Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Seeing Avitar

Finally went to see Avitar. I must say I was impressed and that the 3D was really a plus.

The ham handed political references were more funny that annoying. the story was dances with wolves but the iraq war was brought in at every point with language. terror with terror, daisy cutter, shock and awe, savages. it amazes me that he said in an interview that people can see contemporary political parallels if they want to. He hardly gives them a choice.

the political viewpoint is standard and unremarkable. what is a bit offensive is the way that military men are viewed. they are all butt scratching, leering oafs (though the evil leader of the military wing is intelligent enough to make a good and impressive villain). they grin at the prospect of killing a bunch of women and children. they are brutish and inhuman, all except for the vaguely ethnic looking butch marine chick who seems almost cut and pasted from the character in aliens II. The parallels to current events are so tightly drawn to his propaganda purposes that the soldiers are made mercanaries rather that regular soldiers so that the Camarron can have his hero say that regular soldiers are somehow ok, but that corporate soldiers (read blackwater) are not.

the Navi are good because they are in harmony with nature. they have a pagan religion but unlike the religion of real indians this one is actually based on a scientific fact, that the tree roots on the entire planet are connected into a giant neural network that makes it into a giant intelligence that can coordinate the natural life on the planet to repel the invaders when the time comes.

It is nice that there is no false ending and everything drives toward a logical and exciting climax.

He borrows from Cooper making the Navi say a little prayer to the spirit of any animal they kill.

the Navi are good because they are unchanging. they have no interest in the sky people. their indifference to technology and progress is seen as admirable. the hero asks what do we have that they would want, "A light beer?" All of the scientific progress that we make is treated very shabbily by a man making so much money and, it must be admitted, doing such cool stuff with technological advances.

the sentimentalization of the indians is a key trope in modern liberal culture. we vicariously side with them against our own civilization and retell the story of our conquest of them with a new, imaginary character that we are to identify with from our civilization who eventually switches sides over to theirs. We do this with the indians precisely because their is no chance of it ever happening. If you told a contemporary story with the other side as the good guys then you would have a natural action implied by the story--join them. but that would be hard. it is no fun living like a nomadic aboriginal. we don't really want to do that. we just want to be able to pretend that we do. the fact that it is impossible to do is what makes such sentimental reality plays so much more attractive than covering real conflicts. The modern intellectual's sense of being superior to his own society is played out without the intellectual having to give up the modern society's comforts or really having to do anything at all but feel morally superior.

and that is why we have the story of the Navi instead of stories about Iraq from Hollywood. The combination of Iraq and the Indians as the sources of the story allows cammeron to avoid all the uncomfortable questions that would be brought about by actually dealing the the topic he insists on commenting on in so many ways. He can bring in Iraq parallels when he has the soldiers say things like "shock and awe" or calling them terrorists and using that to justify our own terrorism without having to confront the uncomfortable fact that the other side really are terrorists and that their main victims are other "navi". (In the film the different tribes of the planet get together to expel the invaders, something that would be hard to swallow in a movie about the real conflicts he alludes to, either with the indians who fought savagely among themselves and the Iraqis who, well, fight savagely among themselves.)

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