Sunday, December 20, 2009

Did James Cameron just RIP OFF C.S. Lewis?

OK, I am digressing from William Perkins at the moment for a couple of reasons.

1. I am nearing the end of the term right now, and working on my final paper, which has nothing to do with Perkins. My focus has been sidetracked from blogging with the hovering fate of final grades.

2. We went and saw Avatar last night, and the more I thought about it, the more I think I may be on to something here.

I will try my hardest not to reveal anything too big about Avatar in this blog, but in case you are one of those people that are dying to see this movie and would like to know absolutely nothing about it, then by all means, go see the movie and then read this blog.

Lewis was questioned near the end of his life about several topics in Christianity and writing by a man named Sherwood E. Wirt who worked with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. Mr. Wirt's and Lewis' discussion is recorded for us in the collection of essays, God in the Dock. The essay is entitled "Cross-Examination."

Mr. Wirt, reaching the end of the discussion, asks Lewis, "Do you think there will be wide-spread travel in space?" Lewis' response is this:

"I look forward with horror to contact with the other inhabited planets, if there are such. We would only transport to them all of our sin and our acquisitiveness, and establish a new colonialism. I can't bear to think of it. But if we on earth were to get right with God, of course, all would be changed. Once we find ourselves spiritually awakened, we can go to outer space and take the good things with us. That is quite a different matter."

Earlier this semester, I read Lewis' book Out of the Silent Planet for the first time. I was enthralled with Lewis' idea that we were the aliens invading another planet; humanity was bad, bent. The civilization on the planet, Malacandra, was not bent. The different species worked together in their own gifted ways to bring harmony to their planet, because this was the way of Maleldil. Ransom, our hero of the story, knew that if man remained on this planet then they would destroy the way of life on Malacandra and bring the bent-ness to this planet.

OK, so let's go over some similarities between Out of the Silent Planet and Avatar then.

First, the landscape - When Ransom first comes to Malacandra, Lewis writes, "He saw nothing but colors - colors that refused to form themselves into things." "Before anything else he learned that Malacandra was beautiful." Not too mention the purple vegetation, trees and moss that almost seemed to hang in the air. This colorful world filled with purple and light is pretty close to the world of Pandora in Avatar. Obviously, Cameron is more vivid in his ability to express an unfallen world, but there is something that is awfully similar between the two planets - beauty.

Second, the creatures - Now, the sorns are white beings, but they are described as extremely long, drooping noses, graceful creatures. I cannot help but think of the Na'vi. Yes, they are blue beings, but still very long, very graceful. The hrossa as well bring song and praise to Maleldil. When the Na'vi come together and "worship" their god, Eywah, they bring song to it. The hrossa were the poets of the land; they were the ones that came up with beautiful words and songs. They also were the hunters of the land - not hunting as some sort of mere killing experience, but the hunt was a work of pride, a work to be honored. The same idea was with the Na'vi - that the hunter must have a clean kill, and that they understood the circle of life as they took a life to feed their lives.

Third, Ransom - When Ransom has first arrived at Malacandra, he has spent a month nearly inactive. When he is running for his life, the description Lewis gives reminds me of Jake's first time using his Avatar. Jake was excited and wobbly using his legs for the first time in years since his spinal cord was shot; Ransom, while obviously having a far less tramatic experience, was wobbly and worn because he was not used to running in this new world. He had to learn the new world, the way to climb and run in it. Ransom also had to learn the language of the hrossa in order to become one of them, much like Jake having to learn the language of the Na'vi. They worked on changing everything about their humanity into something new. They both desired to leave behind what was bent (spiritually for Ransom and physically for Jake); they desired to be a part of the harmonious life on the new planet.

These are just a few of the things that I noticed that were similar between the two. I have NO idea if James Cameron has ever read Out of the Silent Planet. I guess I will have to ask him the next time I have him over for a cup of tea, oh wait, I'm not that famous yet.


  1. Totally love Out of the Silent Planet! What's funny is that I was reading a review of Avatar the other day (I haven't actually seen it yet but I will) that mentioned the Navi thanking the animal they kill for its meat and I immediately thought of C.S. and Out of the Silent Planet. Now when I do see it I am totally going to compare the two, thanks to you. I think it'll help me appreciate the movie more!

  2. Have you read the second book of Lewis' trilogy? Perelandra? There are even more rip offs to be found...

  3. I have NOT read Perelandra yet. But, that will all change before this weekend. I knew that it had floating mountains of sorts though, and had a pretty good hunch that Cameron ripped that off too. I'm intrigued to know if anyone in the movie world has ever read these books and saw any similarities.