By Kathleen D. Tresemer
I finally embraced modern entertainment technology by going to see the new movie, Avatar. Hubby and I went with Second Half friends, after the initial long lines and throngs of texting teens had gotten it out of their systems. I wanted to explore the old-timers’ viewpoint of this hugely hyped, 3-D offering.
Hubby is not a fan of either the sci-fi or fantasy genres, although he did enjoy Lord of the Rings, albeit at home and only once. I should clarify: if Hubby likes a movie, he watches it over and over again—that behavior has always been a mystery to me, with the exception of such oldies as The Wizard of Oz, Singing in the Rain and Holiday Inn.
As a writer, I know lots of folks who read, then re-read, favorite books. While I may actually feel very sad when I finish a terrific book, I have almost never had the urge to re-read a novel. My philosophy is: “So many novels, too little time.” It’s kind of like wishing to go back in time and relive those moments—I don’t even attend high school reunions. You couldn’t pay me to go back to my teen years!
Movies are a slightly different matter, as they require less thought but more subconscious interaction. When I enjoy either a movie or a book, I am totally engrossed: “The house could burn down around you, and you wouldn’t notice,” someone once described it. But with movies, we use more of our senses—sight, sound, hearing, etc.—so our brain reacts differently. I love both experiences, separate but equal. Now, add 3-D technology: “I’m there, baby!”
Back to Avatar—in case you are a hermit, this movie is located on an alien planet where humans have set up a military outpost. As is typical throughout our history, most of the humans are trying to grab the natural resources from the big, blue natives (we messed up our planet, and we need their stuff to keep going) through domination and force—shades of General Custer! There is a love story akin to Pocahontas, a message in the same vein as Nelson Mandela and Gandhi, and special effects that are revolutionary and loads of fun.
It is a simple story, really, but covers a lot of contemporary concerns:
THEME No. 1: “It’s absolutely the story of the destruction of the rainforest!” my Second Half gal pal declared. The environmental message in the movie is unmistakable: upset the natural balance of things, and the whole system suffers, maybe dies. Take care of your planet, and it will take care of you. DUH!
I heard someone who “thought the movie was stupid” ask, “How many times will they harp on the same old message about the environment?” My response: “How many times do you need to hear it?”
THEME No. 2: “Obviously a love story with the same theme as Titanic (the director’s other phenomenal hit),” one friend said. “Kids from two cultures overcome their differences through understanding, respect and love.” Sweet and predictable, every romance-lover’s dream, and the least interesting part of the movie, in my opinion. I guess that was thrown in to appeal to those high school girls I saw swooning in the back row of the balcony. In place of Titanic’s infamous “I’m king of the world!” line, I expect to hear love-sick teens crooning the blue natives’ greeting, “I see you!” into their pimply-faced sweethearts’ ears.
THEME No. 3: “More than just saving our planet,” I chimed in. “It focuses on how we are all connected, how every action creates a consequence for ourselves and everyone else.” I think some of my cohorts get tired of me repeating the same philosophical stuff, although I was pleased to see this message in a venue a 12-year-old could comprehend.
THEME No. 4: The movie definitely takes on a spiritual bent when it addresses the concept of a belief in something greater than ourselves. Shared insight from a Second Half guy: “I was really happy when their God decided to get involved and kick some alien ass!” I recently caught the song, “What if God Were One of Us?” and Avatar answers this question with a hearty, “She is!”
In the Age of Aquarius, it is pretty cool to find a movie that covers the political, philosophical, spiritual and social bases while still entertaining us. I agree with Gandhi, who said, “Our life is a long and arduous quest after Truth.” I look for some inspiration from movies, especially if they are really FUN!
From a scientific standpoint, the movie seems to support Einstein’s remark: “Technological change is like an axe in the hands of a pathological criminal.” Most of the humans in this movie are pretty pathological and, since seeing it, I find myself looking suspiciously at those around me. I try to ease my anxiety with Nietzsche: “You need chaos in your soul to give birth to a dancing star.”
“We got the chaos,” I keep thinking. “So when does the dancing start?”
Hubby’s a man of very few words and enthusiasms…his one complaint about the movie: “The glasses bothered my eyes after a while.” If that’s his only criticism, this movie was a big hit.
My Second Half point of view: Avatar has inspired me to celebrate our universal connection. I’m going for a walk in nature. As I do, I will contemplate the movie’s symbolism of plants lighting up with each human contact. I can’t help but worry, though: “Does eating chocolate harm the rainforest?”
In her second half of life, Kathleen D. Tresemer is both a journalist and an award-winning fiction writer. She lives with her husband on a small ranch in rural Shirland, Ill. Kathleen can be contacted by e-mail at email@example.com.
From the Mar. 3-9, 2010 issue