Just got back from Avatar and wanted to jot some reflections before I forgot things from the movie.
There has been a lot of conversation about the religious imagery in Avatar. Is it pagan? Native American? Eastern? Christian?
There is a great deal of Mother Earth religion mixed in with hints of Native American spirituality. There is also a great deal of Hindu spirituality. The avatars of Vishnu are important in Hinduism. Vishnu's avatars are blue, the color of the divine, just like the Na'vi. In light of these overtones there is a great deal in the movie about interconnection and interdependency, particularly with the earth.
But I also saw a lot of Christian motifs in the movie as well.
Specifically, the movie centers upon the dramatic tension existing between the two "lives" of Jake Sully. At the start, in the "real" world Jake is:
- Small (humans are much shorter than the Na'vi)
- Crippled (obvious if you've seen the movie)
- Stupid (Neytiri's first descriptions of Jake)
- Violent (Jake begins his work on Pandora aligned with the military forces)
- Cannot breathe (Humans can't breath the Pandora atmosphere)
- Consumeristic (At one point Jake says that the Na'vi are not going to give up their world for "light beer and jeans," a clear commentary about Western consumerism)
- Emotionally empty (Jake begins the movie with no emotional attachments)
- Individualistic (Jake begins the movie as a self-interested individual)
- Able to walk
- Peaceable (well, until the action sequences start)
- Can breathe
- In Love
And most importantly, in the final scene Jake talks about his "birthday." Baptism symbolism Resurrection. Jake's "physical" body dies and is exchanged for a Real one. Death into New Life. A violent, crippled and ignorant reality is exchanged for a Reality of love and community. The lame man can walk again.