Moviegoers all over the world have surely at least heard of the James Cameron hit that is ranked number one at the box office: Avatar. The 2009 film takes place in 2154 and follows the story of Jake Sully, a marine with a spinal injury that cost him the use of his legs. He journeys to the distant moon of Pandora in place of his deceased twin brother as part of a scientific effort to negotiate with Pandora’s native humanoid species, the Na’vi, for desperately needed resources. Jake’s role in the project is to pilot a genetically crafted human-Na’vi hybrid known as an “avatar.” His task is to become close with the local tribe, the Omaticaya clan, in order to convince them to move from their Hometree, which sits atop an immense mound of the desired substance, unobtanium. Ironically, his lack of knowledge about the Na’vi culture is what persuades them to welcome him into their clan. The chief’s daughter, Neytiri, is responsible for teaching Jake Sully their customs, and the two become very close, eventually falling in love and officially mating before Eywa, the Na’vi’s sort of deity. At this point, the clan discovers Jake’s true intentions and casts him out, followed by an attack by the humans on Hometree. The Na’vi lose—badly. They retreat to the Tree of Souls, their most sacred site, to recover, and in a desperate attempt to renew the clan’s trust, Jake sets out on a dangerous mission to bond with toruk, the large, native, flying creature which dominates the skies. The Na’vi name is perfect, really, as toruk translates to “last shadow.” Jake is successful in taming the beast, making him Toruk Makto, rider of the last shadow. In Na’vi history, Toruk Makto represents strength in a time of weakness—he is a source of hope, and it is this show of courage that allows for Jake Sully’s reentry into the clan. As Toruk Makto, he takes on a position of leadership, heading the Na’vi’s war efforts against the imperialistic humans. He gathers the different clans, and with the help of Pandora’s plentiful fauna, the Na’vi defeat the humans and send them back to their dying Earth. The film ends with Jake Sully taking on the role of Olo’eyktan (chief) and the Na’vi permanently transferring his consciousness into his avatar, officially making him one of them.
This visually stunning masterpiece explores various broad themes, most notably nature, imperialism, and love. James Cameron’s acknowledgment of the damage our predecessors have caused the Earth is critical to raising awareness about the present need for a solution. This world will one day be in our hands, and we needn’t inherit a dying planet when there are things—small things, even—that we can do to save it. We love the planet of Pandora because its flora and fauna are truly beautiful and resemble the world we wish we lived in. 2154 is coming faster than we think, and we need to do all we can now to ensure a better future for our descendants. Let’s not make the same mistake as those before us, but instead, learn from history this valuable lesson. Speaking of, the imperialistic elements of this film really highlight man’s wrongdoings throughout history, and the plot itself clearly reflects European behavior towards Native Americans. Today we know that these actions were wrong, which is a key reason why we are able to appreciate the protagonist and antagonist of the movie; however, the idea of imperialism will never truly be gone, as it occurs daily on microscopic scales that we frequently fail to consider. That is why, once again, this theme is very important to observe and absorb while watching Avatar. Finally, what movie could take the top rank at the box office without love? While love is not the most significant theme in this film, it is still definitely worth addressing. Jake and Neytiri’s relationship is critical to the plot and tone of the movie as it reveals life lessons about communication, trust, and family, and how all of the above relate to that sweet thing we call love. Jake’s dishonesty truly breaks Neytiri’s heart, but even further, it hurts the entire Omaticaya clan. This shows how love extends beyond the romantic notions it is always associated with, and it highlights the importance of honest communication and trust in a relationship—even a non-romantic one. When Jake finally commits himself to the Na’vi and eventually regains their trust, it displays how dedication and loyalty are crucial to a family.
Due to Cameron’s emphasis on nature, imperialism, and love in combination with breathtaking visuals and a moving story, I hold Avatar in the highest regard and strongly recommend that those who haven’t yet seen it do so! As James Cameron says, see it as it was meant to be seen: on the big screen in 3D, which is once again possible as Avatar was re-released in theaters on September 23. In addition, the re-release is rumored to contain a sneak peek of the long-awaited sequel, Avatar: The Way of Water, which will hit theaters on December 16, 2022. The official teaser trailer is also available on YouTube for all to enjoy.
“Avatar Re-Release Poster.” IMDb, www.imdb.com/title/tt0499549/mediaviewer/rm371527425/?ref_=tt_ov_i. Accessed 27 Sept. 2022.