Friday, December 18, 2009

Fjordman: “Avatar” — the Latest Anti-Western Movie From Hollywood

Fjordman has posted a review of Avatar in the Brussels Journal. Some excerpts are below:

Since I am a certified sci-fi geek and most science fiction movies are quite bad this habit unfortunately forces me to watch a large number of bad movies. It’s one of my little perversions. I have just watched the most expensive B-movie ever made, the US$ 237 million Avatar by director James Cameron, famous for having produced films such as The Terminator, Terminator 2, Aliens and Titanic. Briefly summed up I would say that while it is visually spectacular, as is everything Mr. Cameron makes, Avatar has to be one of the most anti-Western and especially anti-white Hollywood movies I have seen in a long time.

The hero is the U.S. Marine Jake Sully who has been sent to the planet-like moon Pandora because humans desire the mineral resources found of Pandora, which is inhabited by a race of tall, blue-skinned aliens, the Na’vi. They have a non-industrial civilization technologically inferior to ours but apparently spiritually richer and in perfect ecological harmony with the natural environment. The hero predictably falls in love with the native culture and connects with a native girl.
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“Going native” is in itself not an original theme; it resembles Dances with Wolves, only with aliens instead of Sioux. Neither is the preference for pre-industrial civilization, which was after all shared by a good man such as Tolkien in his The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Tolkien had personally experienced the meaningless horrors of trench warfare during the First World War and this naturally affected his view of industrialized society. What is different about the movie Avatar is how it portrays whites as a bunch of raging monsters, something which Tolkien never did.

Basically, the white characters are portrayed as brutal, greedy and insensitive beasts who rape the environment and destroy other cultures with a smile in the search for profit…

Read the rest at the Brussels Journal.

22 comments:

Proud Infidel said...

Most of the stuff coming out of Hollywood for Movies and TV is thinly disguised liberal propaganda, asuming they even bother to disguise it. The trailers I saw on TV had me thinking Avatar was going to be more of the same so I'm not surprised. Being a sci-fi geek I'll probably wind up watching it eventually, though.

spackle said...

Ah yes, the oh so predictable and boring Liberal script. I find it ironic that this sort of nonsense always comes from some of the most sadistic and ego-maniacal directors in Hollywood of which Mr. Cameron is one. Give me "Robinson Crusoe on Mars" or "Colossus: The Forbin project" any day. Hell, give me any episode of the Zone.

Anonymous said...

I hate to say it, but that's hardly an original review. Debbie Schlussel and John Nolte have said about the same things. Heck, I have said as much two months ago.

Anonymous said...

The very basic problem of this movie is that it totally disregards its own premise once they get to Pandora. Given the state of Earth, unobtanium (and yes, that is the mineral's name) is the savior of the human race. Among other things, it lets us get off the wrecked planet. And maybe make it less of a wreck. Fixing your power transmission and waste issues probably helps life on Earth. But the big one is that it plausibly let’s the human race leave by enabling FTL coms and effective .7c space travel. And energy-free superconductors are of course highly desirable on the spacecraft because it cuts your heat sink requirements dramatically and cuts your power requirements for running the ship. And you don’t get into the loop of having to cool the superconductor to save energy... yes, I'm a nerd.

In the scriptment, it’s also clear that Pandora is not the only resource exploitation area for a resource-starved Earth. RDA operates elsewhere and they would need .7c starships for those resources as well.

So "unobtanium" helps the energy situation on Earth, enables easier far-solar and extra-solar resource exploitation, and enables a chance for humans on a large scale to escape Earth if they find something that is either habitable or can be made that way.

The story should have been over a lot more than greed and I suspect that Cameron did realize that at one point or another in the 10 years of working on this. It’s probably not in there because it exceeded his storytelling grasp to still make Jake “right” in those circumstances.

