I went with some friends to see Avatar on Friday. I had been pretty annoyed that it got so many Academy Award nominations, but I had not actually seen the film, so my annoyance was based on absolutely nothing. I no longer feel that way. It is an absolutely stunning film, in terms of immersive special effects–James Cameron has created a beautiful, convincing world, which, quite frankly, I wouldn’t object to living in. And the film entertains: it’s nearly 3-hours long, but it doesn’t feel that long for a moment. It deserves the nominations for these reasons alone.
Story-wise, however, it’s nothing special. But you’ve probably heard that. You may even have seen this hilarious Avatar Plot Fail:
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I’ve never seen Pocahantas, but that sounds about right. I saw a lot of Dances with Wolves (and therefore also The Last Samurai) in the film. I made a prediction based on the Dances with Wolves Connection, but thankfully it did not happen.
(I am now also put in mind of a film I saw as a child, in which a First Nations boy is hustled to the top of a mountain by a group of other boys from his tribe. On the mountaintop, they stick eagle feathers into him–actually piercing his skin–and then he either jumps off the cliff or is pushed off. But instead of falling to his death, he turns into an eagle. Does that sound familiar to anyone? I have no idea what that it could be. But I digress…)
Critiques: “Unobtainium”? Really? We are on this planet to mine for this highly profitable mineral. However, we are not able to get access to the most concentrated stores, due to the presence of the Na’vi people. This mineral, which we are unable to obtaindue to these people, is called…er…”Unobtanium”.
Momentary de-suspension of disbelief: During the final fight scene, when the huge robot operated by the general loses his gun and then HE PULL A BIG KNIFE FROM A SHEATH! Seriously? Am I crazy to think that in the future, knives will not be standard issue for combat robots?
That aside, I heartily suggest that you watch this film in theatres and in 3D. In fact, I’ll go one step further than suggesting: I urge you to see it in theatres and in 3D. But only because of the captiviating 3D world.
After the film I opined to my companions that the solution to violence and oppression in both film and reality is inevitably more violence. Can the Na’vi (essentially a representation of the First Nations people before the arrival of Europeans) ever return to their peaceful, in-tune-with-the-natural-world lifestyle after experiencing a battle of high-tech weapons of if-not-mass-then-still-pretty-big destruction?
I suggested that what was unique about the story of Christ’s efforts against the forces of oppression and suffering was that he did not meet them on their terms, but on entirely different terms. One of my companions was intrigued in a “I’m not sure about that” kind of way. I agreed that there was a lot of violence in the Gospels–the crucifixion being its ultimate example–but suggested that it was one-way. My companion wondered about the wrath of the Father poured out on the Son. And for the first time in my life, I think, I was really hit by the fact that there is not one Theory of the Atonement, but several theories, and that I really have no clue about what they all are.
I started writing something here about why I’m uncomfortable with the penal substitutionary atonement theory, but I quickly realized that if I continued I would be blowing a lot of hot air, because I haven’t a clue what I’m talking about. Happily, I notice that for the next two weeks, we will be discussion atonement–or more accurately, “soteriology”–in my theology class.