Avatar is just coming out on DVD. Today I heard it was the biggest movie of all time. Presumably in term of earnings. Well, I thought it was one of the worst so in a spirit of Bah Humbug! I’m reproducing the review I wrote for it back in December (previously published on the Activate Your Life website). Warning: this review contains a ‘spoiler’. In other words reading it might tell you something about the end of the film but as the end of the film was about as predictable as the credits there isn’t much to spoil!
Okay I admit it! Whenever a film comes out with loads of hype it makes me hyper-critical so the following review maybe somewhat more savage than you feel the film deserved but I went along expecting to be impressed and was underwhelmed by everything except the graphics.
Visually the 3D effect combined with stunning animation (or whatever technical term they give it these days) was amazing as was the imagination of those who created the alternative world of Pandora (shame they couldn’t come up with a more original name for the place). It was all breath-taking, beautiful, awesome and you did feel like you were right inside the scene but after about an hour of ‘oooh’ and ‘aaah’ I would have expected the plot to take over my interest. Like James Cameron’s last blockbuster (Titanic) this was a long film.
The characters were 2D personalities, the plot was clichéd and the message was shallow. Yes, it was full of pseudo Christian metaphors or illustrations which even now I can imagine being used in many an all age service. There was the ‘incarnation’ of the main character Jake. He becomes one of the Navi and sort of saves them albeit in a rather blundering way. However his original intention was to undermine their society from within and it seems to take an extraordinarily long time for it to dawn on him that this might not be the ethically correct thing to do, so not a great role model for a Saviour. There was also a ‘confirmation’ (in the way Anglicans understand the word confirmation) scene when all members of The People confirm Jake’s being one of them. There was even a reference to their belief that everyone must be born twice before they are part of the community. All of this sounds vaguely Christian, after all being ‘born again’ was a concept first proposed by Jesus. But the whole thing left me feeling that bits and pieces of my beliefs had been hi-jacked and woven into a very New Age story, the central message of which was ‘don’t’ worry, Mother Nature will protect us’. A female nature based deity will rise up to save us from our insanity, greed and self-destruction. She will do this by redressing the balance (balance between energies being a very Eastern idea).
As a message all this is nonsense: what are we expecting? That an army of dolphins will rise out the oceans to stop us destroying the rainforests? Or perhaps it will be a Blue Whale like in one of the Star Trek films? Such a solution neatly lets us off the hook. No need to take responsibility if Mother Nature will sort it all out for us in the end!
Now I know it’s only a story and you probably think I’m taking it far too seriously but our global issues are huge and all this film offered were bland generalisations such as ‘all of life is inter-related’ and ‘we ought to treat others with respect’. And these are simply not robust enough for the problems we are facing. The world really does need The Saviour, the one who came not to subvert but to save us. Rather than simply being glad that a film is making a metaphorical allusion to the incarnation, those of us who believe it need to stand up and say ‘The Saviour has come’. He wasn’t a ‘gung-ho’ warrior, he was a self-sacrificing example. And, the whole earth isn’t going to get better by itself because ‘the whole earth groans’ awaiting the full coming of God’s kingdom (Romans 8). Those of us who pray ‘Your Kingdom Come’ had better mean it because we are meant to be part of its coming.
Two other points which you may also consider petty: I think it’s a bit rich that Hollywood should put out a film about not snatching land from indigenous people. They seem to miss the irony of the fact that their nation was doing that very thing only a little more than a hundred years ago. Secondly, all the good people in the film were slim and lithe and incredibly athletic. I know this is because they spent all day swinging from tree to tree but it saddens me that the ‘aspirational’ characters all conform to ‘perfect physique’ – perfect that is apart from having blue skin and tail! You saw a lot of female flesh but never anything more than a double A cup, what message does this send out to your average size 14 teenager?
There was one scene I liked! Hoorah! I liked it at the end when the main character gets his new body. This was so strongly reminiscent of the Christian hope of Resurrection with the ‘perishable body’ dying and the soul filling up a new, stronger, resurrected body (1 Corinthians 15) that I couldn’t help be moved. What the heck, I might even use it in an All age Service!