believe the hype

Is Avatar an attack on the Iraq War?

By Nile Gardiner World Last updated: December 12th, 2009

Yes, judging by some of the comments made this week by the Canadian-born director of the most anticipated movie of 2009.

James Cameron has made some of the best science fiction films of the modern era, including The Terminator and Aliens. He’s also responsible for the most successful film of all time, Titanic, which raked in nearly $2 billion worldwide in box office receipts.

Millions of filmgoers across the world are eagerly awaiting the release of his latest $400 million epic, Avatar, by all accounts the most expensive movie ever made. But do we really need blockbuster entertainment accompanied by tedious anti-war commentary?

According to The Times, the Avatar director is linking his new film to the Iraq War and the wider war on terror, “declaring that American had a ‘moral responsibility’ to understand the impact that their country’s recent military campaigns had had.”

As Cameron himself put it, just before the London premiere of Avatar:

We went down a path that cost several hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives. I don’t think the American people even know why it was done. So it’s all about opening your eyes.

Avatar is the story of a US military expedition to exploit mineral wealth on a far flung planet in the middle of the 22nd Century. The humans resort to “shock and awe” tactics against the native Na’vi tribes, in order to secure the planet for business interests back on earth. Cameron draws a direct analogy between the war in his film, and the war on terror in real life, declaring:

We know what it feels like to launch the missiles. We don’t know what it feels like for them to land on our home soil, not in America. I think there’s a moral responsibility to understand that.

I have little doubt that Avatar will be a massive global hit when it opens worldwide on December 18th, and the early reviews are largely positive, with a 90 percent current approval rating on the Rotten Tomatoeswebsite. But its expected success won’t be due to cinemagoers wanting to watch an expensive sermon on US foreign policy, but because they want to be entertained by the most advanced 3-D special effects ever put on screen.

There is in fact very little appetite among American and even international audiences for films that present the Iraq War or war on terror in a negative light – as shown by the pathetic box office for recent anti-war movies such as Redacted, In the Valley of Elah, Lions for Lambs, and Rendition. The most successful Iraq War film so far has been The Hurt Locker, a terrific drama which portrays the US military presence in Iraq in a sympathetic way, with a heroic central character who defuses unexploded bombs.

The US public is frankly tired of the anti-war rhetoric of the Left, which has sounded increasingly hollow since the success of the surge in Iraq.

James Cameron should leave the political commentary out as he promotes his new film, and acknowledge that the Iraqi people are immensely better off now than they were living under the boot of Saddam Hussein. After all, they are now free to watch Mr. Cameron’s films instead of being forced to view the Nazi-style propaganda of the Baathist regime. He should be celebrating their freedom instead of disparaging the sacrifices made by the US military in ensuring it.

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