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Avatar - a big film

Last weekend we saw Avatar in 3D. One thing I loved about it was the scale. It's expansive and immersing and big. Something in us longs for big, for things that are beautiful and take your breath away. Why would that be?


  1. BIG expansive set up yes. But then the smallest of small resolutions - an unimaginative shoot out. It's great until the myth of violence takes over and shrinks the whole thing down into a slug fest.

    That was my impression anyway.

  2. Agreed, the ending was somehow smaller... I guess that's what ruining paradise does.

  3. I wonder if I might supply a different angle.

    Not only was Pandora big, it was also in some senses, pre-fall. The beauty of Pandora, was only half of its appeal - its real appeal is its harmony, peace and virtue.

    In Avatar human beings and aliens swap places. Jake Sully finds more humanity in the values and community of the Navi, than he finds in the destructive and manipulative human beings.

    Avatar is a vision of some kind of heaven, but it also has something to say about human beings.

  4. Thanks for the angle Tom.

    Much more to be said yet on this one I reckon. The harmonious planet, with it's Hallelujah mountains, is certainly interesting. Driscoll pans it for paganism the interlinking of everything is a great way of showing what a world in peace looks like. You said on your blog, great films and stories need some kind of religion of some kind to tell their story, I'm inclined to agree.

    The Na'vi do seem strangely more humane and have a stronger idea of creation than the destructive humans...

  5. Driscoll has completely lost the plot on this one. He has misread the film, badly. There are elements of monism, but he hasn't spotted them so far. What he picked out as pantheism is actually naturalism.

    Think back to the film. Every hint of pantheism/monism is quickly given the promise of scientific investigation - and we even see the first fruits of evidence AND a theory for a naturalistic explanation of the root structure - the central vehicle of this pantheism. That's naturalism, not pantheism.

    The two elements which could communicate spirituality are the statement Grace Augustine makes when she dies, "I'm with Eeywa" and the intervention of the creatures into the last battle. You can find both of these elements in scripture (interventions and direct experience of spiritual reality).

    Driscoll has for some reason reacted in an odd way to this film. His critique was horrendously negative about the other aspects of the film, besides the purported spiritual dimension.

    The principle for Christian cultural engagement is to recognise and encourage the good, and then critique. I noticed that Driscoll's response was overwhelmingly negative - which sounded like a knee jerk reaction to Eastern mysticism. There is much in Avatar to praise and enjoy, and also much to critique, at the right point in the dicussion.

  6. Tom said:

    "Every hint of pantheism/monism is quickly given the promise of scientific investigation - and we even see the first fruits of evidence AND a theory for a naturalistic explanation of the root structure - the central vehicle of this pantheism. That's naturalism, not pantheism."

    Nice, you nailed it! Plus you're a Tom, what could be more naturalistic?


    Tom Clark
    Center for Naturalism

  7. Thanks Tom.

    This is exactly why Driscoll has got this one completely wrong. That's the danger of a knee-jerk reaction, you miss important observations/facts, that spin something in an entirely different way.

    I hold that Naturalism itself suffers from the same defect (in terms of the theoretical explanation of the genuinely real elements of reality [E.G. goodness, values]) but that would just be being deliberately provocative :)

  8. The more I think about it, the more Avatar is a story that is designed to massage the plausibility structures of the audience.

    Hints of spirituality - which give transcendence and meaning - but with an underlying secure metaphysical naturalism.

    This story is an exact reflection of the story that people want - its perfect for them.

    This provides a story to then do the 3D and special effects treatment to - money for sales of tickets, 3DTVs, Blue Ray and DVDs are all suddenly more possible. And this film opened up the whole new 3D market to the public.


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