Monday, March 1, 2010
This past Friday my two favorite red-heads went on a Girl Scout cookie delivery mission to Rochester, so I went on a mission to find a movie to watch. After consulting with Jennifer Huehns, the movie maven at Chain of Lakes Church, I decided to see Avatar. Chaz Ruark and Bill Chadwick, two Presbyterian colleagues, both wrote about Avatar, so I decided to give the movie a try.
I watch a movie for the story. The story of Avatar is fairly simple. The evil humans from earth want to extract a precious mineral on the planet Pandora. The humans can’t mine the mineral without moving the Na’vi off their native land. The humans are able to become Na’vi through a mental link. The hero of Avatar is Jake. As a human he is a para-palegic. He becomes a Na’vi with a promise from Colonel Miles Quaritch that Jake can get his legs back as a human if he provides the right information for Quaritch. Jake predictably falls in love with one of the Na’vi, Neytiri. When Jake doesn’t work fast enough for Quartich he becomes the leader of the Na’vi. The entire movie predictably ends in a war—the Na’vi win and the evil humans are sent back to earth with their tails between their leg.
To put the story even more simply—aggressive imperialists want something from the natives; one imperialist falls in love with native; war breaks out; natives win; imperialists go back home.
The sequel is predictable because the imperialists won’t accept defeat forever.
The structure of the story forces us to root for the Na’vi. I'd rather that movies treat our emotions with more nuance. Seriously—most people aren’t going to root for the imperialists. It’s like rooting for the Russians when the Americans won the Miracle on Ice game.
Despite the simplistic story the themes of the movie are many. Wikipedia has done an excellent job of highlighting them: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Themes_in_Avatar.
The spirituality of the Na’vi intrigued me. The human biologists recognize that the planet is connected biologically in an extraordinary way. Sigourney Weaver’s character is a scientist who wants a sample of the Tree of Souls, a special place where the Na’vi gather to worship. One of my favorite lines in the move is when her character is close to death and is taken to the Tree of Souls. When she is told where she is she says, “Can we get a sample?”
I can’t help but view the spiritual themes of the film through my Presbyterian background. The connection of the Na’vi to each other, to the animals, and to their God prompted me to think about the Holy Spirit. The Spirit can connect us to God and to each other in a profound way. We humans don’t have the capability to plug in and be connected like the Na’vi. But we can connect through the Spirit.
We Presbyterians don’t embrace the Holy Spirit enough. We would rather be decent and in order than appreciate the chaos of the Spirit. The next time someone does a presentation on the Holy Spirit I suggest we watch Avatar. Not because our Reformed beliefs about the Spirit are the same as the Na’vi, but their spirituality presented in the movie can expand our way too rationalist faith.
I’d rather attend a prayer meeting where we sit and gyrate in a spirit of prayer than attend a Presbytery meeting where we argue about how we aren’t following Robert’s Rules of Order. I believe most people in the world feel the same way.