Avahontas? Pocatar?

There has been a lot of analysis and critique of James Cameron’s new blockbuster Avatar over the last few weeks, from withering indictments of its pantheistic proselytizing to paeans to the latent themes of redemption it contains.  I’ve not yet seen the film (although I intend to), but from what I’ve read and heard, while it is a stunning visual spectacle, the story is fairly predictable and unoriginal.

As evidence for this claim, I submit to you the following document which a friend just sent me this morning.  Apparently, the similarities between the plot lines of Pocahontas and Avatar are, er, striking…

There is nothing new under the sun…

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  1. A friend told me that the 3-D gave her a feeling of nausea at one point in the film, as she would have felt if she had been in the action.

    I probably won’t see it. I rarely watch a movie. Just too busy hiking. Still, I would like to see it to see the treatment of pantheism – to see the avatar. I wonder if the “Tree of Souls” is the avatar. You know, when one hikes in wilderness like I do, or even to the mystical peak in the heart of San Diego, one sees avatars quite regularly.

    I went with a group of 200 pantheists to that mystical mountain to watch the sun rise on the Winter solstice. Awesome, it was.

  2. Back when the preview came out of this film a co-worker and I were discussing this and she mentioned it was just a regurgitation of Pocahontas. I have not seen this movie yet but it’s quite funny to find the same comparison being made on this blog.

    I don’t think the tree is the avatar. It looks to me like the soldier guy uses the oversized smurf as an avatar.

    I don’t usually like when they mix CGI and live action but I am told the special effects are great. From what I have heard the story seems to perpetuate the myth of the noble savage and a low view of technology/capitalism.

    1. Yes, your summary sounds pretty accurate. I will head into my viewing of this film with appropriately modest expectations :).

  3. I have seen the movie and I would have to agree with your basic perceptions: it is a dazzling visual spectacle with a predictable plot. The CGI and 3-D is mindblowing! I also find interesting the comparison between Pocahontas and Avatar. However, Avatar tries much harder to incorporate a spiritual element to the whole thing. It represents the apex of reality in this film. It also carries a very stark view on life (specifically humanity), a pessimism that may be attributed to our societal outlook?

    1. The word I’ve heard quite often around this film is “misanthropic.” If so, this definitely reflects some fairly prominent cultural themes…

      1. Much of ecology today seeks to avoid being human centered. Sometimes the ecological view is described as inhumanist. Humanity is demonic in this literature. Being a progressive is not a good thing in this literature.

        Aldo Leopold named the ethic, “the land ethic.” He said we should learn to think like a mountain (rather than like a human.) The poetry of Robinson Jeffers is an example of inhumanism.

        I don’t know anything about the spirit of the film Avatar. The critique of our western ethics found in ecological or nature writing is worth hearing.

  4. JC,

    The ecological or green movement has many facets. In the main, it is not as radical as presented in the article you linked, but that article speaks some truth.

    Among the nature writers who have been most influential and who best represent this way of seeing life, are Thoreau and Muir. Jane Austin is a key figure, along with Aldo Leopold, Joseph Wood Krutch, John Burroughs, Robinson Jeffers and, my favorite, Loren Eiseley. None of these writers fit the description in the article you linked. I can think of some others who do, and certainly the United Nations activists, and Hollywood, represent a more radical view than one finds in the heart of this literature and sentiment.

    The ecological movement does challenge capitalism, but not in the same way socialists challenge capitalism. To those on the socialist left, the ecological movement can seem conservative, and to those on the conservative side the ecological movement can seem to be leftist.

    I imagine there are few of us, whether we lean left or right politically, who would not enjoy and sympathize with the views of the writers I listed above.

    1. JC,

      I forgot to mention that the ecological writers are as critical of socialism as they are of capitalism. From the ecological perspective, both systems view humanity as essentially motivated by economics – both are reductive and both harm humanity as well as the rest of nature. The claim that the writers, like Jeffers, who have expressed the ecological themes, are misanthropic originated on the political left. At the same time, some on the left have embraced the ecological themes to some extent and they claim, quite incredibly, that socialism solves the ecological problems.

  5. There’s a lot not to like. And if we take our story to heart not a stitch of it redeemable without devine intervention. Man isn’t worthy, not in the least. Man is blessed.

  6. Well I saw the movie tonight. Still not a fan of CGI and live action although this is probably better than the cartoon and live action “Who Framed Roger Rabbit.” It turns out that I don’t have to revise any of the criticisms I made above of the movie. The movie lived down to the low expectations I had of it. 1999 was such a great year for movies but 2009 has been such a terrible year. In 1999 we had the Matrix and 2009 we had Avatar. Hope this year is better than the last.

  7. Ken, I just want to say that I appreciate and respect a perspective that convenes with God through the wonder of His creation. That views unblemished natural envioronments as sacred spaces; where the human person is unencumbered of their own work and the works of others.

    Where quiet is. Where listening can happen.

    God in His infinite Self is truly present everywhere. Man in his very finite understanding finds His presence more readily in some envioronments, better than he does in others.

  8. freak and here I hoped that it would be a reworking of the classic ‘Footloose’.
    Ryan please don’t go to see it. Save your consumer dollars to spend on something you didn’t expect to regret. remember this is the same guy who gave us that infamous scene of Dicaprio’s hand against a steamy piece of glass. i still haven’t seen that one.
    In fact here is an offer: Before you make plans to go see the movie give me a call and I will supply you with a number of more worthy places to place your hard earned pastory wages…

    1. Well you (among others) have successfully planted second thoughts in my mind about seeing this one. I may just take you up on your offer…

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