Is Avatar just another anti-imperialist film with fancy special effects? *UPDATED*

The big buzz is about James Cameron’s Avatar, which is supposed to be to modern movies what The Jazz Singer was to the silent film:  It will remake movies.

I don’t know about that, but having seen the preview a few days ago when I took some boys to the movies, I can tell  you that one thing about this “new” movie is very same old-same old:  the plot.  As best as I could tell from the noisy, muddled preview, the film is about the evil American military trying to take a planet away from the good and pure indigenous people.  Hey, it’s 1492, or 1620, or 1876 all over again — but this time, you can be sure (and I’m guessing as to the ending), a revisionistic history will destroy the evil forces in America’s futuristic military, and the pure and wonderful indigenous people will once again control their world, with a few appropriately subdued Americans paying homage to their moral superiors.

UPDATE:  As Charles Martel pointed out, the military’s greed in the film Avatar comes about because the planet contains “some sort of dilithium crystal that’s worth a lebenty zillion dollars per gram and that the native village just happens to be sitting plumb smack on top of the only deposit of the stuff on an entire earth-sized planet.”

In response, Spiff left this great comment, which I simply have to elevate to post status:

I was thinking about what you said regarding why the humans cared about the planet in Avatar. It’s always some super duper resource that we want and the noble aliens live right on top of it and have no idea what they have. And so the imperialistic humans come and try and steal it.

Since sci-fi is all about taking current issues and taking them to there extreme I’d like to see “Avatar” do something new.

If the current politics or our nation continues the way it is going here is how I see “Avatar” going based on what you saw:

The original survey crew would have to file endless environmental and cultural impact reports before even setting foot on the planet.

Once there, the survey crews would have to establish contact with the local aliens and do everything in their power to befriend them, even if it meant risking the safety of the team. The Marines attached to the team for security would have Rules of Engagements that would make it nigh impossible to defend themselves from the aliens if they were in fact hostile, all this while providing all sorts of assistance and aid to the local aliens.

Once the resource was discovered, humanity would spend gazillions of space credits negotiating with the aliens to tap the resource. This would of course include massive amounts of aid, rent for the facilities and construction and security costs. And of course the humans would not get the resource, the aliens would own it, we would pay through the nose for the resource we paid and worked to remove. And this assumes the aliens like us.

When the aliens decide they don’t like us anymore they would kick us out and “nationalize” the facilities we built. They would then raise the price of the resource and their leaders would steal all the money for themselves and tell their population it’s all the fault of the humans. And of course our leadership would acquiesce and agree all the way.

Of course this would cause the aliens to fight with humans and kill them. Once again human security forces would have their hands tied to do anything meaningful to defend themselves and stop the aliens.

When it finally did come down to a confrontation, human forces would win the day despite all the rules on how to conduct the war. We would occupy the planet and hand it over to a new crop of corrupt leaders and it would start all over again.

At least that’s how I would write it.

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Comments

  1. Leah says

    Spiff,
    Thanks for the explanation, I’m not a sci-fi geek, but I do enjoy the genre when it’s done well. And that is when there is a real story line, real characters and some real conflict that either is or isn’t resolved. 14 year old level story telling is not good sci-fi.
    So Cameron takes a very respectable genre, uses and abuses it and we are supp0sed to applaud?
    Princess Mononoke struck me as very original, you had both the idea of saving the environment along with the need for people to live, create and prosper in their man made world. I don’t think there was any resolution, simply presenting both ideas. Meanwhile as anyone with a brain knows, once a society becomes very technologically advanced and prosperous, many solutions are found for protecting the environment.
    It’s never all or nothing, there is always a very delicate balance that must go on. Which is probably what Cameron and the left are missing these days, balance – they want all or nothing.

  2. spiff580 says

    You know, I’ve been thinking about this more.  I wonder now if Cameron really is even really intellectually lazy or overtly politically leftist.  He may just be a good businessman.  Like “The Abyss” and “The Titanic” he is using a movie to basically market his new film technology.  So why make a complicated movie or controversial movie?  Why alienate your customers? 
     
    Go look at the user reviews on IMDB and MetaCritic.  The average users are gushing over this movie.  Most are saying this is a ground breaking movie, with an epic story.  It goes on and on universally.  These are the average people who take the time to comment publically on this.  Movie critics, for the most part, like it as well.  The general comment is the story is basic but the effects are magnificent?  So, I ask you, why should he work harder to tell a good story if it isn’t going to change anything?  As for that, why should Hollywood in general try harder?   If their customer base likes what they are feeding them what motivation is there to be controversial and/or creative? This actually says more about the average viewer than it does about Cameron. He delivered a product and the customers ate it up. 
     
