A Deeper Understanding of the Film ‘Avatar’

The popular movie, Avatar, considered a Sci/Fi- Action/Adventure, is really much more.  The Center of Concern’s Education for Justice (EFJ) department has developed an excellent Discussion Guide for use by those viewing this film.   For those who have not seen the film, here is EFJ’s Synopsis:

“Worlds and values collide in this visually engrossing action/sci-fi film.  The main character, Jake Sully, is an identical twin who is paralyzed as a result of military service as a marine. He takes up his deceased brother’s mission and embarks on a fantastical journey to the planet, Pandora. There he must come to grips with carrying out his assigned mission, or defending the people he was sent to destroy.  Jake takes on an alternative life form as an Avatar in order to gain the trust and develop an understanding of the native Na’vi “people” of Pandora.    The Na’vi enclave sits atop a vast deposit of “unobtanium.”  Jake’s mission is to convince the people to leave the area so that the corporate interests behind the mission can profit from the mineral deposits.  Jake encounters “the aliens” only to discover his deeper humanity. The film provides action, adventure and striking computer generated effects.  As part morality play, part allegory the themes and underlying story are worth engaging.

Director, James Cameron notes, “Filmmaking is about storytelling.  It’s about humans playing humans. It’s about those actors somehow saying the words and playing the moment in a way that gets in contact with the audience’s hearts.  I don’t think that changes. I don’t think that’s changed in the last century.”

Additionally EFJ provides some themes to engage through the film and that may assist viewers to understand this film at a deeper level.

These themes are:

  • This film is an excellent tool to explore and examine moral decision-making, ethical issues and social justice themes.
  • This film explores the tension between reality and identity….being and becoming.
  • The film raises significant questions about the use of military power to achieve the goals of capitalism and returns to shareholders.
  • What does it means to be human?
  • The nature and essence of freedom

Some complex moral decision-making and ethical choices that can also be considered:

  • Where is the line between right and wrong?
  • When is an action always wrong?
  • Do the ends justify the means?
  • The stewardship of resources and reverence for creation
  • The sacredness and unity of life
  • The use of force for material gain, profit-taking and greed
  • The extractives industries and capitalism today
  • Imperialism, greed, ecological disregard and corporate irresponsibility

The Education for Justice’s Discussion Guide also contains excellent questions for discussion.  For example:

  • Where in the film do you see critiques evident of the current state of the world in the characters, dialogue and content of the film?
  • One interesting paradox in the film is the way in which the alien Na’vi people actually display far more human tendencies than the humans in the story. They appear more highly evolved than the humans in their respect of the life and the energy surrounding them. How do you see evidence of this throughout the film?
  • The planet, Pandora, is a garden of eden of sorts where aggression is nnecessary. What does this reveal about the way “humans” view the created world and the resources of the planet? What must humans “unlearn” to live in harmony?
  • How would you describe the key roles that women play in the fi lm? What portrayals struck you?

If you are interested in having a complete copy of the Education for Justice’s Discussion Guide for this film, contact Sr. Jeanne Christensen at jchristensen10@kc.rr.com.

Official Movie Site: http://www.avatarmovie.com


1 Comment »

  1. Barbara Jennings said

    Jeanne, thanks for continuing to send me the Olive Branch! Excellent! I must say I am surprised that Guilfoil Day is now one evening…..

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