Saturday, April 24, 2010


Avatar, My Review


By John Taylor; 2010 April 24, Jalal 15, 167 BE

I latched onto Avatar as soon as it came out on DVD.

Like everybody else, I was impressed with the production values and graphics. This film takes computer animation to a whole new level. As the main character says after his avatar -- a living proxy of his DNA mixed with alien DNA -- goes to sleep and his consciousness re-enters his normal body, you start to wonder which is actually the real world. Actually, he at one point talks about taking the fight to a whole new level.

My point is that quality graphics or filmmaking skills are not enough to make this the highest grossing film in history. All through the film, I am wondering, what is the secret of this? How did another Fern Gully or "Pocahantas in Space" strike such a chord? A thousand reviewers have already pointed out that this story of a white boy who goes native has been told a thousand times through the years, from Tarzan to "Dances with Wolves." Why is Avatar so special?
Is Avatar just an involving science fiction story? I devour every SF story that falls into my hands, but that cannot be it. Most movie goers do not break down the doors of the cinemas just to see another story of an attempted colonization of the nearest star system -- actually, using our fastest rockets it would take ten thousand, not a few of years, as in the film, to get to Proxima Centauri, but SF has to ignore that. Is it the aboriginal element that made Avatar the must-see film of the century? Face it, not everybody is a Ruhiyyih Khanum going around defending native cultures and praising their deep spiritual perception.

As I watched, I latched onto a theory. Like the semi-domesticated animals in Avatar, my theory latched onto me at the same time, and it has not let go of me since.

Surely the secret of Avatar is its capitalist theme. This, I think we all feel, will be the story that future schoolchildren will be reading about our age in their history books. Even as we speak, greedy corporations are ripping into central India, uprooting traditional forest cultures in order to get at the minerals under their feet. Just like Avatar, except that you know there is no happy ending over the horizon.

We feel for Avatar because we know that unfettered capitalism is trampling us all down. It injects itself into and inoculates our minds with its ubiquitous advertising. It tramples over the human rights of not only of native people but everybody, of not just the poor but the rich as well. It takes away our rights, and blocks us as citizens, workers and believers. Extreme capitalism dumps most of the wealth on a small power elite, and exploits everybody else.
The very corporate stooges who are crushing our own work lives and trampling the environment, soiling the air and water with impunity, get their comeuppance in this film.

The capitalist and militarist mind sets get us kicked off the planet Pandora.

So obnoxious is it to see this element representing us all that the viewer actually feels good at the end to hear the protagonist say, "The aliens are being ejected from this planet..." – meaning not the Nav'i of Pandora but the humans who invaded in order to exploit their mineral wealth.
Avatar reminds me mostly of Michael Moore's "Capitalism, A Love Story," which has the same theme. Only I begin to think that Moore has oversimplified and stereotyped capitalism. There really are two things that we refer to when we say "capitalism." One is free enterprise, which is simple justice. The competent, efficient company deserves to profit from its effort. But the other is an evil ideology that has mounted free enterprise from behind, buggering us, pushing free enterprise beyond the bounds of moderation.

This is why Avatar comes closer to the mark than "Capitalism, A Love Story," because it points out how damaging power is when the military and a pro-capitalist government are in cahoots, when they plot their own benefit before that of the people. This is corruption when individuals are unrestrained by religious or ethical scruples, and when a narrow outlook keeps them from seeing the whole picture. That makes aliens of us all.


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