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Anti-Technology Themes in James Cameron's Avatar 870

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the these-are-a-few-of-my-favorite-things dept.
ThousandStars writes "'The anti-technological aspect [in James Cameron's Avatar] is strange because the movie is among most technically sophisticated ever: it uses a crazy 2D and 3D camera, harnesses the most advanced computer animation techniques imaginable, and has apparently improved the state-of-the-art when it comes to cinema. But Avatar’s story argues that technology is bad. Humans destroyed their home world through environmental disaster and use military might to annihilate the locals and steal their resources.' The question is two-fold: why have a technically sophisticated, anti-technical movie, and why are we drawn to it? Part of the answer lies in Neal Stephenson's Turn On, Tune In, Veg Out."
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Anti-Technology Themes in James Cameron's Avatar

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  • by plague3106 (71849) on Monday December 28, 2009 @09:25AM (#30570726)

    I saw it as showing bad uses of technology, and more about retelling the story of the native americans as well.

    • by DJRumpy (1345787) on Monday December 28, 2009 @09:52AM (#30571034)

      Agreed. I don't think it was anti-technology, but rather all about using your resources wisely. The scene where they asked for forgiveness when they had to kill a predator basically laid it all out. They understood that there were necessities, but they would do them as needed to survive. They also didn't mock the offworlders for what they knew. They complained that their 'cup was already full', meaning they were inflexible about learning a new way.

      Given their native capabilities to network with other animals and plants, store memories, travel quickly via land and air, and easy accessibility to huge stores of food due to native flora and fauna, it's not surprising that they weren't technologically advanced. They simply didn't need it.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by IronSilk (947869)
        Agreed. The film was not anti-technology. I thought it was anti-ugly. The local "technology" of plugging into trees and animals was a lot like USB.

        The film was multi-layered and nuanced. The main message was to wake up, respect, and deal with the consequences of ecosystems, local cultures, and other ways of seeing. I loved it.

      • First of all, the obvious : Nice graphics, of course, though still not quite out of the "uncanny valley" [wikipedia.org], where I'd want them to be. A nice evolutionary step, but certainly not something that won't be surpassed next month (year). It's a bit like those old Disney movies like fantasia "pushing the boundaries of animation". Great looking, but easily surpassed.

        Imho the movie is massively anti-technology and pro-"magic". Magic in a sort of a mythological "natural religion" kind of way, and of course conveniently

    • by Wahakalaka (1323747) on Monday December 28, 2009 @10:10AM (#30571226)
      I for one am in favor of using the military to solve all conflicts, and destroying all of nature. Anyone that disagrees is a dirty hippie. There's no middle ground here.
    • Star Wars.

      From "Don't be too proud of this technological terror you've constructed", through Luke "finding his way" in a swamp on Degobha, to the final battle of stick wielding Ewoks versus the evil technological Empire.

      Utterly anti-technological.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Pig Hogger (10379)

      The native american analogy is fitting, but the message is not so much as anti-technology (after all, the natives have their own technology) but rather an anti-imperialist, anti-douchebagness, anti-might-is-right message.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Maxo-Texas (864189)

        The problem is, that in the real world, might is right.

        There isn't a single good thing in this world that lasts that isn't backed up by someone willing to kill or die for it.

        It's a nice fantasy that it isn't true. You can even artificially create an environment where it seems true for a couple generations. But force wins out - always.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by rolfwind (528248)

      and more about retelling the story of the native americans as well.

      That struck me right away, but more like the "myth of the noble savage" which originated in the 17th centure as a rise of primitivism, but got held up during the romance period in literature, and now again as a counter-reaction to the silly or hateful portrayal of American Indians of 1930s-1960s in Westerns and what not.

      But it is just as one-sided, often the noble savage is too saintified, the American Indians were singing kum-bay-ah holding

    • by alcmaeon (684971) on Monday December 28, 2009 @12:16PM (#30572856)

      You mean the same guy who bought us such pro-technology, pro-big government, pro-big business block-busters as Terminator, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Aliens, The Abyss, Titanic, and The Dark Angel Series has now gone over to the dark side?

