Monday, January 04, 2010

Reflections on Avatar (No Spoilers)

What struck me within the first 5 minutes of the movie has continued to dominate my reflections 2 days later.

I could go on about:
  • The mind blowing animation
  • The engaging story line with it's multitude of poignant social commentaries
  • How Zoe Saldana is the luckiest (self-proclaimed) sci-fi geek, first scoring the role of Uhura in Star Trek, and now costarring in Avatar
  • My excitement that it brings sci-fi to a wider audience
  • James Cameron's epic biography that has brought him to this point
Avatar has ensured that 3D will dominate the future of film, but not for any of these reasons. James Cameron has set the standard for 3D as a story-telling art form.

There was zero gimmick. I never felt like the fact that the movie was 3D was shoved in my face.

The third dimension was not used to create an experience in and of itself, but it was utilized as one of many tools (such as audio and color).

Within minutes you forget that you are watching a "3D movie". This is not to say that the third dimension is not appreciated. In fact, I can't think of a scene where the heightened sense of clarity and depth of 3D did not amplify the story. You forget that it is a "3D movie" in the same sense that you "forget" that color schemes and soundtracks are used to convey emotions, and resultantly, amplify the audiences immersion in the story.

The beauty is not in the flashy effects, but in the subtle angles and perspectives of the artists eye. I anticipate many film makers will learn, replicate, and continue to evolve this art in ways that the audience does not, and needs not, fully appreciate. We will simply appreciate more immersive stories through film.

I'd love to hear your thoughts. What did you think of Avatar (the story or the films significance in other capacities)?


James said...

Awesome graphics, but I get a little annoyed with all the political undertones. Couldn't they just keep the beauty and throw out the agenda (that has been beat to death anyway)?

DK said...

Hmm. It didn't annoy me because it's a fictional story. Obviously we don't physically interface with trees and animals. But the core values that are conveyed which can apply to our reality are generally positive, such as a respect for life and a holistic sense of ecology.

I myself am not a fan of the environmental religion. More blog posts to come soon on that. Stay tuned.

Anna said...

So, BEFORE I went to see the movie, one of the bloggers I read wrote about why he wasn't going to go see Avatar. There was also a follow-up post on Avatar, which I skimmed the beginning of, but didn't really read in full.

When I saw the movie, I really wished I hadn't read them. I couldn't help but try to evaluate the movie through the lens of the review, and it took the edge off my enjoyment of what was a really, really good movie.

Yes, there are limits in real life to how far the environmental message should be taken, and yes, Avatar wiped all those nuances aside. But it's a movie. A story. That's what stories do. Shades of gray don't make for compelling plots. Clear bad guys do. The more wicked a story bad guy is, the more we rejoice in their downfall. That's why the movie didn't just have the bad guys cutting down trees, they also had them killing sentient people. (Heck, they were even happy to kill some of the Earthlings, lest there be any shadow of a doubt there.)

The bonding-thing on Pandora could possibly be taken as some sort of religious statement about how alike all of creation really is, or something. Personally, I think we do have a connection of sorts to all creation, through our common Creator, even though we are also clearly higher beings than animals and such. That part didn't bother me at all - I loved it, in fact.

The one and only thing that did bother me just a tad bit were the bits that seemed pagan to me. The Pandorans worshiped Eya (sp?); but the Earthlings found that Eya was a mind in the planet, basically; the scenes of bowing to the Memory trees bothered me the way that watching any sort of pagan worship might.

Anonymous said...

So...I will make the fool of myself by commenting against all you genius people but owell.
The graphics were great, the 3-D was amazing, the idea that people should not kill or annihilate a people group just based on the desire for wealth was portrayed well.
Keep in mind the purpose of any good story should be to compel you to some sort of action. If a story is told that does not do so it probably wasn't that good of a story. That is what bothers me with Avatar, the ideas of connectedness and animals being equal or almost more important than mankind. If this is one of the messages that is being portrayed it is certainly not one that I want to support. Our society has for a while been one that places a higher value on animals than on humans...This should upset us as Christ followers. We are the only ones who were made in the image of God and given the spirit of God.
The main story line that I picked up connected to nature.
Strangely my favorite part is that it does give a good view into the greed of Americans and the fact that we are willing to kill and destroy in order to make a profit.

DK said...

Thank you Anna! I really resonate with your perspective of the movie and it has helped me greatly in continuing to process the story.

Anonymous (Josh?), I am equally frustrated by the high value that society is placing on animals. Honestly, if someone has a worldview that leads them to believe that animals are equally as valuable as humans, then I wouldn't want them to have kids anyhow!

That being said, the answer (don't destroy nature) to the problem (all life on Pandora is intimately intertwines) in Avatar can not be an answer to our reality. But I could see how there is a danger in viewers assuming the simplistic answer to a simple problem is the correct answer for a complex problem in reality. HANG IN THERE, the following should clear this up...

Here's the logic, as I understand it...

On Pandora, The natives are physically linked to the trees and animals (nature) therefore destruction of nature is morally wrong.

On earth, humans are indirectly connected to a terribly complex ecosystem that must be responsibly lorded over and controlled in order to maintain a balance for life.

As you can see, in reality there is a very complex "connectedness". To a certain degree, the situation in Avatar is a shadow of reality, but if someone were to walk away with the conclusion that the simplistic solution in Avatar should be applied to reality is foolish.

Granted, and this is what I understand as your concern, there could be people who's world views are be muddled by the movie. I just don't think a fear of others being muddled is a reason not to like the movie :P

Great discussion all! Never thought I would dig this deep.

Anna said...

Actually, if you notice, on Pandora, the natives do kill and eat animals, and use others for their own purposes (like riding). They don't consider it morally wrong. But they do it with an understanding of their connectedness to what they kill, an empathy that appreciates what their prey sacrifices. There may be a touch of pantheism in the extreme to which they take it; but the idea that we should only kill when we need to instead of killing for the sake of killing sounds like good Christian stewardship to me.

The other main ecological message, I thought, was captured when Scientist Lady pointed out to Head Company Guy that the real riches of Pandora was in the biology of the neural network. This applies to us; in our real lives, it can be very easy to only see and pursue the one resource we want right now instead of taking the time to look around at what else is there and see how our actions affect it all.

DK said...


You reminded me of one of my favorite lines between Scientist Lady and Head Company Guy. He is holding that rock in his office and telling her "remember! This is the only reason you are here! Without this you wouldn't be able to do your science! That's how it works. I didn't make the rules."

It's one of my favorite lines because it hits me like a ton of bricks. It's a reality check of the way that we have structured society. Resources make things happen. If we are going to take a stand on certain things, we have to be willing to let go of certain things that we probably don't want to let go of.

Anna said...

"we have to be willing to let go of certain things that we probably don't want to let go of."

Yes. Jesus calls us to a detachment from worldly things... not in the sense of not having or using them, but in the sense of not being attached to them. If we really had that detachment, it would have a serious impact on the way we do business, our consumerism, and on the environment.