Thursday, December 31, 2009

Brief AVATAR review

I saw the new James Cameron movie last night- AVATAR. I saw it in 3D for $13.50. It was well worth the money.

The movie, as a spectacle, was amazing. The effects, artistry, and seamless interaction between "live" actors and computerized figures sets the new standard. The storyline was pretty good, which surprised me. James Cameron never does anything small scale, this $300 million production is no exception.

The story is set in almost 150 years in the future. Earth has apparently been raped of its natural resources so Earthlings (called "Sky People" by native Pandorans) travel many light years away to a planet (Pandora) to mine it's vast deposits of a particular multi-million dollar mineral. The native Pandorans (10 foot tall skinny blue people called the "Na'vi") have a spiritistic relationship with their planet akin to the Native Americans that once populated North America, and are extremely defensive with the intrusion of Sky People. Many years prior Earthlings visited Pandora as a way of understanding the indigenous people and to see if a peaceful agreement could be reached so some of the minerals could be mined. As part of this process a new technology was developed where a Na'vi body could be "made" in a giant test tube. By way of a computer link up the body could be controlled by a human in a remote location. These controllable Na'vi bodies were called AVATAR's, hence the movies title. An avatar is a computer user's representation of himself/herself or alter ego usually in the form of a three-dimensional model. In this case they were actual physical Na'vi-looking representations of whatever human was controlling them. So as not to alarm the Na'vi, the human scientists would interact with the natives through the use of avatars. The Na'vi were at ease with these creatures, but didn't fully accept them as authentic. The Avatar "program" was a primarily a Scientific endeavor with nerdy Ph.D's controlling the Avatars. Mineral acquisition wasn't very important to the scientific team which started to weary the private companies itching to get at the planet's minerals.

As time went on, a particular private mining company built a military base on Pandora and basically gave the Pandoran's a deadline to strike a deal or have their minerals taken by force. Enter Jake Sully. Unlike the scientists controlling the other avatars, Sully was a former Marine who lost the use of his legs in a prior battle on Earth. He controlled an avatar who was able to infiltrate the main Na'vi village and gain the trust of the natives. Over the course of 3 months he was ritualistically accepted as a true Na'vi and basically married a Na'vi woman (who also happened to be the chief's daughter).

As you might expect, Sully became torn about his allegiance to the mining company that was paying him to talk the Na'vi in to giving up their minerals and his new found tribe and wife. I won't spoil the conclusion, you should see the film (you can read a full synopsis here). This isn't a film for pre-teen kids. There's some harsh language and some goofy sensuality that's hard to categorize- you basically have nakedish tall blue skinny people gallivanting to and fro throughout.

There is a pretty clear theme in the movie, perhaps it's a message or worldview promotion, I don't know. The Na'vi are portrayed as deeply spiritual. Spirituality is defined as being one with all things (living and non living). The planet in some way is God (called Eyra) and all living creatures are united together in a balance. It's kind of a spiritism meshed with animism. Complicating this unusual admixture is an actual physical way for all creatures to be one. It seems that all the creatures (flying creatures, horse-like things, and even a special tree) have a sort of link rope, including the Na'vi. You can become one with any living creature simply by linking your "rope" to theirs. A bit weird, I know.

It's a great movie to analyze with teens to talk about the worldview that seems to underlie the film. It could be used to discuss a genuine, biblical view of creation, among other things. Like Star Wars, the "religion" of the movie is obvious but also fantastical and easily deconstructed biblically- great conversation fodder. I'm glad I saw it.


Ben said...

It was predictable that Gaia eventually saved the planet from the evil sky people. It's just more rehashed propaganda.

The 3D was fun however!

Ken said...

Maybe as a pastor you needed to see it. But, the unassuming Christian who see this nonsense is a dead man. What a bunch of malarkey.

Reepicheep said...

What do you mean Ken?

Jim said...

Fun movie over all. The look of the alien planet ("Pandora") was simply incredible -- it made the film for me.

The screen play, however, was trite -- "Dances with Wolves" meets "Star Wars." And the culmination of the story in the "mano a mano" slap down bewteen Sully and the Colonial -- pulleez!

Still, the first two-thirds of the film worked for me -- getting to know both the world of the earthlings (and the technology of the avatars) and the world of the Na'vi.

Contrary to the seemingly "spiritual" aspects of the Na'vi's relationship with Pandora, it is only fair to note that the explanation in the movie was bio-chemical and NOT spiritual. This was "scientifically" measureable, which distinguishes the theme from "the Force" in Star Wars (at least in Episodes 4-6) and from the New Age religiosity in so many other movies.

Ken said...

I think the movie, "Avatar," and others like it, was made to prime the populace for the coming one world government and the coming shift in global spirituality. As a pastor, I would think you would need to see the movie to warn your people of the dangers of that Christless nonsense. The young, lukewarm, or careless Christian who goes to see the movie only for the "entertainment" value truly is not wise to see it, especially if he hasn't been able to connect the dots as to what the movie is promoting after he's seen it. "Avatar" is literally an, "in-your-face," 3-D false prophet concerning the "goodness" and "light" of the coming end times.

Reepicheep said...

Ken, I guess I don't see it quite like you do. I think there is something to be learned from all forms of art and expression. I really don't think the story is primarily propoganda. But even if it was, a well equipped Christian can take the wheat and throw out the chaff.

Jim, good point about the bio-chemical thing. There still was some kind of spiritual/bio chemical thing but whatever right?

Ben said...

I'm not sure what Ken is talking about. Please explain how a one world government is advocated in this film? And isn't the new global spirituality already come? Worshiping the earth is it!

Ken said...

If everyone is as secure in their faith as you think about them in their faith, you've got no problem; and so maybe the Lord was wrong to put under-shepherds over His flock, because everything always works out in the end, anyway.

As far as the comment about the one world government, no there's nothing like that in the movie. But, the movie is about giving up the old ways of life to embrace the better, new way of life; a way that's never been know before to humanity, but it's just better.

Woody Woodward said...

But I want to know, is ole yeller get shot because he’s got the hydrofobee? I think I would pluck my nose hairs than to see this stupid film. But here is a great one to see that for some reason (of course we know why, Hollywood doesn’t like family friendly themes) “Gifted Hands, the Ben Carson Story” Staring Cuba Gooding Jr. It was fabulous! We got it on Netflix but when I see it in the stores, we will add it to our library of Faith based movies.