James Cameron didn't initially pitch "Avatar" as some embrace-your-inner-hippie ecological screed. And later, when Fox execs read the script, they were taken aback by the story's deeply rooted connection to intertwined themes of environmentalism and spirituality.
"When they read it, they sort of said, 'Can we take some of this tree-hugging, "FernGully" crap out of this movie?' " Cameron told MTV News on Wednesday (February 17). "And I said, 'No, because that's why I'm making the film.' "
And now that "Avatar" has blasted its way to the #1 all-time box-office spot and nine Oscar nominations, the movie's exploration of difficult topics — from the bond of the native Na'vi people to their planet, to the human's crass exploitation of Pandora's natural resources, to the colonial politics drawing the two species into conflict — has begun to make an impact on our culture.
"If you're tuned in to what's happening in 'Avatar,' you start to feel a sense of moral outrage when you see the tree fall [destroying the Na'vi's home], and it's a compassionate response for these people," Cameron explained. "Then you feel a sense of uplift at the end as good vanquishes evil. If you put those two things together, it actually creates a ripe emotional matrix for people to want to do something about it."
Cameron said that while "Avatar" doesn't strive to provide factual information applicable to Earth's environmental struggles, the movie does succeed in eliciting an emotional response that can be used to propel people into action. The trick, he added, was to entice audiences into the theater with what he called "eye candy" and then present a story that might jostle viewers out of environmental "denial" and motivate them to work for change. So far, that tactic has been working.
"We're getting a tremendous amount of feedback from environmental groups, from people with specific causes," Cameron said, "whether it's indigenous people being displaced by companies to do mining or to do oil drilling, or if it's environmental groups saying, 'Let's do some curriculum around "Avatar." ' "
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