Avatar is the biggest, blandest, least original story to come out of Hollywood in years, with one dimensional characters, cliched action movie dialogue, and a banal lesson about the environment that makes Al Gore's eco-worship seem restrained by comparison. In other words, it's a sure bet to win the Oscar for best picture.
The bulk of the movie takes place on the faraway planet of Pandora. Or maybe Pandora is a moon. It doesn't matter. What matters is Pandora is lush and inhabited by beautiful, colorful creatures that bring to mind snorkeling amidst a coral reef in the Caribbean. And who would want to harm a coral reef? The film uses that psychology to its advantage, manipulating us to root against our pale species in the vivid alien world. After all, if the creatures looked like the bugs in Starship Troopers, you'd be cheering on a weaponized can of raid. And we can't have that.
In the first act of the film, writer/director James Cameron presents us with three types of characters: a primitive forest-living native people, a group of dedicated human scientists, and military/security personnel who work for a giant corporation seeking to mine a profitable mineral called "unobtainium." Needless to say, you don't have to be a contestant on Deal or No Deal to figure out which group will be portrayed as the villains. The mineral is said to be an allegory for oil, although the value of the mineral as a resource is never explained (does it provide energy or heat homes or make up plastics that save lives?) We're given no backstory.
Unless you've been living in a cave, you've probably become accustomed to Hollywood and the Left obsessing over the evils of capitalism, painting corporations as ruthless and greedy plunderers who will do anything for a profit (see Michael Clayton.) Avatar is no different except this might be the first movie that actually treats living in a cave as a more noble aspiration than exploring the far corners of the universe (a message Osama bin Laden would surely endorse.) To boldly go where no man has gone before? That's no longer politically correct. Someone inform the Trekkies they are now considered an occupying force.
It takes some kind of ego to raise over $300 million to make the most expensive film in the history of moviemaking and spend it bashing the excesses of capitalism. Then again, that's James Cameron for you. Perhaps he and Michael Moore have been shopping for private jets together. It should also be noted that his giant film crew invaded the faraway, pristine world of New Zealand (for the tax breaks) to shoot this monstrosity. Although I'm sure no trees or animals were harmed in the process.
I'll admit that Avatar is an amazing looking piece of cinema, especially in 3D, but unfortunately the only way to enjoy the magical world is to turn off your brain. Try not to note the irony as Hollywood, who will do anything for a buck, preaches a heavy handed message against the evils of corrupting a culture for monetary gain. I guess we're supposed to believe all thoseSaw and Jackass movies were striving for high art.
The primitive aliens presented in the film couldn't be flatter. They have no character flaws to speak of (even their bodies are drawn in svelte, model-like proportions, with six pack abs and figures that starlets would kill for) and live in perfect harmony with each other. No infighting, no disease, no outside enemies other than greedy capitalists. Apparently, no politics either. They literally live like angels in heaven. And they're bilingual! Everything in their tribal world is perfect until the "evil white man" enters the picture.
We've seen this story before, but never has a native population been presented as such a flawless, idealized culture, nor their world so heavenly. There is no nuance here, because that would interfere with setting up the straw man, which turns out to be us, the human race. White human race, I might add. Meanwhile, the native people live in hammocks and pray to spiritual trees, which we are assured really are magical because they are illustrated in a way that leaves no doubt.
Avatar revels in new age mysticism and nature worship. No longer is tree hugging enough. Tree worship is required to convert the last of us into the eco-friendly movement. It's like The Secret on steroids, with superstition usurping traditional values and refuting the idea of a Judea/Christian God. Of course, we all know that the green movement has become a cult. And an acceptable one to the Oprah/Obama crowd. James Cameron's movie is literally a recruitment film for environmentalism. Cut down enough "spiritual trees" and the capitalists will face their day of reckoning. In the end, the natives unite with the scientists and fight off the evil, imperialist humans before they can create a welfare nanny-state. Okay, not exactly, but wouldn't that have made a much better and more relevant picture?
In Avatar, saving trees is the number one priority. And if that means killing people, so be it. We're all ecoterrorists now, right? This film comes dangerously close to glorifying environmental extremism. Of course, it's hard to take this message seriously from the suburban wasteland of the multiplex, with forty screens and not a tree in sight. But someone will. Someone always does. And that's the danger of the mythology that James Cameron has created here. No matter how poorly it's done.