AVATAR Movie Review – HAS SOME VALUE BUT OVERRATED
James Cameron’s big budgeted science-fiction western, about the fight of a forest worshipping indigenous people’s fight on a distant planet against a rapacious earth based mining corporation, has finally hit the screens.
Avatar cost a lot (US$230 million) to make. The fees alone for the technicians doing all the computor graphics for most of the scenes and the main characters themselves must have been hefty.Lots of action including in the final battle scene where the corporation’s “security section” led by an appropiately titled Colonel unleash an offensive with an army-style battle group. The climactic scenes remind me of the Wounded Knee fightback in 1890 in the US state of South Dakota when American native peoples (the “red Indians” but distantly related to Guyana’s Amerindians and those throughout the Americas) defeated a US army group led by General Custer. In the movie, the indigenous people look forward to continued “living in harmony with nature” .
The movie’s plot is simple but is rescued somewhat by a sub happening when one of the company’s staffers Jake Sulley (played by Sam Worthington) falls in love with the warrior daughter Neyteri (Zoe Saldana) of the Na’vi indgenous people. The forest dwellers are (digitally) depicted as 10 foot high, blue skinned humanoids with feline faces and a tail. Jake, who is a paraplegic in human form, gets to look like the Na’vi and be eventually acepted among them.He is transformed by the advanced technology of the time (the year is 2154) into the actual body of a Na’vi but having human consciousness. Apparently, both the earth people and the inhanbitants of Pandora, as the planet is named, have the same emotions. As intimated from one scene, they also possess the same sexual needs (and organs). The reason why the mining firm is on Pandora is that earth has depleted its mineral resources. The firm is on the distant planet to secure a valuable mineral called, tellingly, “unobtainium” .
Cameron, who directed Titantic 12 years ago, says the movie was a long time in planning. But with the present international debate on climate change, some observers may say it is timely. It may be seen it a a parable about multi national corporations exploiting the Amazonian forests or those in Asia, for example. Indeed, there have been some skirmishes between native people and logging comoanies in places like Brazil. Guyana-born singer David Campbell in the 1970s wrote a song about the James Bay hydro -electic project adversely affecting Canadian native people in Quebec province.
There are some countries where the interests of native people have to be respected. National governments have to ensure that rapacious and irresponsible corporations operate under strict regulations so that native peoples’ rights and freedoms, along with the general population of which they make up par, are not violated. This is being done for example in Vietnam and Guyana. The Guyana government is also prominently involved on the world scene in protecting the world’s forests and in general adressing climate change problems.
There has been some discussuion on some websites about the “racist” dimensions of the movie. The complaint is that a subliminal message is being sent that the indigenous people are not themselves intellectually or otherwise capable to fight their own struggles. They must rely on a white man (Sully) to do it for them .
I don’t agree with that. A couple of the scenes could have been left out, especially when Sully arrives on a large bird (the rest are smaller ones) making a dramatic entrance at a mass pep rally in preparation for the last ditch assault against the firm’s operations. In fairness, Cameron, who also wrote the script, does give prominence to native leaders Neyteri and Tsu’tey (Laz Alonso), the latter falling in battle.
We must remember, too, that that the histories of struggles by peoples in developing countries show they were assisted by people from other lands. Some had leadership positions. In the main, they did not seek personal glory nor wealth. The Namibian freedom fighters against South African apartheid aggression would have had trouble succeeding without the (largely white) Cuban voulnteers. This “foreign” involvement in many struggles , this internationalist dimension, had the added value of helping keep down any overly nationalist grandstanding of the overall leadership. It assists, perhaps in a small way,in a more healthy socio-political outlook following independence/victory.
Avatar breaks new ground in movie digital work –the details, such as the air vehicles’ landing gear assembly being compressed upon landing, are amazing. But is this, and all the action, all there is ? The movie is worth watching but let’s keep all the hoopla down a bit.