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Containing a selection of published articles from various print media.

Sheridan Sun: The art of Avatar: too beautiful to cope with?

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A modern-day interpretation of Eden?

Director James Cameron’s computer-generated blockbuster Avatar has scarcely played in theatres for a month, yet already it has claimed two Golden Globe awards, and stands as the second-highest grossing film of all time. The epic computer-generated tale has captivated audiences worldwide with a visit to a lush, alien moon populated by a bewildering array of extraterrestrial flora and fauna, and scattered tribes of Na’vi: sentient, blue-skinned cat people.

While most theatre-goers rave about the mindblowing special effects and cutting-edge CGI, a few have been left with an indelible sense of emptiness and depression. The phosphorescent jungles of Pandora (the moon where Avatar is set,) the alien beauty of the computer-generated indigenous Na’vi, and witnessing the unspoiled natural wonder of that setting despoiled by human greed has some movie patrons questioning the value of the real world.

Almost universally, Hollywood blockbusters featuring a meeting between humanity and an alien race depict us as the plucky underdogs who gloriously defend their home planet against a marauding invader. Who could forget the climactic scene of 1996’s Independence Day when lowest-common-denominator hero Russell Casse (played by Randy Quaid,) flew a fighter-jet up an alien mothership’s tailpipe. Avatar is the first science-fiction film in a long time to portray us in a negative light. The first human visitors to Pandora are not peaceful traders, colonists or missionaries – here, we are the evil invader. An armed military force is employed to protect a corporate strip-mining operation, eager to get their greedy hands on “Unobtainium,” a precious ore unique to Pandora. When the Na’vi get in the way, the occupation force from Earth responds in a manner that echoes every historical encounter between a native tribe and an encroaching civilization: the humans attempt to brutally sweep the spear-wielding blue aliens aside with futuristic technology and force of arms.

YouTube user DIRECTORperson225 encapsulates the resulting impact on audiences. “Everyone says that after this movie they realize that humans are greedy and selfish, and don’t treat their planet well. Yet most of us are too lazy to actually put it into action and do it. Humans will always be the same because we don’t want to change our way of life. All humans including me will only change if we are strong about our opinions or if we are forced to. Sucks to be us.”

The historical reference to mankind’s past cultural conquests did not go unnoticed. While many movie-goers derisively compared Avatar‘s plot to older films like Pocahontas and Dances With Wolves, others saw parallels to their own past. YouTube user boomerangsarefun said “Has anyone else besides me seen a correlation between the trail of tears with the Cherokee nation with Avatar? I mean, think, Americans invaded the Cherokee’s nation for the ore, gold. The humans in Avatar for “Unobtainium,” invading the Na’vi’s territory for such. The movie sends a pretty obvious message, humans will never change unless they intend to.

Has James Cameron struck cinematic gold with the absolute depth and beauty of his film? Has he also tapped into an universal reservoir of human guilt so intense, it leaves some shaken and questioning the grand purpose of our being? Perhaps this is why Hollywood blockbusters and cinematic happy endings go so hand-in-hand – perhaps, we really cannot cope with viewing a historically accurate cinematic representation of the human reality: that we are an apex predator, an intelligent devourer that consumes and repurposes any resource it encounters – living or inert. Fear not, movie-goers: the summer will surely bring a slew of feel-good flicks to soothe your aching conscience.

This story originally appeared in the Sheridan Sun.

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Written by tomczerniawski

March 14, 2010 at 12:07 pm

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