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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.

STORY
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.

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

THE GOODIES
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.

THE BADIES
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.

DEFINITION OF THE GOOD SIDE
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.

HEROS AND VILLAINS
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.

SUPPORTING CHARACTERS OUTSHINE PROTAGNIST
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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Old 04-28-2010, 06:41 PM
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PARALLEL PLOT POINTS
I want to mention two main plot points in SW that are effectively mirrored in Avatar.

DESTRUCTION OF ALDERAN/HOMETREE
The first is when the Death Star destroys Alderan in SW. This actions shows that the Empire is technologically superior and that the Empire is ruthless in achieving its objectives.

In Avatar, this is mirrored in the destruction of Hometree. In destroying Hometree, the RDA also demonstrate that they are ruthless and powerful.

In both movies, we see the grief of the respective Princesses as their home is destroyed.

The scene is important in both films, but is made to be much more significant in Avatar.

In Avatar, the scene is much more Powerful. We see the despair, grief and desperation of the Na’vi as their home is destroyed and they are humiliated. The memory of the event feels fresh right to the end of the movie.

In SW, we do not really feel the horror of the destruction of Alderan, even though billions of people have just been killed. The grief is only expressed only through dialogue and actions of Leia and Obi-Wan. It is more or less forgotten afterwards.

The main difference between the two events in the two films is that in SW the event is a minor plot device, while in Avatar it is a major plot turning point.

THE FINAL BATTLE – THE BATTLE OF YAVIN/SACRED TREE

The other point I mention that is similar in the two movies is the Final battle. In fact they are so similar you can summarise the them same way.

In SW, the Empire attempts to destroy the rebel base on Yavin. It is inferred that destroying the base will end the rebellion. The valiant rebels take heavy casualties, but Luke manages to destroy the Deathstar, after the timely and unexpected intervention of Han Solo.

This is mirrored in Avatar. The RDA attempt to destroy the sacred tree and crush the Na’vi resistance. The valiant Na’vi take heavy casualties, but Jake manages to destroy the RDA bomber after the timely and unexpected intervention of Ewya and the Pandora wildlife.

So as you can see there are big similarities between SW and Avatar in the final battle, at least on the surface.

THE FORCE AND EYWA
How could I mention SW or Avatar without a mention for the force and Ewya.

Both movies have their version of a natural life energy.

In SW, the force is more abstract and used actively.

On the other hand, the equivalent in Avatar is more organic and passive. But it is still recognisable as being similar to the force in SW.

Both the Force and Ewya are important elements that help define the world and the main characters in their respective movies.

CONCLUSION
I really do think that Cameron has tried to make a new Star Wars as he seems to incorporate a lot of elements to the original SW in Avatar, even if they are not obvious at first glance.

I personally don’t think this is a bad thing at all, considering that SW was a very entertaining, emotional and ultimately successful movie.

However, I think that the focus of Avatar is very different, attempting to concentrate on the virtues of the good rather than the evils side.

Obviously there are many differences between SW and Avatar and I am in no way claiming they are exactly the same. But I think that Cameron may have adopted some of the fundamental elements of SW in producing Avatar with the view of making it into a block buster and SW-esque franchise. You may or may not agree.

This post is only based on Ep4. But I think Cameron may have been influenced by other SW movies. And in some cases he has done exactly the opposite of Star Wars.
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Old 04-28-2010, 08:46 PM
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Interesting analysis, but I think it all boils down more to the fact that all stories have these kind of basic similarities in them, and it just happens that these two share more than few. Then again only Cameron knows the answer to this question, so we can speculate all we want, but never quite get anywhere and I personally sometimes find that very frustrating.

It's good that you are not hampered by such imperfections, and can carry out these tasks as to study the fine subtleties in movies. I'd like to be able to do more thinking like this, but I lack the necessary knowledge and patience to assemble all the facts.

By the way, there is an error in your first post in the end, where it says Jack instead of Jake.
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Old 04-28-2010, 09:46 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Aquaplant View Post
Interesting analysis, but I think it all boils down more to the fact that all stories have these kind of basic similarities in them, and it just happens that these two share more than few. Then again only Cameron knows the answer to this question, so we can speculate all we want, but never quite get anywhere and I personally sometimes find that very frustrating.

It's good that you are not hampered by such imperfections, and can carry out these tasks as to study the fine subtleties in movies. I'd like to be able to do more thinking like this, but I lack the necessary knowledge and patience to assemble all the facts.

By the way, there is an error in your first post in the end, where it says Jack instead of Jake.
Corrected the Jack.

To be honest I am not that knowledgable myself. I am no SW fanatic although I like the movies. Most of what I have said is really raw opinion. It is no better than anyone elses.

