Speaking at a private industry screening of the film, the director with his star Zoe Saldana said that "Avatar" -- with its depiction of mineral exploitation on a distant planet and a cadre of trigger-happy mercenaries charged with instituting a scorched earth policy -- is very much a political film.
But he rejected comments by critics that the film is un-American even if it is an allegory for American military forays.
"I've heard people say this film is un-American, while part of being an American is having the freedom to have dissenting ideas," Cameron said, prompting loud applause from a capacity crowd at the ArcLight Hollywood.
"This movie reflects that we are living through war," Cameron added. "There are boots on the ground, troops who I personally believe were sent there under false pretenses, so I hope this will be part of opening our eyes."
Conservative commentators such as John Podhoretz and John Nolte have blasted the film in recent weeks. In "The Weekly Standard," for instance, Podhoretz wrote, "The conclusion does ask the audience to root for the defeat of American soldiers at the hands of an insurgency. So it is a deep expression of anti-Americanism-- kind of."
If Cameron wants to stick to that explanation why do people like Gregg Easterbrook no conservative have this angle on Avatar?
If I were a military man or woman, I would find “Avatar” insulting. With one exception, the helicopter pilot played by Michelle Rodriguez — her character is twice referred to as a Marine, suggesting the military personnel are regular military, not mercenaries — all the people in fatigues are brainless sadists. They want to kill, kill, kill the innocent.
They can’t wait to begin the next atrocity. It’s true that the U.S. military has conducted atrocities, in Vietnam and during the Plains Indians wars. But slaughter of the innocent is rare in U.S. military annals. In “Avatar,” it’s the norm. The bloodthirsty military personnel readily comply with the colonel’s orders to gun down natives. No one questions him — though in martial law, a soldier not only may but must refuse an illegal order. Plus the military personnel are depicted as such utter morons — not a brain in any of their heads — that none notice the TOTALLY OBVIOUS detail that Pandora’s unusual biology will be worth more than its minerals. Yes, movies traffic in absurd super-simplifications. But we’re supposed to accept that of the deployment of several hundred, every soldier save one is a low-IQ cold-blooded murderer.
What does “Avatar” build up to? Watching the invading soldiers — most of whom happen to be former American military personnel — die is the big cathartic ending of the flick. Extended sequences show Americans being graphically slaughtered in the natives’ counterattack. The deaths of aliens are depicted as heartbreaking tragedies, while the deaths of American security forces are depicted as a whooping good time.
In Cameron’s “Aliens,” “The Abyss” and his television show “Dark Angel,” U.S. military personnel are either the bad guys or complete idiots, often shown graphically slaughtered. Cameron is hardly the only commercial-film director to present watching evil U.S. soldiers slaughtered as popcorn-chomping suburban shopping mall fun: in the second “X-Men” flick, U.S. soldiers are the bad guys and graphically killed off. Films that criticize the military for its faults are one thing: When did watching depictions of U.S. soldiers dying become a form of fun?