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Vatican says Avatar 'sappy'

The Vatican newspaper and radio station criticised James Cameron's 3D blockbuster Avatar for flirting with the idea that worship of nature can replace religion -- a notion the Pope warned against.

They call the film a simplistic and sappy tale, despite its awe-inspiring special effects.

As the second highest-grossing movie ever, Avatar is challenging the record set by Cameron's last movie, Titanic.

But to Vatican critics, the alien extravaganza is just "bland". Vatican Radio called it "rather harmless" but said it was no heir to sci-fi masterpieces of the past.

Most significantly, much of the Vatican criticism was directed at the movie's central theme of man versus nature. L'Osservatore said the film "gets bogged down by a spiritualism linked to the worship of nature".

Similarly, Vatican Radio said it "cleverly winks at all those pseudo-doctrines that turn ecology into the religion of the millennium.

"Nature is no longer a creation to defend, but a divinity to worship," the station said.

A Vatican spokesman said that while the movie reviews are film criticism, not theological pronouncements, they do reflect Pope Benedict XVI's views on the dangers of turning nature into a "new divinity".