It’s completely understandable why, even beyond Edwards’ past history with the franchise, many would see his attempt to create a new and original sci-fi world about an epic war between the oppressed and their oppressors and immediately think of “Star Wars” … but there’s one key difference that makes “Avatar” a more apt comparison. While George Lucas always maintained that the Empire was an overt allegory for American intervention during the Vietnam War, there still remains a certain element of letting audiences off the hook. By not including any main protagonist struggling with actual ties or allegiances to the villains, it’s easier for audiences to only ever think of the threat of fascism as some vague, faceless “other.”
That couldn’t be further from the case in James Cameron’s 2009 blockbuster or “The Creator.”
In both films, viewers have no choice but to follow a military man unquestionably working for the American bad guys, which is the conceit that allows each respective story to pack an additional punch. The framing of a main character who goes undercover among their enemy and eventually undergoes a profound change of heart might seem fairly standard (or even a bit trite), but give credit where it’s due — that choice in both “Avatar” and “The Creator” speaks volumes about who, exactly, is primarily responsible for all the conflict inherent in both worlds. John David Washington’s Joshua Taylor might not be cut from the exact same cloth as Sam Worthington’s Jake Sully, but both function as reflections of our own culpability. Much like the colonizing humans in “Avatar,” the NOMAD-wielding human invaders in “The Creator” draw a painfully clear line between the true good guys and bad ones.
Put another way: It’s us, we’re the problem.