Our Savior in AVATAR
Then I saw an angel standing in the sun, and with a loud voice he called to all the birds that fly directly overhead, “Come, gather for the great supper of God, to eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all men, both free and slave, both small and great. – Revelation 19
When the Ikran descend on the hovering human troop carriers and the battle for Pandora begins in earnest, it’s a true moment of cinematic grandeur in the style of the greatest war battles, giving us even more visual wonder than Peter Jackson did in The Lord of the Rings. Don’t call me a blasphemer, Ringers; Cameron’s tale lacks Tolkien’s story depth without question. However, the moment of salvation in the story contains all the bombast one expects from an eye-pleasing blockbuster. And then some. It’s also a literal Deus Ex Machina, as Avatar’s god-machine Eywa (fiber-optic network meets fantasy-deity) supports Jake Sully’s sacrifice play to save the planet. As a god, Eywa falls short (she needed some jarhead outsider to shake up her hippie-pacifism, as it seems when the humans slapped her world she was planning to simply turn the other tectonic plate) but as a high-riding Savior, Jake falls short too; his final plan would have failed without Eywa’s aid.
Movies like Avatar, Dark City and The Matrixusually bundle the narrative notion of “transformed life” (which we covered in the last post) with the story-formed advent of “world-savior”, admittedly saving time and creating an upwardly mobile narrative for a viewer identifying with the protagonist. However, what if the “transformed life” and “savior” were two different characters? What if, at best, we exist to “emulate” that perfect hero? Even Jake takes on a mantle of “Toruk Makto”, emulating Neytiri’s great-great-grandfather.
What if we might be the damsel in distress in life’s tale, or a supporting hero character, but NOT the central Savior? Can we be content with that? Might our inner desires for transformation be wholesome, while the goal for central status remains the height of hubris? Could we humbly bow to, and follow, life’s REAL Toruk Makto? Can we be content to… follow the leader? And if not… aren’t we the enemy?
And the armies of heaven… were following him on white horses. From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords. – Revelation 19
What we see in ancient scripture with biblical characters – Moses, David, and Paul – are men who are transformed BY the true God and Savior, subsequently rededicating their lives to being his image-bearers. They aren’t perfect, they aren’t the ultimate savior, but they are “types” or “imitators” of the true messianic figure. In fact, Jake Sully and Paul the apostle have the distinct similarity of once belonging to the opposing, murdering side. When they experience a life-changing event, they begin to walk in a new way of life and become the most ardent defenders of their newfound worldview. In this way, Sully’s journey is more akin to John Preston in the film Equilibrium, a “transformed disciple” rather than a revealed Christ figure. Jake’s a fictional analog for Moses, leading oppressed people to freedom against overwhelming odds with the hand of James Cameron’s fictional “god” enabling him to overcome.
That’s why there’s good news, Avatar lovers… there IS a righteous warrior that literally lives and rules and reigns, breaking through the fourth wall without the aid of 3-D glasses. He isn’t blue, and never needed transformation from a pitiable, compromised state. The greedy will get comeuppance, all wrongs will be righted, tears will be wiped away, and paradise will outstrip Pandora. Leave the theater enjoying the fantasy, but also embrace the reality. We can fantasize about restored relationship – with creation, each other, within ourself, and with our Creator – or we can truly experience it through the real Christ and Savior.