'Avatar': The Vatican and Neo-Paganism

Sam Worthington, Michelle Rodriguez, Sigourney Weaver, Joel David Moore in Avatar
Sam Worthington, Michelle Rodriguez, Sigourney Weaver, Joel David Moore in Avatar (Mark Fellman / 20th Century Fox)

Right-wingers criticize it for its anti-militaristic and anti-imperialism stance. The politically correct accuse it of being racist. Anti-smokers cry foul because of a chain-smoking character. And now comes the Vatican media accusing it of promoting paganism and nature worship. Really, you can't please everyone, but this?

In addition to referring to Avatar as “bland” and “sappy,” L'Osservatore Romano complained in its review that James Cameron's sci-fier “gets bogged down by a spiritualism linked to the worship of nature,” while Vatican Radio pointed out that the film “cleverly winks at all those pseudo-doctrines that turn ecology into the religion of the millennium,” adding that “nature is no longer a creation to defend, but a divinity to worship.”

Pope Benedict XVI, who just yesterday called gay marriage an attack on “creation and the natural order” (Portugal has become the latest country to approve the legalization of gay marriages; a gay couple got married in Argentina last week), has already proclaimed against the dangers of turning nature into a “new divinity.” The pope also denounced the “supposedly egalitarian vision” that human beings and other living creatures should be placed on the same plane of existence, adding that such a worldview would “open the way to a new pantheism tinged with neo-paganism, which would see the source of man's salvation in nature alone, understood in purely naturalistic terms.”

Last year, the Vatican lambasted Angels & Demons and a couple of years earlier it lashed out against The Da Vinci Code. Both films were based on Dan Brown's novels; both were directed by Ron Howard and starred Tom Hanks; and both went on to become worldwide blockbusters.

Avatar opens Friday in Italy. Expect huge grosses.

Quotes: Associated Press

Sam Worthington, Laz Alonso in Avatar (WETA / 20th Century Fox)

Avatar earned a solid $5.1 million yesterday, Jan. 11, according to data found at Box Office Mojo. After 25 days in release, James Cameron's sci-fi epic has grossed $435.9 million at the domestic box office. Compared to Monday last week, Avatar's earnings dropped by 37 percent.

In second place was Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes, starring Robert Downey Jr and Jude Law, with $1.2 million, closely followed by the vampire film Daybreakers, starring Ethan Hawke, which took in $1.1 million. The Meryl Streep-Alec Baldwin-Steve Martin romantic comedy It's Complicated held on strong, with more than $900,000, while the Amy Adams-Matthew Goode romantic comedy Leap Year earned close to $580,000. Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel took in a little over $655,000.

Sandra Bullock's The Blind Side, George Clooney's Up in the Air, Michael Cera's Youth in Revolt, and Disney's The Princess and the Frog rounded out the top ten Monday films.

Slightly behind Rob Marshall's Nine and Clint Eastwood's Invictus, the Robert Pattinson-Kristen Stewart-Taylor Lautner drama The Twilight Saga: New Moon added nearly $130,000 to its coffers. By tomorrow, the vampire-human-werewolf tale will have reached a total of $291 million. New Moon has been out for 53 days.

And if things continue as they are, by Friday Avatar will have added another $15 million to its take. Written and directed by Cameron, Avatar stars Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Stephen Lang, Sigourney Weaver, Laz Alonso, Giovanni Ribisi, CCH Pounder, and West Studi.

The film has received nominations from the American Cinema Editors, the American Society of Cinematographers, the Writers Guild, the Art Directors Guild, the Directors Guild and the Producers Guild, and it's up for a Best Film (drama) Golden Globe.

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