Jake is a paraplegic war veteran, part of an invading government force. Neytiri is a beautiful, blue-skinned native who fights to save her homeland. And if the latest extended trailer from Avatar: The Movie tells us anything, their love story is going to be ripe with eco-entendres.

James Cameron, famed director of Titanic, Alien, Terminator and more, has said that his latest project is about what happens when advanced civilizations supplant indigenous cultures, in either an actively genocidal or more unpremeditated ways.


Judging by his latest trailer, Cameron also seems to be delivering on a strong political eco-message. We’ve got displaced Native American types — they are the noble Na’vi! We’ve got fatigue-clad Marines hanging out of helicopters wrecking mayhem — it’s Vietnam all over again! And we’ve got gigantic trees felled by industrial-sized bulldozers — it’s like every deforestation moment in history!

And the eco-message is in the details. We open on a new world filled with beautiful vistas, majestic trees — this is Pandora, home to an indigenous population called the Na’vi. As told by an ominously scarred Marine-type, these Na’vi are “very hard to kill.” Unfortunately for the Na’vi, they live in an area rich in much-needed resources. Our skin-challenged Marine-type grumbles, “Those savages are threatening our project.”

Enter the avatars, which are human/Na’vi hybrids developing by the evil invading forces. Apparently, the air on Pandora is toxic to humans and can only be breathed via avatars. Jake, the paraplegic Marine, takes the form of an avatar to “learn from the inside and gain their (Na’vi) trust.” Soon enough, Avatar Jake is leaping about in amazing adventures in this beautiful land.

So while trees fall left and right, Jake infiltrates the Na’vi. Eventually, he is bewitched by Na’vi Neytiri and her clearly more noble and “closer to the land” Amerindic society. Jake’s supervisor, a scarred Marine, queries, “Haven’t gotten lost in the woods, have you?” And soon enough, we see Jake fighting against his own people with a Gladiator-style send-up in the end: “They are sending a message that they can take whatever they want. This is our land!!”

But will the movie’s green message bring on another blockbuster for James Cameron? So far, 20th Century Fox seems to think it can turn a profit, partially based on the fact that Cameron was the driving force behind the studio’s all time blockbuster, Titanic. This is despite the fact that Avatar has a reported half a billion-dollar budget for production and marketing.

Judging from the great ball of romance, action, adventure and science-fiction that is the trailer, Avatar will at least garner a lot of attention on release. Avatar releases in both 3-D and regular screens on Dec. 18, 2009.

Potential blockbuster has an ambitious eco-message
But will James Cameron’s $500 million Avatar deliver?