    Had he took any chances with the story, left the standard play book, and been, as how he probably saw it, controversial he actually would have stood a chance of getting negative reviews and hurting the marketing of his new tech.  In a way, one could view this as one of the most expensive commercials ever made. Sort of like those Shell commercials showing how they protect the environment, invest in alternative energy and save animals… but on a much greater budget. When I look at it that way, I find myself actually kind of liking the movie. J 
     
    I should remind everyone that Cameron, in general has shown the military (man of the ground) in a positive light (Aliens, The Abyss) and, prior to 9/11 made one of the only movies that had Muslim terrorists as bad guys (True Lies).  The underlying themes in most of his movies have always been critical of corporations… so why should this be any different. I’m not saying he is conservative, but I don’t know if I could call him a card carrying liberal either… maybe more of a businessman… but he definitely is not an artist anymore (assuming he ever was).      

  3. says

    <B>When I did watch it, I watched stuff like Akira, Appleseed and Ghost in the Shell. It may just be a cultural difference in the way they tell stories that I can’t get over. </b>
     
    I know of them and have seen them. But I was never interested in them much, because the themes are actually not staple elements of current Japanese anime. Such things inspired manga and anime authors, of course, but you’d have to almost be Japanese to get under the layers between technological humanism and gaia environmentalism as seen from the Japanese, rather than Hollywood, perspective. Without such investment, it’s just sfx.

    Many of the recent and the not so recent productions are more diversified in terms of subject matter and style. Actually, anime as a whole can be said to be too diversified. If you don’t know what you are looking for, it’s going to be a quest to find the straw in the liberal federally regulated haystack.
     
    Unlike Hollywood, anime has no ideological restraints. Thus any creator can get his stuff published as a manga, and then if people like it and spread it by mouth, it becomes animated and the rights are bought by big corporations and then we have toys and cult followings like Dragon Ball Z, which even transcends national boundaries. Which is funny. Hollywood also translates national boundaries… but only with Westerners and other select motifs (like the eternal Hollywood happy ending), which are not the modern Hollywood cream of the crop because the culture of the West is looked down upon by insufferable elitists as being backwards.
     
    Because often times the manga writer does the story sketch, dialogue, art work, and world/character background all by himself, what you get is individual diversification and less of a bar to accomplished status. It doesn’t take millions of dollars, like Hollywood movies or even sit coms.
     
    That means there’s almost something for everybody. The OVA type movies you mentioned belong selectively to the techno, advanced future, dystopia branch of anime. It’s like Goth music and Western culture here in the States. If you don’t like it, you won’t get into it regardless of how much you get see it. And there’s no reason to waste time if you are looking for something else. Something else meaning something else science fiction to name one genre.

    Networks here in the states cancel things like Firefly and crap all over Michael J for Babylon 5: Crusades, because it’s a sort of semi-monopoly with either limitation by production costs or limitation by lack of competition. Much of the Japanese manga business is low cost and fueled by fan bases, rather than cooked up by elite executives. They’ll publicize and produce the advertisement for the popular animes, like Bleach, DBZ, Naruto, etc, but that’s after the talent is recognized by a loyal following, not before. While there are stupid network decisions like any, including infamous ‘filler’ episodes based around some anti-author’s idea of what the author would have created, there isn’t as much of a critical failure. One decision can destroy Firefly and hold the network rights to it and that’s it. Even with extraordinary fan loyalty. In Japanese anime, there are so many shows around, that even if you include the bad CEO decisions, there are also a lot of good productions and even exceptional ones like LOGH. Like Miyamoto Musashi’s book of 5 rings, Sun Tzu’s Art of War, and Clausewitz’s On War, it’s a cult classic.
     
     
    On a philosophical level, I like how Japanese authors create and communicate what they have built. It won’t affect the artistic result, however, since ethics and aesthetics aren’t the same thing.
     
    Also, it’s far better to watch japanese anime in the original Japanese, while reading the subtitles in English, because the Japanese VAs are the most dedicated and talented around. Here in the US, our voice artists just aren’t paid the big bucks, so they usually go into singing or theater acting. The things that can be done to a Japanese anime by putting it in English dubs is not worth describing.
     
    As a relative comparison, there’s nothing unique about the japanese experience except in so far as the authors are… Japanese. For example, on a purely creative level, Americans can produce just as good a world and character list as the Japanese. Look up Safehold or Honor Harrington by David Weber as an example. Babylon 5’s 5 seasons telling one grand inter-connected story. Firefly. Westerners.
     
