- Avatar may well be the biggest anti-War film of all time.
It stands against everything the West is identified with. It is against
greed and capitalism, it is against interventionalism, it is against colonialism
and imperialism, it is against technological orientation, it is against
America and Britain. It puts Wolfowitz, Blair and Bush on trial without
even mentioning their names. It enlightens the true meaning of ethics as
a dynamic judgmental process rather than fixed moral guidelines (such
as the Ten Commandments or the 1948 Human Right Declaration). It throws
a very dark light on our murderous tendencies towards other people, their
belief and rituals. But it doesn't just stop there.
- In the same breath, very much like German Leben philosophers
(1), it praises the power of nature and the attempt to bond in harmony
with soil, the forest and the wildlife. It advises us all to integrate
with our surrounding reality rather than impose ourselves on it. Very much
like German Idealists and early Romanticists, it raises questions to do
with essence, existence and the absolute. It celebrates the true meaning
of life and livelihood.
- It is pretty astonishing and cheering to discover Hollywood
paving the way to the victorious return of German philosophical thought.
- To view trailer:
- The year is 2154 and the RDA corporation is mining planet
Pandora digging for Unobtanium, a unique mineral that defies gravity and
sells for top cash. Pandora is a remote planet inhabited by the Na'vi,
a species that shares some human features. Like humans the Na'vi have their
own developed language and high culture. Yet unlike westerners they integrate
with their surrounding reality searching for harmony in nature rather than
looking for a means to exploit it. The Na'vi are a few feet taller than
humans, they are extremely strong, they also possess a long impressive
tail and a long plait with a unique bond at its end that operate as an
organic USB connection. The bond allows the Na'vi to form a mental and
spiritual union with their surrounding organic reality. The Na'vi cherish
their planet, they look after it. They also worship a mother goddess called
Eywa, who encompasses the integrated spiritual and physical centre of their
universe and it's past.
- In order to penetrate into the Na'vi, human scientists
genetically engineered human-na'vi hybrid bodies called Avatars. Like in
all Western interventionalist and colonial wars, the foreign invader insists
on convincing itself that it can create some false needs amongst the indigenous
population. The RDA corporation takes pride in its attempt 'to bring culture
to Pandora'. The Avatars are there to communicate with the Na'vi. They
are there to teach them English and Western values. They are there to maintain
order so that the Na'vi fail to notice that their soil is raped and robbed
by the Humans. But as we soon learn, such an attempt is in vein. The Humans
have nothing to offer which the Na'vi are willing to take.
- Jake Sully a paraplegic former marine is an Avatar. With
the support of the appropriate advanced technology and machinery he operates
a Na'vi/Avatar hybrid.
- Pretty soon Jake, as an Avatar, manages to make contact
with the Na'vi. He even manages to infiltrate into their civilisation.
Colonel Miles Quaritch, the fierce mercenary leader of the security forces,
offers Jake to have his legs repaired in exchange for providing intelligence
about the Na'vi.
- Though Jake is initially happy to provide the goods,
it is just a question of time before the ex- marine, changes his league.
Through the eyes of the Avatar, Jake sees truthfulness in harmony. However,
through his training and life experience he knows what Human genocidal
brutality is all about. He prefers harmony over racial brotherhood.
- As the plot evolves, both Jake and the Avatar scientific
team understand that the corporation and Colonel Quaritch are preparing
for a total war against the Na'vi and their civilization. The scientific
team unite together with Jake against the corporation and the mercenary
force. They are committed to save the Na'vi. Augustine, the professor behind
the Avatar project who is genuinely fascinated by the Pandora magic and
motivated by true knowledge-seeking, makes up her mind; she says NO to
technology. She betrays the company that finances her research and eventually
gives her life to her subject of research instead.
- As the movie reaches its dramatic peak, Jake, the Avatar,
the ex-human spy is leading the Na'vi defensive war against the Humans.
As the mercenary colonel is closing in on the sacred site, the Na'vi fight
back fiercely against the superior technological might. The Na'vi suffer
heavy casualties. When all hope seems lost, the Pandoran wildlife joins
the Na'vi and attack the humans in great numbers, overwhelming them in
the air and on the ground.
- The film ends with Jake being successfully transplanted
into his Na'vi Avatar. We also see the remnants of the human army marching
to a sky shuttle that will transport them out of Pandora. The message of
the 300 million cinematic spectacle is clear: NO to war, NO to greed, NO
to intervention, No to throwing bombs, YES to nature, harmony and respecting
the beliefs of others.
- I recently learned that Avatar drew some criticism for
its alleged 'racist subtext'. "Na'vi might be blue aliens" says
one British commentator "but they're also blue aliens with Masai-style
necklacesacted by mostly black actors. They're also rescued from destruction
by a white character played, of course, by a white actor who
becomes one of them". The idea of a "white liberal man as the
saviour of the so-called primitive natives" seems to deliver a 'patronising'
- I find it hard to take these arguments seriously. The
Sci-fi genre is creating an imaginary fantastic reality that thrives on
familiarity. James Cameron, the man behind the Avatar spectacle, based
the Na'vi on an amalgam of many non-white aspects: African tribal markings,
Native American settings, Jamaican hair styles and so on. Yet, he manages
to evoke empathy in us towards the so-called 'alien' rather than towards
the Human. This alone should be enough to defy the politically correct
accusation of 'racist subtext' behind the film.
- However, the criticism against Cameron drew my attention
to the role of the Avatar as a double agent. Towards the final scene Colonel
Quaritch blames Jake for "betraying his race". Jake indeed changes
sides; he is doing it for a good cause. And as it seems, the Na'vi and
Pandora couldn't prevail without him, they needed his leadership. In order
to win the battle they needed a leader that is deeply familiar with the
enemy's tactics and mode of thought.
- One of the reasons that America is defeated in Iraq and
Afghanistan is the obvious fact that many Iraqis and Afghanis had been
educated in American universities and are familiar with the American way,
yet, not many within the American elite or military command understand
Islam. Not many amongst the American or British leadership are graduates
of Kabul or Baghdad universities.
- However, as in the case of Avatar, by the time America
and Britain will start to train its forces to understand Islam, it may
as well be ready for its new enlightened soldiers to change sides once
they arrive on the battlefield.
- I would maintain that to stand up against your own people
for an ethical cause is the real meaning of humanism and liberty. Yet,
it is pretty astonishing that such an inspiring message is delivered by
Hollywood. We may have to admit, once again, that it is the artist and
creative mind (rather than the politician) who is there to shape our reality
and present a prospect of a better amicable future by the means of aesthetics.
- (1) Lebensphilosophie- German, life philosophy, or philosophy
of life. A term for the general emphasis on 'life' as an important philosophical
vocabulary. Generally speaking the LebenPhilosophers stood for paying philosophical
attention to life as it is lived 'from the inside', as opposed to Kantian
abstractions, scientific reductions, positivism and naturalism.