Avatar

I saw Avatar (in 2D), and although I understand why it has been criticized for engaging in a romantic orientalist (or perhaps even racist) view of the encounter between “primitive” and technologically advanced, the detail with which the beautiful world of Pandora was created largely made up for it, in my mind. (A recent carnival gives the perspectives of several anthropologists on the movie). I won’t discuss the plot (at least in part to avoid giving spoilers), but presumably I can delight in the experience of seeing a gas giant up in the sky on this moon without being accused of giving anything substantial away.
The religious background to the movie has been described as “pantheistic” but that doesn’t seem quite accurate. It is closer to the outlook of the Gaia hypothesis, but the characters in the film recognize that the collective entity that Pandora seems to be is distinctive, and not typical of moons and planets more generally, or even of inhabited ones.
Did you like Avatar? What thoughts and impressions do you have, if you’ve seen it? What do you think the most important issues and aspects are to discuss in my religion and science fiction class next semester?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12427081116528735924 VeganTrav

    Professor McGrath,I absolutely loved this film: the visuals and special effects were stunning; never before have I seen anything so amazing in a movie theater. I saw it at an IMAX theater in 3D, and I really think you need to see it in 3D to appreciate fully what Cameron has accomplished with this film. As I watched the movie, I was enjoying one contiuous "wow" experience at the look and feel of the film. I saw Roger Ebert's review of the film, and he said that seeing "Avatar" was much like the experience he had when he first saw "Star Wars," and I cannot help but think that this film may very well be the "Star Wars" of the current generation.And the story itself is, in my humble opinion, great, too: it's a classic Manichaean conflict between light and dark where, by the end of the film, we in the audience are nearly cheering for the Na'vi and booing and hissing the humans. And while the story line lacks the moral complexity of, say, "No Country for Old Men" or other films where good and evil are not so clearly defined as in "Avatar," it's still wonderfully entertaining and easily holds the audience's attention despite being well over two and a half hours.You mentioned that you saw it in 2D; I would really very much recommend that you see it again in 3D. It is, quite simply, phenomenal.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16246150114835209174 Mel Schriver

    Yeah, I saw it in 3D and thought it was excellent. For all that, I still knew I was watching animation (high quality animation but still animation). In terms of content I thought it was a combination of "Dances with Wolves", "Captain Planet" and "Pocahontas". It was a bit preachy. The theology struck me as animism / pantheism in conflict with evil capitalism and I thought that interplay was the clumsiest part of the movie. I stubbed my toe on the name of the mineral Unobtanium as trivial. The final fight scene where the mechanical suit features a meter long Bowie knife seemed a bit stupid. The strongest human character is the lead scientist played by Sigourney Weaver. I really appreciated the positive image of curiosity driven research and how clearly the character appreciated new knowledge. I would have liked more layers or aspects of the lead human characters revealed to show motives and meanings but for the most part I feel I got my $ 12 worth and will probably pick up the DVD when it comes out. Animation is becoming a very good medium for storytelling just look at the starting scenes in Wall-E and Up.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01000798494472742263 J. L. Watts

    I loved it. My 5 year old was entranced by it. Plus, the issue with surface mining struck home, being in Appalachia and all

  • Anonymous

    A must see in 3D movie. The effects are a very important part of the event, not just for the visual but for the feeling you get. The feeling like you're part of the store not just a buystander looking at a store being told and it because of this feeling you can understand the would and how it can/does relate….

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03089281236217906531 Scott F

    I can't shake the fear that I will feel manipulated, expected to relish the spectacle of the effects so that I won't notice the paucity of the story. I'm not really one for spectacle. I don't think I could maintain the visual high for two hours.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02561146722461747647 James F. McGrath

    Scott, The plot isn't that weak, in my opinion. And I do think the effects themselves are impressive enough that even if you considered it merely a stroll through a visual gallery of cool images (rather than watching a movie expecting to find and enjoy the plot), you still probably would not get bored for two and a half hours.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04605470284153454825 phil_style

    Despite the orentalist romanticism, and the additional indigenous stereotyping (just to double down on all the myths of colonialism), I thought the script was awful. It all started with the cheap narration at the start, which was completely unnessecary, and somehwat partonising. Then they had to somehow give Sigourney Weaver's character an 'edge' so they put a cigarette in her mouth. Wow, so subtle…As for the 'flux vortex'.. oh dear. Who came up with that temoinology? Back to the future anyone?Someone I know desribed this film as nothing but "blue bums and side boob". I'm inclined to agree.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/18295840754661890186 Jonathan Robinson

    going to watch the movie tonight, some good links on people's political/religious reactions here, http://www.slashfilm.com/2009/12/30/political-reactions-to-avatar-from-thoughtful-to-insanely-comic/ kia ora


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