I am really just suggesting that Avatar and SW were both successful because they have key elements.

In some ways, it is also relevant to the "Why is Avatar the Greatest movie of all time" thread. It is really asking why Avatar is so popular. But here I compare it to SW to look for an answer.
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Old 04-28-2010, 10:30 PM
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You could also add the quotes from the movies explaining the Force and Eywa, they're shockingly similar.

Star Wars:
It's an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us.
It binds the galaxy together.

Avatar:
They see a network of energy that flows through all living things. They know that all energy is only borrowed--
-- and one day you have to give it back.
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Old 04-28-2010, 11:21 PM
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Nice addition, Devourment.
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Old 04-29-2010, 02:50 AM
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I was old enough to have seen the original Star Wars in the theatre (I was in my early 20's) & went 19 times--Lucas had me in the palm of his hand with Luke & Obi'Wan talking about the Force....Ewya is on a far more personal level than the Force, but the same thoughts apply.

I agree that Jim used a formula that works...his was far more personal that Star Wars & that is a good thing--Lucas was working on a galactic scale--Pandora was a smaller & far more personal scale---I remember being "held" with Star Wars for a couple of months....but NOTHING like the way Avatar has joined my life. This is far more "all-inclusive" & far more long lasting--I to this day have Star Wars snippets surface--I expect Avatar to be more in my daily life & to this date it has.....and thats also a very good thing---Jim achieved his goal to raise Eco-awareness--at least with me. I've increased my earth-friendly activities several-fold.

Just thoughts--
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Old 04-29-2010, 07:29 PM
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Yes, I think Avatar in general is a more intimate and personal movie.

Even taking the destruction of Alderaan. I didn't feel any real loss when Alderaan was destroyed because I had never seen the planet, never met it's people, etc.

But when Hometree was destroyed, it was much more personal because we knew the Na'vi and understood them. So even though Hometree resulted in only a few dozen deaths and a few hundered homeless compared to billions dead on Alderaan (and a sad Princess), the loss of Hometree was more significant.
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Old 04-29-2010, 08:25 PM
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Pretty interesting and accurate comparisons, good job! And yes one can easily relate Eywa to the creative mysterious power that is the force in SW. In fact if Pandora was in the SW universe they would say the Force created that very world. Alternatively in another great franchise Babylon 5 they say that all creation especially sentients is the universe trying to figure itself out.
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Old 04-29-2010, 08:53 PM
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I don't see any force equivalent in Avatar, to me, the nature of Eywa is too different (and IIRC, the force never directly intervened, it's more a psychic/telekinetic thing)

Otherwise, very interesting, I like the comparison between the RDA and the empire, how the RDA are almost more normal people (yet still obviously evil)... One thing though, Quaritch could beat Darth Vader easily

As for the destruction of Alderaan (is that what it was called? ), I really didn't feel a thing. It was some random planet that appears and immediately gets blown up. Hometree was far more personal, it's where I should have been, and home to the Na'vi.
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Old 04-29-2010, 09:22 PM
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I don't see any force equivalent in Avatar, to me, the nature of Eywa is too different (and IIRC, the force never directly intervened, it's more a psychic/telekinetic thing)
I agree that there are differences between the force and Ewya. But I would say that Ewya is Avatar's equivalent of the force, although they are different.
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Old 04-29-2010, 10:19 PM
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Originally Posted by neytirifanboy View Post
I agree that there are differences between the force and Ewya. But I would say that Ewya is Avatar's equivalent of the force, although they are different.
It is different in that Eywa is an actual sentience, where as the force doesn't seem to be, even though by Star Wars own lore it created Anakin Skywalker to bring balance to the force which off course he fails and does the opposite.
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Old 04-29-2010, 10:49 PM
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Originally Posted by PunkMaister View Post
It is different in that Eywa is an actual sentience, where as the force doesn't seem to be, even though by Star Wars own lore it created Anakin Skywalker to bring balance to the force which off course he fails and does the opposite.
Anakin was created by Darth Plagueis and his current apprentice Darth Sidious through the amazing powers Plagueis had acquired where he could manipulate the Force to the point where he could create life. Anakin was going to replace Sidious, however Sidous wised up and killed Plagueis.

Although that's just a theory, people are split between whether or not it was the Force or the combined efforts of these two Sith.
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Old 04-30-2010, 02:02 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by neytirifanboy View Post
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 Spellman and Quaritch. Neither are particularly deep characters, and neither are intrinsically evil.
I hope you mean Selfridge. Norm was a good guy.
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Old 04-30-2010, 06:08 AM
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Here's something I posted a long time ago at A-F. Since I'm just copy-pasting it may repeat some things which have already been said (for which I apologize).

