With the advent of Avatar on DVD, I finally had the opportunity to see the movie. This time there was no booming bass and overly active 3-D, and I didn’t end up feeling nauseous for days after. On a small screen it lacked the compelling sense of being in each scene that the first ten minutes of my theatrical experience of the movie had, before I had to seal my eyes tight for the rest of the film or be carried out on a stretcher. Nevertheless, I was able to follow the story this time.
I have posted several times on my affinity for old science fiction films; a large part of my boyhood was spent watching hours of improbable adventure on the black-and-white. Perhaps counter-intuitively, I ended up studying religion instead of science, or even literature. Religion, however, is deeply embedded in science fiction, probably because it is deeply embedded in people. And Avatar was no different. Early commentators noted the similarities of Pandora to Eden. Two trees in the garden (Hometree and the Tree of Souls) were easily borrowed from Genesis. The idea of nearly naked natives living in harmony with the world around them, the soft, graceful curves of the forest contrasted sharply with the angular, obtrusive construction vehicles intent on raping paradise. I’m a sucker for archetypes, I guess. The concept of Eywa as “All Mother,” a nurturing goddess rather than a frowning father deity, only enhanced the sense that Pardora’s box should not be violently wrenched open. Even the hideout of the protagonists was nestled among floating rocks called the Hallelujah Mountains – presumably the name given by earthlings.
Yes, the writing was at times trite, and the characters were caricatures of themselves, but in the tragic light of the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill, Avatar’s world was pristine, uncomplicated by greed and corruption. The Na‘vi, like zealous Christians, are born twice; the metaphor of foolishly maintaining hope in the harsh light of uncaring entrepreneurs might lead to a limited salvation even for this tired old planet. I am an unrepentant tree-hugger. And if there is a film that, despite its limitations, says it is alright, even noble, to hug trees, then I say it is religious in the deepest possible sense.