The Na’vi of Pandora

Avatar is the best movie I’ve ever gone to see by myself. Today is the 2 year anniversary of when I first started writing my blog. So I figured I’d talk about what is currently the highest grossing film of all time and what James Cameron considers to be his magnum opus, Avatar. After 12 whole years of not directing a single movie since Titanic (save for a few documentaries), no one knew if James Cameron would ever return. Turns out he had been developing Avatar since 1994. Rather than work with the technology available at the time, he waited nearly 2 decades for the technology to catch up to his vision. By the time it was released, I wasn’t sure how to feel about it. I remember when I first saw the trailer. The giant blue aliens were so bizarre that I wrote off the movie without giving it a chance. After about 2 weeks into its release, I decided the attention was just too much to ignore. So I was the first person in my family who made the leap to see it. And I became instantly obsessed with it. I went to see Avatar a second time with my brother, I bought the movie on DVD, and then I bought an extended collector’s edition where I watched the special edition and extended cut. Avatar became an instant phenomenon…


Neytiri (right) teaches Jake (left) to shoot an arrow

Avatar takes place in the distant future of 2154. A small colony of humans has set up shop on the alien world Pandora. As natural resources have greatly depleted back on Earth. In order to gain new resources, the military has set up a fierce mining operation with the goal of obtaining unobtanium. Meanwhile, scientists have developed a more peaceful solution involving avatars. Remotely controlled bodies mixed with human and native DNA. The native race of aliens are known as the Na’vi. 10 ft. tall blue striped humanoids with reinforced bones, pointed ears, a catlike nose, big yellow eyes, sharp teeth, a tail, four fingers, and black hair with a long braided ponytail that connects to life on Pandora. Like Native Americans, they dress in primitive attire and use knives, bows, and arrows. Their overall appearance made them instant icons. Jake Sully was just your average Marine until he lost the use of his legs. He’s taken to Pandora when his DNA turns out to be a perfect match to his deceased twin brother’s avatar. Jake works with scientists Dr. Grace Augustine and Norm Spellman. Who help him to link with his avatar and possibly help reestablish a trust with the Na’vi. When things go wrong, Jake meets Neytiri. An accomplished Na’vi warrior and daughter of the chief. After a sign from Pandora’s deity Eywa, Neytiri takes Jake to the Na’vi hometree, and reluctantly teaches him everything about their culture. She teaches him to speak the Na’vi language, how to shoot an arrow, how to ride a Direhourse, how to tame a Banshee, and to understand Eywa’s connection to nature. It brings them close together, until they inevitably mate for life. All the while the ruthless scared Colonel Quaritch gives Jake three months before tearing down hometree. Like most movies released in the late 2000’s, Avatar has a strong environmental message. As well as the usual James Cameron motifs. Such as military and anti-war themes, strong female characters, science fiction technology, and aliens. Now that you know the story, this is why it’s the best movie I went to see by myself…


Jake flies a Banshee for the first time

Avatar was simply too big to ignore. For one reason or another, it has a $2,787,965,087 box office gross. Making it the first movie to cross $2 billion internationally. Topping Titanic in the process. Turns out James Cameron can only be topped by his own work. The main reason being for his innovative use of 3D and motion capture technology. A process that worked well in the past, but hadn’t been nearly as photo realistic as the effects in Avatar. Another reason for its success was all the time James Cameron spent working on it. He put his 16 years’ worth of development to good use. Working on every minute detail of the universe in Avatar. As I saw in countless makings, he spent a lot of time working on the Na’vi culture. He met with real native people, he had a linguist develop the Na’vi language (so ftue a skxawng could nume it), he had the actors train in jungle environments, and he had thousands of clothes and weapons made even though they’d be digital in the film. And that’s just what made it into the movie! There was also an extended dance sequence and a vision quest that got cut. Then there’s the human world filled with Aliens style mech suits, scanners, hovercrafts, breathing masks, and of course avatar pods. The extended cuts include things like more of Earth, the Na’vi school for learning English, and more of the infamous ponytail sex scene. Of course financial success, good reviews, a Golden Globe win for Best Drama, and several Oscar wins/nominations couldn’t stop it from being labeled overrated. Which I do understand, but I still love it as much as when I first saw it. Avatar has been accused of many things. One being that it’s just a rip-off of several other films. Dances with Wolves for its “outsider betrays his own people for natives” premise, Pocahontas for its “male outsider-female native” romance, or FernGully for its “outsider helps save the environment” message. It’s true they are very similar, but the presentation is what’s unique. Like how it makes the humans invaders instead of aliens. Then there’s the criticism of the writing and characters. Zoe Saldana delivers the best performance in Avatar. Going blue this time in a role solidifying her sci-fi princess designation. Meanwhile Sigourney Weaver continues her status as sci-fi queen. Stephen Lang shines and typecasts himself as the villain. Then there’s stock characters like Tsu’tey, the stubborn native or Trudy, the badass tough girl (of course played by Michelle Rodriguez). Sam Worthington was big for the time, but his star power didn’t last long. Which is why I felt he was perfect for Jake. He’s meant to be like the audience. In awe of his surroundings. That’s why I felt like Avatar didn’t need to have a strong story, writing, or even characters. Beautiful visuals like floating mountains and a fully realized world are enough to make Avatar fully deserving of all its admiration. “I see you” Avatar.


Jake vs. Quaritch

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