“It’s only a movie,” that’s what I kept telling myself Sunday night as I gazed on the fifty-foot IMAX screen. Sunday night my husband and I went to see Avatar in 3D. Avatar is currently the #1 movie worldwide and has already broken box office records.
Avatar is everything they say it is: a technical masterpiece, a cinematic marvel with relatively interesting characters, and a passable story. I really enjoyed the movie. It attempts to engage almost each of your senses and nearly succeeds in doing so. I’ve never experienced a film in quite this way before.
Caution: minor spoiler alert from here on out.
And while Avatar is just a movie, it is a movie with one overarching theme, “The earth does not belong to us. We belong to the earth.” It is not a subtle theme nor does it pretend to be. Amid the stunning visuals and the familiar plotline is the idea that the creatures which inhabit this mystical land called Pandora exist in a symbiotic relationship with their earth. Avatar and indeed the creators of this metaphor champion the notion that the indigenous peoples must seek peace with Pandora and will find answers to their prayers by communing with her.
While this movie introduces spectacular new technology, it presents nothing new in the way of subject matter. Over the course of time folk tales as well as books and movies have portrayed the idea of man’s duty to Mother Earth as well as zeroed in on man’s selfish and destructive nature. Our society is ripe for this type of mystical persuasion with the pervasiveness of radical environmentalism afoot. We have witnessed this reality in mainstream media, if you repeat something long enough and loud enough people will believe it – and act accordingly. Notice how much of this radical ideology has taken root in our society environmental and otherwise.
I could almost leave Avatar alone to exist solely for its entertainment value except for three things. James Cameron, the creator of Avatar, has heralded it as a metaphor for the way that humans treat the Earth today. A couple of lines from the movie sum it up nicely, Jake Sully, a Marine/Avatar tells Na’vi Princess, Neytiri, “There is no green anymore on our planet, we killed our mother.” One of the final scenes finds Jake Sully, now a Na’vi initiate, narrating, “The humans went back to their dying planet.”
Secondly, it has become tiresome to see military men and women, in this case Marines, portrayed as those who would destroy a people and an ecosystem to capture resources, and do so with no sense of responsibility or remorse.
Finally, but possibly most disturbing, were the scenes in which the indigenous peoples, the Na’vi, gave themselves unreservedly to worship of their earth deity Eywa whom they also refer to as All Mother. This draws a distinct parallel to religious environmentalism which insists that humans owe Mother Earth a similar respect.
While I recognize that this is a movie dealing with mythical creatures, I cannot help but consider the spiritual implications. Avatar, as Cameron intended, did a good job at playing on my emotions. I became emotionally involved with the characters and wanted to see them ride to victory, still I couldn’t help but twinge with the knowledge that these peoples were worshiping and calling for aid from a pagan god. Yes, it is a movie, but images and ideas which are set in motion don’t necessarily disappear when the movie ends.
Though I don’t think this movie will be responsible for a flood of people streaming to worship Mother Earth it succeeds in toeing the environmental line and making us more comfortable with the suggestion that our treatment of Earth is the source of the problem, and that humans owe the Earth a debt.
This is, however, absolutely contrary to a biblical worldview. I would agree that we are a part of the problem – sin and the fall have brought much destruction to humanity and creation, and we do owe a great debt, but that debt is to God and to Him alone. Amazingly, God, in His sovereignty has satisfied that debt through the blood of His son, Jesus – our first response must be to turn to Him and allow his blood to cover us.