The Movie 'Avatar': Some Personal Comments


The film Avatar has finally been released this month after being in development since 1994. I have not seen it yet, but I have read about it and discussed it with several people who have.  This prose-poem tries to encapsulate some of my initial thoughts on this blockbuster, its initial reception and some of its meaning.

James Cameron, who wrote, produced and directed the film, stated in an interview that an avatar is: “an incarnation of one of the Hindu gods taking a flesh form."   In this film, though, avatar has more to do with human technology in the future being capable of injecting a human's intelligence into a remotely located body, a biological body.  "It's not an avatar in the sense of just existing as ones and zeroes in cyberspace,” said Cameron; “it's actually a physical body." The great student of myth, Joseph Campbell(1), should have been at the premier in London on 10 December 2009.  I wonder what he would have said.

Composer James Horner scored the film, his third collaboration with Cameron after Aliens and Titanic.  A field guide of 224 pages for the film's fictional setting of the planet of Pandora was released by Harper Entertainment just five weeks ago.  The guide was entitled Avatar: A Confidential Report on the Biological and Social History of Pandora. With an estimated $310 million to produce and $150 million for marketing, the film has already generated positive reviews from film critics. Roger Ebert, one of the more prestigious of film critics, wrote: “An extraordinary film: Avatar is not simply sensational entertainment, although it is that. It's a technical breakthrough."-Ron Price with thanks to Wikipedia, 30 December 2009.

Like viewing Star Wars back in ’77
some said/an obvious script with an
earnestness & corniness/part of what
makes it absorbing/said another/Gives
you a world, a place/worth visiting/eh?
Alive with action and a soundtrack that
pops with robust sci-fi shoot-'em-ups...

A mild critique of American militarism
and industrialism.....yes the military are
pure evil........the Pandoran tribespeople
are nature-loving, eco-harmonious, wise
Braveheart smurf warriors.  Received....
nominations for the Critics' Choice Awards
of the Broadcast Film Critics Association &
on and on go the recommendations for the..
best this and that and everything else. What
do you think of all this Joseph Campbell???
You said we all have to work our own myth(1)
in our pentapolar, multicultural-dimensional
world with endless phantoms of our wrongly
informed imagination, with our tangled fears,
our pundits of error, ill-equipped to interpret
the social commotion tearing our world apart
and at play on planetizing-globalizing Earth.(2)

(1)Google Joseph Campbell for some contemporary insights into the individualized myth we all have to work out in our postmodern world.
(2)The Prophet-Founder of the Bahá'í Faith, Bahá'u'lláh, has been presented as an avatar in India beginning, arguably, in the 1960s. With only 1000 Baha’is in India in 1960 to more than 2 million by the year 2010. Baha’u’llah has been associated with the kalkin avatar who, according to a major Hindu holy text, will appear at the end of the kali yuga, one of the four main stages of history, for the purpose of reestablishing an era of righteousness. There are many examples of what one might call a quasi-cross-cultural messianistic approach to Bahá'í teaching in India.

This approach has included: (a) emphasizing the figures of Buddha and Krishna as past Manifestations of God or avatars; (b) making references to Hindu scriptures such as the Bhagavad Gita, (c) the substitution of Sanskrit-based terminology for Arabic and Persian where possible; for example, Bhagavan Baha for Bahá'u'lláh, (d) the incorporation in both song and literature of Hindu holy spots, hero-figures and poetic images and (e) using heavily Sanskritized-Hindi translations of Baha'i scriptures and prayers.

Ron Price
Written on: 30 December 2009
Posted for the Experience Project in appreciation for their site on Valentine's Day 2010


RonPrice RonPrice
70+, M
2 Responses Feb 14, 2010

According to William Garlington in a published article in 1997, he wrote that: "I discern five distinct stages of development during the nearly 150 years of Baha'i history in India: 1) the Babi, or pre-Baha'i period; 2) the initial stage of Baha'i community development (1872 -1910); 3) the first steps toward national unity (1910-1921); 4) the period of the Guardianship and the evolution of the community as part of an international administrative order (1921-1957); and 5) the era of mass teaching (1957 to the present).(2*) Beyond containing their own unique personalities and events, these periods also display distinct patterns of community organization and missionary endeavor.<br />
-----------------------------<br />
The first organized move in the direction of taking the Baha'i<br />
message outside of the towns and cities of India took place in 1959. A<br />
teaching conference was held in village Rampur (not far from<br />
Varanasi/Benares), and although it did not result in mass conversions, it<br />
did provide the first close contact between urban Baha'is and large numbers<br />
of Indian villagers. The conference also produced several recommendations<br />
that had significant implications for future Baha'i missionary work<br />
throughout India. These included the mass prdoduction of simple leaflets<br />
for distribution in nearby villages, the establishment of study classes in<br />
Rampur and the regular participation of urban Baha'is in Rampur's religious<br />
festivals.(25*)<br />
---------<br />
By the end of the 1960s there were 1000s of Baha'is but at the beginning of the 1960s the number was a few. I leave you to read the excellent article by Garlington at: Occasional Papers in Shaykhi, Babi and Baha'i Studies, No. 2 (June, 1997). It is entitled: The Baha'i Faith in India: A Developmental Stage Approach.----Ron Price, Tasmania

Are you sure about only 1000 Baha'is in India in the 1960s? I'm just curious.....