CINEMA: by John WhitehallNews Weekly
Cameron's latest blockbuster Avatar (rated M)
, February 6, 2010
James Cameron's spectacular 3D science-fiction movie Avatar burst into cinemas across the world just before Christmas, doubtless to cash in on parents keen to find suitable distractions for hordes of holidaying children. Preceded by a glittering fuse of publicity that wound through the media to the sides of buses and onto the wrappers of McDonald's hamburgers, the movie's explosive launch was expected to generate takings that would surpass the massive expenditure of some $US400 million.
|Sam Worthington (left) and Zoe Saldana|
's producers and backers have already recouped their money, and seem set to exceed $US2 billion in takings. Avatar
will be the most expensive but also the most financially rewarding movie ever made.
I found the technology alone worth the price of the ticket. The three-dimensional portrayal of the imaginary world of Pandora was as enchanting as the scenes of its destruction were appalling.
The landscape of this utopia was beautiful, the mountains as majestic and misty and laced with waterfalls as any of those old Chinese paintings, but now with a lushness of forest and fern, and an incandescence of colour and light that only modern technology can bestow. And what unimaginable animals were granted life! This viewer delighted in the imagery.
Fortunately, the acting did not get in the way of the photography. Australia's virtually unknown Sam Worthington, who is the star of the movie, contributed to its visual greatness by an unobtrusive, natural performance that does him great credit and made his colleagues appear a bit forced.
Sigourney Weaver, as the committed but somewhat worn protagonist for a peaceful solution to the violent crisis that you just know is bound to occur, was convincing if stereotyped; but why did she have to smoke so conspicuously? The evil colonel (Stephen Lang) was a powerful caricature of all that is supposed to be wrong with America, and the attractive female helicopter pilot (Michelle Rodriguez) was every lad's dream of someone to go to war with.
With all this cinematographic beauty, what was it then that disturbed me long after the last luminescent aerial jellyfish wafted from my finger tips in the cinema's darkness?
It was because Hollywood is at it again, and on a massive scale. It cannot refrain from blaming its country of residence - its provider of everything that it needs to exist so luxuriously and productively - for the evils of this world. As usual, it cannot help contaminating its creativity with blasphemies.
The plot is simple. Pandora is a distant utopian world where male and female blue-skinned humanoids live in peace and beauty with each other, in systemic communication with all of nature and its protecting goddess. But the very centre of its spiritual life, the home of the goddess, is located above a massive lode of the mineral, "unobtainium", which has become an essential source of energy for an exhausted, treeless Earth.
Capitalist corporations have arrived to seize this mineral from the natives. The invaders are represented by a force of American marines backed, as the script enunciates for those still blind to the analogy with Iraq and Afghanistan, with "shock and awe" firepower capable of "fighting terror with terror".
There is a superficial attempt to negotiate a peaceful extraction; but everyone expects the inevitability of war with the Pandorans, though hardly anyone can imagine the extent and ferocity of it. Of course, a few of the Americans are goodies, including Sam, and they turn their guns on their comrades. Sam will be rewarded, we are certain, by adoption by the goddess, and the granting of healing to the physical and spiritual paralysis he experienced in the old world. He will become a New Man, salvation having come through saving Utopia.
The film is a two-and-a-half hour artistic presentation of Lenin's turgid tract, Imperialism: the Highest Stage of Capitalism
(1916). It preaches that the Western system needs to plunder the developing world in order to survive. It will appeal to those who believe that Rousseau's "Noble Savage" inhabited the Australian continent until James Cook's marines turned up in Botany Bay.Avatar
's caricature of America is crude, blunt, forced and banal. Sam is paraplegic from previous service to his country, but its system is so heartless that it will not pay for a curative operation for even this most loyal veteran. That the system is America is underlined by the title of the mining corporation "The Company", the nickname for the CIA. Its planned headquarters, which will supplant the Pandorans' spiritual mountain, is - wait for it - pentagon-shaped. Reference to a previous war in Venezuela, presumably for the oil, is described of all things, as a "mean bush"!
Is it paranoid to wonder if there was an intention in the coupling of the name of Christ with all that is ugly? I don't recall anyone in the movie taking the name of the Healing Mother goddess in vain.
To be fair to Avatar
, there is an ethical thread which is most unusual for Hollywood - monogamy. Marriage in the utopia is for life, and so is the loyal relationship with your flying dinosaur.