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Cinema and technology: Avatar (2009)

Zafar Anjum | Jan. 7, 2010
The geek shall inherit the earth. I mean the good geek. That is one of the principal messages of the James Cameron film.

They have destroyed their mother (Earth) and now these sky people have come to destroy you, tells Jack to Neytiri. Cameron establishes our human greed beyond doubt in the film.

But to the credit of the geeks in the film, when the push comes to a shove, they are the guys who try to save Pandora from the destructive earthlings. Jack and the scientific team led by Dr. Grace Augustine (Sigourney Weaver) comes to the rescue of the Navis, the team includes a retired marine pilot Trudy Chacon (Michelle Rodriguez)  who changes side during a violent engagement, giving us a different view of the military term, friendly fire. I didnt sign up for this, she says when she cuts her allegiance from the marauding gang of sky fighters.

How it feels to betray your own race, asks Colonel Miles Quaritch before meeting his end. Jack does not respond to him but he knows that in a moral dilemma, one has to oppose the aggressor.

A world of rich imaginations

While Pandoras creatures show the rich imagination of Cameron and his team, one is only temporarily surprised. The creatures are not breathtaking (3D effect might be dazzling though) as we movie-goers have seen so many of those moments that we are reminded of other films while watching the sequences of this film: there are Alice in Wonderland moments (plants growing big and small at a touch), Jurassic Park moments, Lord of the Rings moments, Apocalypto moments, and so on. I was also reminded of a story from the Quran when a bunch of birds (Mountain Banshees) destroy dozens of fighter planes.

In the Quranic tale, tiny birds (Ababeel) destroy the great armies of Sultan Abraha. According to the Quranic surat Surah Al-Feel (The Elephant), Sultan Abrahas armies, mounted on huge elephants, came to attack the Kaba (the cube-shaped structure revered by Muslims, considered to be Allahs house, facing which Muslims all over the world pray). With baked clay stones, the little birds defeat the army of elephants.

The resemblance was striking: Just like the Tree of Souls, where the Navis God Eyra resides, is situated upon great store of unobtanium, Kaba too is supposed to be sitting atop a huge energy field. The Navis pray by chanting mantras, which sound like a mixture of ayats, shlokas and African voodoo incantations.

Then there were colourful and bright trees and vegetation that reminded me of the descriptions in one of Urdus earliest novels, Firdaus-e-Bareen by Abdul Haleen Sharar.

Pandora as a network

Technologically, what is most interesting in Avatar is Cameroons imagination of the Pandora world. In Pandoras ecology, all plants and creatures are interlinked like a network. The Navis can connect with their ancestors through the Tree of Souls, and upload and download their memorieswe are told by Dr. Augustine.


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