As a Johnny-come-lately to Avatar, I must say that of course I was amazed by the effects and 3D and all that. But it was interesting to think of the problem posed in the movie, namely, whether a peaceful solution to the problems of both the humans and the Na’vi could be found.
At first sight it seems not, because Pandora is obviously the Na’vi’s Garden of Eden.
In a crucial scene which makes it clear, Jake Sully says: “They’re not going to give up their home. They’re not going to make a deal. Pff for what? A light beer and blue jeans? There’s nothing that we have that they want. Everything they sent me out here to do is a waste of time. They’re never going to leave hometree.” You see? It’s their paradise, and who’d want to leave that?
And they are, unlike humans, portrayed as unfallen, uncorrupt, and incorruptible. Their bodies are powerful and beautiful and perfectly healthy. They enjoy the exhilaration of physical life and the mastery of their bodies and plants and beasts of the forest. They have the skills and prowess that a champion snowboarder would easily envy. Yet with all that primal grace and power, they are peaceful. They are blessed with direct communion with a benevolent deity and possess insight into each other’s souls. They are the paradigm of noble savages. They want nothing from the humans. In paradise, after all, there is no division of labor, social cooperation, no production or consumption, business negotiations, or all the rest of economic structures of the real world.
If they were anything like humans, they would welcome a relief from the misery of primitive existence. They’d jump at the chance to improve their well-being. They would need the humans far more than the humans would need them. That’s not to say that negotiations would always proceed smoothly, but there’d be a chance of making everyone involved better off. In particular, the spectacular technology of the humans should be presumed by 2154 surely to have advanced to such a degree that mining “unobtainium” could be accomplished without destroying the Na’vi’s property. And indeed the forest in which the Na’vi lived ought by right to be considered their natural property. The violent spoliation depicted in the movie is from the libertarian point of view outrageous. In other words, mix in a bunch of implausible difficulties, and you have yourself an irresolvable tragic conflict.
This movie has instead an odd religious theme of monsters invading paradise. The recent computer game Dragon Age: Origins has similar lore: the mages of a long-gone empire decided to invade the Golden City, the Maker’s heaven, and as punishment for their hubris they were cast out and turned into monsters. Quite frankly, I don’t know what to make of this theology; it does not seem to be an idea expressed either by the Christian or any other faith.
Update. It could be an early attempt to create a distinctively environmentalist theology. We are, after all, living in an interesting time in which we are seeing an emergence of a new “environmental” religion.