Recently I watched the History Channel’s World War II in HD. It’s an amazing ten-hour documentary series using lots of never-before-seen, color footage of WWII action in both the European and South Pacific theaters. Essentially, the series follows the true stories of eleven American soldiers and one field nurse as they make their way through the war. They were heroic, they were brave, they were determined. They didn’t necessarily mean to be any of those things when they enlisted. For above all else, we learn they were human, but humans with a noble job to do.

I was thinking of this documentary while watching James Cameron’s Avatar. World War II seems to have been the last time the military was given any decent respect. Perhaps it was the last time the U.S. went to war with a clearly defined, moral purpose. The enemies were easy to spot and motivations were as black and white as Nazi uniforms. Since that time, over the course of several questionable military interventions, the armed services have taken a beating. Along with Big Business, the military has become everybody’s favorite whipping boy. Sure it’s grossly simplistic, but it’s easy and, hey, it’s kind of fun. Things apparently do not get better for the military’s reputation in the future, where the Marines are sent to an alien planet to wipe out the indigent population that stands between Earth’s interests (the humans thereof being of the American variety, of course) and a lucrative mineral called unobtainium. It’s the American West all over again. It is military imperialism. It is every clichéd insult against America and her military that you can name, and it’s all brought to you with stunning CGI effects. Humans are evil, you see. Other races, just like the Native Americans before them, are vastly superior, much more spiritually aware, and much more in tune with Mother Earth (or Mother Whatever-the-planet). It is white guilt on the big screen.

Sam Worthington stars as Jake Sully, an injured Marine who is sent to planet Pandora with a job to do. It’s not as noble as the jobs depicted in the History Channel documentary, however. Sully’s job is to become an avatar, meaning his brain is essentially transplanted into the body of a Na’vi, the natives of the planet. From there he is to ingratiate himself with the local population to try to negotiate with them for the rights to the unobtainium, but we see where things are headed within moments of the film’s start. A war will ensue and the evil humans (read: Americans) will attempt to destroy the alien planet with their military might. During the course of the hostile takeover, Sully – as a Na’vi – falls in love with a native girl (Zoe Saldana) as well as with the Na’vi people and Pandora in general, thus inducing him to change sides (and species), becoming an eternally good Na’vi and leaving his evil (American) human days behind him.

The film scores points for special effects. They were amazing and I didn’t even see it in 3D, the way Cameron obviously meant for the film to be seen. And Pandora was beautiful. I found myself enjoying the wonder of it. The movie even scores points for a decent script. Even if it is all too easy to see right through it to the all-too obvious message, it is nonetheless imaginative in its execution, albeit silly at moments and with trite dialogue. (There’s a compliment in there somewhere. I really did think it was imaginative.) If you’re looking for good fantasy sci-fi, you could do worse. If you’re looking, however, for a more accurate picture of what Americans and the American military have been capable of doing, I might recommend the History Channel’s World War II in HD.


Oh boy, you make me want to charge off into the political symbolism issues… but I won’t. Stop tempting me! :smiley: Yeah, good sci fi in that it provides a relatively harmless way for us to look in the (distorted) mirror. Like all really good sci fi, it allows us to explore shoulda woulda coulda with painless consequences. The 3D version was great. Just enough to heighten the visuals without the usual hokey make you crap your pants scenes.

Morally dismissive of the military industrial complex as he may appear, James Cameron is a director who works in a military fashion, as a field engineer and a motivator of specialist crews. The military angle in Avatar is omnipresent, the hero is the ideal soldier because he discovers a higher form of war. He discovers a way to put the man back into the battle, there is a yearning for realness at heart of the endeavor, but culturally, Cameron isn’t as sharp anymore as he was in his Terminator days. He mastered the elements of the time, metal and explosives. Only on top of that did the digital design have such impact. T2 wrote history with computer graphics, but it was never the main material of the spectacle. Cameron has tried to outdo himself, and he has in terms of creating a fictional environment- but even if the movie was beautiful to watch (especially the first half, exploration of Pandora), it doesn’t deliver the same adrenaline kick as his earlier moves did.

I think he’s probably peeved that one of his exs Miz Biglelow turned out to have a better grip on the spectacle of war!


I found that the Hurt Locker beautifully portrayed the not so-spectacular side of war… It’s best scene has two snipers staring at a target some miles in the distance for what’s suggested to last an infinity… a beautifully comatose bordedom-scene. On the other hand, Bigelow was always good at action and violence (Strange Days!), I think its what turned him on to her. No doubt Caperon was pissed he didn’t get the academy award and his ex wife did - but Avatar really was in no sense oscar worthy except the standard action film categories, it was simply too naive…

Yupe - underrated film that too!


Loved this film. Every scene was stunning and the 3d was remarkable. Some people complained about the story line sayong it was slightly predicatble and simliar to other movies, but the movie was put together so well and I have no complaints about the plot.I had a blast watching this movie and really hope there is a sequel on its way