The reason I say ignoring this angle is poor is because it lets you make some fantastic “bad” guys. Instead of a greedy corporation, you now have wide-eyed true believer crusaders. Doesn’t have to be all of them on planet, but it would be considerably more jarring to have a couple characters leaning this way. Some implicit reluctance given the stark situation – maybe they like the Na’vi – but absolute Knight Templar brutality and ruthlessness to get the job done because humanity is at stake.

It also would screw up the strawmanning by giving the audience competing rooting interests. Good book sci-fi would tend to do just this. Authors like Sophie’s choice situations like “two worlds enter, one world leaves.” To wit:

Humans: “We need to rip your planet apart to save our species.”

Na’vi: “The deposit is under our sacred tree, the flying mountains are sacred, and we’re not too thrilled about this whole ‘remove 20% of Pandora’s mass and ship it to your solar system’ long term plan either.”

Humans: “You’r right, that would probably be the end of your biosphere. We’re sorry for your loss.”

Na’vi: “….this is bad.”

Of course, this would make Jake’s choice to associate with the natives more asinine than it is and we can’t have the other side actually having a point. It would still be a much more interesting plot and require characters to make much more difficult choices.

Add to this the whole stupid Vietnam and 9/11 analogies plus the “noble savage” clichee (why Hollywood still clings to that one I just cannot fathom) and even from the POV of someone who is not an American (me) you get a movie that is preachy, anti-civilizational propaganda about living in harmony with nature made by people who have the luxury not having to do just that.

It’s also really bad and inconsequential story-telling if you think about it for more than a second. Just imagine what the Na’vi did just did:

How does eradicating a mining colony make it less likely that you’ll be burned down to the bedrock in the long run? Your stuff is still valuable, you’ve proven you’re unwilling to negotiate, and you’ve demonstrated you’re a threat on the ground... Hey, wow, the atmosphere’s on fire, and what’s that big rock…?!

laller said...

Why can't a movie simply be a movie? Why can't fiction simply be fiction? Why do (some) people always have to wonder what the message is?
When I watch a movie or read a book, I don't care about the message, I just want to be entertained. Anyone else out there who does the same?

As for Avatar, it's a visually gorgeous movie, with a very cliché story. I'd recommend Avatar for it's effects, landscapes and very intriguing alien world, but definitely not for the script.

Regards

P.S.
I'd love to have an avatar and run around Pandora. Beautiful!

Anonymous said...

People "wonder about the message" (really, what's there to wonder about? It's a blatantly leftist, anti-civilizational "noble savage" tale that doesn't even have a conmpelling narrative) because Cameron himself has gone to great lengths before the release to shove it down everybody's throats...

Phaidon said...

Laller,
A movie is a movie, and a mind is a mind. A person, especially one not trained to consider what one sees with at least a bit of dispassionate skepticism, can simply absorb ideas passively by watching films or television. This is of course done today. And this movie is part of that. You're right that the movie per se can be enjoyable, but it's what comes after the audience leaves the theater that the people here were commenting on. That's worth thinking about, too.

Anonymous said...

@fjordman

A lot of bad sci-fi indeed :(

Lucky for us then, that there's a new epsiode of Doctor Who at
christmas ;)

Mystery Meat said...

I saw the movie today in 3D. I have to say that I enjoyed it, even though the criticisms mentioned by other posters are true.

This is a Tarzan movie at its heart. A very adept white man goes to live in a primitive culture (they don't have iPods), and before you know it, he has mastered all aspects of their lives, and can do everything they can do (and more!) better than they can. He becomes the de facto leader of the tribe!

Is that racist or what?

But, go the the movie and enjoy it for the spectacle. Cameron puts on a good show.

Graham Dawson (Archonix) said...

A person, especially one not trained to consider what one sees with at least a bit of dispassionate skepticism, can simply absorb ideas passively by watching films or television.

