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Avatar, a modern lucid dream


Photo Credit: ILM

Avatar, the highly anticipated film by director James Cameron, has grossed over two billion dollars worldwide since its release in Los Angeles in December of last year. So, what continues to make Avatar spectacular and incredibly dreamlike?

If you’ve ever had a lucid dream you know the story. You fall asleep and wake up on a mysterious planet. You inhabit a body unlike yours. You meet fascinating beings. You fall in love. You can do things that seem unthinkable in the real world. But even though you know it’s a dream you’re seduced by the possibility of staying forever. This is the story of Jake Sully, the latest hero in James Cameron's long awaited return to the screen since Titanic

Photo Credit: WETA

Jake Sully, a paralyzed war veteran, is offered an opportunity to work on Pandora for a private mining company searching for ‘unobtanium’, a substance of great value to Earth. Using his deceased brother's avatar, a remotely-controlled biological body, he must gain the trust of the local Na’vi tribes and convince them to relocate. When Sully goes to sleep he is reborn inside the ten foot body of an exquisite blue alien, created by combining human and Na’vi DNA, and with the ability to use his legs.

Initially, he assumes his mission with great enthusiam, but later discovers Pandora's secret and a reason to defend it. Its forest is lush, deep, filled with fantastic creatures and it has consciousness. It is a world of collective memories and endless connections among its inhabitants. It is the kind of sanctuary we dream about. It seems perfect, untouched, pure and therefore, as viewers, we begin to feel protective of it, too. After the mining company unleashes an attack on the Tree of Souls we root Jake's decision to stop the destruction of Pandora. His journey toward self-discovery is finally complete when he chooses to become a permanent member of the Na'vi people and we can't really blame him.

Photo Credit: WETA

 Many critics point out the obvious misanthropic thread that threatens this technical masterpiece. Like many of Cameron’s previous films, the disenchantment toward humanity is apparent. In Aliens, as Ellen Ripley battles corporate greed she develops an increasing kinship toward the aliens. In The Abyss, humans are the fragile species that require alien intervention. Avatar is no different. It's bundled with contradictions; thematically with its anti-imperialist perspective evident by Jake's decision to turn his back on humanity and more notably with its literal cry against technology by the Na'vi as we watch the Tree of Souls burn and fall. Even the writing lapses, creating some cringe worthy moments that remind us of the Star Wars prequels, but still this proves forgivable when balanced with Cameron's groundbreaking visuals. 

Avatar is a familiar story, a story of dreams; it is a 166 minute lucid dream experience in all its fascinating glory and allure. It celebrates our past, our collective history and prepares us for a new era of filmmaking. Not since the Matrix trilogy has a film illustrated the intricacies of lucid dreaming so remarkably. So, if you still haven't seen Avatar, when you finally do, you'll swiftly discover the temptation to remain inside the dream called Pandora.

Watch the trailer.

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  • Rusty 5 years ago

    Heh, I myself thought pretty much the same thing about the movie. I quickly saw the similarities between Avatar and lucid dreaming and I also noticed James Cameron's recurring themes... Overall I would say this movie was the "best of the bad movies" to ever come out from Hollywood. There's a strong naiveness in Avatar and I believe it is both its greatest problem and quality. I also noticed that Jake Sully's mood changes from one "body" to another. When he returns to his initial human form he immediately wishes he could go back to the Na'Vi's body and this feeling is transported to the viewer without words - now that is called good filmmaking. Great article!

  • Wendy 5 years ago


    Jake Sully's reluctance to abandon the avatar is just like the feeling we sometimes get after waking up from an amazing dream. As soon as we open our eyes we want to go back. Cameron does a great job of illustrating this experience. Thanks for the comments!

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