AvataRAvatar is a 2009 American science fiction film written and directed by James Cameron, and starring Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Stephen Lang, Michelle Rodriguez, Joel David Moore, Giovanni Ribisi and Sigourney Weaver. The film is set in the mid-22nd century, when humans are mining a precious mineral called unobtanium on Pandora, a lush habitable moon of a gas giant in the Alpha Centauri star system. The expansion of the mining colony threatens the continued existence of a local tribe of Na'vi—a humanoid species indigenous to Pandora. The film's title refers to the genetically engineered Na'vi-human hybrid bodies used by a team of researchers to interact with the natives of Pandora.
Development on Avatar began in 1994, when Cameron wrote an 80-page scriptment for the film.Filming was supposed to take place after the completion of Cameron's 1997 film Titanic, for a planned release in 1999,but according to Cameron, the necessary technology was not yet available to achieve his vision of the film.Work on the language for the film's extraterrestrial beings began in summer 2005, and Cameron began developing the screenplay and fictional universe in early 2006.Avatar was officially budgeted at $237 million. Other estimates put the cost between $280 million and $310 million for production and at $150 million for promotion. The film was released for traditional viewing, 3-D viewing (using the RealD 3D, Dolby 3D, XpanD 3D, and IMAX 3D formats), and "4-D" viewing.The stereoscopic filmmaking was touted as a breakthrough in cinematic technology.
Avatar premiered in London on December 10, 2009, and was internationally released on December 16 and in the United States and Canada on December 18, to critical acclaim and commercial success.The film broke several box office records during its release and became the highest-grossing film of all time in the U.S. and Canada and also worldwide, surpassing Titanic, which had held the records for the previous twelve years. It also became the first film to gross more than $2 billion.Avatar was nominated for nine Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director,and won three, for Best Cinematography, Best Visual Effects, and Best Art Direction. The film's home release went on to break opening sales records and became the top-selling Blu-ray of all time. Following the film's success, Cameron signed with 20th Century Fox to produce two sequels, making Avatar the first of a planned trilogy.
To learn about the Na'vi and Pandora's biosphere, scientists use Na'vi-human hybrid bodies called avatars that are operated via mental link by genetically matched humans. Jake Sully (Sam Worthington), a paraplegic former marine, replaces his twin brother, a scientist trained as an avatar operator who was murdered in a robbery. Dr. Grace Augustine (Sigourney Weaver), head of the Avatar Program, considers Sully an inadequate replacement and assigns him as a bodyguard. While protecting the avatars of Grace and scientist Norm Spellman (Joel David Moore) on their expedition to collect biological samples and data in the forest, Jake's avatar is attacked by a jungle predator thanator. Fleeing for his life, Jake strays from the rest of the group and gets lost in the forest. Neytiri (Zoe Saldana), a female Na'vi, stumbles upon Jake and reluctantly rescues him from Pandora's wildlife. Seeing portents from Eywa, she takes him to her clan's dwelling, Hometree; there, Jake meets Neytiri's father, clan chief Eytukan (Wes Studi). Neytiri's mother Mo'at (C. C. H. Pounder), the clan's spiritual leader, orders her daughter to teach the "warrior dreamwalker" their ways.
The head of Sec-Ops, the RDA's private security force, Colonel Miles Quaritch (Stephen Lang), promises Jake that the company will help him walk again if he gathers intelligence about the Na'vi.Hometree is on top of the richest deposits of unobtanium for hundreds of miles. When Grace learns that Jake is passing information to Quaritch, she relocates herself, Jake, and Norm to a remote outpost. Over three months, Jake grows close to Neytiri and her people. After Jake is initiated into the tribe, he and Neytiri choose each other as mates. Jake reveals his change of allegiance when he attempts to disable a bulldozer that threatens to destroy a sacred Na'vi site. When Quaritch shows a videofootage of Jake's attack on the bulldozer to Administrator Parker Selfridge (Giovanni Ribisi), the leader of the RDA colony, along with one of Jake's video diary entries, in which Jake admits that the Na'vi will never abandon Hometree, Selfridge orders Hometree destroyed.
Despite Grace's argument that destroying Hometree could affect the bio-botanical neural network to which Pandoran organisms are connected, Selfridge gives Jake and Grace one hour to convince the Na'vi to evacuate. When Jake reveals his original mission, Neytiri accuses him of betraying the entire tribe, and Jake and Grace's avatars are taken captive. Quaritch's forces destroy Hometree, killing Neytiri's father, as well as many others. Mo'at frees Jake and Grace, but they are unplugged from their avatars back at RDA headquarters and imprisoned. Trudy Chacón (Michelle Rodriguez), a pilot disgusted with Quaritch's brutal methods, breaks them out and flies them to the avatar link outpost. During the escape, Quaritch shoots and seriously wounds Grace.
The Na'vi are able to link mentally with some animals. To regain the Na'vi's trust, Jake takes a dangerous gamble and links with a Toruk, a powerful pterodactyl-like predator that has been tamed only five times in Na'vi history. Jake finds the refugees at the sacred Tree of Souls and pleads with Mo'at to heal Grace. The clan attempts to transfer Grace from her human body into her avatar with the aid of the Tree, but she succumbs to her injuries before the process can be completed.
