Oscar pick blends sci-fi, westerns

By Karl Terry: Freedom Columnist

I probably won’t watch the Academy Awards tonight but I do have a favorite for Best Picture. “Avatar” has my vote.

To establish my immense credibility as a movie reviewer here, I’ve only seen two of the nominated movies but I feel pretty safe in making this call. If you haven’t seen it yet you should while it’s on the big screen in 3D.

Since it’s pretty obvious that I don’t get to the movies too often, why lay down $10 for this one? Mainly because I wanted to see what has been described as a huge technological advance in movie production.

From a tribe of giant blue people on a distant moon to the flora and fauna of that made-up world, the special effects created by the makers of the movie certainly didn’t disappoint. The 3D only added to the experience and made the world created on screen really come alive. But to me the special effects and plentiful action scenes were only part of what made the movie so good.

James Cameron and the makers of “Avatar” were successful with the movie because they successfully teleported the classic American Western into the realm of science fiction.

I’ve read a few blogs and reviews of the movie that have panned the plot for being too simple and too predictable but so were Westerns. To me the story of good versus evil and the character conflicts that can be found in the ground in between is a movie outline that never disappoints. The meat of the message then comes down to development of the characters and how well acquainted the moviegoer becomes with the demons they struggle with.

I’ve read a limited amount of science fiction books over the years but the ones I’ve enjoyed most were those that used the Western novel approach. Seems strange then that I haven’t read that many Western novels, doesn’t it?

The thing about the movie that struck me the most was the correlation it seems to make between the Na’vi (giant blue people) and their conflicts with people from Earth in the movie and Native Americans and their conflict with European settlers and soldiers in America.

The Na’vi are a race living in tune with the natural world around them and technology doesn’t have a place and even seems silly to them. After the main character, Sully, inserts himself into the Na’vi culture for reasons of espionage he becomes aware of the inevitable clash of cultures that is ahead.

When Sully tries to communicate this fate to Na’vi leaders and explain their predicament he fails. This scene made me think of Chief Ouray of the Ute Indians of the Southwest. Ouray had been to Washington and had seen how strong and vast the White Man’s armies and government was and he urged his people to negotiate instead of fight. Ouray too was largely unsuccessful and miners, farmers and ranchers eventually displaced his people.

Like good science fiction and good Westerns “Avatar” has a twist that gives us hope. Hope that harmony, understanding and a hero framed against an alien sunset might just exist somewhere in our future.