If ever I were to nominate a ‘coming of age’ movie for an evolutionary leap in environmental awareness, it would be Avatar from Studio 20th Century Fox.
I find myself in a strange position regarding this film because one of James Cameron’s (the director) other major movies, Titanic, gets my vote for one of the worst movies ever made. It is stuffed with the most awful kind of American over-sentimentalisation and emotional wallowing and I just can’t stand to watch it. He is also responsible for the Terminator and Alien series of movies which are without doubt, Sci-Fi classics.
Avatar though, has me in thrall and not just because of the stunning 3D effects and never-ending eye candy. Like many sci-fi movies, Avatar takes its plot straight from the ‘wild-western’ genre where the indigenous inhabitants of the planet Pandora are the nature-loving, ‘Indians’, completely in touch with and inseparable from their land, with which they share a form of ‘Gaian’ consciousness as described by James Lovelock.
The bad guys are represented by the Caucasian ‘invaders’ who are blithely destroying the land to mine ‘Unobtainium’ a rare and precious mineral that counter-effects gravity. Like this repeating pattern on planet Earth, where economic interests wipe out the sustainable lives of indigenous North American Indians, Amazon rainforest dwellers, Australian Aborigines, African tribes such as the Masai, the Pandorans – called the Na’vi, are driven from their homes in a rain of destruction so that the interests of capitalism can harvest minerals.
But what the ‘baddies’ (aka ‘us’) don’t, and can’t see because of their underlying philosophy, is the richly spiritual lives that the Na’vi have in deep connection with their environment. Dismissed as ‘savages’ by the interests of economic growth, their values and beliefs are marginalized and ignored by those in authority, even though some of ‘us’ might see them. They want nothing of ‘civilisation’ as they are already rich with the beauty of their land.
Some people experience what is called ‘post Avatar depression’ as the film touches a nerve of realisation. Cameron explains that “…the Na’vi represent that sort of aspirational part of ourselves that wants to be better, that wants to respect nature”. Some of the emotional effects of the film include a wake-up call to the plight of our own planet. People who have so far managed to ignore or edit reality in this direction find it harder to continue to do so after seeing the movie.
Many movies, for example ‘Babe’, ‘The Lion King’ or ‘Captain Nemo’ and other (particularly) Disney stories, have plots which revolve around non-human characters adopting human motivations and ‘acting out’ our fantasies, hopes and dreams. I really dislike these kinds of movie, which are anthropocentric, presuming that humans are the most central and important entities in the universe. The underlying philosophy of anthropocentricism in our culture started with Isaac Newton and the great ‘Age of Reason’ and is now well past its sold-by date. The form of supremacist fascism it promulgates continues to result in the exploitation and desolation of our own planet and its creatures to the benefit of a few.
The Na’vi are not like this. They are supremely well-designed and beautifully made – almost anti-anthropocentric – feracentric (is that a word)? They represent animal, wild, graceful-like-cheetas, connected-to-the-universe qualities but with humanoid elements. They are film entities of a Gaian Age. Cameron’s aims for the movie ask us “…to see that everything is connected, all human beings to each other, and us to the Earth”. In this respect it is certainly a film for a culture of new global awareness.
“They’ve sent us a message – that they can take whatever they want”.
“We can send them a message – this, this is our land”
“We’re going up against gunships with bows and arrows…”
Unfortunately the story then has the two factions engaging in the glory and visual splendour of open and direct conflict (well it is a movie), the outcome of which I will not tell, just in case you haven’t seen it yet.
In January 2010 Avatar became the highest grossing movie of all time. Released on disc in April, the DVD Blu-ray sales in the UK broke records for first-day sales. It sold more in a day than the previous record holder (Dark Knight) sold in a week. In the US and Canada the DVD was released on Earth Day and became the fastest selling DVD ever.
I believe the next one in the series will be released in 2016, because that’s how long it takes to make!
Find out more on this link: http://www.avatarmovie.com/index.html