Posted by: Jusuchin (Military Otaku) | 01/21/2010

Blog Post #1

In the end, it just looked pretty. Thoughts on James Cameron’s ‘Avatar

-more after jump-

Topping number one for the past few weeks and possibly triumphing over his earlier work, Titanic, James Cameron’s Avatar is noted for its visual effects eye candy by many people. But as I sat enjoying the scenery full of xenofauna and xenoflora, I started to pay attention to the plot. Seems that in the future, humanity has the ability to tackle that often over the horizon effects of interstellar travel, cold sleep, and the like, it seems to not have found a way to solve its energy crisis, overpopulation, and similar. The big bad protagonists, the RDA corporation and its mercenary offshoot comes upon the world ‘Pandora’ which has exotic xenobiology and weird effects such as low gravity and it being the moon to some gas giant. The plot of Avatar, it seems, was just one movie in a long list of Hollywood movies that will relive the Vietnam War and push a political statement, usually leaning towards a liberal bias and with the current state of the world, anti-George W. Bush, anti-military, or anti-conservative. Possibly even all three.

The character we apparently need to pay attention to, Jake Sully, is a medically discharged United States Marine who had a twin brother. Seems the twin brother was supposed to be the driver of a biological unit called ‘Avatar’, where the consciousness of the operator is hand-waved into the unit. Jake, having lost the use of his legs earlier, becomes comfortable with the Avatar, and so goes the story. I’m sure everyone had at least seen this, so I’ll cut the summary short. Jake falls in love with locals. He becomes akin to say…Old Shatterhand from Karl May’s Winnetou books. The Navi Princess is, well, Winnetou, the enlightened (really?) native who falls for the stranger, regardless that he is just a human operating a rather expensive robot. Or cyborg. Or…whatever it is. Let’s go with Avatar.

Anyways, Jake becomes the leader after being immersed in the local culture, and drives away the big mega-corporation and their gung-ho United States Marines mercenary forces. The battle scenes were pretty, the characters easy to love and hate, and well worth waiting 5 hours and paying twenty dollars to see it.

But I didn’t like it, somehow. It felt like an offense, plot wise, to my intelligence, and maybe my right-leaning bias. The Marines mercenaries are nothing more than cut-out stereotypes of the typical Hollywood view of the Armed Forces. Incapable of understanding anything, trigger happy, and just saying ‘KILL KILL KILL’ or something like it. The protagonist was a Marine, but he was seen to evolve from the stereotypical jarhead (as seen in Hollywood kind) to something we can love. This is, well, where I start sympathizing with my race, thank you very much. I, like the badass Colonel Quaritch, see Jake as nothing as a traitor to his own race. Sure, the RDA was going about doing somewhat less than admirable things, but in the end, I’m perfectly willing to side with the humans.

Why do I think that? Well, for one, it’s the old ‘us versus them’ mentality. I cannot see myself falling in love with a world such as the Navi’s native Pandora. I’m too accustomed to technology for that. There were many parts of the movie where the all too campy pro-environmentalist bias took hold and smashed me over the head as if struck by a bat. And my biggest gripe of all? The portrayal of the mercenaries. The mere fact that the Colonel introduced himself as a veteran Marine and a former member of the famed Marine Force Reconnaissance left me sick to my stomach that it was yet again, another Vietnam film. Hell, had I been allowed to rename the film, it would’ve been ‘Vietnam: IN SPACE!!’

The big bad mega-corporation, here I see the United States, not helped that the primary language is English and the corporation hires primarily Americans. The Navi are the well, the locals, caught in the imperialistic drive of the humans. Who seem to be consisted of mainly whites and southerners, as seen via accent and the general clothing of the non-mercenaries. They ignore, even make fun of, the non-civilized locals, who somehow managed to mount an opposition so strong and helped by Mother Nature that they are forced to go home with heavy casualties and forbidden to return.

It seemed…all too…well, Vietnam-ish. But regardless, in the interest for trying to keep this blog post short, I want to see a sequel, where the humans return. But not the huge mega-corporation, but maybe a couple (maybe ten) interstellar ships from the United States Air Force (which would have control of space operations) drop regiments, maybe even a division or two, of reinforced ground troops to pacify and maybe strike back at the natives. No doubt this story of turncoats and hostile aliens being told in Earth, swaying public opinion against Pandora, Navi, and the turncoat Jake Sully.

But of course, I doubt that’ll happen. But surely I can dream, right?

Responded to  Emily Witt’s Blog.



  1. It sounds like the allegory the movie is trying to make was a little oversimplified. When basing a film off of a real world events it would seem to be a better choice to characterise the villians a little better rather than reducing them to cartoonish stereotypes we’ve all seen before. I can imagine the film could also leave a bad taste in the mouth for people in the armed forces with how they portay soldiers in the movie.

  2. I did not see soldiers in this movie. I saw inhumane mercenaries who couldn’t hack it in the professional military. You could never confuse a member of our armed forces for the scum that is represented in this movie. While this movie may have been attempting to do so, it is only in the grossly ignorant mind of the filmmaker that we could find soldiers that act like this.

  3. “Sure, the RDA was going about doing somewhat less than admirable things, but in the end, I’m perfectly willing to side with the humans.” This comment comes from ignorance in viewpoint. The viewer fell into a trap that oversimplified the situation. He is now defending the indiscriminate killing of innocent people because he was offended by the message. While a left-leaning person can interpret events that occur during war as being aggressive for no reason, the right-leaning person cannot say that they support inhumane actions “right or wrong”. Most events that happen during the fog of war are not clear cut. The viewer mentioned the negative portrayal of soldiers and that the movie was anti-American military. The professional soldiers that make up the American military hold themselves to higher standards because they believe they have “right “on their side. It is America’s humanity that defines us as a nation. You would be hard-pressed to find a soldier who could condone actions like the ones seen in the movie. A professional soldier who views this movie sees the men in this movie as inhumane mercenaries, not brothers in arms.
    On a second take, look at the allegory. It is one of every time that a force has gone after another for the mere reason of resources. One could easily interpret the movie as one of WWII. The humans now are playing the role of the Japanese, the industrious nation. The Japanese are seeking oil (Unobtanium) to expand their empire. The blue cat people play the role of the Americans. You have one battle similar to Pearl Harbor, another similar to Coral Sea. You even have a great wheelchair laden FDR character, leading the blue cat people to victory.
    However silly this interpretation is, what is your reaction to the story now? While the movie may have been an attempt to make a political statement, any statement shows gross ignorance on the part of the filmmaker. If they truly view the US war effort is that vein, they fail to see that the US follows the rules of warfare to a strict interpretation and have sought to minimize collateral casualties to an extent never seen before. We have even changed the rules of engagement to protect civilians so much that it puts our own soldiers in danger. Don’t fall into the simplistic story and defend actions that are inhumane. Don’t give this movie the dignity of even comparing it to Viet-Nam. True historically thinking viewers could not compare this movie to Viet-Nam in good conscience.
    What the movie should make the viewer think is why the 8 ft blue people refused to share the unobtanium, why they were un-accepting of outsiders into their society (simply because they had a different “religion?”), why they were unwilling to help other intelligent beings who had helped build schools, offered medicine. They exhibited extreme prejudice that no other intelligent humanoids could exhibit. The movie ultimately suffered from an incredibly unbelievable plot.

  4. […] commented onJustin Pangilinan’s blog and Myca Taylor’s blog and Samantha Francis’ […]

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