      Say it isn't so!

  • Fern Gully in Space (Score:2, Interesting)

    by VRRMarc (1526691)
    Essentially that is what it was.
  • by Junior J. Junior III (192702) on Monday December 28, 2009 @09:27AM (#30570746) Homepage

    Technology, like beer, is the solution to, and the cause of, all of mankind's problems.

  • by tjstork (137384) <todd@bandrowsky.gmail@com> on Monday December 28, 2009 @09:28AM (#30570754) Homepage Journal

    I always read it as another "white people suck" movie, but this time, "white people suck in space", which is equally weird, because Cameron is about as white as they come.

    • by SharpFang (651121) on Monday December 28, 2009 @09:35AM (#30570822) Homepage Journal

      Dances With Smurfs. That's what it was.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by d3ac0n (715594)

        I personally prefer the Avatar review by the inimitable Dr. Zero: The Suicide Fantasy [hotair.com]

        I would summarize his article, but frankly I could never do it justice. Click through and read. It's fantastic.

        • by truetorment (919200) on Monday December 28, 2009 @10:28AM (#30571428)
          So, because a movie, TV show, etc. might have a particular message, you can't stomach its entertainment at all. Sounds like you can't stomach opposing points of view either, judging by your sig.
        • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Monday December 28, 2009 @11:58AM (#30572570) Journal
          Obviously, Avatar had a heaping dose of sophmoric fantasy wish fulfillment(So, there are, like, these natives living in harmony with nature... and the alien princess(she's blue; but in a hot way) she digs you man, totally digs you. Also you can walk again!). There can't be much disagreement there.

          What I find interesting, though, is how much the reviewer's hatred of that colored the rest of his review. For instance: "During the big battle scene, as dinosaurs were chowing down on soldiers, the middle-aged couple seated next to me were grinning happily delighted by the defeat and destruction of their own miserable species." So, it's "my species, right or wrong"? Party A unilaterally invades Part B's property, making war against them without provocation in order to take their stuff. Obviously only commie peacenik self-loathing liberals could possibly approve of Party A losing. Could anyone, ethically, fail to approve of Party A losing?

          Imagine, for sake of argument, that(instead of a bunch of noble savages living in harmony with nature) the story had involved a rugged, self-sufficient band of human colonists, instead. These brave, decent, souls renounce the venality and softness, and collectivism of a dying earth and strike out to build their own future, by their own honest labor, on a different planet. A couple of generations later, the sinister corpronational minions of earth show up, looking to take what they have built. Had this been the story, the writer of that review would have loved it(and he wouldn't have been the only one, how many westerns involve the struggle by plain honest folks to hold on to their land in the face of corruption and oppression?). For extra credit, the story could even have been a thinly veiled allegory about abuse of Eminent Domain, that would really have gotten them going.

          That is what irks me about this review. The reviewer hates the presence of the liberal environmentalist noble savages so much that his judgment is blinded to anything else. Their presence is so unacceptable that only a self-loathing hippie could possibly cheer their successful defense of themselves and their property(C'mon, does the goodness of the castle doctrine not carry over to blue people?). And the ridiculousness continues:

          "For one thing, if the fate of humanity rests on the Pandora mission, you’d think the governments of Earth could find someone other than a backstabbing middle-management weasel and a blatantly psychotic colonel to run the show."
          Actually, that is pretty much exactly what you'd expect. This is a mining mission not an epic heroic quest. Yeah, it is an important one; but it isn't as though the President Of Mankind is going to strap on his power armor and oversee things personally. They'll send a mid-level manager(presumably competent enough to achieve and/or backstab his way to a good rank in whatever metric they use) and a standard military detachment, it's just a few primitive aliens, after all, routine job. The goods are important; but they would have no reason to expect unusual difficulty in obtaining them.

          "They laugh down the report of a scientist who obviously knows what she’s talking about, and has hard evidence to back up her position."
          Yup, I totally can't think of any instances where politically, militarily, and/or culturally inconvenient science(or intelligence data, for that matter) has been belittled or ignored. None at all. Only those Hollywood liberals would dream up such a thing.

