cinema review: Avatar (2009)

The remake of Battle for Terra was pretty good. Here is the opening of my review of Battle for Terra this past May,
I have a weakness for science fiction. Cool cartoons with alternative engineering and physics defying planets from directors enable me to ignore lame plots, shallow characters, and black and white themes. Hence, I took my kids to see the Battle for Terra and I liked it.
I only have to rewrite that review slightly. Instead of cartoons, Avatar is CGI, but alternative engineering and physics defying planets are constant. Lame plots, shallow characters, and black and white themes remain, but the three hours of eye candy make the faults easier to swallow. I

Avatar (2009 film)Image via Wikipedia

will not bring my kids to see this PG-13 movie however. The planet's natives, the Na'vi, are portrayed like many native stereotypes here on earth, barely clothed, hence the females are mostly topless. Another strike against bringing my children to see the movie is the blatant sex scene. Perhaps because it happened between blue actors with CGI tails added, it passed the censors' sense of what kids can see. I did not see the 3D version of the movie, so I can not comment on the coolness of that.

Cameron made several allusions to other movies and history of man's economic justification for the denial of human rights. Not only did he bring back Sigourney Weaver from one of his earliest and, in my humble opinion, best movie, Alien, but he used similar technology and alien looks.

I also noticed a nod to Apocalypse Now and invoked its atmosphere of enjoying the smell of napalm in the morning as the mean military man blew up natives with incendiary missiles.
Embedded video from Apocalypse Now, here.

Cameron acknowledges his common themes with Dances with Wolves. The most basic theme is that the richer and more powerful people desire treasure that weaker people hold sacred, and use their force to seize it. Unlike in reality, this movie is a fairy tale that results in the arrow shooting natives prevailing over the high-tech army. Reality bites. It bites more, in my opinion, when the deprivation of rights and liberty are done despite proclaimed codes of ethics.

I think a more uplifting, hopeful story would be one in which one of the oppressors, repents and convinces his oppressive tribe to do likewise. Some might argue that Constantine did this, to some degree and lifted the persecution of the Christians when he converted to Christianity. However, since he was the most powerful person in his region, he found his power convenient to continue to take rights to life and liberty from others. Another near example of this is a priest who joined the Spaniards to convert the native Americans and ended up arguing on the behalf of the indigenous tribes who were abused to death by the Europeans, Bartolomé de Las Casas. I've written about him and his fellows before, here. Sadly, they were not able to bring their governments to repentance with them.

Image via Wikipedia

If I were to speculate on theology and science fiction I'd say that since God gave dominion to humankind only over this earth, I would expect that humans would be driven off any other planet, be it Pandora of the Na'vi or Mars.

I can't recommend this movie. While raising a cry against exploitation, it exploits the nudity of women to up-sell the movie. It exploits the secrecy of sexual intimacy for titillation. It's post-ironic, a great term brought to my attention in a recent post at Touchstone. In this fantasy world of Pandora, there is no problem of natural evil. Nature assists, not indifferent, to its avatars, unlike the earth we live on where tsunamis kills hundreds of thousands as well as droughts and floods and pandemics. The movie might reflect Cameron's vision of heaven. But heaven does not exist where Christ is not. Pray for Cameron.

Golgotha Crucifix, designed by Paul Nagel, Chu...Image via Wikipedia

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