According to Overall Box Office Mojo, Avatar is the top-grossing film of all time. Released in 2009, Avatar was a plot-based film in which director James Cameron pictured the earth’s natural resources vanishing in 2154. An American organization called the Resources Development Administration (RDA) has begun exploring a heavily forested inhabited moon called Pandora in search of mineral unobtanium. This so-called mineral is said to have been sold for over two million a kilo, making it such a profitable business enterprise. Unfortunately, the excavation of this mineral from Pandora has come up with a few problems. One is the environment is poisonous for humans and the second being that Pandora is home to an alien race called Na’Vi who guided by their culture fiercely protect their resources against the humans. To overcome the poisonous environment challenge, scientists have created these remotely controlled bodies called avatars (hence the name of the movie). They are grown from mixed human and natives’ DNA. The director then introduces Jake Sully, the main character in the movie. He is a paraplegic former marine, who following the death of his twin brother in the line of duty as an operator of an avatar at RDA, comes to replace him. However, he finds himself in between the wrangles of the scientists, led by Grace who are committed to keeping conflict at bay and the military led by Colonel Miles Quaritch who sees the Na’Vi as savages who hate the human way of life. As the movie progresses, one can see Jake getting attached to the Na’Vi way of life, and this causes conflict inside him as he was ordered to spy and report to Colonel Miles Quaritch who promised him a pair of legs if he did his duty well. He (Jack) also falls in love with a woman from Na’Vi Neytiri, and as their bond grows through the movie, he is drawn into the fight for the survival of her world. By looking at two different resources, the movie Avatar and an article called How Forests Think one will be able to achieve the thesis of this paper. Several scenes from the movie are discussed below to illustrate their importance in developing this research paper.
One of the important scenes quickly to come to mind is Jake’s first experiences that range from operating the avatar to socializing with the Na’Vi and also experiencing Pandora’s environment. From the beginning of the movie, Jake is seen not to have the capability to walk as he is shown to drive a wheel chair. A scene is shown where before Jake can be linked up to his avatar, he is prepped by Grace. In Jakes first avatar experience, he is observed to move about, to get a feel for his avatar. Upon realizing that he finally has the use of his legs for the first time in years, he is overjoyed, and despite being threatened to be sedated, he takes this chance with both hands, and he is seen to be enjoying. Jake’s motor reflexes and control impress Grace who see them as above the standards expected of a first-time avatar operator.
Together on this aspect of first experiences, Jake soon during an expedition wanders off to explore the forest. This is where he sees a rhinoceros-like animal species (hammerhead titanotheres) running. Little did he know that they were running for their lives away from a land predator, thanator. He successfully evades the predator, and since it was getting dark, the expedition team leaves him behind. His socializing with the alien species is depicted on the screen when he is saved from a pack of viper wolves by Neytiri. He tries to thank her for saving him but Neytiri is mourning the unnecessary killing of viper wolves that she has done. In the phase of continuous rejecting, Jake is suddenly covered by dozens of wood sprites, pure spirits from the Tree of Souls. This is symbolic to Neytiri who understands this to be a sign and takes him to Hometree to meet her people (Omaticaya). Over a span of 3 months, Jake is able to learn the Na’Vi language and culture.
Analyzing these instances of first experiences it’s clear that Jake’s soldier training helped him through these. His avatar body is built for this environment as he is not being affected by the poisonous environment and he is also adapted to fit in into the Na’Vi people and be associated as one of them. This all helped him in other obstacles he had to face when being initiated as one of the Na’Vi. For example, in the scene where successfully leaps from his ikran onto the back of the leonopteryx (Toruk) and bonds with it, becoming the sixth person after Neytiri’s great-great grandfather to domesticate a Toruk. He also led the Omaticaya warriors in fighting the Resources Development Administration military forces when they came to reclaim Home tree. According to RDA’s claims, the community sat on the richest deposit of unobtanium and they had to make way for the company to excavate it. Jake is depicted to be fearless, capable warrior who adapts to his environment.
The article is from Eduardo Kohn book How Forests Think: Toward an Anthropology Beyond the Human. In this book, Kohn’s 4year fieldwork among the Runa of Ecuador’s upper Amazon, he tackles anthropology’s challenges, and the central assumption about what being human is all about distinguishing it from other and all forms of life. In this book, An Ecology of Selves (Kohn 78) presents itself as a topic. He states that life is semiotic (the study of signs and symbols and their use or interpretation). Specific emphasis is given to the quality of semiotic life which is described to be how the world represents around selves. According to Eduardo Kohn, quality of life is amplified and made more apparent in tropical rain forests with its whole lot of living selves. He looks at how the giant ant eaters have adapted to their environment citing their long snouts that get into the ant nests. He also looks at how the ants are able to communicate and fly at precise times and how their predators that included bats, humans and others were being avoided (Kohn 80). He talks of Jaunicu and how he has learnt to understand the various links that associate ants to other beings in the forest (Kohn 81). Under the topic of relationality, Kohn goes further to look at how ticks don’t distinguish between different mammals. He sees this as a both an advantage and a disadvantage. He notes that this trait is a form of confusion and it is due to such that it is productive in that it has created different kinds of ticks (Kohn 85). Kohn also confirms that this confusion also has led to the transmission of Lyme disease from Deer to Humans as different parasites are able to travel among the mammals through ticks (Kohn 85). He links this incidence of confusion with that the dogs showed earlier when they uncharacteristically confused what was thought to be a mountain lion to a deer. In this amazing work, Kohn takes anthropology in a new and completely different direction, where it offers a more capacious way to think about the world and what we share with other kinds of beings.
Linking the article and the movie it is clear that from Kohn’s findings one can be able to see some of the elements in play. For example, Dr. Grace’s believe that a diplomatic solution would suffice instead of an all-out war on the Na’vi people. This decision is supported by her work on Jake and creating a conducive environment as he was able to learn the culture and language though at first involved through the different signs they uphold, like the wood sprites. Furthermore, it is reviled in the movie by Colonel Miles Quaritch that night expeditions were not safe and thus he had to order Jake’s team back and leave him in the forest for the safety of others. This can be related to the adaptations of ants that they would come when there are no predators and also Juanico’s method of predicting when the ants will leave their nests. Notwithstanding, the avatars were able and had adaptive features ideally suited for Pandora’s environment. The avatar’s adaptations can be likened to those that Kohn described on the ant eater’s long snouts and long tongues. These links serve as important indicators to proof the relationships between the two pieces of resources.
Avatar. Dir James Cameron. 20th Century Fox, 2009. Film
Kohn, Eduardo. How forests think: Toward an anthropology beyond the human. Univ of California Press, 2013.
Total: “Avatar (2009)”. Box Office Mojo. Retrieved January 10, 2012. “$2,787,965,087”