The Avatar franchise may be one of the most financially successful in Hollywood, but its story conceals a decidedly dark truth. When Avatar released in 2009, it quickly became a sci-fi sensation. James Cameron’s fantastically-crafted alien world of Pandora made for a breathtaking setting, with the film itself recounting an age-old story of human greed.

Admittedly, we did name Avatar as one of our most overrated movies. The thing is, for all its visual splendor, it simply isn’t that original. It follows in the footsteps of a number of other stories, taking its cues from them. And therein lies the franchise’s biggest issue.

Like many other sci-fi classics, Avatar takes its cues from existing human history to help ground its story. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, the historical event that Avatar most closely resembles is that of the colonization of the Americas. This lends a particularly dark cadence to the story of Avatar that’s more than a little unfortunate.

The “Real” Avatar Story Has A Dark Ending & Problematic Implications

The parallels between Avatar and films like Pocahontas and Dances with Wolves speak for themselves. But the real history behind such stories is one that’s much darker than the Hollywood blockbusters would have us believe. The colonizers’ treatment of indigenous people was truly horrifying – much like the humans’ treatment of the Na’vi in the film – but it’s the ending that’s perhaps the worst part. In essence, the bad guys won.

Of course, that isn’t to say that the humans will ultimately win the war for Pandora, but it does color the narrative a little differently. There’s also another element at play that makes the story of Avatar a little dark and problematic in another sense: it feeds into a number of white savior tropes. Namely, the human Jake Sully has come along, endeared himself to the local population, and is their greatest weapon against the human invaders. Fair enough, he’s blue (after a little sci-fi magic), but the point stands.

Between the real history it’s based on and the tropes its story follows, Avatar manages to be a little dark and potentially problematic. Well, at least in this particular interpretation. Maybe we should just enjoy it for what it is and not worry too much about historical atrocities while watching modern sci-fi. Maybe.