The Vatican has spoken: the movie Avatar substitutes worship of nature for religion, though the Pope’s newspaper concedes the movie has “extraordinary visual impact”. In spite of the largely negative review, I think the Vatican might be a little envious; James Cameron’s animated plant kingdom might get more viewers than the Pope’s Sistine chapel ceiling.
I thought the movie was truly a feast for the eye – the eye of a plant-o-phile in particular. The “natural” world James Cameron created, with the assistance of 3-D glasses and cracking art direction, put my mind to work thinking about all the many wonders of Earth’s flora and fauna, though mostly about the flora.
If I hadn’t just recently traveled to a continent (that would be Australia) where the plants and animals are so different, so “exotic” compared to what I am familiar with here in western North America, I might not have been able to think that the fantastical world of Avatar’s Pandora was not so far from the fantastical reality of our own.
On the most basic level, Pandora is Earth. Those filaments of the Na’vi’s neural network are a stand-in for the DNA/RNA information networks of life as we know it. But that’s not really what matters to me so much as the fact that so much of the artistic vision of this movie was about the “background”, the landscape and the living organisms that we humans are so often so oblivious to in our daily perambulations.
In fact, Pandora is all around us.