The Associated Press reports that L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican’s newspaper, and Vatican Radio are giving ‘Avatar’ two thumbs down, way down. The outlets are not only are criticizing James Cameron’s magnum opus, which opens this Friday in Italy, for having a simplistic and derivative storyline, but also for “flirting with modern doctrines that promote the worship of nature as a substitute for religion,” according to the AP.
A Vatican spokesman told the AP that the reviews hold “no theological weight,” but he did acknowledge that they reflect Pope Benedict XVI’s “views on the dangers of turning nature into a ‘new divinity.'” (Or not so new as nature worship was one of the earliest forms of religious systems known to man.)
Now I can’t help but agree with the first criticism: seriously, the biggest CGI-gasm in the world will not keep me from recognizing the fact that it doesn’t take two hours and thirty minutes to tell “Dances with Wolves” meets “The Lion King.”
But while it’s a given that the media outlets of the Catholic Church will, and should, take a particular theological stance on any bit of pop culture that may get reviewed in their pages or on their airwaves, I can’t help but think, “Really? Neo-pagan nature worship is a real sticking point here?” What about the fact that human bodies no longer hold special significance, that human consciousness can be transferred into genetically-crafted empty vessels, Na’vi avatars, manufactured through a means of asexual, gene-manipulated reproduction, “matured” on a spacecraft and then decanted? And that’s just one example. To worry about pantheism, and that a 3-D movie might inspire a little too much tree-hugging, just seems so antiquated, so very early Church, especially in a world full of poverty, war, and challenging scientific questions.
What do you think?