Monday, January 11, 2010

My Thoughts about "Avatar"

I saw "Avatar" in 3D mode. The special effects were marvelous. The plot was not original except in where it took place (a beautiful alien planet called Pandora). I was immediately reminded of "Dances with Wolves" and "The Last Samurai" when I saw "Avatar." The plot in all three movies involved the persecution of a native population by American soldiers (in "Dances with Wolves") or former American soldiers/marines (in "The Last Samurai" and "Avatar"). All three movies show a former persecuter eventually siding with the persecuted and leading them against the persecuters. Also, "Avatar" and "The Last Samurai" sympathize with the spiritual beliefs of the persecuted. The theme of an environmentally related religion ran through "Avatar." The natives (the Na'vi) were intimately connected with the animals and plants on their planet and could even communicate with them through a part of their body (pony-tail tendrils).

Jo Piazza of CNN wrote an interesting article on the CNN website about the reaction of audience members to "Avatar" ("Audiences Experience 'Avatar' Blues," January 11, 2010). Piazza said:

"James Cameron's completely immersive spectacle 'Avatar' may have been a little too real for some fans who say they have experienced depression and suicidal thoughts after seeing the film because they long to enjoy the beauty of the alien world Pandora. On the fan forum site 'Avatar Forums,' a topic thread entitled 'Ways to cope with the depression of the dream of Pandora being intangible,' has received more than 1,000 posts from people experiencing depression and fans trying to help them cope."

I'm not too concerned about the movie poisoning the minds of particular people. I think their minds are already poisoned. Many Christians were in a panic about the feared effects of "The Da Vinci Code," but that movie didn't destroy Christianity. Conversely, many Christians had unrealistic hopes about "The Passion of the Christ" (directed by Mel Gibson). I think that most movies simply reveal the values of a lot of people. "Avatar" seems to indicate that a lot of people are looking for spirituality that is connected to environmental concerns. Such people apparently don't think they can find what they are looking for in traditional Christianity. The tree of souls in the movie allows for the Na'vi to commune with their ancestors and their nature god. The tribe gathers for group worship around the tree. Interestingly, the scientist who leads the team of people that place human minds in Na'vi bodies is named Dr. Grace Augustine (a character portrayed by Sigourney Weaver).

I have to admit that I enjoyed the special effects. The 3D glasses have come a long way through the decades. I can remember the days when the glasses had one red lens. The improved 3D effects made it seem like tracer bullets barely missed my head. Also, it seemed like stuff was floating down directly in front of my face.