I just saw Avatar in 3D, and was struck by the generational themes. Yes, the computerized graphics (a la Lord of the Rings) are spectacular, and the avatar framework (a bit like the Matrix) has a cutting-edge feel on the IT front. Hollywood spent a zillion dollars producing this film. It does have a big-movie and definitely big-budget feel to it. I’m sure it will make lot of money, especially abroad.
Thematically, however, this movie is not Millennial (born 1982-200?)at all. It’s a Boomer (born 1943-1960) blue-zone culture war script. The thinly veiled allegory has the U.S. military killing innocent, close-to-Gaia aliens on behalf of a “dying civilization” that has ”already killed mother earth” on our own planet. The sound track sounds like Enya. We (the audience) are supposed to be moved by naked aborigines who hold hands and sing kumbaya-like in communion with the great spirit—and cheer when they kill large numbers of uniformed U.S. soldiers in combat. The movie’s biggest villain is a hands-on career noncom officer who has dedicated his life to service and speaks in the vernacular of the USMC. The analogy to U.S. troops in Asia is pounded home mercilessly—from references to “shock and awe,” to the rare mineral the Americans are seeking to extract from this planet, to the way alien women are shown ululating in support of their male warriors. The viewer is constantly reminded of what this film is “really” about.
In this movie, Barack Obama (to say nothing of George Bush) is cast in the role of Curtis LeMay. Launch another predator missile, anyone? Some Boomers applauded vigorously at the end of the movie, the last time I’ve seen that since “V for Vendetta.”
Many Millennials, especially urban bi-coastals, will love this movie. But I doubt that most Millennials want to see something so laden with moralizing self-condemnation. They certainly don’t want to see their own peers and nation existentially portrayed as a force of evil. (That was a Boomer youth script.) As for those Millennials who now serve in the Marine, Army, and Guard units doing tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, I have talked with many of them. They truly believe, more than young Generation X (born 1961-1981) soldiers ever did, that they are making the world a better place. They really like the brand-new Navy recruiting slogan: “America’s Navy: A Global Force for Good.” I guarantee you these Millennial soldiers won’t be applauding Cameron’s movie.
For what it’s worth, I took along my 10th-grade son to see the movie. His only terse comment, upon exiting, was: “OK, that’s three hours I’ll never get back.” On the way home, he purged himself of all the Enya by listening, loud, to his Linkin Park and Incubus.