Okay, so, I guess I have an opinion too! Shock of shocks. I sent a slightly different version of this to my friend Dawn today--and this prompted me. I am in full wet blanket mode (hey, it's sunday, it's my version of observance). No doubt most of this has been said before somewhere out there in movie critic-land and blogland, but repetition is a form of learning right?
Okay, let's admit it's well done as a visual experience and experiment in the computer generated medium of movies. So, I don't need to say, "wow, what a great video game"...instead let's examine its themes:
1. We might imagine that the movie pits the evil corporate white american technocrats and militarists against the primordial people of the forest (and I'm all for that) but,
2. Our hero is in fact a Marine and he is not swayed by the cause (the good, the right, the moral, the ethical, righteous indignation) but by the radiantly wonderful woman (a princess no less) AND probably more importantly, the technology of having new legs and a new life AS a military HERO.
3. The cause is just (one should protect ones home and family and way of life from destruction) but this is a simplistic war theme.
4. The tribe is hierarchical and primarily a version of what we once called a believers tale. And they too have their warrior class, etc.
5. The leader is the Queen far more than the King (which is nice and not unheard of)--and she is the primary mouthpiece for the divinity--she is the Shaman. I am not denigrating this belief system...just saying.
6. One imagines their beliefs are "better" but in a sense--all this does is posit that the TREE and life-force is REAL (ie, their god is REAL) and that they can actually EXPERIENCE this god. In other words, believers in the greater being have just cause to protect said being because and this is a crucial point--like Moses with his bush--it talks to them. Again, a good theme gone a bit awry. One might wish an "understanding" and respect of the forest and the "mother" tree (to live in harmony with nature as you are nature too) WITHOUT the ability to "link in"--this is a huge contradiction in the Nature theme--or rather a co-opting of it to a different purpose.
7. So a mix of many myths and histories that does not present us with a radical idea of the "good" society, but rather a) a minor revision of a believer's tale and b) a perversion of this natural tale to be a technocratic fable of the magical power of "plugging in". (To this movie, to videos, to computers.) If I had a magic plug in my hair into the roots of a tree I suppose I might "believe" in it too (and all the other animals too).
8. And finally, this is the creepy crux: isn't this very simply telling us via "fable" that we have access to a kind of USB port into the MACHINE...and then isn't this a Matrix rehash of sorts at this point--sure it's prettier and apparently benign, but isn't this about technology creating "better" versions of you that you can wear (but the self that is you remains the same don't you know--better stronger version doesn't change the soul). Plug into this and check out of the real. You can't change corporate militaristic greed UNLESS you use the technology created by and for the corporate militaristic assholes to become something your not and fight in a fantasy land.
In other words, Jim Cameron gives us HOPE in a the tale of the technocrat. Plug into the machine man, and sway to the rhythm of the pulsing machine. We are nearly saved already.