James Cameron's latest oeuvre, Avatar, has set the cash registers ringing across the world. The sci-fi epic is already the fourth-highest-grossing film of all time, having netted more than $1 billion in less than three weeks of theatrical release. Seems critically acclaimed too, but the pro-environmental and anti-war message has drawn the ire of the conservative lobby in the US. The film is also considered insidiously atheist.
Avatar's political message is: The American Military-Industrial Complex will utterly destroy the known universe. The film revolves around an outrageous attempt to colonize and mine Pandora for its rare extra-terrestrial element, Unobtainium, a mineral with anti-gravitational properties that will resolve the terminal decline of Earth and permit the colonization of more planets for the aggressive exploitation of the universe in pursuit of energy to fuel an endless cycle of extraction and consumption.
AdvertisementYe another classic from the maker of the Titanic. A counter-culture message at a time when human greed seems to be destroying our planet.
Predictably the American right is fuming. Big Hollywood's John Nolte, blasted the film, calling it "a sanctimonious thud of a movie so infested with one-dimensional characters and PC cliches that not a single plot turn, large or small, surprises. . . . Think of 'Avatar' as 'Death Wish' for leftists, a simplistic, revisionist revenge fantasy where if you . . . hate the bad guys (America) you're able to forgive the by-the-numbers predictability of it all."
John Podhoretz, the Weekly Standard's film critic, called the film "blitheringly stupid; indeed, it's among the dumbest movies I've ever seen." He goes on to say: "You're going to hear a lot over the next couple of weeks about the movie's politics - about how it's a Green epic about despoiling the environment, and an attack on the war in Iraq. . . . The conclusion does ask the audience to root for the defeat of American soldiers at the hands of an insurgency. So it is a deep expression of anti-Americanism - kind of. The thing is, one would be giving Jim Cameron too much credit to take 'Avatar' - with its . . . hatred of the military and American institutions and the notion that to be human is just way uncool - at all seriously as a political document. It's more interesting as an example of how deeply rooted these standard issue counterculture cliches in Hollywood have become by now."
Ross Douthat, writing in the New York Times, took Cameron to task on another favorite conservative front, as yet another Hollywood filmmaker who refuses to acknowledge the power of religion.
He is offended by what he sees as a sacrilegious message - the triumph of Animists and Druids over Christian Soldiers, as the liberal critic Michael Carmichael puts it on the Huffington Post.
Douthat calls "Avatar" the "Gospel according to James. But not the Christian Gospel. Instead, 'Avatar' is Cameron's long apologia for pantheism - a faith that equates God with Nature, and calls humanity into religious communion with the natural world." Douthat contends that societies close to nature, like the Na'vi in "Avatar," aren't shining Edens at all - "they're places where existence tends to be nasty, brutish and short." "It has the politics of the left, but it also has extraordinary spectacle," says Govindini Murty, co-founder of the pioneering conservative blog Libertas and executive producer of the new conservative film "Kalifornistan."
"Jim Cameron didn't come out of nowhere. He came on the heels of all the left-wing filmmakers who went before him, who knew that someone with their point of view would have the resources to finally make a breakthrough political film. But even though 'Avatar' has an incredibly disturbing anti-human, anti-military, anti-Western world view, it has incredible spectacle and technology and great filmmaking to capture people's attention. The politics are going right over people's heads. Its audience isn't reading the New York Times or the National Review," Douhat laments.
James Pinkerton, the Fox News reviewer, put it thus:
OK, so the politics of "Avatar" are left-wing, anti-corporate and anti-imperialist. There are even some even some indirect digs at George W. Bush and Operation Iraqi Freedom. A left-leaning Hollywood movie: no surprise there. So Third Worlders will eat it up. The Iranians, for example, should love "Avatar" - if, of course, their government would let them see it, which surely won't happen.
So it goes. The icing on the cake is that the film has been produced by 20th Century Fox, another arm of Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation.
So the leftwing is having a hearty laugh of course. Avatar might be yet another typical Hollywood spectacle, only given an indirect political slant, by way of adding some spice. Still it could be said to reflect the increase American uneasiness of the state of the world - for which their own leaders might be to blame. Hence they are lapping it up, it looks like.