One of the most impressive epic adventures ever brought to film, "Avatar" is the fulfillment of a personal dream of James Cameron, director of Titanic. Cameron wrote the script for his new movie 14 years ago but the amazing technology “Avatar” debuts and establishes as a new standard for the movie industry only became available in 2005.
The new graphics technology pioneered by the movie, especially when viewed in 3D, serves as a vehicle to tell the moving story. The movie unfolds on the fictional moon “Pandora,” where humans are exploiting a rare and valuable mineral to provide energy for the Earth. At this point in the future, Earth has been completely devastated and left without vital resources.
Avatar introduces the fascinating and surreal world of Pandora through the eyes of the main character, Jake Sully. Sully is a former Marine who has lost the use of his legs and is confined to a wheelchair. He is given the opportunity of a lifetime when the corporation exploiting the mineral on Pandora offers him the chance to be involved in the avatar program.
Because of the toxicity of the atmosphere of Pandora, the avatar program allows human "drivers" to mentally control bodies artificially created by combining human DNA with that of the native race of Pandora, the Na’vi. The Na'vi are almost two times taller than humans and are quite slender. They have striped blue skin and are endowed with unparalleled agility.
Able to move freely in his new avatar, Jake’s mission is to infiltrate the Na'vi, whose reluctance to allow their forests to be destroyed by the corporation from Earth has become a headache for the heartless humans.
Things, however, do not go as planned. Jake’s avatar gets lost in the dangerous jungle of Pandora. He is about to perish due to the hostile local fauna when he is saved by a beautiful Na'vi princess named Neytiri.
Thus, Jake begins to lead a double life. Confined to his wheelchair he is a secret informant of the human military outpost. In his Na’vi avatar, he is increasingly fascinated with the complex local culture, the stunning nature of Pandora and Neytiri’s beauty. He also begins to develop an ever more passionate relationship with the Na’vi princess.
Though he is initially torn between the two worlds, Jake chooses to take his messianic place among the Na'vi and eventually leads the epic final battle against the humans that will determine the survival of Pandora.
That’s the story. Since it is a typical Hollywood movie, it is not hard to imagine how it all ends.
The most disconcerting aspect of the movie, however, is the blatant, childish and ridiculous environmentalist propaganda it embodies. The film subtly implies that anyone who does not share the radical "New Age" belief in "Mother Earth" is a psychopathic murderer. A prime example is the “villain” of the film, a colonel who commands the slaughter of the Na’vi tribe from an airplane while nonchalantly sipping a cup of coffee.
The distinction between the good guys and the bad guys is so clear that it is no different from the world of heroes and villains in Warner Brothers’ animated children's cartoons. The contrast is just as sharp as between Elmer Fudd and Bugs Bunny.
The heroes of Avatar, the Na'vi, are indeed as "good" as the humans are “bad.” The Na’vi believe in "Mother Earth," they ask permission and then apologize to each animal they hunt in order to survive, and they live in total, perfect and idyllic connection with nature.
This connection is not merely figurative in the film. The Na’vi also have a type of tail with nerves that literally connect to similar neurological “sockets” in animals that run and fly. It is only through this connection, and not through domestication, that the Na’vi can use the animals to travel by land or sky.
Additionally, the Na’vi funeral rites are scenes modeled after the hippie festivals of the 1970s. In these ceremonies, everyone sits in a “yoga” position with their hands intertwined and raised up in concentric circles, eyes closed and bodies swaying to the chants of the mantras to “Mother Earth.”
The film leads us to believe that the only possible redemption is to become a Na'vi. The only other option is to be a part of the frivolous, heartless, greedy humans. The humans, says one character in Avatar, “become enemies to anyone who is sitting on something that interests them," as they are not content with having destroyed their own planet.
There are no half measures. This "redemption" is achieved only through learning the way of initiation. Neytiri responds to Jake’s wishes to learn “the way” by saying "you cannot fill a glass that is already full." Essentially, one must be "emptied" of everything human so as to "start over" in a new way. But what is the new way? It is the way of 21st century environmentalist Gnosticism. It is the way of denying that salvation is for everyone and is available for all - and it is in complete contradiction to the Christian teaching on salvation.
Hollywood's critics tend to be harsh with what they describe as the "moral simplicity” of most Christian films. Films with a Christian backdrop such as "Fireproof," "Facing the Giants," or "The Blind Side," all of which have had more-than-acceptable success at the box office, have been literally flattened by film critics for the alleged "crime" of being "moralistic.” Not even movies with rich and complex plots such as "Bella" or "Because of Winn Dixie" have been spared this criticism.
The simplistic morality and Manichaeism of Avatar is not only laughable, but also an insult to the intelligence of the viewer. Nevertheless, it will win several Oscars and many audiences will applaud enthusiastically when the Na'vi, aided by the "Mother Earth," begin to tear the humans to bits. Why is this?
First, it is because, without a doubt, the movie could not be more cinematographically spectacular. But most of all it is because the film represents Hollywood's official dogma of religion without God or personal moral commitments. Hollywood praises their "saints" with the same fanaticism with which it burns its “heretics.”
You're Bugs Bunny or you’re the rabbit-hunting Elmer Fudd. Avatar has confirmed that rule.
* Catholic News Agency columns are opinion and do not necessarily express the perspective of the agency.