Tuesday, January 12, 2010

"Avatar" vs. "Hotel Rwanda"


I'm going to skip the special effects and skip to the plot. Avatar's plot was fairly unoriginal, although it had some interesting twists. My mind and emotions felt torn as they struggled to understand the genre. Was I watching a video game? A Disney film? A drama?

I have trouble becoming emotionally invested in a film unless I can identify with the main characters. Here, it is possible to sympathize with the protagonist, yet he does a lot of stupid things. Who cares if he gets eaten by a wild beast or not, while exploring a mystical jungle?

And then the romantic sub-plot begins to develop. Sure, "sex sells," but is it really necessary in this film? It seems like his decision to help the Na'vi arises solely out of his love affair with one woman. If it weren't for romance, where would he be? Still wandering in "Pandora"? +/-

This brings up the question...is a love affair reason enough to do something like leave your countrymen and defend another people group? Is it a worthy enough cause, and will it give you enough motivation to overcome the obstacles which will be in the way? In some ways it seems fleeting, but on the other hand, we become more passionate about our work or mission when we put a "human" face on it. People start to fight for something when it has touched them personally.

Perhaps more interesting than the film itself are viewers' reactions. I felt strangely empty after watching it. I felt like I had been bombarded with problems of humanity and made to feel guilty for a crime I didn't commit...or did I? I suppose a film is most effective when it brings out something in yourself.

I was surprised to read about how many fans were charmed by the world of Pandora and experienced a let-down after leaving the theater.

"When I woke up this morning after watching Avatar for the first time yesterday, the world seemed ... gray. It was like my whole life, everything I've done and worked for, lost its meaning," Hill wrote on the forum. "It just seems so ... meaningless. I still don't really see any reason to keep ... doing things at all. I live in a dying world."
So quotes a recent article on CNN.com. http://www.cnn.com/2010/SHOWBIZ/Movies/01/11/avatar.movie.blues/index.html

I honestly found nothing appealing about Pandora. Perhaps there was some "eye-candy" to it, but I have no desire to run around half-naked in a tropical forest. It didn't seem very Utopian to me.

A few weeks later...

I was home sick and decided to finally watch "Hotel Rwanda." I had been working up the courage for awhile.

I won't attempt to compare the plots of "Avatar" and "Hotel Rwanda," unless you count the instances of genocide, which is a stretch.

But "Hotel Rwanda" made me realize why I dislike films like "Avatar." It's because I realize that I'm getting emotional over a movie while remaining too complacent about the actual problems around me.

If "Avatar" was the fictional Utopia that certain fans didn't want to come back from, then "Hotel Rwanda" is the horrific reality you don't want to believe in.

And yes, "Hotel Rwanda" is inspirational, a story of hope, in some ways. It is a powerful film. But I have to admit that what got me was not the violence, nor the orphaned children. In this case it was the indifference. The whites worried about getting out of there while the Africans are being murdered. Hey, I'd be scared too....I'd want to get out of there. But in the light of everything else it seems so self-centered.

From a dialogue between the main character and an American reporter:
Paul: How can they not do anything? Don't they care?
Jack: I think that when people turn on their TVs and see this footage, they'll say, "Oh my God, that's horrible," and then they'll go back to eating their dinners.
Maybe this line was invented for the movie, but in any case it is a pretty accurate statement.


  1. It IS an accurate statement.....but what else is there to do? At least, right then....and even then, as a colleague of mine has to continually remind himself and me, "We can't do all good things." We have to listen and care, but in the end we only have the time, energy, funds to do our little bit in the area that God seems to direct us to.

    I wonder how much easier it was in the past, when without the "wonders" of the media we would only see problems that we probably COULD do something about!

  2. Good point. And we often miss calls of help that ARE within our ability and calling, while feeling guilty about more global issues that we can't change.

    I know the politics of intervention are quite complicated. But I often think of the U.S. when I read the verse, "From everyone who has been given much shall much be required." Luke 12:48


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