Erenlai - Items filtered by date: Sunday, 03 January 2010

(Spoiler alert)

A holiday blockbuster on the scale of Avatar is always going to be carefully scrutinised. Does the story make sense? Are the effects realistic? What about the acting? Is the movie popular? And for some of us, what does the movie say about the world we live in? For certain commentators this is proving irresistible, viewing James Cameron’s sci-fi epic as leftist anti-capitalist propaganda, left to soak in a big bucket of green-wash. Perhaps this is true; it would be hard to sit through nearly three hours of Avatar and not have noticed the pro-environment narrative whereby evil white men plunder the pristine forest home of enlightened aliens, the Na’vi, in the pursuit of immense wealth. In this context, a disabled human soldier—alienated from his own terminal society—comes into contact with the Na’vi whose natural lifestyle allows him to transform into a more fully realized being, both spiritually and physically. All this is done, of course, with the most spectacular of special effects, doubly so if viewed in 3D.

But what sort of propaganda is Avatar really pushing down our throats? Yes, the movie is pro-environment but undoubtedly Cameron would have had great difficulty getting a studio to fund a movie that was as proportionately anti-environment. That the most expensive movie ever made can have this theme indicates just how deeply environmental marketing has penetrated our society. But I don’t think too many teenagers are going to go home from the cinema, throw their playstation and laptop out the window and walk off into the jungle to commune with the majesty of nature.

A much more powerful (and by no means politically correct or leftist) theme underpins the movie and has a far greater influence on the outcome – that is, success is achieved by violent confrontation and brute force. Sam Worthington rouses his new Na’vi kinsmen by delivering a stirring rallying cry that harks back to Braveheart and Henry V. Rather than passively accept the incursion of the greedy invaders from earth, the Na’vi should wage war. From this point Avatar turns into a gigantic battle – man versus alien. The ensuing carnage makes for spectacular cinema and the casualties on both sides are severe and in the case of the Na’vi, not without regret. For all the criticisms of Cameron dredging up Hollywood clichés into the story, the final battle is the one that is the least creative and most disappointing.

Fears that Avatar is brainwashing the public into becoming greenies are wide of the mark. The real threat that Avatar poses is more mindless consumption of fighting and brutality. As the decade ticks over and we move on from yet another 10 years of conflict and war, at all levels of society all over the world, the ongoing glorification of violence is something that we should be giving more consideration to.

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