          "All those military toys beloved by the right-wing warmongers of the military-industrial complex prove to be useless against the righteous fury of an aroused Gaia and her chosen champion, a redeemed soldier who has seen the error of his ways. Take that, Marine killbot slaves of Big Business."
          Because it is, after all, only in the pernicious propaganda of limp-wristed liberals that asymmetric warfare can be harder than it looks, and high-tech hardware can meet low-tech countermeasures(any bets on whether the military killbots of the future are finally using encrypted video links?). Technological supremacy especially never fails in hostile terrain that your forces are unused to operating in.
      • by AP31R0N (723649) on Monday December 28, 2009 @10:02AM (#30571124)

        No, it was Dances with Thundercats.

        Thundercats are badass; Smurfs are decidedly not.

    • by LateArthurDent (1403947) on Monday December 28, 2009 @09:50AM (#30571004)

      I always read it as another "white people suck" movie, but this time, "white people suck in space", which is equally weird, because Cameron is about as white as they come.

      It's a "people who try to take things from others by force suck" movie. As are the other movies in the same category you are referring to. The fact that the people who did this to Native Americans happened to be white is completely irrelevant, and your comment not only implies that all whites think they have the right to take from others by force, but it also implies that Cameron somehow should be bound to also think that, because he happens to be white.

      Basically, don't make things about race when they're not. Besides, I personally saw it more as anti-corporate (in the same way as Alien) then anti-technology.

    • by clarktrip3 (662540) on Monday December 28, 2009 @10:16AM (#30571284)
      Saying that would be like me watching the nightly Detroit news and saying "black people suck", and about tonight's events "black people suck against each other", which is equally weird because the anchor man is black. The truth is not a single ethic group on earth is perfect. All have fought wars amongst themselves and against other groups. We kill, rape, and pillage to take what we want. Need some examples? Open a history book, pick a time frame, and read stuff that is more shocking than a fiction writer could ever hope to come up with. Cameron was simple modeling the future on our past.
      • by stewbacca (1033764) on Monday December 28, 2009 @12:53PM (#30573380)

        I'd say the only flaw in Cameron's vision for this movie was casting too many white people. I don't think it was done on purpose, but it gives some people the fodder to say it's a "white people suck" movie. Had they cast a black guy in the main role (or as the evil CEO, or the Marine Colonel), it would have been really hard to say "white people suck".

        I think casting calls, contracts, agents, schedules, budgets etc. had more to do with who got cast than any perceived message the movie is supposedly trying to preach.

  • It should be noted (Score:5, Informative)

    by TheKidWho (705796) on Monday December 28, 2009 @09:28AM (#30570760)

    That it was a private military force that did the attacking, not a governmental one. Presumably, the government on Earth was not willing to allow any military attack on the Natives, hence their attempts for 5+ years for a diplomatic solution.

    Also it should be noted that a statement such as "no greenery left on Earth" is an exaggeration at best, considering life would die on the planet without the Oxygen Cycle. Unless the Humans attempted to develop machines to replace the functions of the plants.

  • by Doc Ruby (173196) on Monday December 28, 2009 @09:28AM (#30570764) Homepage Journal

    Just because a story criticizes something doesn't mean the teller wants to destroy it. In order to change something for the better, we need to criticize it. And if we just attack the criticism, we'll never get change.

    Cameron knows better than most what's wrong with our technology and the way we use it. His dependence on technology makes it quite clear that he doesn't want to eliminate it. He's not "anti-technology", he's anti the things he says are bad, which is not technology itself. Really what he's anti is the ways people use technology to treat each other badly. Which is not about technology, but about people.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by AlexiaDeath (1616055)
      "Guns don't kill people, people kill people."

      Same argument isn't it.

      I think mankind in general is a teen currently, sometimes self destructive, sometimes moody, sometimes passed out cold on someones couch or throwing up in wake of a hangover. Like teens, future is an unknown. Sometimes teens fail to live long enough to grow up, but mostly they do and then look back to their wild years in wonder.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by BronsCon (927697)

      Wow. +100 insightful.