More true than you even realise. When I was doing my undergrad, part of the course on media analysis included information on how the brain reacts to television and film compared to other forms of media. Television and film specifically create a very passive state in the viewer. The combination of the hypnotic effect of a fast strobe light and the generally passive state the viewer must enter to take part in the piece work together to produce an incredibly suggestible state of mind, one where ideas are much more easily absorbed by the viewer than in any other situation. It's akin to hypnotic suggestion. Film in particular is immensely powerful in this regard, as the scale and overwhelming force of a film in a cinema strip away any natural defences against the ideas being presented to you.

C.S. Lewis would have described this as the difference between contemplation and enjoyment of a particular thing, which he outlined in Medition in a Toolshed, where he compared Contemplation and Enjoyment by refernece to a beam of light shining through a crack in the door. Contemplation is looking at the beam of light from the outside, in the dark of the shed, seeing the motes of dust twinkling in it and being able to see that it's a beam of light, where it falls, what angle it's at. Enjoyment is akin to looking along the beam, so that you no longer see the beam of light but are immersed totally in it; along the beam you see sky, clouds, the top of a tree. You no longer contemplatively see the beam of light, you are "enjoying" it.

Looking at a film from outside, reading the plot and examining the ideas contained produces an contemplative effect that isn't nearly as potent as the "enjoyment" effect caused by actually watching the film. When you contemplate a film you examine it's characteristics in a different way to when you are enjoying it. This state of enjoyment is where film and television become so powerful and consequently so easily used for manipulation. In the enjoyment of the film you are totally immersed in it to the point where your own self, your id, almost becomes lost and quiescent. "You" nearly cease to exist, your role is so passive and so enjoined. In that state, the message presented to you is absorbed as easily as a sponge soaking up water.

Perhaps with the exception of staged theatre, no other media has this effect. Not even computer games. Anything that requires an active participation consequently requires a contemplation, and contemplation requires personality and individuality. And whilst both contemplation and enjoyment - looking at the beam and along it - are necessary modes of thought one must be aware that each requires the other to be whole. To be totally looking along the beam one must necessarily give up looking at the beam - one must give up more logical and rational assessment to become lost in the experience.

Most people in the industry don't even realise this. They just instinctively know that television and film are very powerful tools for spreading a message.

If I were to watch this film it'd be on my computer with the lights on, a cup of tea, and perhaps with some music. That would prevent me from losing myself in the spectacle and allow me to rationally examine its message and undertones. I'd be able to enjoy the impressive special effects without losing myself in the message. I certainly wouldn't watch it in a cinema.

boru said...

Haven't seen it and don't plan to now that I've heard the storyline is so bland and cliche. Cameron disappoints me.He had so many great Sci-Fiers to choose from..Bradbury,Heinlein,Asimov,Bloch,Niven,Ellison! et al..What a rich (in ignorance)dork he is.

Félicie said...

Who has seen 2012? That was interesting. The smartest, kindest and most educated and intellectual characters were all blacks or non-whites. The whotes were either evil or hillbillies. It was just too obvious. but only one person commented about it on IMDB among the many commenters. People just accept this racism as normal.

Fjordman said...

Laller: You can be quite sure that there is a message in such a major Hollywood movie, and it's all the more effective if you don't think about it. As Félicie said, in 2012 virtually all the sympathetic characters were non-white and the unsympathetic ones were whites, with the exception of the main character who happened to be kind, but also a loser and a professional failure. Whites are only barely acceptable if they are losers or totally reject their own culture. You think it's a coincidence that this is the underlying message in so many movies these days? I don't.

But yes, Avatar was still visually spectacular and technically flawless. Mr. Cameron knows his stuff in that department.

AMDG said...

My son saw it yesterday, Fjordman, I will send him your essay.

EscapeVelocity said...

The criticism of this movie writes itself. Its that obvious and full of Leftist cliches...

However I particularly enjoyed this from BigHollywood.com the US...

