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AVATAR the Movie: A Wake-up Call

January 4th, 2010 by Michael Dyet

Warning: You may wish to see AVATAR before you read this post as it contains “spoilers”.

Hmmm, how many people, among the throngs who will see Avatar, will penetrate the movie’s layers of symbolism to arrive at its true message?

On the surface, Avatar is a cinematic breakthrough – a live action film with a new generation of special effects. It echoes and pays homage to other science fiction classics from Lord of the Rings to Jurassic Park all the way back to Star Trek with a nod as well to more recent sci fi action moves such as Transformers and GI Joe.

But it also challenges you to attune yourself to a deeper message – one that only emerges if you dig for it. Let’s peel back the layers and see where it takes us.

First the basic plot line. The Sky People (aka human beings) establish a presence on the planet Pandora to mine its rich deposits of unobtainium – a mineral which is the key to solving earth’s energy crisis and a financial windfall to the company who discovered it.

But the indigenous Na’vi humanoids of Pandora – a catlike people who are spiritually and biologically in tune with the earth and its spirits – do not want their land raped. The Sky People create biological “avatars” of themselves, replicating the look and the physiology of the Na’vi, in an attempt to understand them and gain their cooperation. But there is no middle ground so the Sky People resort to force to take what they need.

Now let’s unravel some of the symbolism and see where it leads us.


In computer lingo, an avatar is a user’s representation of himself/herself in a computer game. But the term originates in Hinduism where it refers to the appearance in physical form of a deity that has descended from heaven to earth. *


Navi is a character in the action adventure video game “The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time”. She assists Link, who the game player controls, in his attempt to stop Ganondorf, King of the Gerudo, from obtaining the Triforce, a sacred relic that grants the wishes of its holder. Navi also refers to a prophet in the Hebrew bible. *


In Greek mythology, Pandora’s Box is the large jar carried by Pandora that, when opened by her, unleashed many terrible things on mankind – ills, toils and sickness. But at the bottom of the jar is hope. *


A humorous name, usually in fiction, for any rare, costly or physically impossible material needed to fulfill a given design. * (Let’s assume, for argument’s sake, that unobtainium in this case is a pseudonym for uranium with its nuclear properties.)

Now let’s put the pieces together. In creating avatars of themselves, the Sky People are playing a dangerous and manipulative game – in effect, playing God – to obtain uranium to fix the mess they made of their world. They view the Na’vi people as savages who must be pushed aside by force for a greater need – and for greater profits.

The sky people are blind to the fact the Na’vi are in fact prophets with a greater knowledge. In playing God, and severing the Na’vi’s spiritual and physiological connection to trees and other life forms, the Sky People are risking opening Pandora’s Box and unleashing untold terrors on themselves.

Let’s bring it all home. On one level, Avatar is a modern retelling of the white man’s ruthless exploitation of native Americans and the destruction of their way of life. On a deeper level, it is a metaphor for the next wave of that destructive behaviour – opening Pandora’s Box yet again by blindly destroying the fragile balance of this planet on which we live.

Climate change, destruction of the rain forests, pollution of our waters, exhausting the planet’s natural resources, driving species to distinction… take your pick. Avatar is a stern warning that, if we open Pandora’s Box yet again, there may be no turning back.

Avatar the movie has a happy ending as most Hollywood epics do. Let’s take that as an indication that there is still hope if we change our ways now.  We must chose prophets over profits. The Tree of Souls lives yet but its fate lies in our hands.

* Source: Wikipedia

~ Michael Robert Dyet is the author of “Until the Deep Water Stills – An Internet-enhanced Novel”. Visit Michael’s website at or the novel online companion at

~ Follow Michael’s Metaphors of Life Journal aka Things That Make Me Go Hmmm regularly at this site. Categories: Shifting Winds, Sudden Light, Deep Dive, Songs of Nature, Random Acts of Metaphor. Originating at

Tags: 8 Comments

8 responses so far ↓

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  • 3 Terry Apr 17, 2010 at 12:21 pm

    I liked Avatar… in it’s not-3-D iteration. Of course the story is a re-telling of everything before… aren’t they all? There is nothing new under the sun…

  • 4 Michael Dyet Apr 18, 2010 at 12:48 am

    Yes, but Avatar did a particularly good job of it.

  • 5 Christian Schlegel Jan 26, 2011 at 5:51 am

    I usually get bored easily and close the tab but i honestly enjoyed what i read. Cheers !

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  • 8 Michael Dyet Feb 16, 2011 at 3:43 am

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