritch, head of mining operation’s security force
Trudy Chacón, combat pilot in mining operation’s security force

BIG CONCEPTS:

The physical body is a vehicle for spirit. Surprisingly, the human scientists of the Avatar Program grasp this concept and employ electronic equipment capable of projecting consciousness from a human body into a genetically engineered Na’vi hybrid body. The Na’vi greet each other by saying, “I see you,” acknowledging the being within form, quite poignantly expressed by Neytiri when she scoops Jake’s disabled human body into her arms.

Consciousness can inhabit many forms. The Na’vi communicate with Eywa, the spirit embodied within the vast neural network of thousands of trees all across Pandora. Just before she dies, Grace senses Eywa and tells Jake, “She’s real!”

Technical achievement is not an indicator of cultural development. Most of the corporate and military personnel of RDA mining arrogantly believe themselves superior to the native Na’vi who do not employ mechanical devices, but as Jake grows and learns from Neytiri who at first considers him stupid, he begins to grasp the disparity between Na’vi and human understanding of life, telling Eywa that his race “killed their mother” and would do the same on Pandora.

Violence for the sake of money is wrong. For over ten years, RDA mining invested in the Avatar Program to work toward a peaceful coexistence with the native Na’vi population, but when an enormous deposit of valuable unobtanium is discovered beneath a tree that is home to the Omaticaya clan, Administrator Parker Selfridge allows the brutal Colonal Quaritch to destroy it, causing death and deep trauma to the Na’vi people.

REMARKS:

Not only is James Cameron’s film a visually beautiful work of art, his script is one of a very tiny minority of films that have something extremely valuable to say. It became one of my favorites the first time I ever experienced the wonder of Pandora.

I just watched the Extended Collector’s Edition for the first time last week on Thanksgiving. After a scrumptious dinner with my sons, I was inspired to watch something epic and Avatar jumped right off the shelf and into our magical bluray player. I was captivated and enthralled all over again.

The story unfolds through the eyes of Jake Sully, a man bound to a wheelchair who becomes part of an extraordinary team of scientists working for the RDA mining company on distant Pandora. Arriving at the RDA compound, Jake is met with open hostility from Grace Augustine, the head of the Avatar Program, and allows himself to be recruited as a spy for Miles Quaritch, the head of the company mercenaries who views Pandora as a hostile enemy.

During his first projection into his new hybrid Avatar, Jake is overwhelmed by the sensations of being in a fully functioning body once more and his joy is palpable as he tears out of the lab at a break-neck run. This sets the tone for the rest of the film as we follow Jake on his journey to rediscover and redefine the meaning of his life. His running takes him straight into the heart of Pandora’s jungle where he encounters wild animals and a beautiful woman who becomes his ally and teacher in the ways of the Na’vi.

For a time, Jake blithely continues his role as informant to Col. Quaritch, but as he learns from Neytiri and the Na’vi and begins to have direct experiences in bonding with the minds of the dire horse creatures, the flying reptilian ikrans, and the vast intelligence of Eywa, we see a profound change ripple through his understanding and emotions. His internal expansion reminds me of a saying I’ve had hanging on my wall for decades: “A mind once stretched by a new idea never regains its original dimensions.” When he is given the opportunity to return to Earth to regain the use of his legs, he turns it down in order to become a member of the Omaticaya clan.

Unfortunately, Jake’s reports on the Na’vi spur the company to move in on a huge deposit of unobtainium (I love Cameron’s name for this valuable ore) directly beneath Home Tree of the Omaticaya clan. Col. Quaritch convinces Parker Selfridge, the company administrator, to give him free rein to drive the Na’vi away from the deposit and ruthlessly destroys the Na’vi home, killing many in the process. We are shown superlative examples of a military dick that kills for no better reason than to get his rocks off and a callous corporate zealot who throws ethics to the wind for the sake of a good quarterly report. We have waaaaay too many of these stereotypes causing problems in our reality that very few have the sense to stand up to.

Of special note, ONE pilot in the entire military brigade, Trudy Chacón, pulls back from the senselessly cruel assault on the Na’vi, stating, “I didn’t sign up for this shit.” This lone, dauntless woman ends up helping Jake and Grace escape to rally the Na’vi and takes up their cause when Quaritch’s forces attack again. Hats off to Cameron for writing in a strong character within the military who has the balls to take action to help stop the wrongful violence.

The film ends with the Na’vi forces prevailing against the human aggressors, a screeching YES!! in my book. Jake Sully has blossomed into a strong man worthy of our admiration and respect. The Na’vi people have halted the destruction of their world by greedy alien intruders. One has to wonder, though, if unevolved humans will one day return with bigger, badder weapons to smash this fragile world and take what they want.

