Darwin and Avatar
I won’t make this a movie critique, but I will make this post an opportunity for anyone to analyze the movie Avatar in light of our class themes of discussion. Dr. Grace Augustine, played by Sigourney Weaver, acts as the biologist who collects plant specimens and studies the complex root system of the planet’s flora, much like Darwin, Alex, and Dr. Stephen Maturin explored the new worlds in their respective stories. She is also in charge of the Avatar program which links the consciousness of human beings to genetically grown avatars created from the DNA of humans and the native species, the Na’vi. After all the skepticism in previous posts about blending human DNA with animals, what do you all think about this? Sure, the Na’vi kind of look and act human, but they are clearly from another planet and NOT human. Does Jake Sully’s avatar give you the same “creepy” feeling as another chimera might?
He has many animalistic features, and yet we are not disturbed because he is only a character in a movie and we accept the premise made by the director that these avatars are normal in this setting. But what if avatars existed on Earth? Would we embrace them or detest them? If they serve a scientific purpose would it be better? I personally believe manipulating animal DNA and combining it with human’s is dangerous and ‘playing God’. What’s so wrong with our species that we need to have the eyesight of a hawk or the olfactory sense of a dog?
(SPOILER ALERT, don’t read past here if you don’t want to know the ending of the movie.)
We could also compare and contrast the stories of Zaga and Jemmy Button with that of Jake Sully. Jake willingly leaves Earth to come to Pandora, then he agrees to live through his avatar among the Na’vi and learn their ways (he even goes through a ceremony in which the Na’vi tribe accepts him as one of their own) In the end he chooses to permanently merge his spirit with his avatar and live among with Na’vi, and he seems pretty happy about it. His story might be different because he doesn’t really have any family or friends back on Earth (we know from the beginning his brother is dead). Unlike Zaga and Jemmy Button he doesn’t have any familial ties holding him back from completely abandoning his past and his body in order to become a new person in a new world. At the same time, we know Jake is in love with one of the Navi, just as Zaga was in love with Joel. One day, if Neytiri dies, will Jake begin to question his place among the Na’vi, or will they have children which gives him satisfaction and completely ties him off from his past life? I guess we won’t find out until Avatar 2!