Australian Council on Children and the Media

Avatar

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Not suitable under 8, not recommended 8-12. PG to 15 (Violence, Scary and disturbing scenes

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Avatar
  • a review of Avatar completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 17 December 2009.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 12 Not recommended due to violent, scary and disturbing scenes
Children 12-15 Parental guidance recommended due to violent, scary and disturbing scenes

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines.

Name of movie: Avatar
Classification: M
Consumer advice lines: Violence
Length 162 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

After spending five years in cryonic sleep aboard an intergalactic transport vessel, Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) a wheelchair bound marine, finds himself being woken as the transport approaches the planet Pandora. Humans have set up a corporate/military mining consortium on Pandora and are systematically bulldozing Pandora’s forests in search of a rare priceless mineral called “Unobtainium”. However, Pandora is populated by a humanoid race called the Na’vi who are getting in the way of the mining operations. Jake is being sent to Pandora to replace his murdered brother in the “Avatar Program” an experimental project that transfers the conscious mind of a human “driver” into a laboratory grown Na’vi avatar. Apparently a rich vein of Unobtainium has been located directly beneath a large Na’vi village and the humans plan to use the avatars to infiltrate the Na’vi and convince them to relocate or, failing that, to use the intelligence gathered by Jake to assist the consortium’s military’s leader Colonel Miles Quaritch (Steven Lang) to forcibly remove the Na’vi.

Jake along with scientists Dr. Grace Augustine (Sigourney Weaver) and Norm Spellman (Joel Moore) is sent out on a scouting mission in avatar guise. While investigating the local flora, Jake is attacked by a ferocious beast causing him to be separated from the rest of his company. Jake is rescued by a beautiful female Na’vi warrior called Neytirri (Zoe Saldana), who also happens to be the daughter of the Na’vi’a clan chieftain. When the clan’s spiritual leader senses a strong spiritual significance to Jake, Jake is adopted into the clan and then trained as a warrior.

The Colonel gives Jake three months to convince the Na’vi to willingly relocate, but at the end of this time Jake finds he is in love with Neytirri and has developed strong ties with the Na’vi. Jake now strongly opposes the Colonel taking any action against the Na’vi and is eventually joined by his colleagues in a battle to save the owners of the planet.

Themesinfo

Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Exploitation of indigenous populations; genetic engineering

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

Avatar contains extended sequences of action violence, epic battle and war scenes but with minimal depiction of blood and gore. Examples include:

  • While exploring the jungle, avatar Jake is confronted by a large dinosaur-like creature that charges Jake. Jake holds his ground, shouting and barring his teeth at the creature which backs off and retreats into the jungle. 
  • While lost in the jungle, Jake in avatar form is pursued by a giant alien dog like creature. The creature leaps onto Jake bitting onto his backpack and lifting Jake into the air and throwing him around like a ragdoll. Jake escapes by leaping from a cliff into a river below and is uninjured.
  • Jake is pursued through the jungle by a pack of dog like creatures. He wards the creatures off with fire and stabs one with a knife. Just as Jake is about to be overrun by the creatures, Neytirri steps out of the forest and shoots one with and arrow, she then attacks the remaining dogs with her bow and knife, stabbing one in the throat. Afterwards, Neytirri displays distress at having to kill the creatures.
  • The Na’vi spiritual leader cuts avatar Jake with a knife and then licks Jake’s blood from the blade of the knife.
  • Jake shoots a dear-like alien animal with a bow and arrow, he then stabs the wounded animal in the throat as he recites a prayer of thanks to the creature for surrendering its life; he is then told he has made a clean kill.
  • As part of his manhood test, avatar Jake must capture and ride a large pterodactyl-like creature. Jake walks through a flock of the creatures and one lunges and attacks him, Jake lassos the creature’s jaws and jumps on its back. The creature jumps off a cliff and Jake crashes into the side of the cliff several times before he gets the creature under control.
  • Avatar Jake and Neytirri are asleep in the jungle when Neytirri is awoken by the sounds of giant mining bulldozers crashing through the vegetation. Neytirri tries to wake Jake, but Jake’s consciousness is not in his avatar body. The bulldozers knock over trees as they approach with Neytirri pulling Jake’s avatar body out of the way of falling trees. When Jake regains consciousness he runs in front of the bulldozers waving his arms trying to stop the bulldozers, but they keep coming forward. Jake jumps onto one of the dozers and uses a rock to smash parts of the machine in response marines shoot their guns at Jake, Jake escapes into the jungle uninjured while Neytirri cries in grief and distress for the ruined trees.
  • A Na’vi male attacks avatar Jake with a knife and Jake punches the Na’vi in the face; we see blood on the Na’vi nose and face. The Na’vi tries to cut Jake’s throat, but Neytirri steps in and physically restrains the Na’vi male.                      
  • Dozens of flying gunships approach the Na’vi village and shoot hundreds of gas cylinders into the village. Na’vi people stagger around coughing and gasping for breath. The gunships then fire rockets at the Na’vi with trees and the ground erupting in flames and the Na’vi running in panic, crying and screaming. Na’vi villagers are thrown through the air like ragdolls. The gigantic tree which is their home breaks apart and crashes to the ground falling on many of the Na’vi. At the end of the attack Neytirri’s father, the Na’vi chief is left dying on the ground with a large wooden stake impaled through his back as Neytirri looks on, but we see minimal blood and gore. Later we see images of the Na’vi carrying injured Na’vi children in their arms. 
  • In response to the destruction of the Na’vi village, Jake, Dr. Augustine and several other scientists confront the Colonel. A scuffle breaks out with one of the scientists punching a marine in the face. In response, Jake, Dr. Augustine and the other scientists are restrained and imprisoned by the soldiers.
  • A female military pilot opposed to the Colonel’s destruction of the Na’vi village pistol whips a prison guard to unconsciousness in an attempt to rescue Jake, Dr. Augustine and the other scientists from prison.
  • While attempting to escape the military base in a stolen airship, Jake and the scientists are shot at by the Colonel wielding a machinegun, and then a handgun. Bullets ricocheting off the airship’s windscreen. A short time later we see Grace remove a bloody hand from her stomach to reveal a blood soaked gunshot wound. Jake takes Grace to the Na’vi for healing, but we are told that is too late and Grace dies.
  • In a final epic battle between the Na’vi and the humans, a fleet of heavily armed military airships fly towards the floating mountains with the intent of destroying the Na’vi and their sacred tree. We see images of the airships fitted with all manner of machineguns and missiles and cargo bays loaded with troops and dreadnaughts (large human piloted battle suits). The Na’vi warriors ride large horse-like animals or fly upon the backs of pterodactyl-like creatures.
  • Na’vi archers shoot six foot arrows through glass windshields impaling human pilots through the chest; minimal blood and gore depicted.
  • Human soldiers shoot Na’vi warriors from their flying mounts with heavy machineguns and the Na’vi fall through the air to the ground below. Na’vi warriors on the ground are shot by dreadnaughts wielding giant spinning machine guns. We see airships firing upon each other with airships exploding in flames and spinning out of control to the ground.
  • A Na’vi warrior jumps from his flying mount onto an airship and attacks the human soldiers hurling the humans around like toy soldiers.
  • Dreadnaughts and squads of soldiers with flamethrowers burn all in their path, and these ground forces are destroyed by large rhinoceros-like creatures. We hear the screams of soldiers being trampled. Meanwhile, in the air, pterodactyl-like creatures grab airship soldiers in their jaws and throw them from the airship.
  • The final showdown is between the Colonel in a dreadnaught suit and Jack and Neytirri riding a giant wolf-like creature. Neytirri on her wolf creature attacks the Colonel who viciously stabs the wolf to death while Neytirri remains trapped under her mount. The Colonel then turns on the trapped Neytirri and is about to stab her when Avatar Jake attacks the Colonel. The fight is fierce with both Jake and the Colonel trying to stab each other with giant hunting knives. The Colonel appears to gain the upper hand when he grabs Jake by the hair, lifting him into the air, but the Colonel is impaled through the chest by an arrow shot by Neytirri, who fires a second arrow through the Colonel’s chest. The Colonel and dreadnaught crash to the ground; minimal blood and gore is depicted.

