Sunday, 27 December 2009

Cameron's blue period

Well, James Cameron finally delivered his gigantic blue baby, and it looks as though he'll get to keep the roof over his head. With a budget of around $300 million, everyone knew that Avatar was a big gamble - Cameron has even deferred his own profit participation options until the investors have recouped their contributions. But with the news that Avatar has claimed its second consecutive week as box office champion, with only a 2.6% drop (compared with the industry average of 40-50%), it's clear that Cameron knows what his fans want.

If you haven't seen it already I do recommend you seek out the biggest screen you can find and immerse yourself in a truly incredible 3D experience. The world of Pandora springs to vivid life, even though at times there's so much neon on display you'd think the characters were stuck inside an Essex nightclub.

As for the story (which I've dubbed Last of the Bluehicans since Dances With Smurfs was already taken), well, it does what all good science fiction should do, taking contemporary issues and exploring them in a fantastical way. More specifically Avatar addresses the conflict between technologically advanced invaders and primitive indigenous people.

Rather predictably, not everyone's so happy with Cameron's kick-ass comeback. Over on Big Hollywood, the right-wing movie blog for the mentally malnourished, critics are lining up to condemn Big Jim's opus for "being a "big, dull, America-Hating, PC Revenge Fantasy". You see, they don't like the idea of the military being portrayed as aggressors (an argument so ironic it makes my head hurt). Likewise, they think it's propaganda to question the ethics of genocidal imperialism.

And don't even get them started on the environmental concerns, as conservative hate-bucket Ann Coulter once said: "God gave us the earth. We have dominion over the plants, the animals, the trees. God said, 'Earth is yours. Take it. Rape it. It's yours.'"

Cameron has never denied the fact that Avatar is a parable, claiming "what this film ultimately does is hold a mirror to our own blighted history, where we have a culturally advanced civilization supplanting more “primitive” civilizations... And this country we’re in now was taken from its indigenous owners. And it’s kind of owning up to our own human history."

That's not how they see it over at Big Hollywood though. Taking it in turns to miss more points than a blind tennis player, these professional movie critics make inane comments like "Why couldn’t Cameron have left his agenda at home and crafted a non-political story in which Americans could be heroes..." I guess Carl Kozlowski missed the point that it's an injured US marine who heroically leads the Na'vi into battle. Or maybe he just didn't like the idea that the lead was played by an Australian.

Ultimately though, it's fascinating that all of these rhetoric-spouting imbeciles see the film as anti-American. They're seeing all the worst elements of human nature - greed, violence, aggression - and thinking "Yep, that represents me." More worringly, they're proud of the fact. But then, it's clear that Cameron was never going to win over someone who believes "Cameron’s... tribe is boringly perfect and insufferably noble … I wanted to wipe them out."

The funny thing is, I don't remember the same arguments erupting 26 years ago when another visionary science fiction film-maker told a similar story. Even though die-hard Star Wars fans hated the Ewoks, no-one looked at Return of the Jedi and said "Why does everyone insist on seeing the Empire as the bad guys?" I guess that's progress for you.

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