I walked out of Avatar with a smile on my face thinking ‘Fantasia meets ‘Apocalypse Now’ but what a trite story. I loved Colonel Kilgore, sorry that should be Quaritch; when he fire bombed the big tree after gassing it, I actually heard a voice in my head say “I love the smell of Napalm in the morning”.
On the main attack on the tree of souls, one of the helicopters had, I'm sure, the call sign Valkyrie 1, and who doesn’t remember Kilgore’s helicopters charging in blaring ‘Ride of the Valkyries’ from enormous external speakers as they napalmed that village. The visuals were simply stunning. The little wispy jellyfish creatures floating through the air in front of the screen, the animated forest lighting up as they walked managed to evoke memories of Fantasia, a film I don’t even remember watching...
But the story, trite trite trite. And then the next day I woke up thinking WOW. What great irony, give the man an Oscar. In case you don’t know the story line, the bad guys are a mining company on a quest for ‘unobtainium’ a rare mineral with a price tag of $20,000,000 per kilo; the good guys are an aboriginal people - the Na’vi - living as one with their dendritically connected forest. The conflict arises because the unobtainium is, of course, right under the forest. The power of right overcomes the power of might and the aborigines, after much sacrifice, kick those dastardly miners back to where they belong. As I may have mentioned before, trite.
What caused me to change my mind were the amazing technical effects. If James Cameron chosen a different medium to tell his story, say he had recruited Amazonian Indians to sustainably harvest ink producing bugs, which he had then transported, by sail boat, to Australia, where indigenous aborigines of the whatever tribe had lovingly painted a series of bark panels in the style of their forefathers that dated back 30,000 years then there would have been no irony. But he didn’t. Instead he produced the most technically advanced movie ever (at the time of writing), employing vast arrays of computers and associated technology. And therein lies the irony. If one were to trace back all those components in all that technology required to produce such a movie, not just back to the factories but all the way to the mines that delivered the raw materials, how many displaced indigenous people would we find? How many ripped up trees, how many steroid pumped security personnel, how many polluted rivers, corrupted officials and broken promises of environmentally sensitive extraction?
The customers for ‘unobtainium’ are you and I. It is our desire for the latest technology whether it be an entertaining toy like an Iphone, a life saving machine such as an MRI scanner, or just a fantastic 3D movie experience, that puts such a high price on rare earth minerals. If it weren’t for that demand from people like us, tribes like the Na’vi (would that be derived from native or naïve?) would not have so many miners on their doorsteps.
And for me that is what makes me it such a great movie. It illustrates (intentionally or otherwise) the tragedy that we are inflicting (intentionally or otherwise) on the planet we inhabit.
Will it change anything? I doubt it. Why? Because when we are searching for someone to blame we look to Corporations, Governments, Hollywood, but we are not so keen on looking in the mirror.
Picture supplied by Rhett A. Butler www.Mongabay.com