Friday, December 18, 2009
Two Iraq War Movies: The Hurt Locker vs. Avatar
By coincidence, I saw "The Hurt Locker" and "Avatar" in the same 24-hour-hour period and the differences were instructive. "The Hurt Locker" stars Jeremy Renner (above) as an American demolition expert in 2004 Iraq for whom war has become an exhilharating drug, and his performance is the kind that creates movie stars.
Though the movie is intelligent and brilliantly directed by Kathryn Bigelow, it's also an Iraq War movie that The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times can love. Politics don't ever into it, and the point-of-view is completely and artistically through the very subjective eyes of three American soldiers. The Iraqis remain The Inscrutable Others throughout, and most of them want to kill our heroes for reasons that remain completely unexplained.
"Avatar," James Cameron's sci-fi follow-up to "Titanic," turns out to be not only the most expensive movie ever made up to this moment, but also one of the most matter-of-fact in its hatred of American imperialism. The baddies who want to rape the planet of Pandora for an oil stand-in called Unobtainium aren't even a global, mixed lot. They're the current corporate/military mindset of America and the movie doesn't make any bones about it.
The Pandora art direction was a bit too Laguna Beach hippie-dippie for me at times, where everything was filled with mystical light, and I was expecting whales and dolphins to be leaping through the air at any moment. That didn't matter, though, because the alternative universe is loads of fun to wander through, particularly in 3D, and the theme of the blending of races and cultures was handled beautifully. Best of all was the ending (SPOILER ALERT!). Instead of never-ending war, which is where "The Hurt Locker" leaves us, the ten-foot tall People of Pandora escort the remaining American imperialists into their spaceships with instructions not to return. I pray the same happens soon for the people of Iraq and Afghanistan.