I decided to go see the movie “Avatar” even though I knew that, as a futuristic action film loaded with special effects, it probably wasn’t going to make my top-ten list. The idea of a 3-D movie intrigued me, though, and it seemed absolutely necessary to see that sort of thing on the big screen.
And so I went. And so there was some pretty nifty technical wizardry indeed going on, with many attractive imaginary foliage and landscaping and astronomic visuals. But, even though I thought I was prepared beforehand by my son’s admonition “you’re not going to like the politics,” I was nevertheless surprised at how very far this particular film went with those politics.
In case you’ve been on a desert island for the last month or so, let me mention that “Avatar” features life on Pandora (an earth-ish moon in another solar system) in the year 2154, a place where aboriginal tall thin blue (very tall and thin; most people say they’re catlike, but they reminded me most of blue Barbie dolls with ET faces and tails) creatures called the Na’vi have reached a wonderfully respectful symbiotic relationship with each other and the world around them, and are threatened by rapacious and greedy mankind.
There’s a war of sorts, and just guess who fares poorly. In the meantime, we’re treated to statements on the part of the human soldiers on the Pandora outpost that go something like this (I’m doing this from memory, so it might not be verbatim): “We must fight terrorism with terrorism,” and “Let’s give them some shock and awe,” as well as a reference to “daisycutters.”
In addition to finding it odd that people in the year 2154 would still be referencing the Afghanistan and Iraqi wars of a hundred and fifty years earlier, I found it especially odd that this movie takes human-hatred many steps further than previous movies ever did.
In my youth (not so very long ago), the natives were often the bad guys and the cavalry good. That wasn’t quite right, either, as we children intuitively knew (and as I, who sided with the Indians partly because I looked somewhat like them and partly because my brother and his friends used to place me unwillingly in that role when they tied me and the other girls to neighborhood trees and war-whooped around us, most definitely knew).
But a few years later, cinema corrected that imbalance by providing us with films that advanced a more sympathetic view of native Americans, and then later offered a reversal in movies such as “Dances With Wolves” (another one I hated; way too long and way too violent for me) in which the US cavalry was for the most part the bad guy (what would Rin-Tin-Tin say?).
Same with extraterrestrials. First they came to kill us, then they came to entrance us (“Close Encounters of the Third Kind“), then to befriend and amuse us (“ET“). And, although they still come to kill us now and then (“Independence Day“), in “Avatar” it’s we who come to kill them. Humans are most definitely the bad guys, except for a few kind souls who cross over and defend the noble Na’vi (combination of Navajo and Hopi?).
That means that this film is the first I’m aware of in which, except for a few human heroes who are the exceptions, we’re meant to root and cheer for the destruction of humans in general. And destruction there is, aplenty. This fits in so nicely with the current notions of many of the AGW and PETA folks—that humans (especially of the first-world variety) are the scourge of an otherwise wonderful earth—that it makes me think the idea of humankind as a cancer on the planet has gone mainstream.
Yes, yes, I’m taking a frivolous movie too seriously. It’s just a fun romp with a lot of fine visuals, right? I suppose it is that. But movies have messages that reach many millions of people, and this one’s only just begun what promises to be a long and lucrative voyage around the globe.