Avatar – how did they do it and how would you use it?

By now, plenty of you would have seen Avatar, James Cameron’s newest movie. I was completely blown away by the movie, and that was before I’d watched the video above. After watching this, I’m even more blown away. This really does represent a new era of movie making.

Someone left a comment on Twitter about how watching the film reminded them of how they felt when they first saw Star Wars in 1977. I had the same feeling when I was watching Avatar. I also remember being so excited to see the new installment of the Star Wars movies, the introduction of Anakin Skywalker. I vividly recall being so incredibly disappointed while watching it. It didn’t represent movie magic to me; I knew most of it was a digital creation. Avatar is different; yes, there is computer imagery, but it’s the blending of the human with the computer imagery that makes it so much more sophisticated and watchable. (in my opinion, anyway!)

I’d really like to spend time discussing Avatar with a class. I’d like to see what students make of it; are they conscious of the sub texts in the plot? Can they relate what happens on the screen to modern day conflicts or even conflicts from the past? Is some of the terminology used in the film eg: ‘shock and awe’ familiar to them? Do they sense a message to us all about the environmental impact of the way we live our lives?  What do they make of the roles of male and female characters? Why is ‘the human being’ the saviour? In fact, what would be best is to pose no questions to them at all, and instead, let them brainstorm discussion points.

Another interesting way to look at it would be to have students search the web (or Twitter!) for links to items that would pose interesting discussion topics. One such link that came to me from Tony Hollingsworth the other day was from a blog called ‘Dark Roasted Blend’ and the title of the post was, ‘10 possible sources of Avatar in Science Fiction‘.  In it, they make reference to an Ursula Le Guin novella from 1972 entitled ‘The Word for World is Forest‘. Here’s their opinion and precis of the plot;

Similarities? Well, how about a forested planet with the deeply “connected” natives, a human military raid on a huge tree-city and a subsequent retaliation of natives… some scenes seem incredibly familiar, even though Le Guin plot is markedly deeper and more sophisticated.

It makes for interesting reading. Very good fodder for a book club discussion.

There are some scathing criticisms of the film out there too, and they would prove very useful for a class to dissect. Love it, just like it, or hate it, there’s plenty in Avatar that would make for an interesting examination of film making and how it relates to and draws from the human condition.

7 Replies to “Avatar – how did they do it and how would you use it?”

  1. Thanks for the mention and for sharing your thoughts Jenny – I would like to participate in such a discussion.

    My daughter (12) is keen to see the movie with a friend. I look forward to disussing the themes with her once she’s seen it.

  2. Hi!
    I saw Avatar and Loved it! And as a teenage student I thought I would answer some of your questions for you and other readers.

    Are they conscious of the sub texts in the plot?
    Do you mean like, Don’t destroy the environment, be connected to the planet, get back to nature?
    Sorry… I answered your question with a question.

    Can they relate what happens on the screen to modern day conflicts or even conflicts from the past?
    Yes. When I first saw it, I was very much reminded of my childhood favorite Pocahontas. it is a very simerlar story. Non Natives come to new land to take what they want (in Pocahontas’s case: gold). It also reminds me of the stories we are told in History. When the English first came to Australia. They thought it was their land when in fact it wasn’t. It belonged to the Aboriginal people (and still does!!!)
    Do they sense a message to us all about the environmental impact of the way we live our lives?
    Absolutely! Pandora was sort of a glimpse into the past. (with a few freaky dinosaurs and Navi people thrown in)
    What do they make of the roles of male and female characters?
    I think all the female characters in the movie were brillient. First we see Dr. Augustine – She is a amazing scientist who is strong and passionate about her work and won’t let anyone tell her what to do. Then second main character, Netiryi pretty much teaches Jake everything he needs to know to survive and her faith in the goddess Eywa is very admirble too. And my favorite character, Trudy the helicopter pilot. She is very tough and loyal to her friends and to what she believes is right – she ends up dieing because of what she believed in.
    I could talk about the male characters but to be perfectly honest, I’m tired and a little biased *wink*
    Why is ‘the human being’ the saviour?
    It shows that, although we live in this world of war, conflict and hate. And that humans are the most evil animal in the world. this movie defys that. Trying to say that the human spirit, the goodness in people can shine, if it really wants to.

    Cool! :-))

    1. Thanks so much for your lengthy reply Monique. It demonstrates how much you have taken from the film and how it relates to your own experiences and the teaching you have been exposed to – Great!! Lovely to have a student comment. I really appreciate you making the effort to do so. : )

  3. I Loved the movie so much that I will see it again very soon. My 21 year doughter and her 23 year boyfriend saw Avitar also and she said to me that this was the best movie she has ever seen. I have to tell you that she is usually very picky, so this is a very special and awsome movie, I just LOve it!!!!!!!! Irena.

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