In the year 2154, Earth relies heavily on a rare but precious resource called ‘Unobtainium’. Finding rich deposits on an Earth-like moon called ‘Pandora’ the military try to negotiate with the Na’vi, the indigenous population. The Na’vi have a deeply spiritual connection with their home and are unwilling to allow the military to mine. Paraplegic former marine, Jake Sullivan, operates an ‘Avatar’, a genetically matched Na’vi-human hybrid, in order to explore the planet and open up negotiations. Jake initially has little time for the Na’vi until he meets Neytiri, a female who shows him how important the natural world of Pandora is to her people. Jake soon realises that he may have to choose a side before the Na’vi’s way of life and Pandora’s eco-system are destroyed by human greed.
Avatar (2009) – Director: James Cameron
Running Length: 162 mins
Starring: Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Sigourney Weaver
Genre: Science Fiction
Written and directed by James Cameron, ‘Avatar’ was always going to be a movie of epic proportions. Filmed for 3D movie audiences, the world of Pandora is lush and beautiful and, transferred to the small screen, there is an inevitable loss of grandeur but it still retains the impressive look and feel of Pandora. Many people have likened it to Fern Gully or Pocahontas due to the similarities between the Na’vi and Native Americans as well as an indifferent protagonist being convinced to support the ways of the indigenous people instead of destroying them.
Despite being 10 feet tall and blue, the Na’vi seem to be a cross between Native Americans and Africans – two races who have suffered oppression at the hands of ”the white man”. The fact that the Na’vi are suffering the same oppression so far into the future is a clear message from Cameron that perhaps the human race is unlikely to change much through time.
The character of Jake (played by Sam Worthington) is a little bland but, with all the excitement happening around him, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The supporting cast all play their roles well with fully fleshed out and relatable characters; this provides a solid foundation to the story, allowing the sci-fi plot to be properly realised without limiting its appeal. The colour palette is rich and varied which, although most likely designed because of the 3D spectacle involved, still makes ‘Avatar‘ a lush viewing experience, even if the plot is essentially a Hollywood standard.
‘Avatar‘ is an excellent movie which is full of action, humour and thought-provoking moral messages, asking the question of who the real savages are.
IS ‘AVATAR’ SUITABLE FOR CHILDREN?
When Jake first explores Pandora as an Avatar, he comes across several aggressive creatures that try to kill him. The first two are large, dinosaur like animals which charge at Jake, forcing him to run deep into the forest in order to make his escape. This scene involves a lot of volume from the creatures’ roars, and they stampede directly at the camera, which could be a little scary for younger children. Once these creatures are no longer following him, he is surrounded by a large pack of black dogs which menacingly close in on him. They attack but Jake is helped by one of the Na’vi who fights off the dogs. One of the dogs is shown to be suffering from being hit with an arrow and the Na’vi kills it with a knife in order to end its suffering; this happens again later in the movie when Jake and Neytiri are out hunting an antelope-like creature.
Around halfway through there is a scene where intimacy between a male and female character is implied. They are seen to kiss and the camera pans away from them so that nothing explicit is shown. Afterwards the female character says that they are ‘mated for life’.
In the final third of the movie, the action steps up a gear and the greed of the humans comes to a head with a devastating blow to the Na’vi people. This results in a final showdown between the Na’vi and the humans. The Na’vi fight with bows and arrows and blades whereas the humans fight with guns and fighter planes, several major characters are killed during this fight. During this scene, one character is looking around at the devastation surrounding him in the forest and sees a horse running away on fire. This is done is slow motion and could be quite distressing for children who are sensitive to animal suffering.
CAN I SEE A CLIP?
Having such a well renowned director so heavily invested enabled ‘Avatar’ to be everything it was intended to be: a brilliantly envisioned movie which is both entertaining and thought-provoking.
We feel that some of the more profound messages that the main story revolves around may be a bit difficult for many young children to understand and they could find it a little boring because of this. However, these messages of morality and ethics could open up good discussions with older children about what they feel is right and wrong about what the humans do on Pandora. Certainly the ‘gung-ho’ nature of some of the soldiers make for some clearly defined character roles that can be discussed.
Due to the constant strong language and some moderate violence during the action scenes, we would not recommend this movie for younger children, instead suggesting that an age range of kids aged 10 and over is more appropriate.
- Violence: 4/5 (most of the action is relatively child friendly, however there are a few stronger moments including one character being shot in the chest with two large arrows, a soldier being trampled by a large beast and another being crushed between to heavy racks of explosives)
- Emotional Distress: 2/5 (several major characters are killed; these deaths are generally not too emotionally charged but they are characters that the audience care about)
- Fear Factor: 1/5 (there are a few moments where it is unclear whether the intense situations could result in a characters’ death however these should not be too frightening for children and these moments do not last very long)
- Sexual Content: 1/5
- Bad Language: 4/5 (a lot of moderate cursing and mild blasphemy, one strong word is used)
- Dialogue: 2/5 (the dialogue of some of the humans shows a complete lack of empathy with the Na’vi including disinterest when some of the Na’vi are killed)
- Other notes: Deals with themes of oppression, naturalism, colonialism, the politics of power, learning to see things from the other side, militarism, and respect for culture
Words by Laura Record