“Avatar” is taking the CGI to a
new level, and in IMAX 3-D, it’s an incredible moviegoing experience, even
if the plot does make you uncomfortable.
James Cameron, the Director of “Titanic,” penned this one several
years ago, waiting for the technology to catch up to his vision.
The difficulty is that international politics has changed since then,
as well. The setting is the 22nd
century, and Americans have brought their considerable technology, including
their formidable war machines, past a distant planet, to its moon known as
Pandora. There, it seems, is an
abundant supply of a rare but critical fuel resource.
There’s only one problem: there’s
an indigenous population living there, and they consider their land sacred
and inviolable. (So, of course,
would the earthlings, if the scenario were reversed.)
The “natives”, naturally, are considered primitive, but not
necessarily savage. So some
scientists were brought along in this military expedition, to try to
understand the inherent culture, infiltrate it, and then barter with it, in
exchange for the precious mineral rights.
(Somewhat akin to the idea of buying
for $24 worth of beads, but arguably the native Americans didn’t think
they were selling land, only access to it.)
The problem is that the Na’vi don’t want anything from the alien
earthlings, except to just go away and leave them alone, which, of course,
is the one option not available to them.
So the Americans recruit a Jarhead, a quadriplegic Marine named Jake
Sully (Sam Worthington) to subject himself to the special morphing device
that transform him into the 10-foot-tall-with-a-tail Avatar, but only when
he’s asleep in his specially-constructed chamber back at the controlled
So we go back and forth, between Jake’s human self and Avatar alter
ego. Suddenly able again,
physically, and taught the incredible naturalistic skills of the villagers
(including being able to ride flying beasts), it’s not surprising that he
starts “going native.” There’s
also this beautiful girl, Neytiri (Zoe Saldana), who patiently teaches him
the tribe’s ways---from hunting and tracking skills to a kind of
nature-religion that connects with “Our Mother” (sort of a combination
between “Mother Earth” and “The Great Spirit”).
So, imagine if John Smith fell in love with Pocahontas, then they
somehow managed to form a grand coalition of all the tribes on the
continent, and they all combined to throw out the aggressive colonizers,
somehow, Tarzan-like, with the cooperation of the very animals of the wild
themselves? Well, how else are
you going to do bows and arrows against spaceships?
The biggest problem with this extraordinary sci-fi fantasy is not the
technology, which is considerable, but the screenplay that calls on the
Marine to lead the enemy against his own troops.
After several years of war in
, and now mounting military presence in
, somehow it doesn’t seem right to root for one of our own soldiers
teaming with the enemy to throw us out, even if our commander is a
conscienceless, Neanderthal brutish warrior.
So, the viewer’s problem is that we’re torn about who to root
for, which creates an internal tension not recommended in an escapist
It’ll be interesting to see if the political incorrectness here is
overlooked in favor of simply enjoying the incredible moviemaking
achievement that is “Avatar.”
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Pastor, Grace