James Cameron’s Avatar (2009 )can be considered as a part of a chain reaction response to the detrimental situation our planet faces due to carbon emissions. Its release follows hotly COP 15 (the United Nation Climate Change Conference 2009) a conference where the super-powerful countries, the developing powers as well as underdeveloped countries met to discuss and find solutions to the challenges brought on by climate change due to CO2 emissions. The conference did not reach the satisfactory results on a global level in that the drafted Copenhagen Accord document was ‘taken note of’ and ‘not adopted’ by the participating countries. Not even legally binding countries to comply with it, the Copenhagen Accord document pledged that countries should keep temperature rising to below 2 Degrees Celsius. The closure of the conference saw a division between the leaders of industrialized countries, who were happy with the accord, and leaders of other countries and non government organizations who were opposed to it.
It remains to be seen whether the Copenhagen Accord will be adhered to in the not so distant future. The fact in this maze of power-play is that poorer countries will be the one’s to suffer from the results of carbon emissions, with Africa being at high risk
As a motion picture Cameron’s Avatar follows on the heels of works such as The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008) as well as The Day After tomorrow (2004) and to a somewhat metaphorical sense the documentary An inconvenient Truth (2006) by Al Gore.
Avatar (2009) takes the phenomena of invasion and colonization to another level, which may be termed inter planetary intrusion with intent to dominate and retrieve by any means necessary what belongs to the indigenous inhabitants. In the film we see human beings invade a foreign planet with the intention to mine its precious mineral – unobtanium. If the invasion was motivated by acquiring a new and distant planet to live in due to the earth’s inhabitable condition (in the future) then their invasion could be justified, doubly so if it is done with the intention to coexists peacefully with of the original inhabitants of Pandora. However with the hostility of Planet Pandora’s air to the humans, their invasion is geared towards acquiring the precious mineral located deep within the forest of the Na’vi People – the indigenous inhabitants of Planet Pandora. The Na’vi native occupation of the forest represents an obstacle for the acquisition of the precious minerals, to which the Na’vi seems oblivious or ignorant.
I See You
In order to infiltrate the social infrastructure of the Na’vi people in planet Pandora Avatars have been developed to stand in for the humans. They are infiltrating humanoids that look like the Pandorians except for the noticeable five figures whereas the Pandorians have four. The Avatars have been genetically engineered to withstand the un-breathable air of Pandora which is harmful to human beings. When Jake Sully’s twin brother dies in the line of duty his brother is brought into the campaign to acquire the mineral of Pandora by operating one of the Avatars. Having being paralyses in battle, the commander who is heading this invasion mission offers him a surgery that will restore his walking ability.
After a haphazard preparation for Jake Sully to acclimatize to the control of his avatar a team is assembled to go deep within the forest of the Na’vi to do research and negotiate with the Na’vi – the Pandorians. Accidentally separated from the team in the thicket forest while attempting contact, Jake Soley undergoes an epic transformation, enculturation, acquire empathy and affinity for the Na’vi people through Neytiri, A Na’vi maiden who rescues him from being torn part by ravenous beast in the thicket forest. This leads him, through his Avatar to take sides with the Na’vi in order to stop the capitalist Neo-planetary looting that is launched.
A battle between human firepower, driven by greed, and aborigines of Pandora driven by self love and acknowledgement of nature as Mother God ensues. The Na’vi unites different tribes, defends the forests and destroy the enemy. As a reward the protagonist’s soul is transferred permanently to that of his Avatar thus reborn as a full Pandorian.
There is no distance in the Universe
There is a safety valve in place to cushion Avatar from becoming another cliché film dealing with apartheid ideology on a global level. This element is that the planet is inhabitable to human beings – without the use of oxygen masks they cannot survive in Pandora; henceforth the use of Avatars. Avatar reminds us that in the universe all is connected to the ‘Mother Earth’ and we are all siblings and are connected to her. By hurting the earth we are simply inflicting pain to our selves in the long run.
This, what the film teaches us, is the philosophy of self consciousness and that of our precious environment. It is with this message that one can begin to look around with a heightened consciousness, a third eye, an intense appreciation. Such appreciation will make us aware at all times that whatever we do to our environment affects all in all, this way our actions are bound to haunt us in the not so distance future.
Avatar is a metaphor that sets the tone for the new age struggle, the fight to keep the earth habitable. This is the new age struggle; we ought to find it in us as humanity to coexist with our natural environment, to be conscious that our actions will always haunt tomorrow, a fact that resonates across cultures and continental boundaries. This is the bar that Cameron’s Avatar erects before us.
© Mmutle Arthur Kgokong 2010
Films referred to
- Al Gore, A.A. An Inconvinient Truth 2006. Paramount Classics.
- Cameron, J. Avatar 2009. Lightstorm entertainment, Dune Enternainment and Indigenous Film Partners.
- Mostow, J. Surrogates 2009. Touch Stone Pictures
- Dune Enternainment and Indigenous Film Partners.
- Derrickson, S (Dir). The Day the Earth Stood Still 2008. 20th Century Fox and Alliance Films
- Emmerich, R. The Day After tomorrow 2004. 20th Century Fox