"Absent from the big screen for over a decade now, Oscar-winning director James Cameron returns armed with a reported half-billion dollars, a story he’s been desperate to tell for 15 years, and the very latest in cutting-edge visual technology. The result is “Avatar,” a sanctimonious thud of a movie so infested with one-dimensional characters and PC clichés that not a single plot turn – small or large – surprises. I call it the “liberal tell,” where the early and obvious politics of the film gives away the entire story before the second act begins, and “Avatar” might be the sorriest example of this yet. For all the time and money and technology that went into its making, the thing that matters most – character and story – are strictly Afterschool Special…

Think of “Avatar” as “Death Wish 5” for leftists. A simplistic, revisionist revenge fantasy where if you freakin’ hate the bad guys (America), you’re able to forgive the by-the-numbers predictability of it all and still get off watching them get what they got coming."

IoshkaFutz said...

I just can't get myself to worry about the blue people of Pandora.

All my lusting for science fiction is amply satisfied by the fictional science now dominant in our society. And I don't need to wear special glasses to enjoy it. But I wonder how much sci-fi affected our collective outlooks to make things like Catastrofismo so poignantly real.

"We have 50 days to save the world! Better stop using twoply!"

It's highly personal, in fact completely personal, but 237 million bucks (or is it really half a billion?) on a single film project is sinful for me. Sorta like paying more than 700 bucks for a meal when wanting to be absurdly wasteful and lavish, 150 would have been plenty.

Science fiction, by its nature calls for the complete invention of things: never mind all the great effects and gadgetry, it's creative sociology NECESSARILY at work...

No doubt, the popularization of this great American art form has contributed in making life on earth a matter of C02 and carbon footprints, imminent doom, catastrophe... with our only hope for salvation in enlightened command.

4Symbols said...

@Graham Dawson (Archonix)

Enjoyed reading this excellent explanation.

Profitsbeard said...

As if there will be people in wheelchairs- with incurable crippling injuries- in 2154.

Much less 2054... at least in the technologically-astute parts of Civilization.

Cameron's a neo-luddite for failing to understand the genetic-neural revolution surging around him.

And for using its highest tech panoply of visual/digital cousins (CGI, et al) to UTTERLY misunderstand what they free him to do.

Not to slander their source in carping mega-cartoon, but to have the time to also comprehend its crude obverse : the fallacy of The Noble Savage.

"Avatar" nukes the fridge ~and mutates into super-Smurfs.

unaha-closp said...

Fjordman,

You want me to self identify with the idiots, why not the Sigourney Weaver character?

They have a non-industrial civilization technologically inferior to ours but apparently spiritually richer and in perfect ecological harmony with the natural environment. The hero predictably falls in love with the native culture and connects with a native girl.

The Navi are a an intelligent species interlinked with a planet wide neural network. Technologically inferior, but biologically superior and (this is kind of cruial) able to out mass by a factor of 1 billion to 1 the expeditionary force when the larger neural netwiork commits.

Even before the final confrontation the scientists tells the idiots "you are doing it wrong" and the idiots do it anyway. This is kind of a mistake as it turns out and the idiots get toasted.

Western civilisation is about adapting to reality and not about carrying regardless.

unaha-closp said...

Stratomunchkin,

How does eradicating a mining colony make it less likely that you’ll be burned down to the bedrock in the long run?

They have established a much better negotiating postion. A new of negotiations can now proceed.

Your stuff is still valuable, you’ve proven you’re unwilling to negotiate, and you’ve demonstrated you’re a threat on the ground...

No, at the end of the movie they have shown that they are unwilling to negotiate on our terms, now we get to learn theirs.

Hey, wow, the atmosphere’s on fire, and what’s that big rock…?!

Escalation is unwise and unnecessary - it'll happen in the video games because that sort of thinking appeals to 13 yo boys, but since we are arguing analogy...

After they have proven to be a threat on the ground, an escalation will determine if they are a threat in near space (they have floating mountains = they have launch capability). And then if they are we can see if they a threat in interstellar space and so on. Eventually they are destroyed or they end up dropping a mountain on the Whitehouse.

qwerty said...

Why would a civilization capable of interstellar civilization hunt for a mineral? It would surely have technology to build matter from "Lines of atoms".

qwerty said...

*interstellar space ships