The movie Avatar is setting some box office records. Since it’s fantasy/sci fi, my preferred genre, I decided to check it out.
Avatar is set at some time in the future, when humans have destroyed the green things on earth and are bent on spreading the destruction to a beautiful Eden-like planet, Pandora, six light-years away. There’s a mineral there, “unobtanium” or something like that, which corporate greedsters will do anything to get. Unfortunately, the mineral underlies a major home base of the beings who inhabit Pandora.
The lead character, Jake Sully, is a marine confined to a wheelchair. He finds himself incorporated into a science experiment on Pandora where he guides a cloned Pandoran body from a special capsule. Although he has no ability to run in his regular body, he can command the cloned body as if it were his own. It’s the ultimate video game–he gets to become the character, at least as long as the character is awake. I suppose this is the reason for the name of the movie. Avatar has come to mean “a computer user’s representation of himself,” according to Wikipedia.
As the story progresses, Jake’s alter ego learns the ways of the Pandorans. He falls in love. He is supposed to be the intermediary between the colonialist humans and the Pandorans. But the negotiations fail–the Pandorans don’t want to become anybody’s colony. Thanks to action on the part of the planet’s goddess, there is a happy ending, at the expense of the humans.
What do I think?
This movie promotes pantheism. The goddess Eywa is in everything and may respond to supplications, but she can’t be depended upon to take a moral position. She seeks balance, and may allow the bad guys their way for that reason. She doesn’t seem to be a person, but more of a force. Actually, she seems to be The Force from Star Wars, renamed as feminine and re-cast in a gorgeous setting. I suppose she takes action here because her planet is threatened.
Clearly it isn’t a Christian movie. So, should you let your kids see it?
Let’s compare it to the Harry Potter movies. Many Christians objected to Harry Potter because there is sorcery involved. The author, not a Christian, nevertheless creates a world where there are good wizards and evil wizards. The good wizards struggle with the evil ones and eventually win. Can this be drawing our children into an acceptance of sorcery? Could be, but I think most readers are able to see the moral tale. Of course, there is no personal God acting in the Harry Potter tales, so they are hardly uplifting.
Avatar however will tend to pull our children away from a moral way of seeing, toward a yin-yang mentality where good and evil are seen as two sides of the same coin, and the deity is in everything and inside us too. This balanced Eastern concept of God is entirely false, we know as Christians. Where is the sinner in need of a savior? Where is our holy God?
What’s particularly troubling is that, according to Becky Miller who did some research, there are some Christian bloggers who think this movie is Christian. Are some in the church stepping onto the inviting slippery slope that Hollywood offers?
I would like to re-imagine this movie with Jehovah as the God who responds to supplications and saves the planet. He is holy and we are not. That would come out strongly. Through the work of Jesus, he has built a bridge to us. He hears our prayers. He acts. He heals. He guides. The resulting movie might be more like Raiders of the Lost Ark, or the Chronicles of Narnia.
Here’s my challenge to you, Christians in Hollywood: create a new fantasy movie starring Jehovah. Thanks to the people who made Avatar, the tools are there to create a lush fantasy world that displays characters with human emotions. Why not use this to tell the world about our loving, holy God?