Avatar. Dir. James Cameron. Perf. Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana and Sigourney Weaver. Twenthieth Century Fox Film Corporation, 2009. Film.
The year is 2148. Paraplegic Marine Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) is requested to take his late brother's place in a scientific mission on the foreign planet of Pandora. The foreign planet holds unobtainium, a resource vital to solving an energy crisis on Earth, and both scientists and military personnel are attempting to create a plan to retrieve this mineral. The militia hopes to use modern technology to scare off the indigenous Pandorans, humanoids called the Na'vi, and are willing to kill these native peoples for the resource. Scientists, like Dr. Grace Augustine (Sigourney Weaver), hope to create peaceful ties with the Na'vi, and set out to explore Pandora and interact with the indigenous people through the creation of 'avatars' (a Na'vi-human hybrid created by genetically modifying Na'vi DNA with specific human DNA). Jake agrees to help the scientists with their mission, but is, meanwhile, also working for the militia as a sort of "information gatherer."
While out, Jake's avatar is rescued from the wild animals of Pandora by Neytiri (Zoe Saldana), a female Na'vi and future clan spiritual leader. She brings Jake back to her village, Hometree, under the guidance of Eywa, the 'mother nature' of Pandora who guides the Na'vi spiritually. She is then instructed to teach Jake the ways of the Na'vi and integrate him into their culture, and they eventually mate. Jake then proves that he has had a change of heart by physically attacking one the militia's bulldozers that is searching for unobtainium, thus upsetting militia leaders. Jake tells the militia that the Na'vi will not leave Hometree, and, because it resides on the larges unobtainium deposit on Pandora, the militia decides to attack the Na'vi home.
The militia manages to destroy Hometree, killing many Na'vi and damaging much of the topographical beauties of Pandora. Jake and Grace are continuouslly being detached from and reattached to their avatars, as militia personnel gain control over the scientific systems that link the human bodies to their avatar forms, and Grace eventually dies from the trauma. Jake then leads the Na'vi, along with many other indiginous clans of Pandora, in a fight against the human militia, which leads to the expulsion of most humans from Pandora (the exceptions are a few scientists, including Jake). Jake is eventually brought to the Tree of Souls, a sacred Na'vi site, and is permanently transformed into a Pandoran by the power of Eywa.
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RELATION TO CYBERCULTURES
Avatar presents a social commentary on the potentials of cyberspace and technology. It inherently discusses many facets of cyberspace, including the means of overcoming biological evolution, and the ability of technology to reprogram itselfs for new understandings of what is needed in the technological world.
The first, major facet of cyberspace potential that Avatar touches upon is ability of cyberspace to transcend biology. Avatars, in the movie, provide an opportunity to overcome physiological inhibitions. Jake Sully, who cannot walk in his human body, is given a chance, through science, to experience the use of his legs again. A life form is scientifically created for his use, and his use alone. This life form is both a part of Jake, and seperate from him. It derives much of who it is from Jake's input (both genetically and through mental stimulation of physical movement), and yet has limits and natural rules of its own that it must follow. In this way, an avatar can be viewed as an extension of cyberspace. In cyberspace we create an identity that is both partially ourselves and a seperate entity from ourselves, an identity that both reflects us and reflects cyberspace. An avatar is simply an extension of this idea, but it has the ability to interact with the real world in a way that is much more advanced than what the current limitations of cyberspace allow.
Secondly, Avatar highlights the potential to use technology and machines in ways that reach beyond the limits of their original intentioned use. For example, the avatars were originally created as a means to explore Pandora and learn about the life of the planet. They then become tools of negotiation, facilitating conversation and diplomatic understanding between the humans and the Na'vi. Eventually they become tools of war, a means for creating physical abilities not allotted to the normal human body. So too do other technologies become utilized. Trained animals, once used to hunt, are now used to fight attackers. Human machinery meant to transport humans around Pandora become killing machines. People too, a technology of sorts, are changed from protectors of the planet to soldiers. This ability to change is central to the development of the technologies of cybercultures. Our current idea of the "Internet" and "cyberspace" is vastly different from the original intentioned use of these tools upon their creation.
Lastly, Avatar highlights the ability to use technology as a means to revert back to real life. The avatars, the machines of war... all of these technologies are used in an effort to protect the natural resources of Pandora, and promote a spiritual life beyond the limits of these technologies. While the closest thing we have to such a movement may be geocaching, nothing in our current realm of cyberspace aims to use technology in a way that brings us back to real life quite like the avatar does. This potential of cyberspace, widely unrecognized in our current definition of Internet technologies, is a fascinating aspect of Avatar.