Monday, 11 January 2010

Exclusive: New Humanist news editor in shock agreement with Vatican newspaper

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Apologies for the lack of action in these parts recently - a combination of religious holidays (of which we take full advantage, of course) and a Nine Lessons-enforced delay to finishing the new magazine really cut into the time available for blogging. But we're back in the game now, mark our words.

So by way of a gentle reintroduction, let's start with a little something I read on the Telegraph website this morning. As you may be aware, stories from the Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, often get quoted as the Pope's official word on a matter – it's where we get stories like "Pope condemns Harry Potter" and the like. Of course, stories from the paper aren't really direct reflections of the Pope's views, although it would be quite surprising if L'Osservatore suddenly came out and endorsed the work of well-known critics of Christianity such as Christopher Hitchens or Satan.

But still, mainstream papers always enjoy letting us know what L'Osservatore is saying, especially in relation to popular culture, so it was with great interest that I followed a link to a Telegraph story on the paper's review of James Cameron's 3D blockbuster Avatar. What could they have possibly found to object to in Avatar – were they uncomfortable with a spot of inter-species loving? As it turns out, no. Here's what they had to say:
"It has a great deal of enchanting, stunning technology, but few genuine or human emotions. Its significance is in its visual impact rather than in the story, and in its messages, despite the fact that they are hardly new. Cameron, concentrating on the creation of the fantasy world of Pandora, chooses a bland approach. He tells the story without any profound exploration."
They also state that the film has "a rather facile anti-imperialist and antimilitarist parable which doesn't have the same bite as other more serious films."

I saw Avatar in the Imax last week and loved every mind-blowing visual second, but the post-film pub chat with my friends pretty much amounted to "that was stunning". There wasn't much to be said about the story. So I have to say, I agree with L'Osservatore Romano. Which I suppose, if we wan't to make spurious extrapolations, means I agree with the Pope. So if I happen to run into him when he's in town later this year (he needs to collect his 2009 Bad Faith Award from our office, anyway), it'd probably be a good idea to chat about the lack of substance in James Cameron's Avatar. And when we quickly run out of anything to say about that, maybe we can move on to condoms in Africa...


Jumile said...

It's probably no big surprise, considering the plot and theme have been used many times. It can be compared to Dances with Wolves, Pocahontas and other "foreigner joins the barbarians, goes native, takes their best woman and becomes their saviour" stories (I'm not calling it racist, colonialist or imperialist, though others are). The Hero's Journey and Three Act Structure methodologies make this a pretty straightforward story, with added environmental and military commentary.

It would have been a fun, straightforward 90 minute film without all the showing off of the (fantastic) 3D tech. I take it for what it is: a fun film-with-a-message used to showcase a new visual technology. I'll probably even buy the Blu-ray. :)

AT said...

The Pope has also gone on record as saying he will likely buy the blu-ray.

Paul Sims said...

Yeah, he only does HD, y'see. It's just the way he rolls...

PaulJ said...

" would be quite surprising if L'Osservatore suddenly came out and endorsed the work of well-known critics of Christianity such as Christopher Hitchens or Satan."

I know where I can read Hitchens' stuff, but I don't seem to have Satan's blog in my feedreader.