Avatar….Which Ideas Make us Change and Why?

Yesterday I took my son and his friend to see James Cameron’s latest epic, Avatar. I’m not sure what I expected, but the movie far exceeded anything I had in mind. It was like Princess Mononoke in Totoro’s Tree meets GI Joe.  To hear more about what Cameron says about how he made the movie click here.

Far more interesting to me, though, is what happens to the main character in the movie.  Jake Sully is a military guy who is grieving the loss of his dead, twin brother and wants to walk in the worst way.  You get the distinct impression that the only reason he has agreed to take his brother’s place on the mission is because he has nothing better to do. He starts as an apathetic x-marine type who thinks of himself as “not the scientist.” At first I was going to say he sees himself as stupid, but I don’t think that’s actually true. He just sees himself as ordinary, with a brother who clearly outshined him academically. By the end of the movie this changes – He sees himself as a leader.

So – related to this year’s theme – why did Jake change – in mind, in spirit, and eventually in body?

I think this movie reinforces that humans change because of heartfelt experiences. We are moved by what we see and feel as well as come to know and understand through our mind and our senses. Part of Avatars subtle brilliance is the notion of energy and connectedness. Jake is able to experience his physical environment through a dendrite-like connection.  I think meditation and prayer are the closest we get in this world. No idea really.  What I do know is that Cameron convinces us that people can change and you walk out of the theatre more hopeful than when you walked in.


About Dana Carmichael

Dana has a professional interest in Authentic Intellectual Work. This means focusing on improving intellectual quality in the classroom and increasing student engagement. By day, she does this work with a passion. By night, she is a thematic reader, examining a random essential question for the year through fiction, nonfiction, film and general random conversations.
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