Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Movie Review: Avatar

We went to watch the hit movie, Avatar, last night. My kids have been waiting for this day, patiently waiting for me to return from Washington DC so that we can watch the movie together as a family. So I relented. We were not disappointed, though I do have a few concerns about the subtle messages within. There has been many different reviews of the movie. Most of them, including Christian sites have given a thumbs-up on the stunning techno-effects and various enrivonmental themes. One of the best and balanced reviews is from Carl Wieland, entitled "Avatar and the New Evolutionary Religion."

Here are some of my initial thoughts on the movie.

A) Worthy of Applause
  • Avatar is a technological marvel. The use of colour, animation, screenplay and special effects are top class.
  • Respect the environment. We need to be reminded that we need to use earth's resources wisely, and not to abuse them out of personal greed.
  • It is more important to earn trust and respect, than to demand for it.
  • Togetherness in Community; the theme of brotherhood and patriotism is strong within the Na'vi people. In particular, when Jake was initiated into the brotherhood, everyone in the community rejoices.
  • Strong story-telling from the perspectives of both the military as well as the Na'vi race.
  • Sensitive portrayal of the inner conflicts Jake and Grace goes through.
B) Worth Being Careful or Watchful
  • The movie seems to teach a form of pantheism, (Pan = 'all'; Theos = 'god.') where all things have a form of energy connecting them to a god. Some call it 'All-is-god' belief. With constant reference to the deity, Eywa that will save the Na’vi people, 
  • 'Eywa' is referred to a mother goddess. This is quite similar to pagan beliefs that god is female.
  • The movie attempts to paint the military (especially the US military) in a rather negative light. I feel that there should be a more level-headed portrayal, knowing that military might can also be used for humanitarian grounds. (see Haiti relief efforts, where the military is playing a positive role)
  • New Age themes and terms are rampant throughout the movie. 
    • "Avatar": is a term used for a Hindu deity incarnated into reality. [Answers]
    • 'Pandora' refers to a first woman in Greek mythology. [Collins]
    • "Na'vi" sounds like the Hebrew word for 'prophet.' When used on the indigenous people, it supports a notion of something growing out of them. On one hand, it could indicate a connection to the calling of the people to 'bubble forth' something in them. On the other, it claims to be the people being a channel for a mysterious energy force flowing through them.
    • Animism Theme: Energy Theme is strong, reducing deity to an Energy Force, which is common in many animistic religions. 
    • Transference of Life: How the dead spirit in the human body can be transferred to the Na'vi body, using the energy forces sent by the community of people.
    • Environmental Theme: This is clearly demonstrating that the earth must be protected from greed and careless destruction. The strong New-Age taste overwhelms the creational aspect of caring.
    • We-Are-One Theme: This flows into the New Age thinking that all is connected to a 'god' or higher energy source. 
    • Connection Theme:  The Na'vi people is able to connect and control the life-forms they come in contact with. Animals have connection strands to join with the Na'vi tail ends to form a united body.
In a nutshell, this is a worthwhile movie to watch. At the same time, be watchful of the subtle themes which can infuse new-age beliefs to confuse one's faith. Sometimes, movies that appear to be fictional, but touch on real themes can have a more sinister effect. Moreover, the great story-telling is masterfully done, and young minds can be easily influenced that the world of Na'vi is more real than the world according to the Bible. Even if the movie does not convince us of New Age themes, it has a potential to confuse virtual reality with truth.

With the show garnering top awards at the recent Golden Globes ceremony, Avatar will start to roll off more medals over the coming months, even years. Enjoy the show, but always be watchful of New Age influences that can confuse.


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