      Someone tell the entire US population (including government) this! Just because someone points out flaws with this country, and there are many, does not mean they wish to destroy it.

      Someone who wants to destroy you will keep the flaws to themselves and exploit them at every opportunity. Someone who points your flaws out to you is giving you the opportunity to improve. If you don't even make the effort to improve at that point, you're inviting the attack and you deserve it when it happen

  • Crap (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 28, 2009 @09:28AM (#30570766)

    But Avatar’s story argues that technology is bad. Humans destroyed their home world through environmental disaster and use military might to annihilate the locals and steal their resources.

    Humans can do bad things using technology. That doesn't mean technology is bad. Next on Slashdot: classic tale "Hansel and Gretel" has a secret message of "gingerbread is bad".

  • Subject (Score:3, Funny)

    by Legion303 (97901) on Monday December 28, 2009 @09:30AM (#30570778) Homepage

    "harnesses the most advanced computer animation techniques imaginable"

    Really? Because all I get from the trailers is that it's an updated version of The Smurfs.

  • by thepainguy (1436453) <thepainguy@gmail.com> on Monday December 28, 2009 @09:32AM (#30570790) Homepage
    Some of this is standard noble savage stuff.

    It's an ideal -- peaceful people living in harmony with nature -- that doesn't hold up to close scrutiny. For instance, what do they do if one of their buddies is born with a genetic disease like Polycystic Kidney Disease or needs some other benefit of modern medicine. Also, in the real world packs of wolves and bears don't just leave you alone.

    This stuff sounds great until you start to think about it really hard.

    P.S. And at the end of the movie I was rooting for the "indians" just like everyone else.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Indeed, the earth is an exceptionally harsh environment, responsible for a couple of dozen extinctions, several of which almost succeeded in wiping out the entire biosphere, to say nothing of numerous civilisations. Its little wonder that the majority of human history has been war and strife, given the world we evolved into. Its comforting now though that we have managed to chip off just barely enough information from the tree of knowledge to be able to step back from the simple, primitive imperialistic ins
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by rsborg (111459)

      It's an ideal -- peaceful people living in harmony with nature -- that doesn't hold up to close scrutiny. For instance, what do they do if one of their buddies is born with a genetic disease like Polycystic Kidney Disease or needs some other benefit of modern medicine.

      Yeah, I wonder what the Native Americans did back in the 1700's when that happened? Probably the same as any European or Asian: made their buddy's life comfortable as that person died. Harmony doesn't mean your life is easy or long... not sure

      • by jeti (105266) on Monday December 28, 2009 @10:49AM (#30571664) Homepage

        A friend who actually lived for two years with a south american tribe claimed that crippled babies were drowned as quickly as possible.

      • by gedrin (1423917) on Monday December 28, 2009 @11:40AM (#30572292)
        The phrase "peaceful people living in harmony with nature" is the part that doesn't hold up. It completely ignores nature's primary means of maintaining harmony, namely killing off things. Preador and prey populations are regulated by scarcity for the former and hunting for the latter. These peacful people live in harmony with nature by the virtue that they are able to do the "harmonizing" better. The only reason their local super-preadator isn't using them as snacks is either A: they've developed killing skills superior to the local preadators, or B: alien-magic.
        Living in harmony with "nature" is like living in harmony with fire. They both have the same movtives, none. They both care about you in the same way, not at all. They both have the same feelings and desires about eating you.

        As for what the Europeans did differently than the Native Americans with regard to their loved ones when they lacked the benefits of modern medicine. The Europeans invented scientific method and modern medicine. I've no doubt that the Native American's would have done so as well, eventually, but it would have come at some point after they figured out bronze.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Some of this is standard noble savage stuff.

