Last week Peter Chattaway blogged an essay on Avatar and religion originally written for Anglican Planet (which is an awesome name for an Anglican periodical on so many levels, although I know nothing else about it).
As always, Chattaway is worth reading in full, but here’s how he begins:
Like me, Chattaway thinks that Ross Douthat was reaching a bit (in what I would otherwise call an excellent column) in calling Avatar a long “apologia for pantheism.” Citing resonances with aspects of Christian belief, from stewardship of creation to the intercession of the saints, Chattaway argues that for “those who can approach the film on its own allegorical level, and with the right kind of discernment, there is definitely something we Christians can work with here.”
James Cameron has given many interviews over the past few months, promoting Avatar and discussing the ground-breaking technology that went into it. He has even defended the film from those who take issue with its politics or its depiction of the military.
But I have yet to see an interview in which anyone encourages Cameron to talk about his religious influences.
This is a shame, as Cameron’s films have often been peppered with religious names, symbols and story elements, and Avatar … represents his most explicitly religious film to date.
This is not to say that the film advocates a specific religion, per se, but it does raise questions that are essentially religious in nature, about our relationship to Creation, to one another, and ultimately to some sort of spiritual reality that is higher than us.
A priest friend, frustrated by dodgy media coverage, recently sent me his own translation of the entire L’Osservatore Romano review, as well as of a segment that ran of Vatican Radio.
Was I wrong to contend, as I did recently in a response to a reader, that “Unlike Star Wars and The Matrix, Avatar doesn’t strike me as a film likely to burrow deep into the collective consciousness”? A recent story at CNN.com, “Audiences Experience ‘Avatar’ Blues,” at least raises questions about that assessment.
James Cameron’s Avatar is a virtual apotheosis of Hollywood mythopoeia. It is the whole worldview and memory of contemporary Hollywood, given shape in a narrative and pictoral form that is stunning in its finality and grandeur. It is like everything and there is nothing like it.
Copyright © 2000– Steven D. Greydanus. All rights reserved.