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    December 11, 2010 -- Years have passed and superstar reputations burnt in the wait for a hit film about the War on Terror. Nobody imagined that that film might turn out to be Avatar. James Cameron's 3-D science fiction extravaganza, conservatively estimated to have cost at least £240 million, had its world premiere in London last night. As the director's first feature film since Titanic, Avatar is the most stratospherically hyped film of the year, as well as the most technologically ambitious and probably the most expensive film ever made. However, it also contains heavy implicit criticism of America's conduct in the War on Terror. As the director of Aliens, The Terminator and Terminator 2, as well as Titanic, the highest-grossing film of all time, Cameron has a formidable box-office track record. However, a string of films about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have flopped at the box office in the past two years, including the Reese Witherspoon vehicle Rendition and Lions for Lambs, which starred Tom Cruise, Robert Redford and Meryl Streep. Cameron said yesterday the theme was not the main point of Avatar, but added that Americans had a "moral responsibility" to understand the impact that their country's recent military campaigns had had. "We went down a path that cost several hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives. I don't think the American people even know why it was done. So it's all about opening your eyes."

    The film pitches the viewer 145 years into the future where a paraplegic U.S. Marine called Jake Sully is flown to the hostile planet of Pandora to join a colony seeking to mine a rare mineral that can solve Earth's 22nd-century energy crisis. The planet is home to the Na'vi, a species of 10ft-tall, blue-skinned hunters who enjoy a close bond with their bountiful natural environment and resist the humans' incursions. Sully "remotely inhabits" a genetically engineered avatar created from a fusion of his DNA and Na'vi DNA and sets out to win the natives' trust. In the background is the looming threat of the heavily armed human colony who want the minerals under the Na'vi's land. This is where the politics comes in. The hero is with the Na'vi when the humans attack their homes. The fusillade of gas, incendiary bombs and guided missiles that wreck their ancient habitat is described as "shock and awe", the term popularised by the U.S. military assault on Baghdad that opened the Iraq war in 2003. The humans' military commander declares: "Our survival relies on pre-emptive action. We will fight terror, with terror." One of the more sympathetic characters preparing to resist the human invasion bemoans the need for "martyrdom".

    One theory for the box-office success of the Star Wars films in the 1970s and 1980s was that, in their depiction of a plucky guerrilla insurgency against a vastly better equipped superpower, they enabled a generation of Americans to refight the Vietnam war on the side of the underdogs. The same idea holds true for Avatar. The War on Terror references are more complex than simply equating the U.S. with the villains in the film. After the Na'vi homes collapse in flames the landscape is coated in ash and floating embers in scenes reminiscent of Ground Zero after the September 11 attacks. Cameron, who was born in Canada, said he had been "surprised at how much it did look like September 11. I didn't think that was necessarily a bad thing". Referring to the "shock and awe" sequence, he said: "We know what it feels like to launch the missiles. We don't know what it feels like for them to land on our home soil, not in America. I think there's a moral responsibility to understand that. That's not what the movie's about - that's only a minor part of it. For me it feels consistent only in a very generalised theme of us looking at ourselves as human beings in a technical society with all its skills, part of which is the ability to do mechanised warfare, part of which is the ability to do warfare at a distance, at a remove, which seems to make it morally easier to deal with, but its not."

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                • #9
                  I saw an interview with this Director....it really made me sad....

                  Soooooooo much money for....this.

                  (Okay, I'm obviously NOT into sci-fi, even though I don't have a clue what the story line is about...)

                  On the other hand, I've heard nothing but good about the other new release in the "films-that-start-with-vowels" bucket -- Invictus, about overcoming apartheid in South Africa. Will definitely watch for that when it hits my favorite "2nd pass" theatre.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by New_Friend View Post

                    (Okay, I'm obviously NOT into sci-fi, even though I don't have a clue what the story line is about...)
                    I think that the film contains a 'message in a bottle' about respect for the environment - and the ethical inferiority of policies built on the employment of overwhelming military force.

                    An expensive message for sure, but maybe contemporary attitudes about 'exploiting resources' are even more costly, in the longer term.

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                        • #13
                          Thanks for the storyline summary, A_K. I'll reconsider this one...when it reaches the "2nd run" theatres, and will still keep my eyes closed when needed

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                          • #14
                            saw it today... reminded me alot of fern gully (quality childrens film)....

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