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Cinema and technology: Avatar (2009)

Zafar Anjum | Jan. 7, 2010
The geek shall inherit the earth. I mean the good geek. That is one of the principal messages of the James Cameron film.

Like many of his admirers, I have been waiting for James Camerons Avatar for the last 10 years. I was not aware of any of Camerons films before I watched Titanic (1997)the international smash-hit that became miraculously popular even in countries such as India and China. The only exception was the 1994 terrorism dramaTrue Lies, that precociously confirmed my fear that after the fall of communism, it was global terrorism that was going to be the American empires next bogeyman.

AvatarRemember, this was way before 9/11. But I knew that the global managers of perception and culture will replace the red terror with green terror. Every state, as the political theory goes, whose soul is locked in the monster of military-industrial complex, needs an enemy to keep its artificial unity intact. So, one or another kind of terror has to be perennially invented (before you create a hero, you have to create a monsterthat is one of the rules of script writing).

So, when a precocious and visionary filmmaker like Cameron announces a venture like Avatar, ones ears are pricked. I was hungry for any information on this sci-fi films progress: Cameron is working on the design of a new camera that could capture the kind of motion he wants to film, he is scouting locations in New Zealand, he is working with Peter Jacksons special effects team, and so on. The news kept rolling in, whetting my appetite. Meanwhile, I watched some of the earlier alien-themed films by Cameron.

When finally Camerons labour of love hit the screens and created another big bang box office history, I had to watch it.

Watching Avatar, I have the feeling that the spectre of global terrorism will be over in the next few years. By the end of this phase, the world will be completely globalised and integrated (and in need of a new form of energy). Then the global empire (not just American, mind you) will need a new enemyit has to come from outer space. The last few decades of Hollywood films (Star Wars, E.T., Aliens) by the trinity of Steven Spielberg, George Lucas and James Cameron have prepared us to face the next phase of terror.

Colonisation as the perennial human quest

In Avatar, Cameron has turned the focus of this terror inwards: he shows us a mirror in which we, the humans, are the terror for the lives of other planets. If human history is the history of finding and conquering the next frontier, the progress of civilisation as a process of perennial colonisation, then, as in the myth, we are doomed like Sisyphus to bear the stone of colonisation and conquest without an end. Since our greed is boundless, so is our fate to meet a violent end.


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