All the reviews of Avatar I’ve read seem to miss the real value of this visually stunning movie set on the fantastically alive planet of Pandora. While aspects of the plot are predictable, Avatar offers some powerful messages for our time once you scratch beneath the surface.
For those who are not firmly entrenched in our mainstream culture’s cynicism and denial the movie, Avatar, is a powerful opportunity to sharply see and feel our current situation as a species that has lost its way. As we experience the lives of Pandora’s indigenous people our own predicament comes into contrast. We become visible as a species that has become trapped within its own culture and system of domination and control... cut off from what really enlivens us.
It is surprising that a movie with some of the messages of Avatar could even come out of the corporate dominated “homeland” that the USA has become. I wonder how many of the people walking out of the cinema really get it... that we, the consumers (no longer citizens) of industrial civilization are on the side of the baddies in this film. Not just occasionally, randomly bad... not just a few bad eggs such as the cold-hearted leader of the mercenaries on Pandora, Colonel Quaritch... but that our whole way of life is portrayed for what it is... inherently, pathologically insane.
When Quaritch declares “We’ll fight terror with terror.” he is speaking for us. We are the culture which for centuries has crushed all opposition to our vast insatiable resource demands. The Pandora native, Neytiri, speaks of their efforts to enlighten their would-be human “educators” and in one line says it all, “We couldn’t save them from their insanity.”
That the writer and director, James Cameron, was given the freedom to convey his messages is probably due to his prior huge financial successes with Titanic and Terminator II. And, of course, he still had to include the requisite action and romance components for Avatar to receive the US $400 million in funding he needed.
In the movie, the planet itself finally strikes back against the humans attempting to destroy nature for their short-sighted short-term gains. Some may disagree, but I see that there is symbolism intended here. Outside the movie, our own planet will also strike back. Perhaps not in as visually dramatic a way as on Pandora but in even more deadly terms over the time frame of the next 100 years according to the science on climate change. (For those still confused by all the hot air on the subject of climate change read the facts in Poles Apart: Beyond the shouting who’s right about climate change?)
James Cameron is no fool. He could have just made a blockbuster. Instead, he is using one of the few remaining effective means of communicating with the masses in an age of information overload to say “wake up, look at the path we are on and get off it while we still can!” For we are, in fact, facing a perfect storm of six global threats of which climate change is but one.
But unlike in Avatar, we don’t have another planet to flee back to.
Wise Up To The Great Transition