I think I may be unwell. Perhaps I should lie down.
Because I am in agreement with the Vatican on something.
Specifically, the Vatican’s newspaper and radio station have apparently criticised the James Cameron Avatar blockbuster for being a simplistic and sappy tale, and for there being little behind the images.
It happens that I saw Avatar last night. It was actually the first film I’ve been to in three years (I kid you not – but it’s hard to get babysitters for the little ones), so it is fresh in my mind.
Is it worth going to? Absolutely. Was it a masterpiece? Visually, yes. The special effects are stunning and bring life to a bizarre fantasy world.
But the storyline was the weak point. It was indeed sappy. I’ve also heard it described as Dances with Wolves in Space. That pretty much sums it up. In any Hollywood flick where a bunch of bad guys are doing bad stuff to the poor simple and lovable natives, you expect the hero to give the baddies a good butt-kicking. And there will be a girl, a romance, a falling out and a reconciliation.
There is also a faintly racist odour about the film. I don’t want to overplay this, because after all the natives in the movie are an alien species. But it is hard not to see parallels between the aliens and the tribesmen of Borneo or the Amazon rainforests. If a film was made about a white guy coming to save the Amazonians, would we be comfortable with that? I’m not sure this is really an issue – just a lingering unease that was left with me, I guess.
But generally the film is all good stuff, even if it is a bit hokum. People are saying Avatar is Oscar material, though I’m not sure. Certainly it ought to win a bucketload of technical awards. But best picture?
On the other hand, my ability to get to the movies triennially doesn’t qualify me to pick award winners.
Back to the Vatican. Thankfully, some of the other things said by the Vatican about Avatar return me to my usual disdain for things emanating from that place. Such as the concern expressed that the worship of nature in the film and within the environmental movement generally threatens a return to paganism.
That’s a bit rich coming from a religion whose many symbols and practices evolved from the paganism of the Romans and other religious groups (especially Mithraism and the Cult of Cybele).
And if we have to worship something then isn't Nature a more likeable god than the one in Leviticus?