Joey Ku

The Time Machine Essay:
Investigating Romanticism, Escapism, War of Manmade machines versus Natural Resources and The Cold War behind the scenes of James Cameron’s Avatar (2009) By Joey Ku Cg Arts and Animation- Year 1 Monday 23rd April 2012 2021 words Time Machine: Chris Hunt and Phil Gomm

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Joey Ku

Contents:
Introduction Main Body Conclusion List of Illustrations Bibliography 3 4 7 8

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Joey Ku

Introduction:
This assignment seeks to investigate how Romanticism is linked to James Cameron’s Avatar (2009). This also includes investigating Escapism and how this is used in the film, along with ideas of wars between nature versus man and how the war in Avatar is heavily referenced to the Cold war. Research sources includes Jesse Bryant Wilder’s Defining Romanticism in the Arts which helps define what Romanticism means, Christopher and Mark Rothko’s The Artist’s Reality: Philosophies of Art which helps gives an understanding of Escapism, Michael Marien’s Future Survey Annual 1991: Volume 10 which gives an insight of the fight between manmade machines versus Natural resources. Other books that are helpful towards this assignment would be William Woodsworth’s poem, Ode: Intimations of Immortality which is a poem describing the war between man and nature, and lastly Robert Genter’s Modernism: Art, Culture, and Politics in Cold War America which describes how the Cold war is quite similar to the war between man versus nature. The essay will begin by defining what Romanticism is before explaining how it is depicted in Avatar, later the film will look at Escapism and how it too is seen in the film before going to explain the wars between man versus nature, then how this is interpreted by Woodsworth’s poem before lastly explains how the wars mentioned are reflected to the Cold War.

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Joey Ku

Main Body:
Avatar (2009) is a sci fi film directed by James Cameron. The film tells the story of how protagonist, Jake Sully travels to the world called Pandora, inhabited by creatures known as the Na’vi and war enrages between humans and Na’vi as they fight for resources and life. The film has elements of 18th Century Romanticism. Romanticism was a movement mainly in the arts, literature and intellect. This movement was created in reaction to the political and social of the Age of the Enlightenment movement. The word romanticism means the focus on an individual’s expression and views. Jesse Bryant Wilder, writer for Defining Romanticism in the arts describes the definition of Romanticism. She states that, “It (romanticism) means being a staunch individualist, believing in the rights of other individuals, and expressing deep, intense, and often uplifting emotions — like Beethoven (whose Fifth Symphony marked the beginning of the Romantic era in music). Often it means having a deep, spiritual relationship with nature. "Nature never did betray the heart that loved her," wrote the British Romantic poet William Wordsworth in Tintern Abbey.” (Wilder, unknown) This means that from what Wilder states, the word Romanticism is focusing on the expressions and the idea of being close to nature which may includes bright colours and or the subject in a happy expression. In conclusion, to be with nature, apart from bright colours and expressions, it may also include human or animal subjects surrounded by a large greenery environment whilst interacting with each other, or perhaps being as close to nature that it is required to respect it and worship it, nearly treating nature as a God and as one. However this can be seen in James Cameron’s Avatar where the environment as well as the plot is where examples of Romanticism are used. The world of Pandora is closely linked to Romanticism due to its environments looking quite similar to the human world, in particular the nature side as well as having human characters interacting with them, even though its fictional. Figure 1 shows an image still taken from the Avatar film from movieblogbydonna.com in 2010. What this image depicts is one of the many environments from the world of Pandora. This consists of bright vivid colours of plants in many exotic forms with two Na’vis are seen roaming around in front of a brightly lit waterfall backdrop. The similarities to nature such as the plants and the composition of the environment are similar to native jungles that are seen today along with bright vivid colours to add emphasis. It could also be perhaps to add emphasis on romanticism in this image could be that Cameron wanted the environment to appear larger than the central characters so that the audience could grasp and feel the never before seen environment as well as the idea of the Na’vi respecting nature like it’s their God. With Cameron’s idea of showing the audience the environment, it could also be seen as escapism, wanting to leave the human world and into a fictional world similar to the film’s main character, Jake Sully.

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Figure 1: The exotic nature of Pandora similar to the human world

The idea of Jake Sully leaving from a human world and to venture out into another and the idea of him having his conscious leave from a human body into a Na’vis could be perhaps seen as escapism. Like Mark and Christopher Rothko’s The Artist’s Reality: Philosophies of Art, it states that in Escapism, “It is impossible to see how man can continue to live and not make some sort of working relationship with his environment One can even go further and point to the fact that man is incapable of a single act which is not the result of the effect of environment upon his personality.” (Rothko, 2006: 111) This means that from what Rothko says there possibly could not be an idea where humans continue living and not interact with their environment or surroundings therefore they cannot possibly imagine them without seeing it first. It is clear that in Avatar Cameron has used the natural environments based on the human world, perhaps into the tropical, exotic and tribal influences, creating a paradise world where a human being would want to explore in especially growing close to nature. With the art styles of exotic, tribal and tropical that creating a world that humans could escape to can be seen in the film of how Escapism is used. Elements of Escapism can be seen in the film, such as the idea of a conscious mind leaving a human body and into a human- Na’vi hybrid where the human wakes up as its host and experience a wide range of senses. Fig 2 shows a film still of Jake Sully sitting in front of his soon-to-be
Figure 2: Jake Sully sitting in front of his Na'vi avatar as it sleeps in the amnio tank

