What makes ‘Avatar’ appealing to Asians

There is no movie like Avatar that made me crave facts on how the movie was made, how the story line was written, and how James Cameron, the legendary director of ‘Titanic’ had such a great mind. If only I can have the movie as a topic for my research papers.

The introductory effects of the movie’s official website were just proofs of how Avatar set a mark of a new age in Hollywood movies. On it were praises from different film critics and bulk of awards it has won few months after its screening.  It was “glorious” according to New York Times; James Cameron won as Best Director and the movie as Best Picture in the Golden Globe; film critic Roger Ebert felt the same thing like Star Wars when he watched the movie; amd David Denby of The New Yorker says, “‘Avatar’ is the most beautiful movie I’ve seen in years.”

And I was speechless when I went out of the cinema. Remarks are just so indescribable for me.

Avatar takes off with Jake Sully (Sam Worthington), a paraplegic war veteran, who is sent in a mission to a planet called Pandora. Pandora is a terrestrial world bound with thick lush forests inhabited by a tribe called Na’vi who has their own language, culture, and religion. The army is stationed in a highly advanced base in Pandora which has gadgets and machines unreachable yet by human knowledge. There he learns of its corporate figurehead named Parker Selfridge (Giovanni Ribisi) and the army’s commander Colonel Miles Quatrich (Stephen Lang). Some members of the army are trained to become part of the natives themselves by merging their DNA with those of the members (or ‘The People’ as what the tribe call themselves) of the Na’vi tribe. The new blue-colored half-human, half-Na’vi body is called an ‘avatar’.  The mission of the corporation is to mine for precious metals found around Pandora. However, the tribesmen aren’t as hospitable as the 1500’s colonies were. They have a deity whom they treat as the creator of all living things and is responsible for the ‘balance’ of life. Army members lie down on machine and work on their minds to control their respective Avatars. As Jack enters Pandora and be at odds with its bluish creatures and animals, he is saved by the daughter of their chieftain named Neytiri (Zoe Saldana). Neytiri teaches him the crafts of the tribe and soon Jake falls in love with her. Colonel Miles discovers that Jake, being their bait, has crossed the line and therefore decided to make an immediate move. With him powerful army troops and weapons, Colonel Miles leads in the destruction of what the tribe considers as their ‘home’. Because of this, anger rises within the Na’vi and with Jake’s leadership, he commanded the entire tribesmen of Pandora to stop the intentions of the human race where he actually belongs to. The battle is won by the Na’vi. As a reward, Jake is anointed as a full-blooded Na’vi — no longer an Avatar.

Hidden Political Agenda

When President Obama closed down a theater house in Hawaii for private viewing with his wife and kids, I wondered what his feedback when the movie flashed its credits. Yahoo! News said in one of its article that director James Cameron has hidden some political aspects in the film aimed towards the United States.

A battle between the first world and the third world (evil and good perhaps, but no) was one of the themes the movie had. One with the most advanced weaponry and the other which rely their actions to their supreme deity whom they connect with through rituals.

For Americans who has seen the film, they may view as offensive since the sympathy wasn’t their this time, and they symbolically stand as antagonists here in the movie.

Other articles from the web state its relationships with how the people perceive the US war with Iraq which until now hasn’t been resolved. Would the movie change how the people see US in the midst of the war and switch sympathies with the other side?

Critics hardly see the movie as poltical movers. Movie-goers would simply forget the detailed plot weeks after they renarrated it to friends as they go out of theaters.

Avatar’s Appeal to Asians

In the Philippines, Avatar has been making its way to the top leaving tickets sold out in some screening times since its premiere on December 17 last year. The Metro Manila Film Festival wasn’t a hurdle even and people continue to flock to the cinemas as the New Year starts. Some could have seen it twice or thrice, or some were just curious of what the movie contains since friends had remarked it as ‘great’. Even I myself could not resists seeing the movie once again; even not in 3-D, I’ll call it.

But why the fab? My theory was because of how the story’s plot drove Asian viewers closer to it. The army’s craving over the richness of Na’vi’s resources which resulted to a ferocious battle has depicted the trend in most Asian nations during the colonial era. The Asians were highly religious, like the Na’vi, and unaware of what the humans want on them. But when they are disturbed, they just can’t keep risking their lives for the welfare of their People. Too Asian, really.

But even today in the brink of globalization where core countries remain core, and peripheries remain on the side, the movie is a sure hit.

In Hong Kong, fom December 24 to 27, Avatar reaped in HK$21,965,170 (two million euros) which accounts for more than half the total takings in a season that has seen cinemagoers spoilt for choice in this city. (The Independent)

In India, Avatar sets new records for Hollywood films by crossing the Rs. 100 crores mark making it the largerst film in the third world country in 2009. (newkerala.com)

Meanwhile in Malaysia, Mahathir Mohamad, its former premier had an entirely different response on the movie. “‘There is strong evidence that the attacks were staged. If they can make Avatar, they can make anything,’ Mahathir told the Conference for the Support of Al-Quds (Jerusalem), as quoted by local media,” an article from Jakarta Globe Online said.

Roger Edbert of Chicago Sun writes, “[Avatar’s] story, set in the year 2154, involves a mission by [former] U. S. Armed Forces to an earth-sized moon in orbit around a massive star. This new world, Pandora, is a rich source of a mineral Earth desperately needs. Pandora represents not even a remote threat to Earth, but we nevertheless send in ex-military mercenaries to attack and conquer them.”

God and Green

I would just like to mention some of the most meaningful lines from the movie. Some are short, but very meaningful.

“Sky People (which pertains to humans) can not learn, you do not see,” said Neytiri, the daughter of the Na’vi chief.

***

“Everything is backwards now; like out there is the true world and in here is the dream,” said Jake Sully.

***

“Yo Sully!How does it feel to betray your own race?” said Col. Quatrich.

***

“Our great mother Eywa (Na’vi deity) does not take sides, Jake; only protects the balance of life,” said Neytiri.

***

The Na’vi tribe is a religious lot. They worship a God attached to everything natural. They believe that everything is interconnected, humans and nature, more complex that the network in our brain. They believe that the energy living things have is only borrowed and is returned to the nature’s cycle when they die. They believe that their god does not take sides, whether it is morally right or wrong, but only maintains the balance of life. If it perils the balance, let the culprit perish, whoever that may be — no matter how good or evil he is.

Green is in, as America says, and with the youth watching the movie, caring for nature has been taught in the film. That was one of its strengths.

If I am to rate to movie in a scale of 10, 10 being the highest, I would it a perfect score. It has no weaknesses I suppose, and the movie has conveyed a meaning to remain firm inside the minds of every people… for the sake of the balance of life.


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