I could recall the hype back in 2009 when then first Avatar film came out. I vividly remember everyone talking about it yet for some reason, my 10 year-old self did not hop on the bandwagon until a few days back where I forced myself to sit through the science-fiction film before attending a private screening of the highly-anticipated sequel Avatar: The Way of Water.
Judging solely based on the cinematography, I must admit that the film is a visual spectacle. The world of Avatar is insanely beautiful and the CGI animation was not too realistic that it looked faked but instead, the animation blended well with the real environment as if the animated characters lived in the real 3D world. And all these come as an opinion from someone watching the film the first time in 2022. No wonder the film was a massive blockbuster in 2009; it probably exceeded popular cinematic techniques back then.
The plot is cliché regardless of how one tries to tell me otherwise. The whole “random guy without any goals in life whatsoever who is somehow selected for an important task falls in love with ‘enemy’, facing internal dilemma and an eventual switch in sides” trope is overused and the outcomes are very predictable. Granted, this is a film in the 2000s so such storylines may be popular then.
The lines were pretty cheesy too. I mean nobody should ever say something like this:
I may not be much a horse guy, but I am born to do thisJake Sully
Pretty good themes beyond saving mother earth
But it does have its plus points. Needless to say, the environment is probably the major themes of the whole film. The entire plot is on how mankind sacrificed mother earth and in Selfridge’s words “just goddamn trees” for quarterly profit statements.
On the surface Avatar appears as nothing more than a science-fiction film that tackles environment and corporate greed issues and how we need to
but, for me at least, the film is a constant reminder of other tricky themes such as colonisation, and development.
Based on just how Parker Selfridge, a corporate leader of the Resource Development Administration (or RDA), perceives the Na’vi alien species as nothing more than tools that can be substituted in the name of profits, I am constantly reminded of other societies that were previously dominated and erased by other countries in the past. The lack of understanding Selfridge had was disgusting yet something we are all familiar with. When travelling overseas or when pictures and videos of other countries pop up on our social media feed, we easily compare that with more ‘developed’ nations like America and Britain.
The main underlying question is: what is a developed society? One that constantly leads in economic growth or one that is home to a a diversity of flora and fauna? Most would argue that a developed society is one that does has a stable and corruption-free political environment, a fair legal system, healthcare and other social infrastructures like social safety net, education, a conducive business environment to attract foreign investors and the list goes on. There is nothing wrong with having any of these elements and I do agree that all these are equally important in getting a society to succeed.
But I think what is often forgotten is that if every individual grows and seeks different things in life, then shouldn’t the the same be applied to societies? The standards of ‘development’ differs from society to society and economic growth is not and should not be the only factor that defines whether one is developed. I think this is what James Cameron might be telling us, or at least what I feel from the show that just because a country, in this case the Pandora which lacks in modern technology but thrives in other areas in life does not have the same lifestyle or similar social-economic institutions as the global powers, it does not mean that they are ‘less developed’.
Overall, I did not enjoy neither Avatar nor its sequel (might do a quick blog on it some time later) because the plot was rather mediocre and predictable. The characters were rather meh and unlike many other viewers, the world of Avatar just does not captivate me, but these are just my personal preferences. The themes, however, do caught my attention and it is something I would want to read more about.