December 28, 2009
‘Avatar’ is an enormous worldwide blockbuster movie – the first to use truly lifelike 3D – a huge leap forward that is sure to revolutionize the entire industry. I managed to see the movie in 3D this week, and like everyone I was utterly wowed by the lifelike 3D images and special effects. But there were some things about the film that truly disturbed me.
Maybe we should expect spiritual outrageousness from Hollywood by now. After all, they hardly seem to be able to make a spiritual statement in their movies without alienating every Christian in the audience. (They have been warned about this before. As Michael Medved has stated, Hollywood loses billions of dollars simply by offending Christians and church-goers – who number in the hundreds of millions in America). They often don’t seem to care.
But Avatar takes this to a new extreme. Many critics have commented that it has a deeply pro-environmentalist message. And indeed, it seems almost loaded with every touchy-feely New Age environmentalist theme that you can imagine. Some critics are calling it “Dances With Wolves in space.” But it sure does look amazing – in fact, stunningly real. It truly is a work of art.
The futuristic story revolves around an ex-marine posted to a planet with rich mining deposits – who has to inhabit an alien “avatar” body so he can infiltrate the local tribe that opposes the mining. Thus he becomes one of these blue-colored humanoids.
Though the film’s images are stunning audiences worldwide, the spirituality in it is at the far extreme of New Age. And it is not “subtle” either. It is a huge part of the story. More and more you see the “Gaia”-type ‘Earth-goddess’ stuff – plus pagan or wicca-like rituals – until half the film seems almost saturated with them.
As I said, most people have grown to expect this stuff from politically-correct and spiritually-weird Hollywood by now. But we are talking here about the most expensive ($300 million) and most revolutionary new film in history. Surely they have to be concerned that preaching such a message may lose them hundreds of millions of dollars in potential revenue? Apparently not.
It always strikes me as sad when these great breakthroughs in the arts fail to glorify the One who gave us creativity in the first place. And sadly, this is one of those times. And I guess that is why, even after the awe and wonder of seeing one of the greatest visual spectacles of our age, I left the theatre feeling pretty flat. And I wonder how many others felt the same – even non-Christians. I wonder how many left sensing there was something very wrong at the core of this story. I would guess it might be quite a few. (There have been a lot of complaints about the storyline). Even many non-Christians may not like seeing the “Earth mother goddess” getting all the glory. Which is why I think this movie will never take top spot as the most-watched film in history – despite all the money spent on it. And also why I think the sequel will never earn the kind of money that they hope for.
Will Hollywood learn its lesson? I strongly doubt it.