I spent 3 hours on Sunday night lost in a bliss of special effects and gorgeous cinematography. Avatar was perhaps the most spectacular film I’ve ever seen purely based on the extraordinary 3D camera work and astonishing special effects. The plot was lost on me, but the message was not, and Avatar more than delivered. It was a story aimed right at the heart of Western imperialism, and although it was amateurishly constructed, it resonated powerfully. The film was a direct allegory to the destruction of the native Americans and their way of life, and a plea to stop our never ending quest for land and resources. For a more thorough explanation of this, I point you to George Monbiot’s recent Guardian article where he argues that its anti imperialist message is so profound that “It speaks of a truth more important – and more dangerous – than those contained in a thousand arthouse movies.”
The plot goes something like this: An alien planet is being slowly colonized by humans through a mixture of educational programs and outright aggression. A human is sent to live amongst the aliens (the Na’vi) in an ‘Avatar’ (or host body), and learn their ways to find out how to get the valuable minerals under their forest. En route, the human falls in love with a Na’vi and turns against the brutal humans and leads the fight against their invasion.
It wasn’t exactly Shakespeare, but I felt it contained an important theme particularly in a time when we are unable to face up to our own historic (and current) crimes and unable to accept that our system of living is ecologically catastrophic.
Avatar used CGI to create incredible landscape and a pulsating environment with weird and wonderful creatures. The effects along with the philosophy espoused by the Na’vi (of living with the land rather than against it) created a sense wonder and enchantment that will certainly affect you. The scenes of destruction were actually fairly difficult to watch, particularly when you know how many indigenous people have actually suffered a similar fate around the world.
For those 3 hours, the Na’vi and their incredibly planet Pandora seemed real. Then I took off the 3D glasses and exited the theater to pick up my car in the multi story parking lot. And I must confess to feeling a little depressed.
Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.