Entertainment

Vatican says ‘Avatar’ is no masterpiece

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VATICAN CITY (AP) — Unlike much of the world, the Vatican is not awed by the film “Avatar.”

James Cameron’s big-grossing, 3-D spectacle has earned lukewarm reviews by both the Vatican newspaper and its radio station, which say the movie is simplistic in its plot is superficial in its eco-message, despite groundbreaking visual effects.

Perhaps more significantly, the Vatican takes the movie to task for flirting with what it says is the worship of nature as a substitute for religion.

“So much stupefying, enchanting technology, but few genuine emotions,” said Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, which devoted three articles to “Avatar” in its Sunday editions.

Vatican Radio called it “rather harmless” but added: “We doubt that this is an heir to those sci-fi masterpieces that — for reasons other than special effects — have marked cinema history.”

The story of the tall blue creatures who inhabit Pandora and contend with humans intent on grabbing the resources of their planet has made over $1.1 billion at box offices worldwide. Partly boosted by higher 3-D ticket prices, “Avatar” looks well on its way to becoming the biggest grossing movie of all time.

“Pandora is the planet that cleverly winks at all those pseudo-doctrines that turn ecology into the religion of the millennium,” Vatican Radio said. “Nature is no longer a creation to defend, but a divinity to worship.”

L’Osservatore Romano said the movie’s plot is unoriginal and its message not new. It faulted Cameron for taking a “bland approach.”

“He tells the story without going deep into it, and ends up falling into sappiness,” it said.

The reviews came out after a red carpet preview held in Rome just a stone’s throw from St. Peter’s Square. The movie will be released Friday in Italy.

Vatican Radio did say, however, that “really never before have such surprising images been seen,” while L’Osservatore said the movie’s worth lies in its “extraordinary visual impact.”

The Vatican newspaper occasionally likes to comment in its cultural pages on movies or pop culture icons, as it did recently about “The Simpsons” or U2. In one famous instance, several Vatican officials have spoken out against “The Da Vinci Code.”