Now that it's been essentially confirmed there will be at least one sequel (though in all honesty I'd go as far as to say calling a trilogy is safe), the situation to me begs the question: Can Avatar knock Star Wars off its throne?

(Just a friendly notice: these things are, in fact, my opinion only, and should not be treated as anything more, so if anyone feels the need to fly off the handle, stop, think, and respond rationally, please)

Star Wars has been the de-facto sci-fi trilogy since before I was born ('88). I grew up with it being re-released, and then the prequels came out. "The Matrix" had a possible shot but it completely missed the boat in my eyes. It didn't spawn a whole culture (not just a fan base) the way Star Wars did--not even close.

Given that there is only one "Avatar" so far, I'm hesitant to even suggest the answer might be yes, but here's what I think would have to happen for Avatar to displace Star Wars.

1. Sheer Size
People complaining about "Avatar" being ranked so highly in terms of worldwide gross do have somewhat of a point. I don't have figures, but I'd guess that in terms of seats filled, Avatar is behind some other films such as Star Wars and LOTR. The gross is inflated by 3D ticket prices. I'd like to see seats sold, for the sake of this discussion (not to detract from how well Avatar has done). However, if Avatar is to displace Star Wars, it must be competitive in the number of unique viewers it puts in the theater.

Are We There Yet?
No. But I'd say Avatar is well on the way, it has a strong word-of-mouth advertising campaign that most marketers only dream of. If this keeps up with the sequels, that's one shot across the ISD George Lucas.

2. Staying Power
Star Wars was a lot of fancy effects for its day. People said it would flop at the box office, and I'm guessing the same accusations were leveled against Star Wars (all flash, no bang) as are being directed at Avatar. If the "Avatar Trilogy" wants to knock down Star Wars, then it will have to prove that people will keep coming back to see more, since by then the "new shiny fancy" from CGI/3D will have worn off (from Avatar itself introducing them).

Are We There Yet?
No way to tell until Avatar II & III come out. So long as Cameron avoids any epic plot fails (since that was already the "weak point") people should come back, but as soon as there's an impression that "Avatar II is even more cliche than Avatar" the game's over.

3. Spawning a Culture
Star Wars reached into society in a way few movies have done. Just look at all the spin-offs, most of them (from the original trilogy at any rate) were very popular. Star Wars toys are classics (I have a few of my own), there have been umpteen zillion video games produced (some good, some bad, but they appeared on almost every platform), there is practically a "Star Wars" version of everything for heaven's sake.

Are We There Yet?
Definitely not, but looking from the same vantage point right after "A New Hope" was released, you'd see the same level of uncertainty.

Other Similarities I've Noticed
- Criticism of Star Wars IV is similar to the reaction to Avatar. Key points include calling the film an "out of body experience" (comparable to the immersion in Avatar) and being noted for "action and special effects [that] are first rate." Star Wars was panned for being less inventive than previous Lucas works, having cardboard characters and being a bunch of "cinematic gimmicks." Star Wars was even accused of taking Hollywood away from the "sophisticated" diet of New Hollywood and European films it had been on in the '70s and steering it toward big-budget special-effects laden films. It's interesting to note that every time some major advance in SFX is made, someone inevitably claims this new effect will ruin cinema.
- Whether the film was supposed to become a set of three was not set in stone and was really shaped afterward. I'm sure Cameron had a trilogy in mind, but he did say something to the effect of "We'll make more if this doesn't bomb."
- The film was a massive bet with odds against. Star Wars was supposed to be an expensive embarrassment too.
- Lack of known star power: Lucas caught heat from his studio for "his refusal to cast big-name stars" (Star Wars on Wikipedia). Cameron didn't face heat, I'm sure, since he's James Cameron, but he didn't put any big names in the pot (though I'm aware of the Matt-Damon-as-Jake-Sully that never was).
- Inspired by (or ripped off of) many previous film and literary works. Star Wars borrowed from (or stole, again all depends on opinion) so many other items that there is a Wikipedia article solely for Star Wars sources and analogues. I don't see that many with Avatar yet, but Star Wars has had 30 years to be picked apart--Avatar just happened.

There are some aspects of Avatar that are unique to it, at least compared to Star Wars. This sort of internet community in which fans gather couldn't exist then. Star Wars also lacked (for its time) much political punch. Although Lucas himself stated he modeled some aspects of the film off of history, there wasn't a huge political firestorm. Nor did the "all-powerful Force" cause the Vatican to pitch a fit (that I'm aware of), though it must be conceded that Eywa and the Force aren't directly comparable since the Force is not a single entity which can be treated as a goddess while Eywa is.

Thoughts? Feel free to add, call me a "skxawng" or whatever...
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