    It’s all about competition. That is what lets the good rise to the top and sinks the bad to the bottom. But then, I don’t suppose I need say that given what non-idiots can see happening in America.
    <B> That is easier for kids to do; not so for adults</b>
     
     
    The Left is full of adult-children. They eat it up because one should not expect otherwise.

  4. says

    <B>Movie critics, for the most part, like it as well. </b> Like an abused spouse, they won’t leave or criticize their partner because they fear the alternatives and disbelieve that it can be better by letting go and forming another relationship. After all, don’t most people believe Republicans are baby eating evil people that create myrmidon kill bots to kill/rape indigenous populations? If that was one’s only alterantive, one might have little choice but to stay with the flawed but still good intentioned cult of the Left, anti-humanity screeds or not. <B>So, I ask you, why should he work harder to tell a good story if it isn’t going to change anything?</b> Creative individuals create because that is their love. The money is nice, since they need to eat and can use it to create some more, but it is not their primary motivation. If one’s primary motivation is profit, then… what’s the difference between that person and the greedy corporations Cameron portrays? And if Cameron is producing gunk for the proletariat to lap up, then what is the difference between Cameron and the company in Aliens? (Btw the Pc games were funny and weird as hell. I got motion sickness first time I played as an Alien face hugger climbing over walls.) <B>As for that, why should Hollywood in general try harder?</b> They’re on welfare and have a semi-monopoly. As such, innovation, creativity, and what not suffers. <B>Meanwhile as anyone with a brain knows, once a society becomes very technologically advanced and prosperous, many solutions are found for protecting the environment.</b> Check out the post on China’s pollution. The Left thinks by destroying wealth and making everybody eat from a single, static pie, that they can ‘save Gaia’. What a laugh. <B>Had he took any chances with the story</b> he could be made a Mel Gibson. As in crucified if ideological boundaries aren’t followed in Hollywood. And the Left likes to claim they are all about anti-censure and anti-blacklists and what not. Hypocrites, again, as usual. Energic hypocrites, which are sort of like locusts. <B>The underlying themes in most of his movies have always been critical of corporations</b> The best message against corporations would have been him using his money cash to make movies that destroy Hollywood’s monopolistic practices. Instead, he funnels them money. Which I suppose is as good an indication of corporatism as anything he artificially created as a case lesson in his movies. <B>I usually save the deep analysis you’re talking about for DVD</b> The primary consideration I used when I mentioned it was that people wouldn’t mind if movies were too long, if they could not be held as a captive audience for the entire length. Sitting in one place for several hours at a time, is after all, the same way young children are steadily brainwashed and attention deficit starts happening. I wouldn’t recommend people keep doing this as adults while labbing up sensory information from movies without any mental filters. I just wouldn’t. I know of too many ideological control mechanisms and have seen the result of them employed (look up Jones Town).

  5. says

    Preview crunched my comment format. Delete it, please.
     
    http://grimbeorn.blogspot.com/2009_12_01_archive.html#1644871837063965394
     
    <B>When I did watch it, I watched stuff like Akira, Appleseed and Ghost in the Shell. It may just be a cultural difference in the way they tell stories that I can’t get over. </b>

    I know of them and have seen them. But I was never interested in them much, because the themes are actually not staple elements of current Japanese anime. Such things inspired manga and anime authors, of course, but you’d have to almost be Japanese to get under the layers between technological humanism and gaia environmentalism as seen from the Japanese, rather than Hollywood, perspective. Without such investment, it’s just sfx.

    Many of the recent and the not so recent productions are more diversified in terms of subject matter and style. Actually, anime as a whole can be said to be too diversified. If you don’t know what you are looking for, it’s going to be a quest to find the straw in the liberal federally regulated haystack.

    Unlike Hollywood, anime has no ideological restraints. Thus any creator can get his stuff published as a manga, and then if people like it and spread it by mouth, it becomes animated and the rights are bought by big corporations and then we have toys and cult followings like Dragon Ball Z, which even transcends national boundaries. Which is funny. Hollywood also translates national boundaries… but only with Westerners and other select motifs (like the eternal Hollywood happy ending), which are not the modern Hollywood cream of the crop because the culture of the West is looked down upon by insufferable elitists as being backwards.

    Because often times the manga writer does the story sketch, dialogue, art work, and world/character background all by himself, what you get is individual diversification and less of a bar to accomplished status. It doesn’t take millions of dollars, like Hollywood movies or even sit coms.