human-Na’vi hybrid host which lies behind him in an

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Joey Ku amnio tank , taken from Jeff Olson on his film review of the film from fanboyz.net. What this image shows is that with the human character, Jake about to have his mind transferred and become an “avatar” as well as the human life that he is about to leave behind in order to regain the freedom from his legs as a Na’vi after spending time relying on a wheelchair. The escapism in this could be seen as leaving something that is lost and regaining them back as something else. However like the storyline, having a human escape into the Na’vi’s world can change the views and can cause war. In the film the main character, Jake becomes a Na’vi and tries to urge the Na’vi people to leave on behalf of the human so that the humans can use their natural resources. However this changes Jake’s point of view and a war abrupt between Na’vi and humans, or similarly a war between natural resources versus the man made as seen mostly within the film. This is described by Michael Marien, author for his book, Future Survey Annual 1991: Volume 10, he describes about the balance between the modern technology world fights with the natural eco world. He states that, “The techno sphere has become sufficiently large and intense to alter the natural process that Govern the ecosphere. In turn the altered ecosphere threatens to flood our cities, dry up our farms, contaminate our foods and water, and poison our bodies; the human attack on the ecosphere has instigated and ecological counter attack.” (Marien, 1991: 55) This means that from what Marien states, the increase in modern technology is beginning to overpower nature, therefore as a result natural hazards and events are caused such as drought, tsunami’s and volcano eruptions etc. With the humans relying on machinery, nature is beginning to fail and therefore the natural growth in crops and animals could die out due to natural and or human causes. The unseen war between natures versus man made machinery can be understood from looking at William Woodsworth’s poem. The fight between manmade machinery versus nature is an ongoing unseen war, the more technology rises, the more natural events happen. As William Woodsworth, poet for his poem Ode: Intimations of Immortality, his poem states, “Uphold us, cherish, and have power to make Our noisy years seem moments in the being Of the eternal Silence: truths that wake, To perish never: Which neither listlessness, nor mad Endeavour, Nor Man nor Boy, Nor all that is at enmity with joy, Can utterly abolish or destroy!” (Woodsworth, 1849: 343) 160

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Joey Ku From what Woodsworth’s poem says, the man made machines can be depicted as the noise and the power where as the silence could be seen as nature and the truths is has are the natural hazard it makes. The balance between the two cannot be destroyed as humans cannot live with one without the other. This could also mean that the only things that people notice of this ongoing war are the natural hazards and or the latest technology ever evolved, overpowering nature’s action on life. Although with the ongoing war between the two sources and is symbolically depicted in Avatar, the Cold war can also perhaps seen symbolically within the film. The war depicted in Avatar can be seen as a war between men versus nature, however it also closely relates to The Vietnam war, or known as the Cold war- a war between different countries. It could also be seen in reflection to Avatar, a war between two different species from different worlds. Robert Genter, writer for Late Modernism: Art, Culture and Politics in Cold War America describes about how the Cold War can be seen as a reflection of machine versus nature war. He states that, “We live in an age of transition, an age of overlap, in which the old modern of yesterday no longer acts effectively but still provides means of expression, standards of expectations and tools of ordering.” (Genter, 2010: 28) This means that from what Genter describes is that humans live in a world where things change as time passes. In other words the natural things that human would use years ago, such as using fire as a light we humans now rely on something man made, which we would now rely on an electric light source. This could also mean that because of us humans rely on machinery more, we see nature as a last resort for tools as well as viewing nature in an artistic way instead. Therefore from what we see in Avatar, the fight between machinery overpower nature and allow machinery to grow there is very much closely linked to the Cold War.

Conclusion:
In conclusion is linked a lot to Romanticism, Escapism as well as symbolically referencing to the wars, mainly the Cold War and the war between man versus nature. Like Romanticism, the natural side of Avatar is where the inhabitants are much closer to nature than the humans, even going as far as worshipping and respecting every natural thing the Na’vi sees, treating each other as one. Unlike the humans, they take things for granted, not worshipping the Na’vi gods and cultures and instead invades to retrieve something that would selfishly benefit for themselves. With Escapism the idea of Jake having his conscious escape into a Na’vi avatar and experience things that he couldn’t have experienced before due to his limitations in his human side of life. As for the wars, the film heavily depicts the war between man versus nature where in the film humans fight for their resource and invasion against the natural, well respected Na’vis, reflecting to the Vietnam or Cold war in which the war is a fight against different countries.

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List of Illustrations:
Fig 1: Donna (2009) Avatar…Amazing! (online): http://movieblogbydonna.com/?paged=2 Fig 2: Olson, J (2009) Movie Review: James Cameron’s Avatar (online): http://fanboyz.net/2009/12/21/movie-review-james-camerons-avatar/

Bibliography:
Bryant Wilder, J (unknown) Defining Romanticism in the Arts (online): http://www.dummies.com/how-to/content/defining-romanticism-in-the-arts.html Rothko, C and M (2006) The Artist’s Reality: Philosophies of Art (unknown, Yale University Press) (online): http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=YE1rbTSeGt8C&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_sum mary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false Marien, M (1991) Future Survey Annual 1991: Volume 10 (USA, Transaction Publishers) (online): http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=JqmPCj8NXaoC&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q&f=fals e Woodsworth, W (1849) Ode: Intimations of Immortality (London, Edward Moxon) (online): http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=l11OAAAAYAAJ&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q&f=fals e Genter, R (2010) Late Modernism: Art, Culture, and Politics in Cold War America (USA, University of Pennsylvania Press) (online): http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=9bVBj0uM7y0C&printsec=frontcover&dq=genter+2010+col d+war&hl=en&sa=X&ei=J5WUTbxNOGc0QX82JSIAg&ved=0CDEQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=genter%202010%20cold%20war&f=fa lse

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