Avatar: Beyond the 3-D, another dimension


This post is dedicated to blogger Antares, who I understand is seriously ill with a malaria infection. Antares knows all about the inter-connectedness of Nature that the movie Avatar depicts so beautifully. Wishing him a speedy recovery.

A couple of days ago, I thought I would check out the movie Avatar after a couple of friends tipped me off about the story line.

Of course, the special effects in this movie by the directors of Titanic are spectacular and the unorthodox love story, compelling. But looking beyond these, I was pleasantly surprised by the powerful and rich underlying messages in the movie.

In the movie, the earth is dying as humanity has destroyed the environment. Humans are colonising another planet to extract minerals and other raw materials from a site where an alien tribe lives. Corporate greed is alive, this time focused on exploiting the untapped resources of the alien planet, while science is being used to serve the corporate agenda.

The movie has a strong anti-imperialistic message that will resonate with many former colonies and native communities in Asia, Africa and the Americas. The colonisers (the humans) try to use diplomatic means to achieve their goals, by hoodwinking the local population (the alien natives) with promises of “development” – roads and schools – but all the time, their over-riding goal is to extract resources from the alien land. The human corporate predators try to infiltrate the alien native community and win over the confidence of their leaders using agents in disguise (avatars). This message could also apply to neo-colonial situations where local elites have taken over the colonialists’ role in exploiting the land belonging to natives and trying to buy over their leaders using intermediaries within their communities.

To the humans, the alien natives are savages and “roaches” that have to be driven out of the forests. If ‘diplomacy’ (more like trickery and deceit) fails, then force would be used to evict the natives. It is easier to use military force when the natives are portrayed as terrorists (“we have to fight terror with terror”) and anonymous sub-humans. The human corporate predators thus think nothing of carpet bombing or incinerating the forests (shades of Vietnam and Iraq here?) to the horror of its inhabitants.

Apart from the anti-imperialistic overtones, the film contains a powerful environmental message. The forests and its creatures are all inter-connected. The natives are heirs to an ancient wisdom that the corporate predators simply cannot comprehend. Like in many parts of India or even Sarawak for that matter, the forests and land where the natives usually live are treasure troves of rich natural resources. These lands are thus the targets of corporate predators that want to extract minerals (or build dams or open up plantations or what-have-you).

The natives, however, have a strong bond with the creatures of the forest and they are in tune with the Spirit, which infuses creation with its breath. The chief scientist in the human team discovers that the biodiversity of the forest is almost similar to the intricate nerves of the human brain – something that the corporate types scoff at (“Come on, a tree is a tree!”). The whole of creation is inter-connected.

I won’t spoil the movie for you: it’s worth checking it out, if only to see how the movie directors persuade audiences to identify with an alien native tribe (the good guys) against their human predators. In the process, you get to marvel at the breath-taking beauty and inter-connectedness of creation (albeit in an alien world) at a time when our own world is facing environmental chaos.  Might not this be what our own world was once like (as in the “Garden of Eden”)?

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15 Jan 2010 8.03pm

Thank you, Anil. Touched my heart! I saw ‘Avatar’ yesterday and found it masterfully crafted. I love and respect James Cameron as a consummate filmmaker and spiritual teacher. I relived a lot of the pain I have felt over the decades watching logging lorries kick up a dust trail while slowly killing the Earth. Meanwhile the corporate spindoctors sneer and call us “militant tree-huggers” and ask if we would rather live on trees. Well, anyone who lives in a wooden house is literally living in an exploded tree. Ecocide + genocide = imperialism!

6 Jan 2010 3.50pm

The cinematography is awesome, the message is resounding and the animation is simply breath-taking. It is definitely the oscar movie of the year! Congrats to James Cameron for such great work since Titanic! Someone once told me that if someone can imagine it, it will come to pass… still remember the pen drive used in Star Trek in old days while we still uses Win v3.11? Then, we might laughed at such an idea of a thumb drive, now, its everywhere! ps-Its amazing that in topics like these that doesn’t involves politics, Gerakan K’s comment is no where to be… Read more »

31 Dec 2009 10.53am

When i watched this movie, i remembered Kampung Buah Pala…

29 Dec 2009 9.52pm

The special effects are of course central to the film. There is hardly a frame where they are not present. The graphics astonish thanks to the realistic and high quality animation. Realistic movement in characters grabs even more of the viewer’s attention thanks to all the freaky colours and lighting. Since the setting is an alien planet, the graphic artists had the freedom of creating beauty that does not exist down here at Earth. All the actors were believable and well articulated. Perhaps this was done not without the assistance of computer graphics. Is that cheating? Hard to say, when… Read more »

Sivin Kit
29 Dec 2009 2.38pm

I liked the movie. It helps to give me an extra “resource” to talk with those who usually don’t think about the environment and ecology in relation to life as humans in the long run.

Blessed 5th Day of Christmas. Happy New year!

siew eng
29 Dec 2009 12.42pm

And in Malaysia, we have ROS threatening to deregister Sahabat Alam Malaysia for “threatening the nation’s interest” through its campaign to protect our rainforests. Who’s the one who’s going against the interests of the nation? What a loaded word.

29 Dec 2009 12.39pm

This movie is the Dances With Wolves for this generation. It’s in you face. Very overt messages. You’ll be blind to miss the points JCameron was trying to say. Its not as refined as Dances With Wolves, but then, this younger generation likes ‘in your face’. The messages are timely. Its what’s wrong with this world now. Its a wake up call. But it wont strike a chord with the right wing, middle America. These ppl live in the righteous believe of good ole U-S-A. This movie will also not strike a chord with the ppl who’s mentality is still… Read more »

29 Dec 2009 8.49am

There is only one director for both Titanic and Avatar and his name is James Cameron. And I happen to like his movies. 🙂

green living
green living
28 Dec 2009 9.03pm

equally he could be describing the invasion of the culture snatchers – the boutique hotels and their culture vulture contents wiping out the organic, reciprocal living culture of our own city, only to implant their contrived, described and derived ‘culture’ in its place. Their belief in their own cultural superiority is paramount…. the colonizer and the colonized.

SW Ooi
SW Ooi
30 Dec 2009 3.35pm
Reply to  Anil Netto

Yes, let’s all go back and live on tree huts, Anil. Then Westerners will be correct in the future when they think Malaysians live on trees.

Get real.

28 Dec 2009 6.12pm

While watching the movie, i kept thinking, “This is a movie Anil would love”.
Happy New Year.

Andrew I
28 Dec 2009 4.17pm

It’s been called Dances with Smurfs and Smurfahontas. He could have made them purple. From an American point of view, I would say Cameron was trying to say something about the Iraq war. From our point of view, he could just as well be saying something about Bakun. There seems to be a saturation point regarding how much money should be poured into making a film. Beyond that, the Law of diminishing returns starts to set in. Remember the real Dances with Wolves? I didn’t enjoy the movie and coming from Hollywood, it’s like having to wear a wig…but does… Read more »

Andrew I
29 Dec 2009 12.52am
Reply to  Andrew I

Oh dear, must be getting old. I meant Waterworld, not Dances with Wolves.

28 Dec 2009 3.56pm

Certainly able to connect with the plight of the Penans in our very own backyard, Sarawak.

Of course, the proposed coal-fired electrical plant in the Dent Peninsula, is very close behind.

to learn about the pending destruction and support the opposition to this project.