I saw "Avatar" a few days ago; and I guess you have to take James Cameron's anti-war film as an allegory. That's what Michael Moore has said about it: that it's "an allegory about what's happening now, set in the future".
The film is simply beautiful in its own right, also, and should be seen before it leaves the big screen.
Formula arises out of the action figure who saves the day, which we have seen a gazillion times in pop culture. Much that is of comic book appeal does not undermine the reversal of identification-- like magnetic poles switching-- in terms of who the audience identifies with in the movie. Cameron deserves credit, some credit; since species identification is otherwise a primordial reflex; and it turns out that we wonder early in the film, along with the Navian shaman, whether the insanity of human beings (the sky people) is correctable at all.
Any film maker who can turn sympathy in this way deserves credit. There's a lot in the film which shows our imperial culture being itself, and the evidence of what we have become is a stark feature of this film. There is a replication of all the ways in which technology in the West has crushed the spiritualism of every nature-centered culture it ever encountered.
The land is polluted by those who come to take from the people, using the familiar "might makes right" mandate, to steal resources from those who can be intimidated. The "sky people", who killed what remained of the green on their own world, are completely unreformed in any moral sense; and they come plundering across the reaches of interstellar space to extract minerals from Pandora, and of course are threatening to make yet another world sterile.
Quite apart from projecting the mythical world of the Navians, with all the mythologies of our ancient people superimposed upon them, the formulas of adulation for heroes included, and the triumph of the spiritual over the meanness of acquisitiveness and conquest; this film is more importantly about the grim fate that awaits a civilization that feeds on invasive violence and exploitation.
Cameron's achievement is to show what history has in store for us, the destroyers of worlds. The human race is scouring the universe for an element, a rare mineral called "Unobtainium"; the human race has left its own sterile rock, after killing the green goddess Gaia, its own mother; and matricide is not enough for it, and it can't be satisfied until the mother is killed everywhere, in every form known to sentient beings. Human beings have at last found ultimate gratification in becoming one with their killing machines, in worshiping at their own godhead, which is Mammon. Human beings are not to be satisfied until all lesser creatures kneel before them, until they have subdued and fucked all their prey.
Cameron, with some genius, has artfully identified homo sapiens here, as the alien army of occupation, an army in defeat, a disarmed bunch of mercenaries, being marched back to their transport vessels, for repatriation back to their own dead world.
This article is cross-posted at le speakeasy.
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