      Ah, that old false dichotomy. There are vicious technocrats, noble technocrats, vicious savages, and noble savages. In evolutionary terms, there is very little difference between man in a cave and man in space: don't expect a few thousand years of civilisation to change our nature.

      what do they do if one of their buddies is born with a genetic disease like Polycystic Kidney Disease

      The same thing that happened 50 years ago, or that happens now to the majority of people who cannot afford treatment for the complex disease you mention. Now, are you arguing that society is necessarily more peaceful when there is

    • by SecurityGuy (217807) on Monday December 28, 2009 @10:40AM (#30571564)

      Packs of wolves and bears don't leave you alone there, either, as Jake found out. They leave you alone if they don't know you're there, you're smart enough to stay out of their areas, not piss them off, etc.

      The Na'vi aren't peaceful people. They're warriors. Living in harmony with nature, in the real world, means that sometimes you eat a bit of nature, and sometimes it eats you. The movie did not portray a Disney-esqe vision. We know things in their own environment think they're tasty, and we know this is not the first "time of great sorrow", and the last wasn't that long ago. IMO, it's an amazingly beautiful vision of a world, but hardly an Eden.

      I don't know anything about PKD, but from the movie it's fair to assume people who aren't healthy don't become full members of the tribe. I found it an interesting concept. Which is better, a society that requires everyone to be productive, or a society (like ours) that encourages people to be unproductive (living on welfare, begging on the streets, living in their parents' basements until they're 35...). Neither is perfect. Our society has a tremendous surplus, so we can accommodate a lot of unproductive people. Societies that can't, don't. I didn't get the impression the Na'vi don't have enough to go around, and they simply didn't address your point at all. I suppose when they need "modern" medicine, they do the same thing we do when we need 22nd century medicine.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      This just in, Hollywood romanticizes cultures.

      It doesn't matter if that culture is the Wild West, Roman Legions, or Prehistory, how often do you see someone going to the bathroom in a movie if it's not for comedic effect?

      To dismiss the idea of living sustainably as "White Guilt", or "Noble Savage", or general "Crazy Leftist" propaganda is missing the point of the movie. You don't have to go back to the woods and hunt in a loincloth, you just have to recognize that the our current system of living is n
  • you've chosen to cast this in a negative light as against something. the alternative view is that is is promoting a more rational approach to resource utilization. the easiest way to demonstrate this is using something you can relate to: our own behavior.

  • White guilt (Score:4, Insightful)

    by BadAnalogyGuy (945258) <BadAnalogyGuy@gmail.com> on Monday December 28, 2009 @09:34AM (#30570808)

    Though not as prevalent as it was just a couple decades ago, "white guilt" is a feeling of responsibility particularly experienced by privileged white people for the suffering of blacks under the slave system. It is a modern phenomenon that such guilt is felt by people that are completely unconnected to slavery. The guilt manifests itself as an embrace of Black culture, a willingness to provide undeserved support to the African American underclass, and a tendency to promote multiculturalism and its anti-judgmental system of evaluating cultures.

    So if the technology haves want to slum it with the have-nots, it shouldn't be any big surprise that they embrace an ideology that makes themselves the criminal and thus flagellating themselves thereby redeeming themselves. Of course, they do it in a way that doesn't actually put them in direct contact with the have-nots. This is typical behavior of those embracing cultural/technological guilt as a path to spiritual salvation.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Aladrin (926209)

      Let's not forget that there are other reasons than 'white guilt' that people might feel this way, though. I certainly don't feel bad about what other peoples' ancestors did (my family hasn't been here that long) but I still do feel bad about anyone else's ancestors getting a bad shake. Heck, that applies to people who get a back shake today, too.

      As for promoting 'multiculturalism and its anti-judgmental system of evaluating cultures', that just seems to be common sense to me. Why limit yourself to 1 cult

    • Re:White guilt (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Chris Burke (6130) on Monday December 28, 2009 @01:34PM (#30573868) Homepage

      It is a modern phenomenon that such guilt is felt by people that are completely unconnected to slavery.

      So if the technology haves want to slum it with the have-nots, it shouldn't be any big surprise that they embrace an ideology that makes themselves the criminal and thus flagellating themselves thereby redeeming themselves.

