18 February 2010

The Lives of the Na’vi: James Cameron’s Avatar

As "Avatar" begins, paraplegic Marine corporal Jake Sulley rolls off the troop transport shuttle and finds himself caught between the military culture he knows and the scientists more interested in Pandoran biology than in understanding him.

In order to function in Pandora’s atmosphere and study Pandora’s people—the Na’vi—Dr. Grace Augustine’s team developed technology that allows a human’s consciousness to inhabit a genetically modified Na’vi body.

The mining company funds Augustine’s research, but scientists don’t always share their patrons’ goals, and when Sulley shocks everyone by infiltrating the Na’vi, he finds himself caught between conflicting ideas of reality.

The vacuous bad guys allow anyone to dislike them and perhaps help the movie avoid becoming purely political. They also symbolize human technological sophistication and superficiality.

The Na’vi connect neurologically to other life forms; their civilization and culture are stored in a collective biological memory instead of libraries or hard drives; and daily life has a sacramental rhythm. The story doesn’t develop Na’vi theology beyond this point, but the contrasts between alienation and connection, between technology and organism, and even between knowledge and experience run throughout the story.

Taken all together, Avatar has enough of everything—beauty, character development, and story—to make for an engrossing 162 minutes, even if you think there’s something more fundamentally wrong with human society than greed or a lack of connection to one another and the environment.

1 comment:

  1. This post could have been better if it had looked more deeply at the idea of social connection, the audience response, the context of director's and others' statements, or the Na’vi and just war theory. Next time...