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

Avatar contains an array of fantastic and monstrous dinosaur-like creatures with large sharp teeth and claws. Examples include:  

  • The Na’vi themselves are three metres tall, blue skinned and yellow eyed with catlike features and two sharp fang-like teeth, which they bare when they show aggression. At times they wear war paint that emphasises their cat-like features.
  • Large ferocious pterodactyl-like flying creatures with snapping jaws full of large snapping teeth.
  • Dreadnaught style power suits that encase the human pilot. These are large and threatening in appearance and equipped with large machineguns and hands that can wield giant hunting knives.  
  • Large colourful tree dwelling scorpion-like creatures.
  • Large four limbed monkey-like creatures.
  • Large multicoloured hammerhead rhinoceros like creatures.
  • Very fast and aggressive giant skeletal dog-like creatures with snapping jaws full of large sharp dagger-like teeth.

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes and scary visual images, there are some scenes in this movie that could particularly disturb children aged five to eight, including the following:

  • We see images of Jake’s dead brother in a cardboard coffin as it is consumed in cremation fires while Jake watches. 
  • Colonel Quaritch has large livid claw-like scars across the side of his head and face.
  • Images and sounds of a wolf-like dog impaled on an arrow whimpering in pain until it is put out of its misery.   
  • Images of Neytirri when she becomes emotionally upset, crying in a very distressed manner.
  • In effort to save the life of Dr. Augustine, who had been shot in the stomach, Jake takes her. to the Na’vi’s sacred tree. We see hundreds of Na’vi sitting in front of a giant tree singing and swaying in unison. They are partially covered by very fine roots coming from the sacred tree. The Doctor and her avatar are also covered by fine roots.    

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

Children in this age group may also be scared or distressed by some of the images listed above.

Over thirteeninfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

Younger children in this age group may also be disturbed by some of the images listed above.

Product placement

None of concern

Sexual references

Avatar contains occasional mild sexual references. For example:

  • When a group of new soldiers arrive on Pandora we hear a soldier shouting “Lets go ladies, look at all this fresh meat”.
  • We see Jake in his avatar form playing with his tail, and hear Dr. Augustine tell Jake “Don’t play with that you’ll go blind”.
  • When Jake passes his manhood test Neytirri tells him that he may now choose a woman to mate with. Later we hear Neytirri telling her mother that she and Jake have mated.   
  • We hear the Colonel in a sarcastic manner tell Jake “I’m getting all emotional I might just give you a big wet kiss”.

Nudity and sexual activity

Avatar contains partial nudity and some low-level sexual activity. Examples include:

  • A female military pilot wears low cut tops that reveal cleavage.
  • The Na’vi, both male and female are depicted entirely naked except for a loin cloth that covers their crotch/groin area.
  • Jake and Neytirri kiss passionately. Jake lifts Neytirri onto his lap and Neytirri says “I am with you Jake. We are mated for life” as the scene ends.  

Use of substances

There is some use of substances in this movie, including:

  • Dr. Augustine smokes cigarettes in several scenes.
  • Jake gives the Doctor an injection after she is shot.
  • We hear the expression “What the hell have you people been smoking”.  

Coarse language

Avatar contains some medium level coarse language, and name calling. Examples include:

  • Dumb grunt, army dogs, god damn, bullshit, corporate butt, intentionally screwing me, shit you, limp dick, pissed off, piss arse, marine’s arse, bitch, holy shit, crap, son of a bitch, shut your pie hole, fly bitten savages, screwed.     

In a nutshell

Avatar is an action science fiction adventure aimed at a male teenage and young adult audience but likely to entertain adults of all ages. The film’s CGI enhanced alien characters are extremely realistic. The story line is not a new one with many similarities to events in both current and past human history.

 The main messages from this movie are:

  • That some humans are capable of great injustice and crime in order to achieve profit or gain while other human are capable of great personal sacrifice in order to address those injustices and crimes. 
  • It is unjust and morally wrong to forcibly remove indigenous people from their native land.

Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include:

  • Personal sacrifice
  • Environmental awareness
  • Scientific curiosity

This movie could also give parents the opportunity to discuss with their children attitudes and behaviours, and their real-life consequences, such as:

  • Present or past similarities between how the Na’vi were treated by those in command and how Earth’s indigenous populations have been, and are being, treated
  • During one point in the film Jake says that everything is backwards and that the real world existed when he was in his avatar body and that the dream world was when he was in his human body. Could refugees integrating from one culture to another have similar feelings?

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