Pandora is based so much on Earth and its incredibly broad range of flora and fauna - within the film, I saw elements of the Amazon, of Asian jungles, and of the grasslands that used to exist right where I'm sitting. And toward the end, the fires and the attitudes of the humans reminded me of the way the Amazon has been burned and converted to cattle grazing land, driving the native tribes further and further back into the paltry stretches of habitat left to them.
I mention this because I've seen a lot of reviews that praise Avatar for its gorgeous visuals, and plenty more that slam it for its storyline. Okay, yes, my mother, sister and I could spot the 'plot twists' coming from about ten light years away. At the same time, though, Avatar is one of the few movies with an environmental message that's actually resonated with me. For me, it's a striking reminder that there are still native tribes left in South America, Africa and elsewhere who eschew contact with the outside world - only fifty in the Amazon, where there used to be thousands, but still.
And we still do have our Pandora, even though we're still in the process of trashing it completely. I cried at this movie because the people of the Americas didn't have a Jake Sully to sweep in and defend them. And all of nature's defenses didn't - and still don't - stand a chance against fire and bulldozers.
Obligatory book recommendation, by the way: The Burning Season: The Murder of Chico Mendes and the Fight for the Amazon Rain Forest. Here's a book that discusses the history of the Amazon's destruction, and some of the people who took a stand against it. The book is accessible, contains a lot of fascinating information about the Amazon, and was the text that got me learning more about the plight of our incredible natural environment. <3
P.S. I also got sniffly when I realized Jake had lost his identical twin. Don't laugh.