Monday, January 11, 2010

A Blog Post About Blue People, A Trash Compactor, Redemption and the Rapture

My husband and I finally saw Avatar last night. The long and the short of it is, that Daniel really liked it and I was sort of "eh" about the whole thing.

Technologically, it was a masterpiece. The CGI was astoundingly real and the whole makeup of the fictional world of Pandora was sight to behold.

But it comes down to the story, I had more mixed reactions.

On the good side, it did have a good take on how indigenous people have been treated over the centuries, how their homes have been destroyed and populations decimated.

But while it highlighted that issue, it did it in a very surfacy way. The native population of Pandora, the Na'vi were basically perfect people- they all were attractive and thin, they were in tune with nature and there wasn't a bad one among them. Maybe it's me, but I like some gray in my heroes and villians. The Na'vi were so good, it was hard to really relate to them at all. Maybe there was a reason that a recent parody of Avatar on South Park made the Na'vi into Smurfs- they were about as annoyingly perfect.

But maybe what really bothered me about the movie was the lack of hope for humanity. There was not sense of redemption. The Earth of the future was a horrible place of war and ecological devastation. Save for the scientists, the bulk of the humans on Pandora were basically savages and at the end of the movie the are defeated, but unchanged.

Maybe its me but I think that there was another movie on the environment that gave humanity a lot more hope: Wall-E. In that movie, the robot WALL-E is a trash compactor that continued to do his work centuries after humans left Earth an ecological mess. The humans lived on ships and had grown fat and lazy. Through Wall-E, they come back to earth and start anew, this time respecting the world they once took for granted. That movie had a condemned humnaity for its sins but also gave a shot at redeeming itself, and humanity did. But in Avatar, there was no chance.

I like my movies to have some sense of hope. That doesn't mean I want a "happy ending," however. Hopeful endings mean that there is a chance that redemption will take place.

In some ways, Avatar reminded me a liberal version of the rapture. For the uninitiated, this is the belief popular among some Christians, that the faithful will be taken into heaven, while the unfaithful will be stuck on earth and face God's damnation. In Avatar, the humans go back to dying planet to face their damnation, while a few good humans got to stay on Pandora and if they were really good, they could like the young protagonist Jake Sully, leave humanity altogether and become a Na'vi.

I'm not as upset as some conservatives are about the implied pantheism- people are entitled to their spiritual viewpoints. But I wanted more nuance and gray in this movie. As E.D. Kain notes in a post today, a movie like The Mission, dealt far more in the grays of life and gave a fuller picture of the good and bad of humanity than Avatar ever did.

So, I chalk this up as an okay movie. It wasn't a waste of my three hours, but I did want something a bit more hopeful.

No comments: