“Avatar” is a film that took me to a place I’ve never been before, and it provides a certain escapism that’s undeniable. I’ve long liked the work of James Cameron. I started college the year after “Titanic” came out, and the students in film history class mocked me for daring to like the (gasp) film that experienced the greatest box office success in history. That didn’t stop me from continuing my affinity for the movie and his work.
Animation isn’t my favorite genre. I guess I should admit that, but I was wowed over the art of the movie. It’s rare that a film can so fully immerse the imagination into its world. The 3D complimented the film, but it didn’t overpower it. There was no relying on those 3D tricks to make you jump out of your seat. It simply helped the story and the film.
The metaphors as I perceived them really helped bring depth to the film, whether they were inferred or implied. There were strong statements and parallels to the way that, not too many decades ago, immigrants to America with guns and greater technology treated Native Americans.
I was really into the movie at first. My empathy was with Jake, the paraplegic marine taking on a courageous mission after the passing of his brother, and the people of Pandora. Even after the first life-or-death show down where Pandora native Neytiri saves Jake’s life, I tried to dismiss the animal slaughter in it as self-defense. Who knows what one would do in a life-or-death situation? The lovely Neytiri is even very ticked off that the animals had to die, leading me to believe that her world must be a compassionate one.
As Neytiri introduces Jake into her world, however, it’s clear that the people of Pandora exploit and murder animals the same as people on earth. Hunting is considered a rite of passage, and the taming of the animals that are used by them resembles the cruelty and inhumanity of breaking horses. I was always one to empathize with animals in films, ever since early childhood (Do you even realize how messed up “Old Yeller” is?). A large part of teaching Jake her ways involved teaching him ways to hurt the animals. That’s not natural for a people pursuing kindness, as I had hoped this planet would be.
I thought that it was a hypocritical and didn’t serve the story that the people we most empathized with, the ill-fated souls native to Pandora, seemed to feel no empathy for those that they had dominion over. There was talk of connecting to the animals, while they commanded and used them. They pointlessly thanked the animals after the humans had killed the animals. That’s self-serving silliness that took me right out of the story, perhaps because it’s how I’ve often heard people rationalize murdering animals for meat and other frivolities on this particular planet. No animal that you’ve just slaughtered and are using gives cares if you thank them. It seemed sad that the irony (and all empathy) was lost on these supposed heroes.
I so wanted to be immersed in this Pandora planet, and I was disappointed that this group of people who seemed to have so much pride in respecting their planet and being connected to what is pure and right would be equally exploitative over what things they could get power over. Did nobody else notice this parallel to how the Americans were exploiting the planet of Pandora…and how the native souls on Pandora were exploiting animals themselves?
We all come into a film with out own stuff going on. People will all perceive it somewhat differently. It’s not for me to project my own views into the world of the movie, but I did get taken aback by animal cruelty, as I always do in films, fictional or otherwise. My only gripe is that the characters in the story disappointed my expectations for them.
I love such sci-fi movies like “Logan’s Run” that depict a future world where people shudder at the time when people weren’t vegan.