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Stebbing, Great Dunmow, Essex, United Kingdom
The occasional blog of an Anglican priest in rural Essex

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Derivatar

So, my wife is now the only person in Britain over the age of 12 and under the age of 50 who hasn't seen Avatar because I watched it last night. We got it off Love Film and I did love it.

I enjoyed it so much that I didn't even notice it was midnight when the credits rolled. Let me say that again, I really enjoyed the film, and as I said then, "I believe the hype".

That said, I did spend quite a lot of the time saying "that's like in so and so". Thankfully there was only one " 'ere, wasn't she in Lost?" However I have concluded that this was possibly the most derivative film I've ever seen, in terms of plot, characterisation and indeed props and scenery. So here's my Avatar hall of fame (or should that be shame?)

PLOT
Well, obviously it owes a lot to the Matrix, in terms of the "special one", in terms of going in and and coming out of another world, and so on. When Grace and Jake were awoken and their avatars collapsed I couldn't help thinking of that scene I usually fast forward in the Matrix when Cypher pulls the plug ... The ending (btw as you gather from my opening statement, I'm assuming you've all seen it and won't mind that this is littered with spoilers) was also very similar to the end of the Matrix with the awakening in the other world.

The way Jake changed sides by association with the Na'vi (btw = Hebrew for  prophet) was to me lifted straight from Dances with Wolves (Costner's finest moment anyone?) even down to the journal style monologue voiceover.

The basic resistance movement plotline appeared to be derivative of the Magnificent 7/7 Samurai/Bug's Life storyline, or many other little vs big movies I'm sure you can identify. More from Bugs Life in a minute. One might even derive elements of the "fetch the clans" bit from the Lord of the Rings final battle scene.

Naturally the evil general was the usual stereotype, and of course I did enjoy that nerdy guy from Friends/Saving Private Ryan as the sort of evil middle management. Otherwise it was great that most of the characters were smurfs ... sorry Na'vi so you couldn't get distracted by trying to remember what else they'd been in.


PROPS & SCENERY
To me Home Tree did in fact look exactly like Ant Island from Bugs life, but in HD. And while we're with Pixar do you really expect me to take seriously a giant blue character called Sully after I've seen Monsters Inc (a little research never does any harm!)

The armoured suits (like the one the general wore in the final showdown) were clearly actually borrowed from the Matrix props cupboard and just jazzed up a bit for low oxygen use.

The twin prop helicopters reminded me of the twin prop helicopters on Syndrome's island in the Incredibles, and the big gunship reminded me of the Millennium Falcon, except if it had been eating doughnuts since filming stopped on Star Wars.

And the whole Pandora background was like watching a Roger Dean poster come to life (and I know I'm not the only person to have noticed this).


So why did this happen? We're told James Cameron had the idea for this film ages ago when the technology to create it didn't exist. In many senses it was like watching (yet) another animated film like the ones my kids are just growing out of.

My take on it is this; Cameron had the idea for the movie and then he had a dream in which a mash-up of all the films I've mentioned came to him, and then he knew he was ready... He's obviously been watching a lot of Disney films and cartoons on TV (if there was any justice in the movie world, "The Last Airbender" would be called "Avatar") and I like to think he fell asleep looking at the cover from "Tales from Topographic oceans" or some such thing.

I think it was George Harrison who said that eventually all the songs possible would be written because of a finite number of combinations of notes. It seems to me with Avatar we have reached the point where art isn't imitating life, just other art.
But I still thought it was great and will watch it again tomorrow with my "looking out for spiritual reference points" hat on.

Sunday, 11 July 2010

Learning to Fly

Actually that's one thing Jody Stowell won't be doing while she's with us in these parishes. Even though she could ...

But my title is intended to paint a picture of ministers taking flight, both in terms of the ordinations that have just happened (I'm feeling surprisingly emotional looking at the from page of the Church Times with its pic of David Stancliffe taking part in his last ordianations before retirement) and more relevantly here, the arrival of Jody on placement from Ridley Hall in Cambridge to spend 4 weeks here observing what Anglican vicars do.

Although it was a long time ago I have to admit that my behaviour as a placement supervisor is entirely lifted from the bloke who supervised me all those years back. That is to say, carry on pretty much as normal except precede each encounter with "This is Jody, she's training to be a vicar", or "This is my colleague Jody" for short.

Of course you probably realise that when I'm talking about "what Anglican vicars do" I am referring to the business of grassroots parish ministry. Anglican vicars do other things, like battering each other in General Synod over the issue of Women Bishops (on which I have already written ages ago), but parish placements I feel should be about the coal face of gospel ministry, "being with God with the people", or to use our current jargon, making connections.

The best thing about having someone visit like this is it gives me the opportunity to look in the mirror a bit, and reflect on my own ministry. It is also goood to get an objective viewpoint of  situations we have observed together. I'm looking forward to the next time this happens, in the autumn.