Friday, July 2, 2010

Avatar: I Finally Saw It

That's right. I just finished watching it about ten minutes ago. We keep a very uncool new release movie-watching schedule (which means we have lots of money and time for other stuff, so it's all good). So, Avatar.

First off, I was really expecting to not like this movie. However, I found it really fun and entertaining. James Cameron is a master storyteller and an even better movie-maker. I can't wait until we get cool 3-D realistic glasses at home. The visuals were fantastic, but I also really liked the characters and all the richness of this fictional world. If this remains but a fictional tale with no bearing on our current world, I might like this movie even more. However, I fear that Cameron is working through a few his issues and teaching some dubious lessons with his epic masterpiece. In doing so he toys with reality to the point where the story begins to suffer. Specifically, four unrealities are used.

The first is the unreal company man. The film's first villain is an unscrupulous captain of industry. His goal is to obtain X mineral at any cost. Unfortunately for Cameron, REAL CEOs ARE NOT LIKE THIS! Okay, maybe that guy from Enron, but seriously. Even the "little people" guy from BP is not out to make money at any cost. They're not out there polluting the Gulf on purpose because they hate the earth. This little oil spill may bankrupt their company. Big industrialists are smart guys (and gals). The guy in Avatar is a short-sighted idiot. You don't get to run a Fortune 500 company if you're a short-sighted idiot. No, CEOs aren't perfect, but neither are they so ridiculously incurious and reactionary as the guy from the movie.

Second, the military guy (villain #2) is yet another moron. REAL GENERALS ARE NOT LIKE THIS! Real Generals are smart and professional. Yes, some can make errors of tactics and judgment (McChrystal being the latest example), but most have an understanding that goes beyond the next five seconds. The guy from the movie is slightly more insane than Hitler himself--certainly not anything close to typical. So Cameron doesn't like Bush or the War on Terror. Great. Lots of Lefties might buy the Bush-is-Hitler comparison, but most of us see it for the unreality it is.

Third, the good guys are pretty much Native Americans. I really like stories about the Indians, so that's probably a big reason why the film appealed to me as much as it did. However, these Indians didn't just pray to the trees, they used the trees like fiber-optic cables to the afterlife. REAL INDIANS ARE NOT LIKE THIS! The Indians had a beautiful way of life and lots of wonderful culture, but this came with quite a few downsides. Praying to trees and $3.75 will barely get you a Starbucks. Western culture was a Godsend to the Native Americans. Yes, there was disease and massacres (on both sides), and the Trail of Tears, but on the flip side, the Indians learned a superior culture--reading, writing, science, peace, economic opportunity and Christianity. This leads right into my final point.

Fourth, Cameron cashes in on a thoroughly unreal back-story. We used up earth, so the riff-raff that remains has come to get X mineral from this new place. To sell where? Who's got all this money on the old, dead planet? The bottom line here (if I understand Cameron's wacky analogy) is that Western civilization can pretty much be summed up by looking at the dumb CEO and the idiot General. At the same time, the natives have a really cool fiber-optics thing going with the biology of the planet. I guess theirs really is alive (ours is most certainly not). Of course the Western-civ people should hit the road--and good riddance! I really enjoyed seeing these utter brutes get smacked down by the clearly more noble natives. Yet, in the real world, such is not the case. Ours is a culture worth defending and promoting. We dare not abdicate in favor of tree-huggers or radical Islam (or anyone in-between). We carry true religion, freedom, safety and prosperity. If you find another country that has more of these, you are welcome (and encouraged) to move there.

To sum up, I liked the film. I just didn't like the preaching. Fortunately, I happen to be one of those people who can pretend not to notice heavy-handed moralizing. If you are such a person, I heartily recommend this movie. If you love Western society and cannot suspend your sense of outrage at those who oppose it, I advise you to give it a pass.

1 comment:

Elizabeth L. said...

I haven't seen "Avatar" yet, but yeah, I've heard that it's basically "Pocahontas" in 3D.

While I side with "the Lefties" on many issues, I too tire of heavy-handed moralizing in movies. If someone has a point to make, they should just go out and say it. If they feel the need to bury it under a lot of fictional glitz and glamour, that must mean they aren't very confident about that point in the first place. And if, as with the point of "Western bad, Native American good", it's already a cliche, why say it again anyway?

Yet while I appreciate Western society as much as the next person who's benefited from it, I can't say that it's superior to those that it conquered. Yes, Native Americans lacked the technology to defeat the Europeans, but they had everything they needed to prosper for thousands of years before Europeans came along. And it was their settlements and their farming methods that allowed the first European colonists to survive in America.

If you're interested in a story of Westerns civilization (vs. everyone else) that doesn't involve science fiction and blue people, I recommend "Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies" by Jared Diamond. Unlike "Avatar", this national bestseller actually gets used in real history classes.