At first sight James Cameron’s blockbuster Avatar (2009) is no more than a spectacularly rendered version of the classical Pocahontas story. We could criticize its keenly calculated ambition to please everyone, the hammy dialogs, its thinly veiled ecological message, or the somewhat bizarre spirituality in its second half. But we choose not to. Avatar is an important film and there is more than meets the eye through the 3D goggles.
To begin with, the film familiarizes us with the beauty of hypernatural landscape even the most advanced geneticist wouldn’t dare to dream of. Similar to the landscape painters of the 17th century that taught us to appreciate an untainted landscape, Avatar presents us with flora and fauna that shine with the bioluminescence of a thousand deep sea critters, interactive plants and trees that dwarf the Empire State Building. Fantasy? Escapism? Sure, but it nonetheless mentally prepares us for some of the things scientists are working on today.
Avatar is the kind of movie that, in retrospect, could become an icon of a shifting zeitgeist. Since Avatar, people will not instantly think you’ve lost your mind when you’re speaking about the interconnectedness of trees & plants in a forest as a sort of biological Internet – thus leveling the biosphere with the noosphere.