Analysis Of The Themes In The Movie Avatar

The movie Avatar originally aired in the later months of 2009 and became one of the most award-winning films of our time. The movie takes place in the world of Pandora where a species of people called Na’vi inhabit. Due to the poisonous environment, hybrid people of half Na’vi, half human must link to allow movement on Pandora. The movie is based around the character Jake Sully, a veteran who is now paraplegic and has no function of the lower half of his body. He soon becomes mobile again by becoming an avatar and falling in love with a Na’vi woman. As his connection with her grows stronger his fight to save her world become prominent. What many people did not realize while watching this movie is there is an underlying theme that is often missed/overlooked; religion and/or spirituality. Spirituality has a big role in the movie as long as many other themes such as love, destiny, and indigeneity.

The first theme that should be looked at is the most common theme that all audience members had realized, love. The love between Jake and Neytiri is undeniable and become very apparent as the film progresses. Although in the beginning the two seem to be enemies and unbreakable bond forms as they spend more time together. When the time comes and Jake must choose a mate, Neytiri and him know that they are meant to be together. Unlike basic love stories, their love goes beyond hearts and bodies, it comes into a spiritual connection – this is proven when instead of saying “I love you”, Jake and Neytiri say “I see you”. This becomes their saying as the story progresses. Besides from the unforgettable love story between Jake and Nytiri it is shown that the Na’Vi people have a deep love for nature and the natural resources that surround them. This can be related to Shinto and the love of nature that is taught within the religion.

The second theme that goes in correlation with the first theme would be destiny. The first time Neytiri rescues Jake from the creature, Neytiri acts as if Jake is a bug that she wants to shake off and get rid of. This underlying tension between them originates from the simple fact that Jake is not a Na’vi but is in fact a cross-bred. Neytiri soon changes her mind when the seeds from the sacred tree surround Jake. She later interprets this as a sign; a sign that Jake was destined to reincarnate himself into a Na’vi, allowing her to change her opinions on him. This sign is confirmed when Jake is able to become a Na’vi warrior and tame the Toruk. A Toruk Makto is a Na’vi who successfully manages to ride a great leonopteryx. Prior to Jake there had only been five Toruk’s and they are held at great respect and honor. These events becomes sacred signs of Jakes status as a Na’vi hero and foreshadow his predetermined role. Destiny, as learned in class, has much to do with almost all religions. In Hinduism destiny is said to have been set through the caste system. This can be related to destiny because within the religion one cannot change which caste system you were born into – therefore almost setting your life prior to your birth.

Another theme that is highly prominent throughout the film is indigeneity. The movie is centered around the Na’vi people protecting their homeland from invaders. There-forth a major theme for this film would be indigeneity and the sanctity of native boundaries. Within the film the RDA uses high-tech equipment to cause mass destruction and fear in hopes of forcing the Na’vi out of Pandora. This allows the audience to see the power of their weapons causing the RDA to gain a sense of entitlement. One of the major conflicts in the film is between the uncivilized military and the Na’vi population. This battle is due to the fact that the military is forcing the Na’vi people out of their land while the Na’vi people want to keep it for themselves.

The last theme, often the most overlooked is spirituality. There is a large spiritual component within the Na’vi people, especially the abundance of natural resources of Pandora. The Na’vi people have a strong connection with nature within their belief system. After taking the life of a living person, they say prayers over their lifeless body. They are highly susceptible to signs and omens given by their goddess – Ei’wa. Ei’wa is said to be based in the root systems that connects all of the trees of Pandora. She serves as a spiritual database, or a divine feminine order that administer all living beings.

We can tell that the main theme is spirituality based off of the title “Avatar”. The word avatar is derived from a Sanskrit word meaning incarnation or embodiment. Throughout the movie we learn that the Na’vi have an expertise in unity of consciousness with all other beings, including themselves. The people of Na’vi begin to show that they are really just manifestations of one being – Ai’wa. The Na’vi are shown to have convenient plugs attached to their bodies, which makes them physically unite to other beings and to Ai’wa herself. Although the experience is one thing, the interpretation of this can be seen as another. Contemplatives in Hindu and many other religious traditions have similar experience. As the film progresses we begin to see that the saying “I see you”, does not mean like ordinary seeing, it is deeper than that. The saying begins to relate to the term namaste, meaning “the god in me, sees the god in you” or better put “I see myself, in your eyes”.

Praying to Ai’Wa is a big part of the of the Na’Vi life, especially when Jake prays to her and a swarm of bird-like dinosaurs appear to help the Na’Vi people fight of the human invaders. In many ways this movie relates to Hinduism. One way that the film relates to the movie, is in the title itself meaning incarnation. Incarnations of a deity in human or animal form to counteract some particular evil in the world.

The word Avatar is dominantly associated with Vishnu, however there are other avatars that have similar characteristics of deities such as Shiva and Shakti that have been read about in class. The Na’vi people are characterized very similarly to Rama and Krishna – blue skin, black hair, and Tilak mark on their foreheads. The tails also play a symbolic part when talking about the connection between Na’Vi people and Hinduism, within the movie the Na’Vi use their tail to connect with other living life forms, where as Venera’s tail was their pride. Another prime example would be how both Indian deities and Na’Vi’s use animals for transportation. As shown in pictures throughout the textbook, almost all Indian deities are shown flying on a bird or are riding an animal the Na’Vi fly on dragon like birds called Ikran and ride horses. Hindu’s believe that all animate and inanimate are born for the same sources – plants, animals, minerals. The Na’Vi believed that all present on their planet Pandora is energy of their goddess Ei’wa. Lastly, but most importantly, the Na’Vi’s and Hindu’s but chant Mantras to invoke God. In Indian villages people gather around the banyan tree to pray to mother earth. The Na’Vi on the other hand gather around the mother tree to invoke their mother goddess Ei’Wa.

Although Avatar has many themes that can be seen as relevant throughout the movie, religion and spirituality can be deemed as the most important, yet over looked, theme to be portrayed. It is shown on multiple occasions that the culture and religious practices of the Na’Vi people relate to Hinduism and has bits and pieces that relate to Shintoism. The endless respect and love for nature and living beings is a prime example of what we learned in class about the Shinto religion, and the way the characters a depicted along with their qualities, actions, and beliefs can be related to Hinduism.

10 December 2020
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