Avatar is a science fiction film that was released in 2009. It was directed by famous film director James Cameron. It centered on the story of how humans started an expedition to colonize Pandora, a habitable moon of a gas giant encircling one of the stars in the Alpha Centauri star system, the nearest one from earth. The story was set in the mid-22nd century when the humans from Earth have already depleted all its non-renewable resources and have had no choice but to look for other sources of resources outside. A team of explorers were set to examine Pandora and possibly extract a precious mineral ore that can be used to create powerful super conductors named unobtanium back to the planet. Unfortunately, they encountered some problems. Firstly, Pandora’s biosphere was poisonous to humans and so they had to wear a special kind of equipment—which they cannot afford to lose otherwise they would die, in order to survive their conquest. Secondly, their target location was not exactly uninhabited. It was home to a blue-skinned race of human-like creatures called Navi. The Navis were behind humans in terms of technological advancement. They, however, were used to living peacefully and in harmony with each other; all while worshipping a mother goddess they referred to as Eywa. In the film, the group of explorers seemed to be very determined to bring back to earth the unobtanium. However, as they grew accustomed to the Navis, they somehow realized that it was not worth destroying Pandora and the Tree of Life over just a petty need for resources. They also realized that humans would stop at nothing just to get ahead with other species, even if it means destroying Pandora. In the end, the protagonist, who was basically a genetically modified Navi that was sent to Pandora by people from earth, specifically the Resources Development Administration (RDA) to communicate with the Navis, went against the objective of their mission as they found that the extraction of unobtanium could lead to the destruction of the home tree; which would later lead to the destruction of the biological neural network that enables life forms in Pandora to exist and flourish. In the end, the main characters chose equality (of species) over human progress, a decision which they struggled to stand by as they faced opposition from their former bosses.
The movie Avatar was a perfect example of Sanders’ 10 Reasons why we’ll Always Need Good Stories.
“We Delight in Stories”
Avatar‘s story was one of a kind. It kind of enlightened humans about the idea that the future is full of uncertainties. Humans love ambiguity when it comes to stories , more especially so if it is partnered with the potent words. The story being set in the mid-22nd century is what delivered the element of ambiguity. For sure, no one knows what would happen to the planet by that time and one can only imagine whether the events that unfolded in this science fiction film would actually happen or not.
“Stories Create Community”
The right question to ask here would be was the movie Avatar’s story good enough for it to be talked about by people and create a community of fans? Technically the answer would be a yes. If this is going to be one of the standards that will be used to judge the greatness of a story, then Avatar would certainly be included in the shortlist. This can be evidenced by the fact that Avatar turned out to be one of the top feature films released in 2009, together with highly budgeted movies like Inglorious Bastards, Star Trek, and the Hangover, among others.
“Stories help us to see through the Eyes of Other People”
One of the greatest gifts of a great story is that it is the “experience of other” . Avatar managed to show to its audience what it feels like to be in the shoes of the main character, what it feels like to be in a highly conflicting situation where Jake Sully had two choices (to continue with their mission and destroy Pandora as a consequence or to abort it and save Pandora from the resulting upheavals of the tree of life’s destruction).
“To Show us the Consequences of Our Actions”
When Jake Sully decided to command his team to disobey the orders of their mission controllers from the RDA, they knew that they were going to suffer some serious opposition. This was the consequence of their action. This was how the movie showed that there will always be a consequence for a man’s every action. In this case, the consequence of their action was the retaliation of their human bosses when they decided to abort the mission. In exchange, however, they were able to save Pandora and its natives from an inevitable destruction, all for the sake of materialism.
“Educate our Desires”
A great story is one that is always filled with lessons. Avatar managed to share to its audience a lot of lessons; although it is a given that every lesson, even ones that may be learned from other films, is open to and therefore a lot dependent on the interpretation of the viewers. In this case, the author of this paper learned that the irresponsible management of this planet’s resources today would inevitably lead to the exact situation where Earth was in the movie and possibly in the same desperate courses of action (i.e. stealing resources from other planets and star systems just to sustain the needs of the race and survive).
Helps us dwell in Place and Time
This basically explains that a good story brings in a lot of un-encountered experiences. In the case of Avatar, for example, the movie took the audience to a time and place where they have never been; they were brought to the mid-22nd century earth and the Alpha Centauri star system’s planets and moons (i.e. Pandora), places and time periods where no one has ever been.
Helps us deal with suffering, loss, and death
Jake Sully’s decision to go against the orders of their human masters in order to save Pandora from destruction did not come for free. It came at the cost of suffering from heavy casualties like Tsu’tey and Trudy. Even with the casualties and the loss of lives, the main characters in Avatar showed how one can still proceed even after numerous sufferings, losses, and deaths. They had two options when they saw the deaths of their friends: they could have continued going on or just simply stopped at that point. They chose the former and as a result, they succeeded and everything turned out to be well in the end, especially for the Navi.
Teaches us how to be a human and acknowledge and mystery of creation
Humans are fascinating creatures. So much so that it would be almost impossible to understand them, even by their fellow humans. Great stories show how this theory (it is yet to be proven) is true despite the emergence of fields such as behavioral and social science. In Avatar, it showed how humans can be fearsome, selfish, and destructive, especially when it comes to protecting and raising their own interests. It also shows how one gets to appreciate the mystery of storytelling and idea creation. Avatar was one of the products of such and with all the reasons provided in this paper, it would only be safe to conclude that its story is worthy of being considered to be a great one.
Sanders, S. (1997). The Most Human Art: 10 Reasons Why We'll Always Need Good Stories. The Georgia Review, 01-06.