    That means there’s almost something for everybody. The OVA type movies you mentioned belong selectively to the techno, advanced future, dystopia branch of anime. It’s like Goth music and Western culture here in the States. If you don’t like it, you won’t get into it regardless of how much you get see it. And there’s no reason to waste time if you are looking for something else. Something else meaning something else science fiction to name one genre.

    Networks here in the states cancel things like Firefly and crap all over Michael J for Babylon 5: Crusades, because it’s a sort of semi-monopoly with either limitation by production costs or limitation by lack of competition. Much of the Japanese manga business is low cost and fueled by fan bases, rather than cooked up by elite executives. They’ll publicize and produce the advertisement for the popular animes, like Bleach, DBZ, Naruto, etc, but that’s after the talent is recognized by a loyal following, not before. While there are stupid network decisions like any, including infamous ‘filler’ episodes based around some anti-author’s idea of what the author would have created, there isn’t as much of a critical failure. One decision can destroy Firefly and hold the network rights to it and that’s it. Even with extraordinary fan loyalty. In Japanese anime, there are so many shows around, that even if you include the bad CEO decisions, there are also a lot of good productions and even exceptional ones like LOGH. Like Miyamoto Musashi’s book of 5 rings, Sun Tzu’s Art of War, and Clausewitz’s On War, it’s a cult classic.

    On a philosophical level, I like how Japanese authors create and communicate what they have built. It won’t affect the artistic result, however, since ethics and aesthetics aren’t the same thing.

    Also, it’s far better to watch japanese anime in the original Japanese, while reading the subtitles in English, because the Japanese VAs are the most dedicated and talented around. Here in the US, our voice artists just aren’t paid the big bucks, so they usually go into singing or theater acting. The things that can be done to a Japanese anime by putting it in English dubs is not worth describing.

    As a relative comparison, there’s nothing unique about the japanese experience except in so far as the authors are… Japanese. For example, on a purely creative level, Americans can produce just as good a world and character list as the Japanese. Look up Safehold or Honor Harrington by David Weber as an example. Babylon 5’s 5 seasons telling one grand inter-connected story. Firefly. Westerners.

    It’s all about competition. That is what lets the good rise to the top and sinks the bad to the bottom. But then, I don’t suppose I need say that given what non-idiots can see happening in America.

    <B> That is easier for kids to do; not so for adults</b>

    The Left is full of adult-children. They eat it up because one should not expect otherwise.

    <B>Movie critics, for the most part, like it as well. </b>

    Like an abused spouse, they won’t leave or criticize their partner because they fear the alternatives and disbelieve that it can be better by letting go and forming another relationship.

    After all, don’t most people believe Republicans are baby eating evil people that create myrmidon kill bots to kill/rape indigenous populations? If that was one’s only alterantive, one might have little choice but to stay with the flawed but still good intentioned cult of the Left, anti-humanity screeds or not.

    <B>So, I ask you, why should he work harder to tell a good story if it isn’t going to change anything?</b>

    Creative individuals create because that is their love. The money is nice, since they need to eat and can use it to create some more, but it is not their primary motivation. If one’s primary motivation is profit, then… what’s the difference between that person and the greedy corporations Cameron portrays? And if Cameron is producing gunk for the proletariat to lap up, then what is the difference between Cameron and the company in Aliens? (Btw the Pc games were funny and weird as hell. I got motion sickness first time I played as an Alien face hugger climbing over walls.)

    <B>As for that, why should Hollywood in general try harder?</b>

    They’re on welfare and have a semi-monopoly. As such, innovation, creativity, and what not suffers.

    <B>Meanwhile as anyone with a brain knows, once a society becomes very technologically advanced and prosperous, many solutions are found for protecting the environment.</b>

    Check out the post on China’s pollution. The Left thinks by destroying wealth and making everybody eat from a single, static pie, that they can ‘save Gaia’. What a laugh.

    <B>Had he took any chances with the story</b>

    he could be made a Mel Gibson. As in crucified if ideological boundaries aren’t followed in Hollywood. And the Left likes to claim they are all about anti-censure and anti-blacklists and what not. Hypocrites, again, as usual. Energic hypocrites, which are sort of like locusts.

    <B>The underlying themes in most of his movies have always been critical of corporations</b>

    The best message against corporations would have been him using his money cash to make movies that destroy Hollywood’s monopolistic practices. Instead, he funnels them money. Which I suppose is as good an indication of corporatism as anything he artificially created as a case lesson in his movies.

