...Avatar, according to the Vatican. Both L'Osservatore Romano and Vatacan Radio have passed critical judgement on director James Cameron's futuristic film about human attempts to colonise the fictional planet Pandora, calling it sentimental, bland and facile.
"It has a great deal of enchanting, stunning technology, but few genuine or human emotions," wrote the paper. Vatican Radio accused the film of "being a wink towards the pseudo-doctrines which have made ecology the religion of the millennium."
They're dead right. There's no question that the film, with its universe peopled by ten-feet tall blue humanoids, is visually hugely accomplished. But at its heart it's as dead as a dodo.
Avatar will be loved by those who tend to refer to themselves as Citizens of the World, the kind who take their political and cultural references from old Coca-Cola ads and their mantras about teaching the world to sing. The sort who, no longer believing in God, now believe in almost anything. And there are enough such people around; the film has taken more than a billion dollars at the box office.
You could say that this is harmless enough - that the film is just a silly bit of juvenile fantasy. But it also carries a strong whiff of naive 'anti-imperialism', i.e a good dose of self-hatred dressed up as anti-militarism. Completely predictable in a Hollywood film perhaps, but ultimately damaging to the culture that produced it.
Peter Whittle is director of the New Culture Forum and author of Look at Me: Celebrating the Self in Modern Britain, Private Views: Voices from the Front Line of British Culture, Monarchy Matters and, most recently, Being British: What's Wrong With It? (Biteback).
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