Sunk’ by the creative forces of capitalism


Avatar has sunken the old ship. James Cameron’s new film has generated revenues of $1,878,025,999 in 40 days (and rising), making it the highest grossing film of all time worldwide (not adjusted for inflation), finally overtaking his other blockbuster, Titanic. Regardless of the film’s artistic quality (or lack of it), Cameron has proven himself to be an incredibly talented wealth generator. For this entrepreneurial triumph, he should be commended.

On a political level, some have seen the film as a damning indictment of Capitalism. The ‘evil’ exploiting Capitalist humans are driven by their greed for unobtanium, an extremely valuable resource. They are willing to destroy the wonderful environment of the ‘Navi’ alien planet of Pandora and its inhabitants, in order to acquire it. The injustice is further highlighted by the sheer magic of this 3D world, which has reputedly had such an impact on some moviegoers that they have been driven to despair and are struggling to cope in the real world. Either that or their depression has been onset through realisation that in the real world, far away from Pandora, our public finances are in a dire state and as taxpayers; they will be footing the bill.

Despite the anti-capitalist interpretations, the film is quite the opposite: an anti-imperialism movie. Perhaps instead, it is a story of property rights (held by different humanoids) being infringed, and a journey of discovery for one of the imperialists (perhaps driven primarily by love interests). He comes to sympathise with those his side intended to coerce. Avatar also has a clear strand of thought on the environment, warning us about the sustainability of human action. However, with adequately defined property rights, a functioning market and a process of voluntary negotiation, humanoid agents should well manage environmental resources.

Regardless of the plot, Cameron has played a classic entrepreneurial role, in which he and his backers undertook significant risk, developed innovative technology, and are now reaping significant reward for their creative investments. Overall, another victory for capitalism, in an industry not famed for these sympathies.