Avatar: Hollywood science fiction, political reality

Only after the last tree has been cut down, only after the last river has been poisoned, only after the last fish has been caught, only then will you find out money can’t be eaten! -Cree Indian Prophecy

At the urging of my seven year-old son Francisco, we went to see the new movie Avatar, directed and written by James Cameron who also directed Terminator, Terminator II, True Lies, Aliens and The Titanic. Initially I thought we were going to be fed a lot of cyborg, sci-fi, but to my pleasant surprise Avatar proved to be quite entertaining, with good special effects and a moral to top it all off!

This story is about what is obviously a U.S. mining interest searching for a rare, precious mineral found on the planet Pandora. The mining company seeks the mineral without regard to the natural environment and the indigenous people known as the Navi who inhabit it.

What makes Avatar so interesting is that when one looks beyond the science fiction story, one clearly sees the policies of our government serving the economic interests of multi-national corporations.

In the case of Avatar this corporation, aided with what appears to be a privatized military, is multi-galaxy.

The mining interests selects a paraplegic Marine (Jake Skully) with a vast amount of intelligence and combat experience. Skully, played by Sam Worthington, enters his new job happy to be of use to someone along with earning a paycheck.

He is also interested in this new assignment because he has been promised Colonel Miles Quantech played by Stephen Lang a cure for his paralyzed legs. However, once Skully makes contact with the Navi and learns their ways, he is torn between his assignment, respect for the Navi, the natural beauty of Pandora and a growing affection for Neytiri, a Navi woman played by Zoe Saldana.

Neytiri not only saves his life: she is also assigned to show him the way of life of the Navi by her father Eytukan played by noted American Indian actor, activist, artist and musician Wes Studi. Actress CCH Pounder plays the role of Mo, the mother of Neytiri and the shaman of the Navi people. She is the link between the Navi and their god Eywa, thus her role is somewhat superior to that of her spouse.

Cameron’s use of special effects is very interesting. While I sat in amazement with the plot and its similarity to today’s situation in many Third World countries, I just knew this movie was going to get nominated for awards.

The movie’s most beautiful part is when the Navi are joined by other indigenous peoples and even the animals native to Pandora in resisting the invasion: a classic example of just how important solidarity is in defeating the forces of imperialism and war.

Michelle Rodriguez plays the role of a helicopter pilot (Trudy Chacon) who, like Skully, is sickened at the idea of taking part in a slaughter and turns her chopper’s guns and rockets on the outsiders.

I realize Avatar is just a sci-fi movie, however, it is one of the best I have seen this year. If you enjoy motion pictures and are sick and tired of continued reminders of just how powerful the corporate monster is, go see Avatar. It is more than just a science fiction story with unusual characters. It is almost spiritual, definitely political and for me inspiring.

It should be noted that the fictional planet of Pandora and Navi people have a striking similarity to the tropical rain forests of South America and the indigenous people of that region. The main characters are primarily played by Afro Latino, African American, American Indian and Latino actors.

In my opinion this is more than coincidental. It’s as if Cameron is wishing to interject a message for all of us to see and give serious consideration.

Given what corporate America has done in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East with full complicity of our armed forces, the message is one we must all hear and act on. Don’t be surprised to see Avatar be chosen for either Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild or even the Academy Award itself!





Frank Valdez
Frank Valdez

Frank (Pancho) Valdez has been involved in the struggles for civil rights, labor and peace since the summer of 1965.