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Old 04-28-2010, 06:41 PM
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Default Avatar Vs Star Wars - A Comparison.

By the way this is long and goes over two posts. But I hope it will result in an interesting debate/discussion.

After thinking about Avatar, it strikes me that there are many parallels with the original Star Wars movie, A New Hope. Both movies had phenomenal success and caught the imagination of many movie fans.

There has been a lot said that Avatar is like Dances with Wolves. But in fact, I think the movie has more in common with the original Star Wars movie (Episode 4).

For me, the original Star movie will always be the best of the Star Wars franchise. It was the very first and beautiful in its simplicity. I suspect that Cameron may have, intentionally or not, adopted some of the elements from the original SW that made it so popular.

Please note that this is not a comparison claiming that one movie is better than another. The purpose of the article is simply to show the similarities between two movies that had great success in their respective time.

In fact, it may be that Cameron used a Blockbuster formula if you like in producing Avatar.

So here are my thoughts on where the common elements in the two movies, and where they diverge. Please note I am only referring to SW ep4 and no other SW movie.

Please feel free to comment whether you agree with my points or not.

One thing I loved about SW and Avatar is the simplicity of the story, which is the same in both films. Basically, the story in both films can be summarized as follows:

“An unlikely hero rises up to help the valiant underdog survive against and defeat a technologically superior and ruthless aggressor.”

Many have criticised the simplicity of the story. But it may be the fact that the stories are simple and similar, that resulted in the enormous success of both Avatar and SW.

Now onto elements of the stories.

Both films have clearly identifiable “good” and “evil” factions, the Na’vi/Rebel Alliance and the RDA/Empire respectfully.

In SW, our faith in the good side is more abstract. It is just inferred that the Rebel Alliance is good, although we don’t truly know who they are or what they stand for, except that they are against tyranny.

In Avatar the good side is better defined than in SW. We get a glimpse of what the world of the “good” side is like by seeing how the Na’vi live. This allows us to sympathise with the Na’vi and their way off life. We see the beauty of Pandora and gain a glimpse of what the Na’vi stand for and wish to protect. In Avatar, the Na’vi are presented in such a way that they are, in a spiritual, philosophical and physical sense, almost faultless. In Avatar we know what the Na’vi are fighting for and that the cause is justified.

Conversely, the evil side is better defined in SW. In SW, we know that the Empire is evil from the actions and dialogue of Darth Vader and his underlings. In effect, they are evil, they know they are evil and they like it.

In Avatar, the evil is less obvious and potentially made more sinister by the fact that the RDA do not see themselves as evil. Unlike Darth Vader and his stormtroopers, the RDA soldiers are given human faces. Down deep they are regular guys who play golf, drink coffee and enjoy a beer.

The way the good and evil sides are presented is one area where the two movies diverge. In Star Wars, the good side is effectively defined by what we see of the evil side. In other words the good side is defined as “We are not like the Empire”.

Conversely, in Avatar, the good side defines itself. We know who the good guys are and exactly what they represent. The evil side is effectively defined by what we see of the Na’vi and Pandora (i.e. this is what we are going to destroy). By immersing us in Pandora and the Na’vi, this is probably the best movie ever for defining the virtues of the good side, rather than simply opposing an abstract evil. We learn to love what is good in Avatar, rather than just oppose what is bad.

I also find parallels between the heros and villains.

There are only two real heros of note in Avatar, Jake and Neytiri, who mirror their counterparts in SW.

Jake appears to be an amalgamation of Han solo and Luke Skywalker, being well-meaning and na´ve on one hand, while being a gung-ho renegade on the other.

Neytiri seems to be an amalgamation of Princess Leia, the courageous warrior Princess who is fighting for good, and (bizarrely) Obi-Wan, the wise teacher who instructs the Hero in the ways of the world.

The villains, on the other hand, are not so well defined in Avatar as they are in SW. The villain in Avatar is split between Selfridge and Quaritch. Neither are particularly deep characters, and neither are intrinsically evil.

One area where SW trumps Avatar is the main villain. Star Wars has probably the most well known and iconic villain ever invented in Darth Vader.

SW can certainly claim to have more iconic characters than Avatar. There are several iconic characters in SW, including Vader, Solo, Leia, Luke, Chewy, Obi-Wan, R2 and C3PO that can appeal to a wide range of people. And that is only the first movie.

In Avatar, there are really only two iconic characters; Neytiri and arguably, the world of Pandora itself. But both are so powerful, they can challenge just about any other fictional character ever created. Some may also argue that Jake is also iconic, although I don’t think he is as iconic as Pandora and Neytiri.

Another parallel is that the main character is not the most important or iconic in the movie.

In SW, I find it ironic that the principal hero in Star Wars, Luke, is the least well known, being less popular than Vader, Solo, Leia, the droids and even the Wookie. In fact Vader is the most important character in SW. Darth Vader is so iconic, that he actually defines the whole Star Wars movie. We basically support the rebel alliance in SW because we know Vader is evil.

Likewise, in Avatar the main character is not the most important or popular. Although, Jake is the main character in the movie, Neytiri is arguably a much more important and iconic figure. The character of Jake is actually quite shallow. Only Jake’s relationship with Neytiri, gives him substance.

Just like Vader in SW, Neytiri is the pivotal figure who defines everything of importance or substance. She symbolizes everything that is good and she is effectively flawlessly good, in the same way that Vader is flawlessly evil (at least in episode IV). Even when Neytiri shows weakness, such as weeping for the Hometree, or takes negative actions, such as exiling Jake, she does so for good reason and because she has a good heart. In other words, any negative actions and reactions are virtues rather than failings.

Neytiri is the heart and soul of light in Avatar, where Vader is the dark heart of SW.

Last edited by neytirifanboy; 04-30-2010 at 08:19 AM.
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