Anticipation is building for the December 18th arrival of James Cameron’s first feature in 12 years, AVATAR. Reports about the budget rising above $300 million have resulted in striking similarities to the fear and trembling in Hollywood that preceded Titanic. Cameron is one of the only directors who can secure so much financial backing on an original script. The studios don’t mind risking so much money on a known quantity like a superhero film (Spiderman) or a sequel (Transformers). But with Avatar, Cameron has brought an entirely new world of the Na’bi in eyepopping 3D technology. The New Yorker chronicled his chutzpah in remarkable detail.
Yesterday’s LA Times also highlights two interesting connections. A USC linguistics professor created the language assigned to the Na-bi tribe. Will it become a fanboys delight, rivaling their affection for the Klingon spoken in the Star Trek series? Or will it sound silly, raising regretable echoes of Jar Jar Binks?
The video game version of Avatar arrives tomorrow. Cameron wisely developed the game alongside the movie (rather than waiting to create an unsatisfying knock off of the film’s story). It demonstrates how much the lines between gaming and movies have blurred. Evidently, the University of California at Irvine has created a new major in game science. What was dismissed as flyweight entertainment just ten years ago, now has earned academic credibility. Sounds like the time is right for a book that studies the spiritual implications of video games and virtual worlds.
I just happen to have just finished editing a stellar collection of essays entitled, HALOS AND AVATARS: Playing Video Games with God. Honestly, I am thrilled by how well this book came together. My contributors are quite brilliant. The book raises surprising and timely themes about eternal tensions like predestination versus free will. And what will terms like ‘born again’ mean in a world in which everyone already has a Second Life and multiple Miis? In coming weeks, I hope to highlight the various chapters and contributors. But for now, how about ordering an early Christmas present—Halos and Avatars arrives in January.