All in all, Cameron’s uplifting message comes close to the mark, but I must say that it still doesn’t completely hit the bull’s eye. His portrayal of the Na’vi people and their values seems to be clear reflection of the spirituality and traditions of many indigenous human groups who, in spite of a deep connection to nature, still kill and believe that thanking the spirits of those they kill makes it acceptable. They still use violence as an answer, just like the races who mistreat them, and this is where I have to insist that we can do better.

In Avatar, it was hugely satisfying to see military and corporate assholes get their butts royally kicked by people they had abused, especially when a sickening majority of the schlock produced by the entertainment industry these days glorifies and panders to the “America, fuck yeah!” mentality. But I’m still watching and waiting for those sublime stories, those rare sparkling jewels that burst out of the tired old crap to bring us something new, something grander and stronger than we’ve been given before. A precious few have pulled it off – Avatar: The Last Airbender, Samurai Fiction, and Erik the Viking are examples of that special breed. I’m hungry for more. That’s why I write what I write. Humanity needs new solutions in order to grow past where we are. James Cameron’s Avatar is, at the very least, a healthy step in the right direction.

Images: Lightstorm Entertainment / Dune Entertainment / Ingenious Film Partners

Jake riding ikran

Floating Islands

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Erin MacMichael is a science fantasy author and artist, creator of the T'nari Renegades series of novellas, novels, covers, and artwork. Her lifelong quest has been to explore past the boundaries of conventional thinking and figure out what really has transpired on this planet. She has traveled extensively throughout the world and lives in the Pacific Northwest with her marvelous offspring.

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REALM:  The moon of Pandora

CREATED BY:  James Cameron (writer, director)

FORMAT:  Film

SETTING:  Compound of human mining operation and the wild jungles of Pandora, home to the native Na’vi people.

STORY ARC: A paraplegic ex-marine is recruited by an off-planet mining company to take part in a scientific project using genetically engineered avatars to reach out to the indigenous population on Pandora. His loyalties become torn when he is rescued in the jungle by a beautiful native woman and he begins to learn the ways of the remarkable Na’vi.

CHARACTERS:
Jake Sully, human ex-marine and avatar operator
Neytiri, Na’vi warrior, daughter of clan chief and spiritual leader
Dr. Grace Augustine, head of Avatar Program
Parker Selfridge, corporate administrator for mining operation
Col. Miles Quaritch, head of mining operation’s security force
Trudy Chacón, combat pilot in mining operation’s security force

Jake Sully

Neytiri

BIG CONCEPTS:
The physical body is a vehicle for spirit. Surprisingly, the human scientists of the Avatar Program grasp this concept and employ electronic equipment capable of projecting consciousness from a human body into a genetically engineered Na’vi hybrid body. The Na’vi greet each other by saying, “I see you,” acknowledging the being within form, quite poignantly expressed by Neytiri when she scoops Jake’s disabled human body into her arms.

Consciousness can inhabit many forms. The Na’vi communicate with Eywa, the spirit embodied within the vast neural network of thousands of trees all across Pandora. Just before she dies, Grace senses Eywa and tells Jake, “She’s real!”

Technical achievement is not an indicator of cultural development. Most of the corporate and military personnel of RDA mining arrogantly believe themselves superior to the native Na’vi who do not employ mechanical devices, but as Jake grows and learns from Neytiri who at first considers him stupid, he begins to grasp the disparity between Na’vi and human understanding of life, telling Eywa that his race “killed their mother” and would do the same on Pandora.

Violence for the sake of money is wrong. For over ten years, RDA mining invested in the Avatar Program to work toward a peaceful coexistence with the native Na’vi population, but when an enormous deposit of valuable unobtanium is discovered beneath a tree that is home to the Omaticaya clan, Administrator Parker Selfridge allows the brutal Colonal Quaritch to destroy it, causing death and deep trauma to the Na’vi people.

Dr. Grace Augustine

Trudy Chacón

REMARKS:
Not only is James Cameron’s film a visually beautiful work of art, his script is one of a very tiny minority of films that have something extremely valuable to say. It became one of my favorites the first time I ever experienced the wonder of Pandora.

I just watched the Extended Collector’s Edition for the first time last week on Thanksgiving. After a scrumptious dinner with my sons, I was inspired to watch something epic and Avatar jumped right off the shelf and into our magical bluray player. I was captivated and enthralled all over again.

