Both films try to highlight the brutality of Humans when confronted with what they don't understand (i.e. Alien lifeforms). King Kong makes this claim with far better accuracy than Avatar, however. There is a very conflicted, very human, way people deal with the imax screen-sized ape in King Kong. It is viewed with awe and fear and respected for its awesome presence, but is ultimately exploited by the entrepreneurial spirit of Americans. Of course, it cannot be contained any easier than a hurricane can, and in the end must be destroyed. King Kong is an animal, it acts on instinct and when defending himself is capable of destruction on a Godzilla-like scale. But it is also an ape, and thus smarter than most creatures, only a step or two below human consciousness – the proof being that it is capable of something in the arena of love. Kong's death is sad – humanity killed the ape. But there is also the sense that we acted not on entirely evil pretences, but that we wanted to show the world something spectacular. In my opinion the quest to show Kong to the world was not done purely in terms of crass commercialism (although I can't deny there is traces of that), but rather that seeing Kong produced a humbling, almost reverential reaction in audiences.
In Avatar, the Na'vi are very similar to aboriginal, hunter-gatherer cultures. They are flawless – a spiritual, ritualistic, proud and united people. Humanity is represented by the colonial forces of a thuggish military and a few tree-hugging scientists. The military wants access to a mineral deposit that sits below the Na'vi city – the Na'vi refuse to leave their homes, and so the military pledges to wipe them out if the scientists and their avatar-program cannot find a 'diplomatic solution'. The cartoon-like colonel refers to the Na'vi as savages and tree-monkeys – basically the same racist attitudes that plagued European settlers in North America. The environmentalist scientists view the Na'vi with a naive and sentimental attitude – idealizing them as perfect organisms at peace with the world around them. We are expected to think the same. I digress; All in all it is a very 2-D plot and script, pasted together with politically-correct environmentalist rhetoric. Avatar would have been far better off as a simple showcase for Pandora – think a Planet Earth type feature of an imagined world.
Cameron put all his effort, craft and film-making experience in creating the world of Pandora, while hiring the script writers of Wall-E, 9, and Fern Gully. It seems that every fantasy picture these days has to show that humanity on the whole is completely blind to their ongoing rape of the natural world – to serve as biting political wake-up calls to the general public. Please. You guys are wearing dull dentures. The story is much more complicated than that. The solution is not to become a hunter-gatherer population along the Amazon or someplace 'exotic'. BUT! Aside from the films underlying 'message', it is a blast to watch. It is one of the few pictures where i have sat slack-jawed and at the edge of my seat, revelling in 'movie magic'. Go see it to feel like I did as a kid watching dinosaurs come to life in Jurassic Park, or how my scrappy 1933 Brooklyn child avatar would have watched King Kong almost 80 years ago.