      But for it to be SELF-flagellation, they must therefore associate themselves with the ones being flagellated, the ones portrayed as criminals. That's funny because I sure don't see myself in the antagonists in the movie. Why should I? Because they're mostly white? The ones who are redeemed are not the criminals in the first place. I associate with them, not the ones ho put greed above human life.

      That you associate the portrayal of, say, the genocide of an indigenous people for the sake of greed as a bad thing with "white guilt" is quite telling, I think. I suppose you don't think the humans remaining on Pandora should do anything to help the Navi recover from the damage wrought by other humans, because doing so would just be more examples of self-flagellation over something they didn't do.

      You must really hate Dances With Wolves. After all, the atrocity portrayed there really happened, and there's no way anyone could point that out without trying to make you, personally, feel responsible. So therefore we must not pass any value judgment at all, while also avoiding the evil of non-judgmental multiculturalism. Cus that's not dissonant.

    • Re:White guilt (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Ozlanthos (1172125) on Monday December 28, 2009 @02:19PM (#30574434)
      As a kid, I "slummed" an entire summer with homeless fisherman on a local pier. For the most part I learned how "having" was not a replacement for the ability to orient oneself with one's environment. I learned how to make a bait-catcher rig, spot and make my own bait, keep my bait alive, and make enough money on the fish I caught to fish the next day. I also learned that if you want to fish with bait, you have to make your own bait. These were all life-lessons I have never read in a book, and have since proved invaluable.

      It's sometimes shocking to me how much of life is lost via the conveniences of modern technology, not to mention the loss of character that results from lack of experience.

      -Oz
  • I believe (Score:3, Insightful)

    by gizmo2199 (458329) on Monday December 28, 2009 @09:34AM (#30570812) Homepage

    that Luke uses 'The Force' and turns off the computer.

    Was Lucas trying to say something with that, I wonder...

  • If humans can travel efficiently through space, make avatars, etc., they have the technology to genetically engineer plant life that could help to quickly rebuild's Earth ecosystems. I would imagine that that would be less involved than creating an avatar...

  • by DXLster (1315409) on Monday December 28, 2009 @09:37AM (#30570842)

    The fact that they rely on bio-centric technology doesn't make them low-tech. Every major organism on that planet has a universal neural bus that can establish a physical and logical link in about .3 seconds. Does that sound even remotely accidental?

  • by martas (1439879) on Monday December 28, 2009 @09:38AM (#30570850)
    frankly i'm a little tired of all the "deep" discussions about this movie popping up all over the place. it's just entertainment, for crying out loud. why have a technically sophisticated, anti-technical movie? because it makes money! why are we drawn to it? well, because of its aesthetics, romantic content, exciting action, and good old marketing. case closed.

    p.s. and even if cameron truly believes in the "messages" of the movie, big freaking deal. he's a director. there are many people in the world whose opinion on such difficult philosophical topics has much higher value for me than that of someone in show business.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by selven (1556643)

      Because discussions are interesting in themselves. What other justification do you need?

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by IronSilk (947869)
      Objected. "Just entertainment" has powerful effects on humans, including me and you. There are tons of examples of movies that shifted society and how we think about it. Movies are art--some of it bad, some of it great, like Avatar. The fact that it is commercial art doesn't make it less artful--it's just a constraint of the medium.

      This movie actually is deep, and merits a deep discussion.
  • only one reference (Score:3, Insightful)

    by petes_PoV (912422) on Monday December 28, 2009 @09:38AM (#30570852)
    when the chief (of whatever the "avatar" race is) says something along the lines of not being able to teach the other avatars as their cup was "already full" whereas the grunt who bumbles in has not been trained for the mission.

    Apart from that, you can't really say it's anti-technology. Yes, it has a message about imperialism and how conolial powers - or companies despoil environments for their own gain. However that's been going on for venturies and doesn't have a tech. aspect to it. The tech just increases the speed of the destruction.

  • by HikingStick (878216) <z01riemer.hotmail@com> on Monday December 28, 2009 @09:40AM (#30570872)
    Is it truly an anti-technology message, or a warning against the misuse of technology?
  • by wAnder (40639) on Monday December 28, 2009 @09:41AM (#30570876)

    I must have been answering the call of nature when the movie claimed that "technology is bad", because I didn't get that impression from it at all. At most, there was a "might makes right" is bad, and "allowing mankind to become subservient to quarterly shareholder reports" is bad, but that's about it.

