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Is Avatar OK?

Entry 1143, on 2010-01-14 at 10:37:36 (Rating 2, Comments)

Everyone seems to have an opinion on the movie Avatar - even the Vatican! I was initially surprised when I read that they had commented on this popular culture subject but a more recent item on the movie perhaps makes their motivation more clear. Apparently they see the message that nature itself is a like a supernatural force as challenging their beliefs. According to an NZ Herald report, they have said the movie is "flirting with the idea that worship of nature can replace religion - a notion the Pope has warned against." And they call the movie "a simplistic and sappy tale, despite its awe-inspiring special effects."

Well they do have a point about the movie being simplistic and sappy. I felt totally insulted by such a ridiculously one-dimensional plot involving pathetically one-dimensional characters and pitifully one-dimensional dialog. On the other hand I did have high expectations after the comments I have heard on the internet so its was always going to be difficult for the movie to fulfill my expectations.

Its interesting to note the concern the church has with worshipping nature replacing religion. I have noticed recently that several religious organisations have got into a bit of a panic with the increasing opposition to religion appearing around the world. The creationist crazies have organised a conference to try to counter the atheist conference being held in Australia, the Pope denounced Avatar because it seems to compete with Catholic superstition, and Daniel Dennett has recently blogged about the new willingness to criticise religion.

If I was a leader of a traditional religion I would be concerned too. There is no way that religion will ever disappear completely and the decline will probably not be obvious for many years, but I do think religion is on the way out. The problem is that new fundamentalist religions, like Islam, might replace the traditional Christian churches and "new age" mysticism might replace conventional religions. Whether that is a change for the better or worse is open to debate, but at least worshipping nature seems to be a move towards protecting the environment which is a theme that does not seem well developed in traditional religions.

Avatar wasn't all bad. The special effects and computer animation were fairly spectacular (although a friend who used to do animation said she thought the movement of the aliens didn't seem natural) but that really isn't enough. I think that if a movie is worth spending hundreds of millions on producing its worth putting a bit more effort into creating a more interesting plot and better dialog and characters. Maybe James Cameron is a good director but a terrible writer, so why didn't he get a real writer to write the script for him?

Of course, Cameron also wrote Titanic and that didn't get criticised quite so much for that, although there would be a case to say the characters there were also stereotypes and unrealistic. Also the Titanic story is based on fact so he couldn't stray too far into the realm of fairy tales.

Well that's probably enough criticism of the movie, Although I felt cheated by the story it was still enjoyable to watch because it was just so beautiful so it wasn't all bad. Its just that, with a little bit more effort, it could have been so much better!


Comment 1 (2581) by SBFL on 2010-01-15 at 09:57:12:

I read this article, and conclude you have overblown matters, but then that hardly comes as a surprise.
Vatican calls 'Avatar' bland

I do like the somewhat unsubtle dig at climate change religionists though. At least their radio station has a sense of humour!


Comment 2 (2583) by OJB on 2010-01-15 at 10:32:22:

Me? Overblown matters? Surely not! :)

Do you interpret this bit: "pseudo-doctrines which have made ecology the religion of the millennium" as a dig against global warming? (what actually is a "climate change religionists" anyway?)


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