I initially did not intend to see James Cameron’s latest film. I am not a James Cameron fan; I’m still traumatized by the dialogue in Titanic. (I have occasional flashbacks, but they’re becoming less frequent.) However, this film has become a subject for debate on the left. While some, such as Louis Proyect, have praised this film for its anti-imperialist message, others have complained that it follows the “White Man Saves the Natives” formula of such movies as Dances with Wolves. I felt obligated to investigate a film that has provoked so much serious debate. (Okay, the real reason I went to see this is because I’m a sucker for anything that’s in 3-D.)
The film does follow the “White Man Saves the Natives” paradigm, and it does so in a way that’s painfully predictable. Although the dialogue is better than in Titanic, it still has some clunky moments. (When Sigourney Weaver is shot in the stomach, she jokingly says, “My whole day has been ruined.” Does Cameron really believe that if he were shot in the stomach, he would say this?) Nevertheless, the most striking thing about this movie is how anti-military it is. It’s perhaps the most anti-military film I’ve seen since Dr. Strangelove. (The scene in which the army destroys the Naa’vi’s home is horrifying.) It signals a complete rejection of the militarism that has increasingly dominated American society in recent years, a militarism that is often reflected in Hollywood blockbuster films. I sometimes felt a sense of disbelief as the audience rooted for the killing of U.S. soldiers by the denizens of Pandora.
Avatar is anti-military and anti-capitalist. The fact that this is the most popular movie in America is significant. The refusal of some ultra-left blockheads to recognize this just shows how useless they are.
Oh, and the film is visually brilliant. Pandora is depicted in a thoroughly convincing manner without being a carbon copy of Earth. As for the 3-D effect, it’s pretty good. Some of the aerial scenes gave me a slight feeling of vertigo. However, a few scenes look like pop-up greeting cards.
Now, if Cameron could just learn how to write…