    <B>I usually save the deep analysis you’re talking about for DVD</b>

    The primary consideration I used when I mentioned it was that people wouldn’t mind if movies were too long, if they could not be held as a captive audience for the entire length. Sitting in one place for several hours at a time, is after all, the same way young children are steadily brainwashed and attention deficit starts happening.

    I wouldn’t recommend people keep doing this as adults while labbing up sensory information from movies without any mental filters. I just wouldn’t. I know of too many ideological control mechanisms and have seen the result of them employed (look up Jones Town).

     

  6. says

    Maybe I should present the reasons why I like some titles I have mentioned here.
     
    DBZ: Epic story telling in the mold of Sparta, the Odyssey, Beowulf, and breaking past recorded achievements through grit, determination, and work.
     
    Legend of Galactic Heroes (LOGH for short)=It’s almost like porn for those that like to read military history, philosophy, political science, how military battles affect political decisions and vice a versa. I say porn, because if you see how much blood is in the ground fights, it really stimulates the limbic system of the average human male in terms of battle strategy, real violence, and political discourse. The 3 areas most notably left unchecked by the absence of a real classical liberal (read Greek logic and hoplite physicalia) education.

    Starship Operators= Funny as hell Engrish and unintended side connections relating to US-Japanese relations. War Drama in the truest sense of the term; telling the story of normal people in extraordinary circumstances that bring out the best and worst of human emotions and character.
     
    Naruto= Very well crafted ninja battles, a good philosophical ethic on work vs inborn intelligence, and is much better educational material for the younger generation than Leftist propaganda.
     
    Bleach= Extraordinary epic story arc during the first arcs concerning individual power and motivation. Both it and Naruto suffer, after a few seasons, of the Long Series problem, which scrambles the quality and inter-connection of the manga lot to be replaced by popular esque fillers and other unmentionables. This is, notably, something never seen in LOGH, which had 110 episodes when most anime series have 10-24 or are stand alone OVA/movies.
     
    So, in point of fact, the reason I like these things is the very reason why I like reading or doing anything. Because it interests me. Military history interests me. Political science and the manipulation of individuals and masses, interests me. For most others, it may not be so. And as such they won’t see what I see, they won’t think what I think, and it won’t matter to them as much vis a vis their life experiences.
     

    Most people don’t study enough politics, let alone military history, to connect the dots. That’s why, historically, there were low culture and high culture. Now a days, Liberal Hollywood thinks they set the definition on what is ‘high culture’. I beg to differ. They’re the pimps and brother keepers of low culture, not high culture. Same goes for the Awards, and the Peace Prize, and I can keep on going.
    On a final note, these anime stories are also popular in Japan and other parts of the world because… they connect to people on many levels. They are a true myth of the human condition, and one need not be of a specific profession or interest group to appreciate it. The story of self-sacrifice is not a monopoly of any ideology or group, contrary to the claims of Leftist religious fanatics.
     

  7. Mike Devx says

    My favorite James Cameron movies – Terminator, Terminator 2, Aliens, Titanic – all featured compelling portrayals of female protagonists.  And by the end of each movie they had all changed and grown so very much.   Sarah O’Connor is iconic now.  In Aliens, Ripley starts out detached and tough, but has to rescue battle for and care for a substitute daughter, and it changes her.  Rose is freed by Jack’s sacrifice at the end of Titanic to fulfill her every potential.
     
    Also in Aliens, we had the thoroughly alienated son who, by the end of the movie, could hardly be called alienated anymore.
     
    True Lies was great fun and remains one of the few movies where the Islamic jihadists get their asses handed to them.  But character development and arc?  Not that kind of a movie, which is why I guess it remains only vaguely memorable to me.  The Abyss was even less memorable this way – but perhaps the director’s cut was better; I haven’t seen it.
     
    I’ll probably see Avatar at a $1 theatre later.  I’m interested to see if there’s any character progression, or if this is a static character movie.
     

  8. says

    I just realized that I jumped really fast between attacking the Left and making poignant points about entertainment and anime.

    At the time, it felt like a great balance. And it is pretty funny to re-read and combine those thoughts. My way of showing my thoughts about the Leftist regime of 2009: movie or no movie.

  9. says

    This was also a thread where I greatly enjoyed reading what other people, Martel, Spiff, and Ariel included, liked or disliked.

    Of course, I naturally dislike the Left. When there are movies or Avatar or anything else, even if I dislike it, I won’t say much of anything about it. But I will about the Left. Thus while there are things I disliked about Farscape, it wasn’t important enough for me to give it much consideration, let alone write it down. 

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