I know it’s probably odd for a mostly-theological blog to recommend an entirely-secular movie, but odd has never stopped me yet and I don’t think I’ll start now. . .I just saw the film “Avatar” with my brother and our sons yesterday, and I have a new addition to my top-ten all-time favorite movies. It’s really that good. Not because it’s a compelling sci-fi and intercultural story, though it is that. Not because it has the most seamless integration of CGI and live action I’ve ever seen, though it has that. Not because of breathtaking cinematography or stunning action sequences, though it has both in spades.
No, what makes Avatar leap to the top reaches of my list is the moving way that James Cameron has told the story of the depths to which a military/industrial society will go to obtain the materials that contribute to their (our) consumer economy, and the complete disregard for the lives and cultures that may get in our way. The material in question in the movie is “unobtanium,” and the location where it’s mined is a habitable moon around a blue gas-giant planet some six years’ space travel away from us, but it’s also the story of diamonds in Southern Africa, coltan in Congo, gold in Papua New Guinea, and all the other blood-minerals that power our economy.
Watch this movie. Be prepared for an uncomfortable look in the mirror, even as you drink in a stunning exemplar of storytelling–probably Cameron’s best ever. And if you don’t see 9/11 in the imagery, you’re not paying attention. . .
It’s rated PG-13 for violence and “sensuality.” No question the battles are violent. The sensuality is very low-key in my opinion, unless you consider the nearly-nude (though depicted discretely) forms of the native race to be offensive. The imagery is not sexual, it is natural. The need for parental guidance on this film is not because of the overt material–it’s to make sure your teenagers think about the deeper subtexts. And they are thoughts we of the West should contemplate.