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James Cameron's "Avatar" has been met with enthusiasm by audiences across the globe. But despite commercial success, the film has been the target of some who see it as an affront to the Marine Corps.
Cameron tells Marine Corps Times that "Avatar" was meant in part to pay homage to the Corps.
"The highly sympathetic main character of the film … is a former Marine," Cameron said in an e-mail. "His courage in the face of overwhelming odds makes him a hero of mythic proportions by the end of the story."
Chief among the movie's critics is the Corps' own director of public affairs, Col. Bryan Salas. In a letter that appeared in the Jan. 18 issue of Marine Corps Times, Salas wrote, "'Avatar' takes sophomoric shots at our military culture and uses the lore of the Marine Corps and over-the-top stereotyping of Marine warriors to set the context for the screenplay. This does a disservice to our Corps of Marines and the public's understanding of their Corps."
After reading the letter, Cameron said he spoke personally with Salas. It became clear, Cameron said, that Salas' chief complaint was that the film did not accurately represent current Marine tactics in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In the movie, a corporation hires Blackwater-esque mercenaries led by the villainous former Marine Col. Quaritch, to evict the natives of a mineral-rich planet. Jake, a paraplegic former Marine, infiltrates the locals, or Na'vi, using a body that looks like them and that moves through remote mind control. As he gets to know the Na'vi, he has a change of heart and fights his mercenary employer.
Cameron reasoned that the main character's actions in a way reflect today's counterinsurgency efforts.
"Jake sets out to understand the indigenous people and learns to respect them and their value system, and in turn earns their respect. … I believe this exactly embodies the approach Col. Salas described to me," Cameron said.
The director said he was inspired to include Marines in his movie because of his brother's own service in the Marine Corps. John David Cameron joined the Corps in 1985, fought in Operation Desert Storm and most recently worked as a consultant on "Avatar." James Cameron said he sought to embody the same qualities he has seen in Marines in Jake, the protagonist.
"Although [Jake] is confined to a wheelchair because of a combat injury, he is unbowed and still a warrior, ready to take on the greatest challenge," Cameron wrote.
Read James Cameron's full interview at marinecorpstimes.com/cameron
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