Avatar employs cutting-edge technology but its storyline is outdated and racist, say critics outraged on behalf of the movie's fictional race of blue-skinned aliens.
David Brooks in his column The Messiah Complex says: "It rests on the stereotype that white people are rationalist and technocratic while colonial victims are spiritual and athletic. It rests on the assumption that nonwhites need the White Messiah to lead their crusades. It rests on the assumption that illiteracy is the path to grace. It also creates a sort of two-edged cultural imperialism. Natives can either have their history shaped by cruel imperialists or benevolent ones, but either way, they are going to be supporting actors in our journey to self-admiration.
It's just escapism, obviously, but benevolent romanticism can be just as condescending as the malevolent kind - even when you surround it with pop-up ferns and floating mountains."
Annalee Newitz, editor-in-chief of io9.com, a sci-fi website, said: When will whites stop making these movies and start thinking about race in a new way?"
Director James Cameron firmly denies any racist intent. The movie "asks us to open our eyes and truly see others, respecting them even though they are different, in the hope that we may find a way to prevent conflict and live more harmoniously on this world," he said. "I hardly think that is a racist message."
More and more critics seem to agree with the premise that the story of a white US Marine who saves an alien race perpetuates the "white Messiah fable" and suggests that non-whites are primitives incapable of helping themselves.
The controversy has done little to affect Avatar's fantastic run at the BO. It took just 17 days to pass $1 billion in ticket sales - a new record - and to become the second highest grossing film of all time behind Titanic, also directed by Cameron.
Which side of the argument are you on?