Diving Deep into the Themes of ‘Avatar’


Photo Credit: Flickr

Simone Chery, OwlFeed Lifestyle Reporter

It’s been 13 years since the release of Avatar, the highest-grossing film of all time, and now by the end of 2022, we will see the storyline revived with the second Avatar movie scheduled for release in December. 

Released on December 18, 2009, the original Avatar detailed a story in the mid-22nd century about a disabled veteran who takes his brother’s place in the Avatar program where he would explore the Pandoran environment but comes face to face with difficulties, love, and betrayal on his own part as well as others.

Being that the movie is complex with its own system of spirituality, species, and more, I’m going to give the watchers a dive into the mythology and themes along with information about the new up-and-coming sequel.

With the new and original geography, species, and spirituality that takes a lot of the spotlight in the movie, James Cameron’s futuristic cinematography when creating the creatures was mind-blowing, to say the least. On the planet, Pandora, one of the lovers of the planet was the character Grace, a xenobotanist in charge of the Avatar Program. She brought the watchers more information about Pandora’s intriguing system of life.

Some of the more notable alien creatures shown in the movie were mountain banshees, woodsprites, and the avatars/Na’vi themselves.

Avatar Viki details all the intriguing and original species created. The mountain banshee was a creature called Ikran by the Na’vi people. With tough skin coming in many different colors, lengthy wings, and a pterodactyl sort of shape, these dragon-like flyers were used in battle and for traveling great distances. The bonds they shared with the Na’vi were strong and only happens once for a banshee. Becoming an Ikran Makto was a sacred and dangerous rite of passage for the indigenous people.

Wood sprites were seeds that came from the Tree of Souls, a colossal willow tree that connects the Na’vi people to the goddess Eywa and holds the history of the Na’vi. These woodsprites are of extreme spiritual significance and they helped drive the plot, pushing Jake Sully into his destiny.

Last but not least, the Na’vi people and the avatars created by humans were fascinating. Standing at about three meters high (ten feet), their skin is shaded in a palette of blues, covered in bioluminescent spots. They have large yellow eyes, sensitive big ears, and black hair. 

The avatar species that was genetically modified was created almost exactly like the Na’vi but with 10 fingers. The avatars were made as vessels so that “drivers,” people trained to psionically link to their avatars with the same facial features as them so that they can somewhat safely travel to tribes without being killed. These beings are very agile, lengthy, strong, and absolutely confounding. On the big screen, seeing these new creatures in the cinematography shocked a lot of watchers.

Some other great highlights would include the infamous thanators, an apex predator that helped Neytiri towards the end of the movie, viperwolfs which assisted in Jake’s Na’vi lessons and showed him all life is precious, direhorses which are beautiful six-legged horse-like animals that also aid in battles for the Na’vi, and hammerhead titanotheres which was the first major dangerous mammal Jake encountered.

The story of Avatar was one that was told beautifully and as complex as it is, here lies within the story multiple different themes. Of course, love and the intimate connection between two souls was one of them. Grade Saver’s article detailing the themes explains Jake Sully and Neytiri’s chemistry grows throughout the film as they learn to love one another’s differences and lifestyles due to her having to teach him the Na’vi ways. The famous “I see you,” was used to capture the cultural relationship ties of the Na’vi people as well as the devotion the two had for each other.

Another theme they explained was indigeneity alongside tones of racism. The Na’vi people on Pandora were deeply explored, with watchers learning new information pertaining to their culture, morals, spirituality, and the need to protect their home. The Resources Development Administration, ‘RDA,’ is a non-governmental organization trying to tear down the forests and homes of the Na’vi people for a very expensive metal that lies beneath, creating a huge conflict within the movie. 

“The sanctity of native boundaries” is brought to the light, with great efforts being put into protecting the indigenous tribe’s home. Not only this but terms such as “savages” and “blue monkeys” were used throughout the film to hone in on the racism and colonization taking precedence.

The theme of spirituality and the power of nature was constantly ridiculed by the humans from Earth who pushed for the pillaging through indigenous lands. A powerful and intimate connection between nature and the Na’vi people was present. There is a physical neural connection to the planet’s ecosystem and it is created with the tsaheylu, a neural queue that is an extension of the nervous system which connects with other creatures to create a bond.

This connection allowed the people of Pandora to feel and understand the life of creatures and their worth, making the sympathy for animals and plants just that much more effective in influencing the watcher’s emotions. This connection also goes through the goddess, Eywa, found in the root system of the trees on the planet.

In Grade Saver’s article, they describe Eywa as, “a kind of spiritual database, a divine feminine order that presides over all beings.” So the importance she held to the Na’vi people and the RDA’s goal to destroy the home tree where Eywa exists with the history of the people leads into the theme of exploitation.

The RDA exploiting the Na’vi tribe, even their own people due to greediness and desire for money is revealed in the main antagonist, Colonel Miles Quaritch, and his men.

“The organization justifies its exploitation and extraction of resources as being in the best interest of the people from Earth, but it is an act of violence…this theme bears resemblance to colonization and the pillaging of environments and indigenous structures in our own world,” Grade Saver said. The abuse of power used and extortion has been seen throughout the history of the U.S. and around the world helps pull the strings of pathos.

Though there are a few other themes, hitting the main ones that will most likely leak into the new sequel of Avatar sets up what might be revealed. The new movie obviously seems to be another human threat as the main theme of the first one was troubling the Na’vi for resources.

Photo Credit: Flickr

In Screen Rant’s article on the upcoming movies of Avatar, it says, “Avatar’s producer Jon Landau has confirmed a human presence in the sequels, and Stephen Lang is reprising his role as the villainous Miles Quaritch.” 

Most likely Quaritch’s main resolve is revenge which will contribute to the plot. The movie may well be the Avatars fighting Earth’s inimical forces once again. Alongside this, being that Jake Sully is technically a manufactured Avatar, though the Omaticaya clan, which is where Neytiri is from, accepted him, there may be resistance from other tribes across Pandora which may result in a different source of conflict.

Because the watchers have witnessed new and original scenes of mythology in James Cameron’s movie, it’s safe to assume there will naturally be an exploration of Pandora’s planet.

With storytelling in cinematography that was famously prominent and celebrated for being so methodical, “one can safely assume the director has spent 10 years busily crafting more tribes, locales, and beasts to unleash in his Avatar sequels,” Screen Rant said.

As the first Avatar movie was sort of limited to the jungles of Pandora, the remaining islands, tribes, and fourteen moons surrounding Pandora will most likely be explored.

Hopefully, some more in-depth understanding of the mythology, a recap of the themes, and some fun details about the Avatar sequel will better prepare Avatar fans for the new movie. ‘I’ll See you’ then.