In response to Chelsea’s post earlier this month about Avatar.

In response to Chelsea’s post earlier this month about Avatar.

Firstly, if you have not seen the movie, only see it in 3D.

I wonder how seriously we should be taking this film in the first place. It seems to me that in 20 years our kids are going to be seeing this movie and laughing at the goofy special effects and how it’s all about ‘going green.’


“Reality and fantasy are too intertwined to actually send the message of embracing a “new lifestye.” We will constantly be asking ourselves what is the best way to be humans–and this is a good thing–yet the movie is offering that the best way is a way completely other than our own…He completely renounces his humanity. I argue that this is fundamentally different than our struggle to discover the best way to live as humans and has a tragically hopeless and irresponsible undertone.”

I respond that Mike gave a sufficient (literary) answer, saying that indeed the Navi are more human than the humans in the movie. I don’t think that Joe Plumber on the street is going to go out and try to become a blue monkey.

The movie is creative, yes. I have a hard time considering this movie as great art since it is primarily a sugar coated piece of propaganda, a mere analogy. It has potential in its appeal to myth and heroism—Avatar brings up questions of heroism, the human heart in conflict, and the good life, but more like Disney’s approach to Heracles or Robin Hood.

The movie is creative and has novel artifice, by which I mean that the special effects are never-before-seen, well rendered, explosive, and inventive. But I do not think that the movie approached any level of profundity at all. The tragically hopeless undertone that you were sensing Chelsea, is what I took to be the movie’s [not so] hidden message: Jake says something to the effect of “We destroyed our mother (earth).” I guess that means we as humans today seeing this movie ought then to save the earth from being destroyed. Trite—we all picked up on that.

Artistically irresponsible, yes. Worth making a big deal about, perhaps.

Why is it that Avatar was the straw that broke the camel’s back?  There have been many artistically irresponsible movies than this in the past. If this is simply a smaller piece of a larger irritation, Chelsea, I would like to know what that is. Can you flush this out a bit more?

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2 Responses
  1. Chelsea says:

    Consensus among many friends that I've talked to is that they are not taking the movie seriously–it is trite, empty and nothing to be worried about. I agree, it did not approach profundity. I think for a while, I was so worked up because the nerd in me loves a good fantasy, science-fiction story, and I expected too much and felt betrayed by a story that was so fleeting and empty. I do think it brings up a question of our standards in movies… do we hold movies to the same high intellectual ideals that we hold literature to? I don't think we do… but why not? If its because they fall more into the realm of pure entertainment, how far are we willing to indulge in escapist fantasy before the messages of these stories start to effect us? Is it too much to demand that the movie industry uphold virtue and explore the complexities of human dignity? (here I want to answer, yes, but why is that?)

    I think that it is part of a larger irritation. I probably never bothered to see many of the movies that are artistically irresponsible, but they would probably bother me as well. I also realized in talking to people about the theme of the movie itself (which again, I recognize I should not be wasting my time thinking so much about a movie that had so little thought put into it) that much of my irritation all begins with the concept of the avatar… having this other identity that you live through and begin to long for more than your own reality. That being said, I wish that we could all be sitting in the bar talking about this and not doing so in an electronic forum… but we don't need to go into that now.

    Peter you mentioned exactly what irritates me on a larger scale about it: "The movie is creative and has novel artifice, by which I mean that the special effects are never-before-seen, well rendered, explosive, and inventive.But I do not think that the movie approached any level of profundity at all. " Creativity is the best thing a man has to offer the world and society and one of the most exciting and amazing ways to glorify God. And here we have something that has never been done before visually, that leaves the viewer so disappointed–it concerns me that these are the creative breakthroughs that are gaining so much hype. Regardless of what the story says about the human condition, I think its pathetic that we would accept as a movie-going global society something so novel and break-through that has what we are all agreeing is an empty and trite plot.

    You cannot divorce the creative process from the Creator himself. By that I mean that no matter how flashy, amazing and initially impressive a creative work is, if it denies or insults the creative genius and power behind God's initial creation of dignified human beings, then I think it is tragically flawed and loses its creative merit. I guess I am usually more sympathetic because artists that are not fully ready to embrace God as the source of all creativity are still searching and their brokenness and struggle have a tragic beauty… whereas I felt like this was just a prideful, arrogant, exploitation of cinema as an artistic medium… which I suppose many movies are. But they shouldn't be.

    I invite Pappy to respond when she finds the time with some good thoughts on the ideal fantasy world and role of the story. (which at that point we will completely diverge from Avatar and get into much more worthier themes and topics)

  2. Chelsea says:

    Okay, also, sorry I never responded to your comment Mike. I found it very compelling. Also ironic that our roles were slightly reversed there… I was the one being cynical and you provided the hopeful outlook.

    "Fantasy is compelling because it brings humanity to a new environment."

    "Don't we allow ourselves to be elves and all other sorts of "inhuman" creatures in the boundaries of our imagination? And don't we become more human in all our imaginings? It sounds corny but it's true. Imagination has a transformative power. It really is a great tool we have to combat our fallen nature."

    Two things here, fantasy needs to bring human nature fully to a new environment so that you can return to reality and more fully appreciate the wonders of human nature. Avatar is not alone in blurring this line between reality and fantasy (the humans in the story are extensions of our human reality as we know it, not humanity in general brought to a new imaginative dimension, as in Lord of the Rings). Harry Potter does it, Twilight does it; and the problem with all of these is that if not read or watched by a viewer with discretion, they can serve as a form of escapism, rather than an imaginative avenue to become more human. Also, do we become elves or do we stay ourselves and encounter elves? Because I don't think a rightly excersied imagination should be abandoning its human nature.

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