Another stark contrast exists in Rand and Cameron’s chosen settings. As her largest set piece, Rand chose the concrete jungle of New York City. She painted a portrait of a slowly deteriorating city, whose once beautiful architecture had fallen into disrepair due to collectivist dogma. In sharp contrast Pandora, the backdrop of Avatar and home to the Na’vi, is an unmolested utopia. In keeping with the modern “green” fantasy all creatures live in harmony with their surroundings, while it is suggested that mankind has exploited its natural resources to such a great extent that they have left earth with no vegetation. The Na’vi would almost certainly see Rand’s New York as blight upon their lush landscape.
There’s one place where Cameron fails to hold a candle to Rand and that’s in originality. While Rand’s characters were illustrations of a moral system of her own creation, Cameron’s are mostly well worn clichés.
Much of Avatar has an odor of recycled material to it (and not in the green sense.) For example Neytiri, the Na’vi love interest of the main protagonist and the Na’vi character with the most depth, fails to offer viewers anything they haven’t seen before. Her relationship with turncoat marine Jake Sully is a love story that can be found in the vast majority of today’s romantic comedies. Even Cameron’s casting choices seem uninspired and obvious; a veteran Native American actor as the Na’vi tribe’s proud patriarch; an African American woman as tribe’s soulful spiritual leader. It would be safe to say that Cameron’s casting couch didn’t get too much of a workout during Avatar’s pre-production.
One would struggle to find two world views that are more opposite than those of Ayn Rand and James Cameron, but both have found success in crafting stories with very little moral ambiguity. In the end, Atlas Shrugged is a story of the triumph of the individual over the collective, while Avatar is an amalgamation of Hollywood and the liberal left’s collectivist political fetishes. While both works will undoubtedly delight those who are predisposed to their respective ideological tenants, it remains to be seen whether or not Cameron’s Avatar will hold up to the test of time as Rand’s masterpiece has.