    The scientists in the movie did wondrous things with their avatar technology, and the Na'vi had their own, organic version of the same, but never did I see a message that any of this was bad. What was portrayed in a poor light was forcibly relocating a people so as to be able to mine out a large chunk of resource that they're sitting on top of, and that's just theft.

    The submitter's 3D glasses must have been defective if he's getting an anti-tech message from this.

  • by bsDaemon (87307) on Monday December 28, 2009 @09:41AM (#30570880)
    Frankly, I have no plans to see this movie -- I never had even the slightest interest in it. In fact, I just generally don't like any movie like this. Not my thing. I do enjoy making fun of it vis-a-vis the "Dances with Smurfs" thing from South Park, but what I've heard about the movie, that's probably a pretty apt sort of representation.

    If you remember "Dances with Wolves" at all, its about an American military officer just after the Civil War who goes out to a frontier post and then ends up making friends with the Indians, and then helping them against a later invasion to attempt to drive them out onto a reservation type situation. Here, the Indians have been replaced by those little blue smurf-y things.

    As someone noted above, the military force in this particular situation was private and not governmental, however it was essentially the private armies of the British East and West India Companies that were responsible for most of the horrors of colonization by the British (I've never been too clear on the situation with the Spanish insofar as to whether or not they were regular military or not).

    This seems to be more like some sort of post-colonial clap-trap than an "anti-technology" film, of course the two things usually go hand-in-hand when perpetrating the myth of the noble savage. In any case, I have no interest in actually watching it.
    • by oahazmatt (868057) on Monday December 28, 2009 @10:12AM (#30571248) Journal
      I had a distaste for the movie prior to seeing it, but that was because whenever I asked someone who had been raving about it for details on the plot, they could only tell me how "pretty" or "awesome" everything was. I didn't make fun of it (because how can I make fun of it if I haven't seen the source material outside of a 90 second trailer?) but I was vocal in my disinterest in it simply because no one I knew could give me two sentences worth of story description.

      This weekend, when my wife and I needed to get out for a little bit, we gambled and saw it. To my surprise, I didn't hate it. In fact I enjoyed it. I wouldn't say it's the best movie of the year or going to sweep the Academy Awards like I've heard from some, but it was very well done.

      Don't get me wrong, I still criticize the movie. Specifically the design of some of the wildlife (some of the designs just seemed to vary from impractical to unnecessary). There were some things that just seemed "alien for the sake of alien".

      Yes, it's a "going native" film like Dances with Wolves (even Cameron said that was part of his inspiration) but it really does stand on it's own.
  • by Zombie Ryushu (803103) on Monday December 28, 2009 @09:42AM (#30570896)

    I was astounded by the organic synaptic link technology the Navi had. The Navi were possibly more advanced than we were. Their organic synaptic link tech was more advanced than anything we have. The thing is, they didn't develop weapons. Their entire planet was a linked up hive mind.

    What new possibilities could this technology have had? could they start growing Organic ships like the Vorlons from Babylon 5? I'd imagine the Navi probably had better math and science than us.

  • by jollyreaper (513215) on Monday December 28, 2009 @09:57AM (#30571070)

    I'm pro-alcohol but also pro-moderation.

    Avatar was a fairly amazing movie. I'm comparing and contrasting with the new Star Wars. There was probably even more bluescreen in Avatar than Star Wars but Pandora felt convincing and vibrant, completely alive. You never hear people criticizing the Death Star battle in A New Hope saying it looks like a video game, it was just awesome and exciting. I think part of the video game critique comes from movies that overuse bad CGI and make things look little better than the average page and part of it comes from the audience being unable to connect emotionally with those characters. Compare Pandora with any of the environments from the the new trilogy and it's just a lesson in CGI done wrong and CGI done right.

