Is Avatar really an eco-friendly movie?

However Avatar: The Path of Water It should pass the iconic milestone of $2 billion worldwide this weekend, with almost the entire press taking James Cameron’s formula to set it: a “ecological tale”. But surprisingly, a film essentially characterized by technological and financial disruption “”ecological” or”environmentalist”.

But what else would an eco-friendly cinema be? Denunciation of the film (don’t look up), climate fiction (Green Sun), political documentary (An inconvenient truth), thought film (Blue Planet II), awareness (Wall-E) or even low carbon film (Bigger than usand movies watched by Ecoprod)?

The question has been troubling film theorists for several years, especially since film is the most typical art of industrial society, the industry itself, and by means of which it can be multinational – especially in the case of James Cameron.

Under these conditions, the very idea of ​​ecological cinema, especially in the context of Hollywood, which has everything, a vegan restaurant and solar panels applied by the director, owes our efforts above all to criticism. the first work had no effect on the practices of Fox studio and Disney distributor. So it’s not in his prolific hardware that we can’t match Avatar 2 environmental film. But maybe the screenplay reaches this aspect?

The film once again embraces American mythology Pocahontas and Dance with monstersthis time in a marine context, covering elements Moby-Dick and Save Willy. After the Amazonian forest, we are now in Hawaii, where the trees have given way to an incredible coral reef with underwater kelp forests (a typical ecosystem of the California coast) that exist according to their plans. That’s why exoticism remains very American.

We see the same binary opposition between the cruel, brutal and greedy human colonists coming to devastate an ironically magnificent planet and the good pacifist savage tribes living in mystical communion with nature, which is less reminiscent of it. more ethnography than catechism.

A moral treatment of the environmental issue

The main plot will initially be about protecting magical whales from evil hunters – although this theme quickly gives way to a story of personal revenge between the two characters. The anti-whaling charge is a perfectly noble fight, but we don’t really see the relevance of it, it disappeared in the 1970s.

Apart from this anachronistic element, the question of the environment is above all a subject of spiritual treatment close to courses of personal development. new age For Silicon Valley executives, it presents very vague thoughts that “all beings are interconnected” and that it is necessary”respect for mother nature” : therefore, we evacuate any scientific, material or political dimensions and attribute the very specific issue of ecology to religion.

Set on an imaginary planet, the film is essentially “virgin”issues of biodiversity erosion, global warming, pollution or environmental degradation are not necessarily absent.

A shameful trend towards the depletion of biodiversity

An animal sensibility that focuses only on a few friendly species is a very admirable sensibility, but an approach that environmental philosophy has pursued for decades has nothing to do with the approach that is a true environmentalist. focuses on populations and whole species, not individuals, whether “cute” or not.

This shameful trend of biodiversity depletion permeates the entire film, where all the animals from children’s pets (horses, dolphins, dinosaurs) or luxury vacations (tropical reefs, African safaris) seem to have adopted a local behavior, only asking for them. make friends with people and hug and ride like ponies.

So, under the guise of love of nature, the film opens scenes of dolphinariums (domestic cetaceans, used as horses and fed by hand) and even physical violence (they cling to a turtle for filming), two pet vaccination scenes of modern animal protection.

The mood of the film is dominated by the paradigm of luxury tourism

These servile beings lose all their otherness and ultimately symbolize the tourism industry more than the preservation of autonomous ecosystems, and the intersecting landscapes create the feeling of amusement parks above all – moreover, the Avatar license is in the process of developing a network of parks, of course, another multi-environmental project.

Because the atmosphere of this film is really dominated by the luxury tourism paradigm, the entire first half consists of detailing a wealthy American family’s vacation in Hawaii, yoga, surfing and diving, the first teenage emotions at sunset. architecture Resorts five stars and an exploration of a culture more reminiscent of the rubbish folklore of mass tourism than ethnographic immersion.

Everything here breathes consumer society, standardized leisure, and it seems that the farther Hollywood tries to make us travel (to the other end of the galaxy, another species in the future), the more we become a caricature of ourselves.American way of life here sobriety is only a holiday anecdote.

Promoting the Third Industrial Revolution

In short, James Cameron is encouraging us here to rethink our relationship with consumption rather than buying plane tickets to Polynesia – or Pandora Park in Florida. A notable and notable effort of the license is its willingness to present a more populated, even animistic setting than Miyazaki’s films, with characters constantly interacting with each other.

We here at Cameron feel the will to follow the advice adopted by environmental critic Lawrence Buell as a good student and advocate for the environment to exist in its own right. However, this film also embodies the inadequacy of this approach, especially as this animism only thinly disguises (even in the title) a ubiquitous computer paradigm in which all beings are equipped with a USB port and the mother goddess is a cybernetic entity.

If the saga develops a furious denunciation of the carbo-mechanical industrialism of the 20th century assimilated into old colonial Europe (the eternal foil of Hollywood cinema that allows America to absolve itself of all imperialist guilt), it is actually better propaganda. the third industrial revolution is based on many technologies based on unlimited electricity (unlimited), biotechnology (avatars and animal machines) and information technology (Eywa). “clean”As Microsoft and Monsanto claimed in unison in the 1990s, and now GAFAM.

This is not an environmentally friendly film

Ecology is also a political issue, what about politicsAvatar ? The ambition of the first film is gone, nothing more is done about the distant Earth where humanity has died, and the Manicheanism of the film rejects any attempt at negotiation or consensus and can only be solved by a good old male hand. A hand-to-hand duel between two American soldiers—a good guy and a bad guy—who push aside oppressed peoples, dying Native Americans, and any collective measure to return to a childish fight worthy of Steven Seagal.

A great way to address environmentalism when the biggest problem with political ecology is the lack of “almost.”bad” to be overcome, the responsibility for the crisis was resolved throughout the industrial system of which we are all so many links. Yes, we have every right to love Avatar 2find his good fatherly sensibilities impressive, his rather subtle handling of migration, dazzle with his carnival of colors and prehistoric animals, marvel at his digital technologies and shudder at his action scenes.

But no, it cannot be said that it is an environmental film. A large part of the French press has just “Journalism Charter for Environmental Emergency”part of that ambition should be not to confuse animal sentimentality with environmentalism, to not naively adopt the language of the entertainment industry while trying to paint yourself green or blue while in Hollywood. screens in front of which these poor actors snoring in electronics.

(1) This column was originally published On the website of the newspaper Le Monde.

Editorial title. Original title: “Avatar”: “Don’t confuse animal sentimentality with environmental influence”

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