Avatar (2009)

Avatar (2009)

Rated M

Starring Sam Worthington, Sigourney Weaver

I think I’m the last person on the planet to see this movie. I spent the six weeks of the summer holidays in non-English speaking countries. Avatar was so big that it was showing in every country we went to. However my German was no where near good enough to even bother trying to keep up. And life was so busy after we got back to Australia it seemed like we’d miss out.

But because Avatar is one of the biggest movies ever, it was still showing almost every where last weekend, so I managed to get along to a session. I’d heard so much about it, I thought I’d be disappointed. I wasn’t. The movie was visually spectacular and held my attention all the way through, despite being a very lengthy flick.

A lot has been said about Avatar. So instead of giving an in-depth review, I’m going to give my impressions in point form. That way I’m going to cover a lot, but in less detail. If you want to explore any of these ideas further, that’s what the comments are for. Let’s do this thing!

  • Do I even need to bother with a synopsis of the movie? Judging by the ticket sales you’ve already seen this movie. Just in case: Humans bad. Aliens good. Humans try to kill aliens and take over planet for profit. Aliens fight off humans. Day is saved. Yay!
  • Avatar is a very good looking piece of cinema. It’s a fully immersive world. The aliens (most of the time) look real and believable. The planet is presented in such a way that you want to go out and explore it for yourself. That’s a win in my book.
  • What does this movie tell us about mission work to indigenous cultures? The humans and the aliens have been unable to make any sort of connection. Despite the humans offering goods, services, education, etc… The aliens don’t trust the humans and want nothing to do with them. The company only wants to exploit them. The scientists seem more preoccupied with gathering knowledge about the aliens than getting to know them. It’s not until a human warrior gets among them and offers to do things there way do the aliens soften a bit. Score one for incarnational ministry! However, it’s hard to make too much of a case here, considering how much of a straw man the humans become in this movie.
  • The aliens are pagan. They believe in a god that encompasses all things. The aliens are part of god. The animals are part of god. The trees are part of god. Everything is god. This is in opposition to the gospel truth that the one true God is distinct from his creation. I am not God and I am not part of God. I am his creation and I exist to serve him. Which as Mark Barry points out makes the fact that God entered creation to save us and redeem creation all the greater. James Cameron sets up the movie in such a way that every thing the humans do is bad and everything the aliens do is good. Therefore their pagan views are elevated. This is dangerous territory. And deadly wrong.
  • I’m left wondering what the take home message of this movie was. Are we meant to be feeling guilty for our interactions with indigenous cultures in the past? Sure, past imperialism has a lot to answer for. Has any thing changed since those days? Because the humans (with a few obvious exceptions) are presented as money hungry rationalists with no time for culture or respect for life. I walked out of the movie wanting a more optimistic vision of the future. Maybe I’m just getting old. Surely we’ll do a better job in the future? Surely this issue is more nuanced than presented?
  • The biggest issue for me is that the humans had nothing to offer. They were just there to be the bad guys. The aliens didn’t want anything to do with the humans. The implication being that they were better off without the humans. That their culture and their lifestyle was so perfect that humans would just get in the way. I wonder how indigenous people living in places that have been reached by the gospel would react to this? How would a Fijian who has come to know the ultimate saviour Jesus Christ respond to hearing that things would have been better if the white man had never made contact? Avatar presents overly simplistic answers to issues that are far more complicated than what Cameron wants to show us.
  • Avatar is a lot of fun to watch. But when you start digging under the surface, there’s not a lot there. It’s just a shame Cameron couldn’t find a reason to put Sigourney Weaver in a mech again. So close…

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One response to “Avatar (2009)”

  1. Carrie04 says :

    Hi – I agree with you wholeheartedly.

    There a good Christians humans in the world and bad corrupt humans. It was the bad corrupt humans that were the ones on Pandora. The nice scientists turned into Avatars. I think to truly bring the gospel to indigenous group of people is to show them Jesus in a way that certainly matches their way of living and thinking. It’s worked in Africa I have read.

    So I can see a bit of Christianity in that. But then we are talking about James Cameron and when you look at his other movies, there’s no God in those movies either. In the end it was a fun movie to watch, especially the special effects. The script by the way, was terrible!

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