With not one, but four sequels on the way (expected release was in December 2018), James Cameron’s Avatar, the highest-grossing film of all time and winner of three Academy Awards, is mostly filled with blue-skinned characters.
Ever wandered why?
Anything Blue review – James Cameron’s Avatar (2009): why so blue?
Here is why. There seems to be not one but many answers.
Cameron once answered in an interview that all the colours were already taken by humankind but blue and green, the latter reminding too much of the ‘little green men’. It also looks like James Cameron’s mum had a big part to play, and that her son literally wants to make her dreams come true. Lastly, James Cameron is probably acquainted with comics, the Hindu’s sacred texts, or French author Theophile Gauthier. Again: many answers.
And what about the Avatar sequels? According to HitFix, the first sequel was expected to be released around Christmas 2018.
‘Avatar (marketed as James Cameron’s Avatar) is a 2009 American epic science fiction film directed, written, produced, and co-edited by James Cameron, and starring Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Stephen Lang, Michelle Rodriguez, and Sigourney Weaver.
The film is set in the mid-22nd century, when humans are colonizing Pandora, a lush habitable moon of a gas giant in the Alpha Centauri star system to mine the mineral unobtanium, a room-temperature superconductor. The expansion of the mining colony threatens the continued existence of a local tribe of Na’vi – a humanoid species indigenous to Pandora.
The film’s title refers to a genetically engineered Na’vi body with the mind of a remotely located human that is used to interact with the natives of Pandora.
The look of the Na’vi – the humanoids indigenous to Pandora – was inspired by a dream that Cameron’s mother had, long before he started work on Avatar. In her dream, she saw a blue-skinned woman 12 feet (4 m) tall, which he thought was “kind of a cool image”.
Also he said, “I just like blue. It’s a good color … plus, there’s a connection to the Hindu deities, which I like conceptually.”
He included similar creatures in his first screenplay (written in 1976 or 1977), which featured a planet with a native population of “gorgeous” tall blue aliens. The Na’vi were based on them.’
Source : Avatar (2009) @Wikipedia
‘Why are the Na’vi blue?
James Cameron answered the question in a recent [MTV] interview saying he wanted there be an “otherness” to the love story between Sully’s avatar and the native alien, Neytiri.
Since skin color is “such a big issue on our planet,” Cameron decided to use that issue as a thematic driving point. Other skin tones were already taken by humans, while green was already a cliché in other alien movies.
“We had big blue women, not little green men,” Cameron said.
No word on why the Na’vi’s skin sparkles, but you have to admit it is a cool effect.’
‘How come it’s BLUE?’ The origins of James Cameron’s Avatar
1) Define « avatar ».
An avatar is a technologically-enhanced surrogate body that a user « wears » to perform physically challenging tasks.
The Sanskrit word avatara, originally meant « embodiment of a god » and was mainly used to describe the human form Hindu god Vishnu used to assume to interact with mortal beings. In today’s popular culture it designates the presence of a human agent in a technologically-intensive environment. See for instance informational habitats: from popular applications like Messenger, to forgotten 3d communities such as Cybertown – the little bugger is all over the web.
2)Who came up with that?
Apart from the Hindus, you mean? Well, French author Théophile Gautier published a novel by the same title in 1856.
The main character, Octave, is a disabled young man that a mysterious doctor ‘who just came back from India’ heals by swapping his body with a brand new one via an ‘electromagnetic equipment’. Admittedly, it sounds like James Cameron’s movie – Jake and his Na’vi alter ego through and through.
And I’m not accusing him or anyone of plagiarism. In the article I maintain the avatar is mainly a borrowed notion.
‘Cultural borrowing’ is a social mechanism consisting in taking a style, a narrative or a visual canon originally developed in a certain context and transferring it into another one, thus attaining a fresh new meaning. Think Elvis appropriating rhythm’n’blues and turning it into rock’n’roll. The same goes on with avatars: science-fiction writers have borrowed them from religion; psychedelia have borrowed them from science-fiction; superhero comics have borrowed them from psychedelia. Internet culture have borrowed from superhero comics.
I could substantiate this lineage by dropping a number of authoritative references (I sure do it in the article). But sometimes an image is worth a thousand words. So here are three images equal, three thousand words I spare you. […]
3) So why is it blue? Yeah, that is a question Cameron gets a lot. How come the Na’vi are blue if they inhabit a « green planet ». Shouldn’t they be, like – green?
Now, there is one explanation which points to the technological limitations that Cameron met when first he was developing the script. Back in the 1990s CGI-generated characters were difficult to render when it came to skins and hair. Thus the enormous amount of smooth, cerulean silhouettes in those years imagery. But, allegedly, Cameron’s movie took so long to be released precisely because he wanted to wait for the « technology to catch up with his vision ».
Turns out his « vision » was borrowing too from the cultural and visual canon that had shaped all the avatars before him. The religious origin of the avatara sets the tone here. Middle- and far-Eastern religions are packed with blue-skinned gods: Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva (to say nothing of Krishna) in the Hindu tradition are all represented as blue men [for more details, see comment of Dec 29th, 2009 15 h 24 to this post], as well as the Shinto moon-god Tsuki-Yomi, the Egyptian goddess of the sky Nut, the Chinese god of justice Lei Kung, etc.
Of course popular iconography plays a major role too. Especially superhero, comics. Apart from the aforementioned Doc Manhattan, the trope of the blue body recurs in all kind of story involving superpowered beings. Again, one image instead of a thousand words – it’s a win-win!
Doctor Xavier’s telepathic body, by Chris Claremont in Uncanny X-men #238, p. 12.’
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