The story unfolds through the eyes of Jake Sully, a man bound to a wheelchair who becomes part of an extraordinary team of scientists working for the RDA mining company on distant Pandora. Arriving at the RDA compound, Jake is met with open hostility from Grace Augustine, the head of the Avatar Program, and allows himself to be recruited as a spy for Miles Quaritch, the head of the company mercenaries who views Pandora as a hostile enemy.

During his first projection into his new hybrid Avatar, Jake is overwhelmed by the sensations of being in a fully functioning body once more and his joy is palpable as he tears out of the lab at a break-neck run. This sets the tone for the rest of the film as we follow Jake on his journey to rediscover and redefine the meaning of his life. His running takes him straight into the heart of Pandora’s jungle where he encounters wild animals and a beautiful woman who becomes his ally and teacher in the ways of the Na’vi.

For a time, Jake blithely continues his role as informant to Col. Quaritch, but as he learns from Neytiri and the Na’vi and begins to have direct experiences in bonding with the minds of the dire horse creatures, the flying reptilian ikrans, and the vast intelligence of Eywa, we see a profound change ripple through his understanding and emotions. His internal expansion reminds me of a saying I’ve had hanging on my wall for decades: “A mind once stretched by a new idea never regains its original dimensions.” When he is given the opportunity to return to Earth to regain the use of his legs, he turns it down in order to become a member of the Omaticaya clan.

Unfortunately, Jake’s reports on the Na’vi spur the company to move in on a huge deposit of unobtainium (I love Cameron’s name for this valuable ore) directly beneath Home Tree of the Omaticaya clan. Col. Quaritch convinces Parker Selfridge, the company administrator, to give him free rein to drive the Na’vi away from the deposit and ruthlessly destroys the Na’vi home, killing many in the process. We are shown superlative examples of a military dick that kills for no better reason than to get his rocks off and a callous corporate zealot who throws ethics to the wind for the sake of a good quarterly report. We have waaaaay too many of these stereotypes causing problems in our reality that very few have the sense to stand up to.

Of special note, ONE pilot in the entire military brigade, Trudy Chacón, pulls back from the senselessly cruel assault on the Na’vi, stating, “I didn’t sign up for this shit.” This lone, dauntless woman ends up helping Jake and Grace escape to rally the Na’vi and takes up their cause when Quaritch’s forces attack again. Hats off to Cameron for writing in a strong character within the military who has the balls to take action to help stop the wrongful violence.

The film ends with the Na’vi forces prevailing against the human aggressors, a screeching YES!! in my book. Jake Sully has blossomed into a strong man worthy of our admiration and respect. The Na’vi people have halted the destruction of their world by greedy alien intruders. One has to wonder, though, if unevolved humans will one day return with bigger, badder weapons to smash this fragile world and take what they want.

All in all, Cameron’s uplifting message comes close to the mark, but I must say that it still doesn’t completely hit the bull’s eye. His portrayal of the Na’vi people and their values seems to be clear reflection of the spirituality and traditions of many indigenous human groups who, in spite of a deep connection to nature, still kill and believe that thanking the spirits of those they kill makes it acceptable. They still use violence as an answer, just like the races who mistreat them, and this is where I have to insist that we can do better.

In Avatar, it was hugely satisfying to see military and corporate assholes get their butts royally kicked by people they had abused, especially when a sickening majority of the schlock produced by the entertainment industry these days glorifies and panders to the “America, fuck yeah!” mentality. But I’m still watching and waiting for those sublime stories, those rare sparkling jewels that burst out of the tired old crap to bring us something new, something grander and stronger than we’ve been given before. A precious few have pulled it off – Avatar: The Last Airbender, Samurai Fiction, and Erik the Viking are examples of that special breed. I’m hungry for more. That’s why I write what I write. Humanity needs new solutions in order to grow past where we are. James Cameron’s Avatar is, at the very least, a healthy step in the right direction.

Images: Lightstorm Entertainment / Dune Entertainment / Ingenious Film Partners

Parker Selfridge

Col. Miles Quaritch

Jake and Neytiri

Grace and the Tree of Souls

Quaritch in Cockpit

The Destruction of Home Tree

Pandora wild cat

Jake riding ikran

Floating Islands

Like and share this page!

Save Save Save Save Save

Erin MacMichael is a science fantasy author and artist, creator of the T'nari Renegades series of novellas, novels, covers, and artwork. Her lifelong quest has been to explore past the boundaries of conventional thinking and figure out what really has transpired on this planet. She has traveled extensively throughout the world and lives in the Pacific Northwest with her marvelous offspring.

0 Comments

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *