I don’t doubt that most everyone in the Nation has heard of, seen the previews for, or been to the theater to see James Cameron’s “Avatar”. Today my partner and I ventured out of the District to take part in the phenomenon that Avatar has become.Written, directed, and produced by Cameron who is no stranger to epic movies. One only needs to look at his history to see the man is a box-office golden child with such gargantuan hits as “Titanic”, “The Terminator”, “Aliens”, and several others under his belt (in one form or another).

I will assume for a minute you perhaps have been living under a rock or in a cave so have not heard of “Avatar” so I will provide the plot summary courtesy of IMDb.com:

When his brother is killed in battle, paraplegic Marine Jake Sully decides to take his place in a mission on the distant world of Pandora. There he learns of greedy corporate figurehead Parker Selfridge’s intentions of driving off the native humanoid “Na’vi” in order to mine for the precious material scattered throughout their rich woodland. In exchange for the spinal surgery that will fix his legs, Jake gathers intel for the cooperating military unit spearheaded by gung-ho Colonel Quaritch, while simultaneously attempting to infiltrate the Na’vi people with the use of an “avatar” identity. While Jake begins to bond with the native tribe and quickly falls in love with the beautiful alien Neytiri, the restless Colonel moves forward with his ruthless extermination tactics, forcing the soldier to take a stand – and fight back in an epic battle for the fate of Pandora.

That should at least bring those not entirely familiar with the story line up to speed on the basic plot of the movie. I could tell you about the amazing performances by the stars of the film Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, and Sigourney Weaver. I could tell you about how many awards it has already been nominated for and how many box office records it has broken. I could also tell you about how I have never in my life experienced a movie as I did “Avatar” in IMAX 3D…but I’m not going to. What I do want to express are my feelings on who this movie could potentially piss off, who I hope it does piss off, and why I’m elated it does so!

Let’s begin with who I think “Avatar” might anger. Anyone who has served in, currently serving in, or has family members serving in the United States Military. Spoiler Alert so if you don’t want to know more about the movie you may want to see it before continuing to read this post. In “Avatar” the U.S. Military is part of the ruthless albeit well oiled corporate machine and, as a surprise, is the bad guy. My partner is former military and several of my family members are/were in the military so I have nothing but love and respect for all those who serve our country. “Avatar” forces the audience to take a hard look at that tried and true concept of manifest destiny. For those that need a history class refresher, manifest destiny is a term that was used in the 19th century to designate the belief that the United States was destined, even divinely ordained, to expand across the North American continent, from the Atlantic seaboard to the Pacific Ocean. Although in “Avatar” this concept spreads beyond the usual terra firma to another planet entirely.

You may find I leave out specific events and situations in the movie because first, I don’t want to completely ruin it for those who have yet to see it. Secondly, the movie was nearly three hours long so I could hardly do it justice. Suffice it to say, the U.S. Military acts as the muscle of a corporation attempting to mine a practically priceless deposit aptly yet somewhat ridiculously named “unobtainium”. Of course the largest deposit lies directly under the dwelling of the “Na’vi”.

There is an all out war between the species on a planet humans really had no business being on in the first place, other than being driven by our own greed. There were several very subtle moments in the movie that were the viewer to take them out of the existing context and place them in any other movie you would be cheering the great might and determination despite the smaller numbers of the U.S. Forces. I can guarantee that Cameron wrote those scenes as such because it attributed such an eerie familiarity to the sequence. James Cameron even went so far as to use such phrases as “fighting terror with terror” which was clearly used as a device to reach deeper into the audience and see past the stunning visualizations to potentially a larger truth. The question that is essentially raised would be is every action we take, as a country, the correct action?

The soldiers, commanding officers, and every other “power that be” in this movie believe they are doing the right thing by decimating the land and indigenous people to further our own species. With all the technological advances at our disposal the bulk of humanity in “Avatar” seem to almost be de-evolving into brutish thugs without any hesitation (save a small few) to exert whatever force at whatever cost that is deemed necessary. Coincidentally (or not so coincidentally) “Avatar” takes place in the year 2154, so those familiar with World history would know that 1954 was part of the span of years that made up the Vietnam War.

Just as the debate of the Vietnam War, “Avatar” raises the same questions of should we or shouldn’t we be in a foreign land where we may or may not belong. Having put a lot of thought into the movie, beyond the stunning visuals, I couldn’t help but wonder if any members of the armed forces would be angered by the portrayal of the military by James Cameron. They were, mostly, less than intelligent, thuggish, unfeeling, and frankly murderers. That would be the “hmm, I wonder if they’re pissed” portion of my diatribe, now on to the “I know they’re pissed” portion.

Religion plays a massive part in “Avatar” but the deity is no savior crucified for anyone’s sins but nature itself. It can easily be said that the “Na’vi” practice pantheism. A broad definition of pantheism would be that it is the view that “God is everything and everything is God; the world is either identical with God or in some way a self-expression of his nature”. The “Na’vi” worship a deity they have named “Eywa”, which composes every aspect of nature and life on Pandora. By the end of “Avatar” not only do you understand the religious views of the “Na’vi” but you believe “Eywa” exists as a powerful force in the world that Cameron has constructed.

“Avatar” makes no mention of any other religion so the audience has nothing beyond their own personal experience to compare the ideologies of the “Na’vi” with. The lack of acknowledgment of Christianity itself would, most likely, be what angers most Christians. No Jesus, no Saints, none of it period…Anyone who has ever been engaged by an evangelical knows they have issue with sharing (to the point of force feeding) their religious point of view with anyone who will listen.

By no means do I feel every theater goer with a crucifix around their neck has issue with “Avatar” but I do not doubt in the least that there are those who find the concepts expressed an affront to their belief structure. I can only hope that that belief structure doesn’t prevent anyone from experiencing this amazing film.

“Avatar” is, without doubt, being publicized on a level that is epic within itself. If you have been contemplating heading to your local IMAX to experience “Avatar”, do so so you can experience it fully. View the story that James Cameron presents beyond the stunning visuals, beyond the brilliant acting, read between the lines (and trust me 2 hours and 40 minutes provides a lot of lines) and take away all the beautiful lessons it has to offer.

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