Let's Talk About Avatar
Fire. Water. Earth. Air. Oops...wrong Avatar. So, uh, hey. Welcome back to Godly Dragon Reviews, and today we're going to look at James Cameron's Avatar franchise. Back in December 2009, the first Avatar was released in theaters and when I was a teenager I went with my mom and dad to see it. We saw it in 3D and I was just blown away from start to finish. It introduced me to a whole new world of cinema. But, that was back when I wasn't a Christian. I am a Christian now, and last Christmas I had the pleasure of seeing the sequel, subtitled The Way of Water. When I returned to the Avatar franchise without rose colored glasses on, I started to question the underlying themes. Many Christians out there are not too fond of Avatar, while others like myself seem alright with it. So I think it's time we took an objective look at the franchise to see if there are any redemptive qualities that Christians can get out of it.
Avatar is the story of a paraplegic ex-marine named Jake Sully, who is part of the military's Avatar program. He takes on an Avatar body that is part human and part Na'vi for the military's operation to harvest unobtanium from Pandora to bring back to Earth. As he explores Pandora, he becomes torn between his mission and his new life on Pandora, resulting in him betraying the military that wants to destroy all of Pandora and take it for themselves. That's basically the plot of Avatar. The first movie at least.
There does appear to be some Christian themes in this movie. Notably, the ideas of being born again, being stewards over what God created, and self sacrifice. When you look at how beautiful Pandora is, it's like a glimpse of the New Earth that God will create for us. It could also be argued that the Avatar bodies are like the new bodies we'll get. When Jake gets his Avatar body, he feels whole and perfect and instantly starts running. Could the end goal of the franchise be that the humans will all become Avatars and make a new life on Pandora instead of being left on Earth to just die? Who knows. We won't know until James Cameron releases the rest of his planned Avatar movies.
Also, on Pandora, there is a god, which makes Avatar a theistic film in an era where anti-theism is a societal norm. More importantly, the film goes against the theory of evolution. There's no way you can say that Pandora and everything on it just evolved in a way that allows the Na'vi to bond with it and all of its creatures. Therefore, a god must have designed all of Pandora. However, the god is actually a goddess, that they refer to as "Eywa", and this goddess is more like a giant living thing than some other god that is out there. This is an area that Avatar is criticized for, and understandably so. We have a personal relationship with God that lives out there in the universe, as opposed to being Earth itself. A theory I had is that perhaps "Eywa" is a manifestation of our God, Yahweh, as Yahweh and Eywa have some of the same letter. After all, the Na'vi are aliens. But the issue of gender remains. This however does not invaldiate the culture of the Na'vi. Because they live on Pandora, they live very similar to how God intended human beings to live before the fall, and they even have patriarchies like in biblical times.
Now let's address the elephant in the room. The appendages in the Na'vis' hair. These have tendrils that are used to bond to the creatures on pandora and also bond to plants and to each other. So some people think....some people think...I'm sorry, I can't say. It's too uncomfortable to even consider. I'm...I'm sorry.
Let's move on. The final argument against Avatar is that it has an anti captialist agenda and that it has an environmentalist agenda too. All the humans are portrayed as merciless thugs that just want to tear down a whole environment for corporate greed. However, not all human capitalists are like that. For every greedy capitalist, there are also generous and kind people that are good steweards over nature and people. It's just the bad humans that need a good kick in the butt. Many criticize this movie for just being Pocahontas or Dances With Wolves with blue alien people. They believe the Na'vi represent Indians and the military represents colonizers. When you think about it that way, it does seem pretty obvious what message James Cameron wanted to convey. But I still enjoy Avatar as a whole.
I will leave you all with this. Whether you like the Avatar franchise or not, we should all agree that it's important to analyze and critique media from a Christian perspective. Every movie has an agenda, and it's up to us to really analyze what we're watching to see what kind of agenda it has. The Avatar franchise is a mixed bag. Can it be viewed in an anti-Christian way? Of course. But, it can be viewed in a Christian way as well. I think it's important to see all perspectives on this film rather than demonize those on the other side. As for me, I love Avatar, and I want to see where this franchise goes. God bless.