In 2154, Earth is going through an energy crisis because of its depleted natural resources. On the forest moon Pandora, orbiting Polyphemus in the Alpha Centauri system, is a mineral called unobtanium which could solve that problem. The atmosphere is poisonous to humans, but it is inhabited by many exotic creatures including the Na’vi, who are ten-foot-tall, blue-skinned humanoids. In order to explore Pandora’s biosphere, humans inhabit Na’vi-human hybrid bodies called Avatars. The humans must match genetically the Na’vi they inhabit. One of these is Jake Sully (Sam Worthington), a disabled marine replacing his twin brother. Another is Doctor Grace Augustine (Sigourney Weaver), exobiologist head of the Avatar program, and a teacher to the Na’vi.
Jake’s Avatar is attacked by a vicious thanator and flees into the forest, where he is rescued by Neytiri (Zoe Saldana), a female Na’vi, who takes him to her clan. He is initiated into their society and learns about their worship of a mother goddess named Eywa and their relationship to the trees and creatures of their world.
Colonel Miles Quaritch (Stephen Lang), head of the mining interest’s security detail, promises Jake he will restore his legs if he acts as a spy and brings back data about the giant sacred tree named Hometree, which happens to sit on top of a rich deposit of unobtanium. Over the next three months, Jake is accepted into the tribe and he and Neytiri mate. Jake ends up disabling a bulldozer threatening a native sacred site. Administrator Parker Selfridge (Giovanni Ribisi) reluctantly okays the destruction of the sacred tree.
Grace argues that destroying the tree, which seems to be connected to the entire ecosystem, could damage the biological neural network that makes everything living on the planet, including the Na’vi themselves, one lifeform. Jakes admits to the Na’vi that he was a spy and he and Grace are taken captive. Hometree is destroyed, killing Neytiri’s father (Wes Studi), the clan-leader, and others. Jake and Grace are freed, but their human selves are detached and imprisoned by Quaritch. Pilot Trudi Chacone (Michelle Rodriguez), disgusted by the brutality, frees Jake, Grace and scientist Norm (Joel David Moore), but Grace is shot and eventually dies.
Jack connects his mind to Toruk, one of the flying dragons the Na’vi revere, bind with, and ride. All-out war takes place as the Na’vi and pretty much every creature on the planet battle the human military in their huge, walking, armed enviro-suits and other war-machines. Jake’s human body is killed, but he lives as a Na’vi. Except for a few, the humans are sent back to Earth.
The film was directed, written, produced, and co-edited by James Cameron. Avatar 2 and 3 have apparently finished principal filming and are supposed to be released in 2022 and 2024. The first film was supposed to be released in 1999, but the necessary technology did not yet exist—an old story with Cameron. It cost a ton of money and made a ton of money—an old story with Cameron. It was nominated for nine Oscars and won three. At the Saturn Awards, it was nominated for ten awards and won all of them. James Horner scored the film. To help the technology develop faster, Cameron gave it to Stephen Spielberg and Peter Jackson and let them play with it. It inspired the marketing of 3-D TV. It was the first film to gross two billion dollars.
This may be the most physically beautiful movie I have ever seen. The story was largely inspired by the adventure novels of Edgar Rice Burroughs and H. Rider Haggard. The Na’vi were literally dreamed up by Cameron’s mother. The Na’vi language was created by Doctor Paul Frommer, a linguist at USC. Cameron was surprised to see how the fall and burning of the giant tree reminded him of the Twin Towers. Cameron decided the CGI technology was finally good enough when he saw Gollum on screen. All the animals have six legs—shades of Edgar Rice Burroughs—and their running motion was extraordinarily hard to create. Unobtanium is a real word used in the aerospace business to describe a material that is perfect but does not exist.
In the Bible, a Na’vi is a visionary who communicates directly with God. Ey’wa is connected to Yahweh. When Sam Worthington was hired, he was living in his car. The production was the victim of hoaxes. One said that there had been an Avatar TV show in the Sixties, starring Bill Shatner. Another said that James Cameron had blocked the film from being released in Israel. A mountain in a national park in China, where Cameron found the inspiration for the floating mountains, was officially named Avatar Hallelujah Mountain. Cameron described the making of the film as like jumping off a cliff and trying to fabricate a parachute on the way down. He kept a nail-gun in his office and when somebody’s phone interrupted a shoot, he would nail it to the wall.