Avatar is the new Lord of the Rings in scope and ambition and is well on its way to becoming a classic Sci-fi saga. James Cameron always knew exactly what made the Star Wars saga so successful and it inspired him to pick up where George Lucas left off with his own original epic Sci-fi/fantasy franchise. Combining elements of fantasy, futuristic military hardware, plausible science, warfare, and alien planets with a respect for nature, James Cameron has raised the bar for stunningly realistic visual effects to create a totally immersive world that is engaging and believable and also has all the elements of a great universal story.
The story of Avatar is a live action version of the animated film FernGully: The Last Rainforest (1992). It follows a young disabled Marine, Jake Sully, whose twin brother was part of a scientific experiment using avatars on a planet called Pandora to communicate with the native population. After the death of his brother, Jake is recruited to replace him due to his genetic similarities and finds himself in the middle of a power struggle between Pandora’s native Na’vi people and the corporate imperative to exploit the planet for its natural resources.
What struck me about Avatar, when I first saw it, was how limitless this newly created world could be, much like the world created in the Star Wars films. It also dealt with similar issues that Return of the Jedi (1983) dealt with; pitting a technologically advanced civilization that is motivated by power and greed, against a primitive native population whose humble way of life depends on the preservation of the natural environment. George Lucas’ focus was more on how a technologically advanced army could be defeated by a primitive low tech culture using ingenuity and was inspired by the Vietnam War.
James Cameron, whose previous films include Terminator (1984), Aliens (1986), The Abyss (1989), T2: Judgment Day (1991), and Titanic (1997), did an amazing job of blending environmental issues that we are struggling with here on Earth and which are becoming more urgent every day, with an exciting and compelling story of love and respect for other cultures. The story of Avatar is very much inspired by the Eco crisis and struggles of native tribes in the Amazon rainforest against corporate and government forces who want to exploit their land. James Cameron even went so far as to visit these tribes to draw attention to the devastation that continues to occur there.
Avatar 2 and Avatar 3 have already been announced and will be written by James Cameron together as a continuing story arch dealing once again with environmental issues and themes. Scheduled for release in 2015, much of the action will take place under water and will deal with ocean conservation issues.
James Cameron has recently announced that he will focus his energy solely on making Avatar films for the foreseeable future and on telling stories that are important to him in the Avatar universe. This is great news for not only Sci-fi/Fantasy fans but also for environmentalists and the pro Earth movement who need their message of conservation to be spread to a wider and younger audience.