    The false dichotomy most people fall into with environmentalism vs. tech is that it's an either/or proposition. "Look, we're either running around in the boonies with bones through our noses and die of preventable diseases before we're 30 or we have to clearcut the forests and live in sterile concrete and steel towers, there's no middle ground." And that's not really true. What's needed is the judicious application of technology, conforming with the needs of the environment rather than trying to thwart or control it.

    I'm interested to see what the conservative backlash against this movie will be. Conservatives have been wanting to chew Al Gore's eyeballs out ever since an Inconvenient Truth. There's a strange kind of glee about destroying environmental sacred cows like the Arctic Wildlife Refuge. It's not like the truck barreling down the road indifferent to whether or not there's an animal in the road, it's the truck deliberately swerving to hit the animal, just for fun. This movie is big, awesome, has s'plosions, is from a director who has made some of the most awesome guy movies ever, and it has a message that could only be seen as environmentalist propaganda. This is a 20th century fox film so that explains why Faux News has been told to keep a lid on it. If this came out from any other studio that network would be frothing. Dunno if Limbaugh had anything to say about it yet. He's not affiliated with Faux and has no financial stake in the project. He'd have to go apeshit over it.

  • by smackenzie (912024) on Monday December 28, 2009 @09:57AM (#30571074)
    Since the beginning of time:

    * Look, fire! Now I can keep my family warm and safe.
    * Look, fire! Now I can go burn down the hut of my annoying neighbors.

    * Look, trigonometry! Now I can build bridges.
    * Look, trigonometry! Now I can launch projectiles at those bridges.

    * Look, printing press! Now I can communicate broadly.
    * Look, printing press! Now I can subjugate broadly.

    * Look, nuclear technology! Now I can radiate cancer and use PET scans.
    * Look, nuclear technology! Now I can blow cities up...

    etc.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jameskojiro (705701)

      * Look, Interstellar Travel! Now I can colonize in other star systems.
      * Look, Interstellar Travel! Now I can plunder Unobtainium, but were going to mine it from a gravity well instead of mining from the Alpha Centrai asteroid belt...

      * Look, Advanced Medical tech! Now I can fix broken spinal cords.
      * Look, Advanced Medical tech! Now I can clone Aliens and play Dances with Wolves with them instead of just creating a Bio Agent to wipe them out from orbit....

      etc.

  • Iraq (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Enderandrew (866215) <enderandrew AT gmail DOT com> on Monday December 28, 2009 @09:57AM (#30571078) Homepage Journal

    The villian used the phrases "fight terror with terror" and "preemptive attack". He was described as gearing up a "shock and awe" attack.

    He was using the military to steal a valuable foreign resource, and funnel it into private/corporate hands, killing civilians along the way.

    You're saying the message of the movie isn't supposed to be a parallel for Iraq?

    For the record, I don't think it is a fair comparison because we're not stealing oil in Iraq. The Iraqi people own the oil and receive every penny for selling the oil. If anything, going into Iraq was a fiscal nightmare for the US. We're footing the bill for the war, and for reconstruction. We're funneling tons of money into Iraq, and liberated 30 million people from a cruel dictator. But given that Cameron is a vocal Democrat who drives a Prius and has suggested Bush lied about Iraq to steal oil, I'm sure he very much intended that to be the message of the movie.

  • by hyades1 (1149581) <hyades1@hotmail.com> on Monday December 28, 2009 @10:00AM (#30571110)

    Nowhere in Avatar does it explicitly state that technology is the cause of an Earth where there's "no green left" (that's as close as I can recall to a quote from the lead character). It could just as easily been our tendency to breed like flies on a dung heap that led to the paving of the planet. It's also pretty clear that the main driving force behind the attempted rape of Pandora isn't Earth's government, but a greedy, conscienceless corporation.

    It's typical of apologists for the on-going, real-life ecological devastation we're inflicting on our little blue planet to try to misrepresent Cameron's message as anti-technology. In fact it's clearly a cautionary tale against our current trend toward a global corporate oligarchy. The tech in the film is a tool, neither good nor evil. It's used by the heroes for positive purposes and the villains in the service of corporate greed.

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