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Avatar: A Cinematic Event for the Spiritually and Critically Conscious

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The immersive experience of Avatar would be enough on its own. That you are taken into a world where you essentially take part in the journey and evolution of a hero that deals with a supreme conflict just makes this film even more worth experiencing in an IMAX theatre.

The story follows Jake Sully (Sam Worthington), a paraplegic war veteran who is asked to participate in a high level program run by corporate and military strategists after his brother dies. Sully accepts and travels light years away to the planet of Pandora.

Humans cannot breathe the air on Pandora but through an Avatar Program they link to an avatar which is a hybrid of the indigenous people of Pandora that happen to have features of the individuals they are linked to.

Ultimately, Sully is offered the job because he is a genetic match for an expensive avatar that was designed for his brother. He signs up to help scientists learn about the indigenous people of Pandora, the Na'vi.

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The scientists inform Sully that linking to his own avatar will give him the ability to walk again, an experience that becomes quite liberating.

Scientists carry out a mission designed to figure out why Na'vi/human relations are so tumultuous, a corporate-military management corporation ultimately oversees the scientific project.

The project exists, for the most part, because it may yield information that can help the Resources Development Organization gain access to the planet's natural resource, Unobtanium, which the corporation can use to save a dying planet Earth from its current energy crisis.

Parker Selfridge (Giovanni Ribisi) epitomizes the corporation with his "ends justifies the means" approach to acquiring Pandora's resources for planet Earth. Selfridge is very much interested in finding a way to "wag the dog" so blowback against his corporate enterprise can be kept to a minimum and that's why he is willing to help supervise the mission of the scientists.

Col. Miles Quaritch (Stephen Lang) exemplifies the military as a cold-blooded imperialist warmonger who will only be content when he successfully dominates the "savages" of Pandora. Quaritch cheerleads Sully's involvement in the Avatar Program under the assumption that Sully will force the"savages" to submit to their operation.

The combination of corporate and military forces puts on display a terror evocative of the current conflict over resources in the Middle East and the corporate/military aspect is a clear dystopian element in the film.

Eventually, Sully becomes separated from the scientists when attacked by a planetary creature called a Thanator. He later is faced with Viperwolves, and as he is about to be torn to pieces, a member of an indigenous tribe on Pandora known as the Omaticaya, rescues him.

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Neytiri, his rescuer, takes him back to her people and from here on the central conflict of the film manifests itself: Can one of the "sky people" learn the ways of the indigenous people or will he betray and exploit the Omaticayan people as sky people have traditionally done since their first days on Pandora?

Avatar is very much a film that relies on the universal motif of adventure and transformation known as the Hero's Journey.

As Joseph Campbell might describe it, Sully's destiny summons him and transfers "his spiritual center of gravity from within the pale of society to a zone unknown." Destiny leads him to reconcile his role as an enabler of the exploitative colonialist corporate army whose supreme goal is to claim a natural resource beneath the Hometree that the Omaticayan people inhabit with Na'vi people's culture, spirituality, and their connection with the land and animals of Pandora.

Taken through a series of initiations, Sully acquires the skills, knowledge, and respect for the Omaticaya so he can become one of them.

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Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof Press. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure." He was an editor for

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