Six weeks after its release, “Avatar” remains a juggernaut at the box office. As of this weekend, the epic film has grossed more than Director James Cameron’s previous blockbuster, “Titanic,” as well as last year’s megahit “The Dark Night.” The Internet is abuzz with people who claim to be suffering depression and suicidal thoughts from Pandora withdrawls. Right here in Salem, anecdotal evidence suggests people are still lining up to see the movie in 3D.
But its massive popularity begs the question: Is the majority right? Is “Avatar” the cinematic revolution the numbers and fanfare suggests? Is it really that good?
Two Corban students sound off on what makes Avatar great – and not so great.
Overrated and irreverent
James Cameron outdid himself. “Avatar” is the most visually stunning and technologically advanced film ever created. It makes the CGI in the most recent “Star Wars” movies look like Claymation.
But besides the intense visuals, the appeal of “Avatar” quickly faded away. The sub-par acting – aka that nerdy guy from Dodgeball, Joel Moore – a horribly timed “leftist politically written” script and near blatant mudslinging against the US Military, Avatar self destructs before the viewers eyes.
“Avatar” is the modern day version of “Dances with Wolves,” rewriting the conflict during the post-Civil War Indian wars era that took place across the Midwest.
Fast forward half a millennium. Avatar replaces the 1880s U.S. Cavalry with a bloodthirsty Marine force stationed on the distant planet of Pandora, a celestial body that bears the last hope for earth’s replenishment of valuable resources. Atop the command chain, Colonel Miles Quaritch could be described as a futuristic George Armstrong Custer, a battle-tested tyrant who is hell-bent on displacing the indigenous population, the Na’vi.
As a patriot, I admit that some of the tactics and motives behind the displacement of American Native Indians was ill-advised and immoral, enter the Trail of Tears. However, I cannot support this open bashing of the military, the elite fighting force that keeps my life safe and care-free.
“Avatar” makes it clear the soldiers and financial syndicates depicted in the film are American, thanks to the Marine symbol and fatigues characters wear. While it’s a whole different proverbial cookie when a film depicts a nameless army in a negative light, “Avatar” puts an emotional and blood-curdling guilt trip upon its viewers.
After the protagonist, Jake Sulley, infiltrates the Na’vi encampment, he becomes attached to a female, Neytri, after she saves his life in a moment of certain death. While the Na’vi are aware of his “humaness”, they reluctantly let him learn their ways and become attune to their spirit god(s) that lives amongst the planet. Sulley eventually becomes part of the tribe and switches allegiances.
It’s rather comical when critics and fans alike applaud Avatar as a celebration of humanity when Sulley switches sides. Wake up people! In his effort to keep the Na’vi exempt from any type of outside influence, Sulley sells out his own people without hesitation.
After sitting through what I expected to be an action movie, I realized “Avatar” is more than three quarters drama and talking; I found myself irritated beyond compare.
But it’s not all bad. If not for its far-fetched allusions in a guilt-ridden script, the rampant leftist comparisons to the War in Iraq, and an interwoven anti-conflict, “save the trees” message, “Avatar” could have had the potential to be a good movie.
$400 million and 15 years later, James Cameron has delivered one of the most visually groundbreaking pieces I have ever seen.
The bold richness of the alien moon Pandora makes almost anyone who sees this movie want to teleport there immediately. The bedazzling rainforest, complete with dragon-like creatures and huge plants that glow when they are touched, invites the viewer into a world of mystery and magic.
Pandora’s landscape teems with creatures you might find in your wildest dreams – or your worst nightmares. The flora and fauna shines with the bioluminescence of a thousand deep-sea critters, surrounded with trees which dwarf the Empire State Building.
However, it is not only the ornate graphics that have made “Avatar” so splendidly received. It’s true there is a certain preachiness to the film. But without being able to put it into one clear-cut genre – is it action, romance, sci-fi, fantasy, or what? – “Avatar” has seemingly created a breed of its own. It’s like a combination of “Pocahontas” and “Ferngully” on acid.
While the plot does resemble “Dances With Wolves” a little, it does not ruin a mind-blowing experience. The well-developed characters more than make up for the plot’s lack of originality.
Jake, played by aussie Sam Worthington, is an ex-marine who fills in for his recently deceased brother to run an avatar on the moon Pandora, where a bunch of military ego’s are trying to tear it apart in order to get to a rare natural mineral.
As a human, Jake is crippled from the waist down and often feels belittled by others despite his extensive military background. As an avatar – a humanoid in the likeness of the native people – he is awed by the simple and resourcefulness of native Neytiri and her people, the beauty and mystery of the exotic flora and fauna of the forest, the magnificence of the ancient willow tree known as the “Tree of Souls,” and the thrill of riding a giant winged creature as part of his rite of passage into the Na’vi clan community.
The growth that takes place in Jake’s character is wonderful to watch as he eventually learns humility and to value and respect the life of the people more than orders and commands.
Throughout all this, the film’s deep spirituality surfaces, forcing us to deal with the shadowy side of life. It vividly depicts and condemns the blindness, selfishness, and destructiveness of the American path of warfare, violence, and use of technology to destroy the Earth and others considered to be subhuman or collateral damage.
There is much sprinkled within the story line by Cameron that has to do with U.S. imperialism and shock and awe wartime campaigns. He contrasts the self-destructive path of greed and overtaking one’s land with a people group that chooses to respect and revere nature rather than try to master it as a resource. The Na’avi people live in a harmonious balance with nature, taking only what they need and respecting their earth.
Cameron is to be commended for presenting their life-affirming integration into the larger web of life as an alternative to the narrow perspective of the Western world. His story celebrates diversity and other ways of knowing. The “People,” like other tribal cultures, value harmony, simplicity, community, the spirit in nature, the sacred feminine, and much more.
Hopefully viewers can take away some of the teachable moments “Avatar” offers. It can teach us to respect not only human life, but all life, and to understand the spiritual elements and sacred beauty God offers us through nature.