Avatar: A Predictable Storyline With A Powerful Political Message

After its win at the Golden Globes for best director and best film, and also its record breaking performance at the box office worldwide, Avatar seems to be well  positioned for a very big win at the Oscars. Judging by his behavior at the Golden Globes awards ceremony, Avatar’s director, James Cameron, has mellowed with age or at least kept the megalomaniac side of his personality in check for the evening.

Yet the self proclaimed “King of the world” director of  Titanic still behaves like he is a few notches  above Hollywood’s  fray. For weeks, James Cameron was refusing for “Avatar” to be sent to members of the Academy of Motion Picture and other guilds members as a DVD, insisting that his film should be seen on the big screen only. He eventually gave in to pressure, and a few days ago I was able to watch “Avatar” on my reasonably decent  TV screen.

I am sure that the viewing experience would have been at least visually more exiting in 3 D and on a giant screen, but regardless of this, after around 10 minutes into James Cameron’s film I was able to guess the story line from A to Z. It is indeed a familiar and to some extend conventional story with some clever twists to it.

Avatar is in a nutshell a futuristic transposition of the conquest of the Americas, and the genocide of the American Indians for land and resources orchestrated in North America by British and French “explorers”, and in Central & South America by Spain’s Conquistadors.

British and French took the land from the tribes, and put they best efforts in converting  “the savages” into Christians. The Spaniards had more tangible goals: Taking the gold and the silver from the native populations. In Avatar, the resource is a precious mineral of planet Pandora which the management of a ruthless corporation is willing to take by all means necessary, including deadly force. In order to achieve this, they found a way to infiltrate the tribe of the giant and lanky blue creatures , which most sacred land happens to be the richest depository for the mineral in question.

The devise used by James Cameron to transport humans to the world of  the blue creatures is crude. It looks pretty much like a self tanning machine, but it none less successfully  functions as a portal to the other world. Sigourney Weaver plays the scientist/anthropologist  in charge of the experiment of learning the blue aliens’ language and culture. The semi-militarized corporation’s (think Halliburton & Blackwater combined in a futuristic nightmare) leadership thinks it is a waste of time, and decides to infiltrate the pool of scientists with a former Marine crippled and in a wheel chair.

The ex-Marine quickly discovers planet Pandora’s magical world where not only he can walk again, but where all of his senses are increased 100 folds. But then the predictability of the story comes again when he meets a blue alien version of Pocahontas. His mission was to infiltrate the tribe by sharing their appearance, but instead he quickly becomes seduced not only by his new love interest but also by the giant blue aliens primitive but powerful culture. In this formulaic version of the “forbidden love” between two species love of course shall triumph at the end.

As the story unfold, our hero is slowly but surely switching side from working on the behalf of the greedy and brutal invaders to being seduced and finally helping the “savage” aliens. Having at their disposal only primitive weapons, the blue creatures should be easily outgunned by the might of the nasty industrial-military complex which the fictional  corporation represents well. However, the blue creatures have strong allies in the magical jungle they inhabit. Most of the dangerous animal like creatures of  Pandora’s jungle seem to be coming not only from James Cameron’s imagination but also from planet earth circa pre-historic time. They are vicious pit bulls/hyena  like snarling creatures on steroid, giant Rhinoceros with a double hammer head and voracious Dinosaur like giant birds which the blue aliens ride like American Indians did with wild mustangs.

Because Avatar is after all an Hollywood movie, it does provide a happy ending of some sort. In this eternal tale of the fight between the good “savages aliens” and the evil neo-military corporation, the blue giants ultimately prevail. And this is the political message which, beside the visual feast created by Cameron, has brought  so many people to watch this movie worldwide, and also probably gave Avatar 9 Oscar nominations.

Cameron has picked an appropriate name for the mythical universe he paints with visual gusto as  planet Pandora, because despite some of the formulaic aspects of the film, he does manage to open a global political Pandora’s box. James Cameron makes a bold attack on war, greed, violence, and offers a slightly predictable, but none less potent and stunning  manifesto against our current model of development which is built on exploitation, social injustice and the rape of our own planet for the narrow minded profit of a few but against the long term interest of all.

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