As you just saw, the movie tells the story of a primitive but proud indigenous alien culture defending itself against a human-run technological assault This theme is, of course, nothing new…
The main difference, though, is that Avatar builds in a concept familiar to internet gamers (especially purveyors of MMORPGs). The idea that you can plug into an ‘Avatar,’ who you control, and perform your actions through is a direct reference to video games and an overt attempt at wrangling in the hugely influential gamer demographic.
As if this wasn’t enough to convince studios to fund the project (remember, this screenplay has been floating around in some form since 1994), Cameron seemingly threw in an attempt to co-opt an entire corner of the RPG market. Let’s take a closer look at the native race in Avatar — The “Na’vi.”
Hmm, that’s odd. The Na’vi seem to be a CGI carbon copy of the Draenei race from World of Warcraft, the most popular online role playing game in history. Their inclusion seems an especially clever way of drawing in the 15,000,000 strong WoW contingent without acquiring any copyrights, trademarks, or even making any mention to the source material.
Even the name, “Na’vi,” seems reminiscent of gamer parlance. Nav (or Navigational) Points are often used in games to direct the user to a particular place on the map. In my experience, these came into vogue in the MechWarrior series, which also seems to have a strong presence in the storyline of Avatar (note the remote battle mechs that take on the Na’vi army).
Hmm, co-opting past blockbuster themes, secretly embedding familiar pop culture characters and worlds, and copying other successful works. I suppose that is one way of getting your lame duck screenplay produced. Perhaps, on a meta-level, the movie Avatar is really the avatar of the awkwardly titled World of MechWarrior Craft of the Jedi.