Supported by the new Omaticaya chief, Tsu'tey (Laz Alonso), Jake recruits thousands of warriors from neighboring clans. On the eve of battle, Jake prays to Eywa, via a neural connection to the Tree of Souls, to intercede on behalf of the Na'vi, although Neytiri warns him that Eywa does not take sides. Quaritch detects the mobilization of the Na'vi and convinces Selfridge to authorize a preemptive strike against the Tree of Souls, believing that its destruction will demoralize the natives.
The Na'vi fight back but suffer heavy casualties, including Tsu'tey and Trudy. Just when all seems lost, Pandoran wildlife unexpectedly join the attack and overwhelm the humans, which Neytiri interprets as Eywa answering Jake's prayer. Jake destroys a shuttle converted into a makeshift bomber before it can reach the Tree of Souls. Quaritch makes a narrow escape from his ship just as it is destroyed, and dons an AMP suit. He stumbles upon and breaches the avatar link unit containing Jake's human body, exposing Jake to Pandora's poisonous atmosphere. Neytiri kills Quaritch and gets to Jake in time to save him. They reaffirm their love as she sees his human body for the first time.
With the exception of Jake, Norm, Max, and several other scientists, all humans are expelled from Pandora. Jake is seen wearing the insignia of the Omaticaya leader. The clan performs the ritual dedicated to Eywa that permanently transfers Jake from his human body into his avatar.
- Sam Worthington as Corporal Jake Sully. Sully is a disabled former Marine. He becomes part of the Avatar Program after his twin brother is killed. His military background helps the Na'vi warriors relate to him. Cameron cast the Australian actor after a worldwide search for promising young actors, preferring relative unknowns to keep the budget down.Worthington, who was living in his car at the time,auditioned twice early in development,and he has signed on for possible sequels.Cameron felt that because Worthington had not done a major film, he would give the character "a quality that is really real". Cameron said he "has that quality of being a guy you'd want to have a beer with, and he ultimately becomes a leader who transforms the world".
- Stephen Lang as Colonel Miles Quaritch. Quaritch is the head of the mining operation's security detail. Fiercely loyal to his military code, he has a profound disregard for Pandora's inhabitants that is evident in both his actions and his language. Lang had unsuccessfully auditioned for a role in Cameron's Aliens (1986), but the director remembered Lang and sought him for Avatar.Michael Biehn, who was in Aliens, read the script and watched some of the 3-D footage with Cameron,but was ultimately not cast in the role.
- Sigourney Weaver as Dr. Grace Augustine. Augustine is an exobiologist and head of the Avatar Program. She mentors Sully and is an advocate of peaceful relations with the Na'vi, having set up a school to teach them English.
- Michelle Rodriguez as Trudy Chacón. Chacón is a combat pilot assigned to support the Avatar Program who is sympathetic to the Na'vi. Cameron had wanted to work with Rodriguez since seeing her in Girlfight.
- Giovanni Ribisi as Parker Selfridge. Selfridge is the corporate administrator for the RDA mining operation.While he is at first willing to destroy Na'avi civilization to preserve the company's bottom line, he is reluctant to authorize the attacks on the Na'vi, doing so only after Quaritch persuades him that it is necessary, and the attacks will be humane. When the attacks are broadcast to the base, Selfridge displays discomfort at the violence.
- Joel David Moore as Dr. Norm Spellman. Spellman is a xenoanthropologist who studies plant and animal life as part of the Avatar Program.He arrives on Pandora at the same time as Sully and operates an avatar. Although he is expected to lead the diplomatic contact with the Na'vi, it turns out that Jake has the personality better suited to win the natives' respect.
- Dileep Rao as Dr. Max Patel, a scientist who works in the Avatar Program and comes to support Jake's rebellion against the RDA.
- Zoe Saldana as Neytiri, the daughter of the leader of the Omaticaya, the Na'vi clan central to the story. She is attracted to Jake because of his bravery, though frustrated with him for what she sees as his naiveté and stupidity. She serves as both the film's main Na'vi protagonist and Jake's love interest.The character, like all the Na'vi, was created using performance capture, and its visual aspect is entirely computer generated.Saldana has also signed on for potential sequels.
- C. C. H. Pounder as Mo'at. Mo'at is the Omaticaya's spiritual leader, Neytiri's mother, and consort to clan leader Eytukan.
- Wes Studi as Eytukan. Eytukan is the Omaticaya's clan leader, Neytiri's father, and Mo'at's mate.
- Laz Alonso as Tsu'tey. Tsu'tey is the finest warrior of the Omaticaya. He is heir to the chieftainship of the tribe, and at the beginning of the film's story he is betrothed to Neytiri.
In a 2009 interview, Cameron said that he planned to write a novel version of Avatar after the film was released.In February 2010, producer Jon Landau stated that Cameron plans a prequel novel for Avatar that will "lead up to telling the story of the movie, but it would go into much more depth about all the stories that we didn't have time to deal with", saying that "Jim wants to write a novel that is a big, epic story that fills in a lot of things".
Avatar is primarily an action-adventure journey of self-discovery, in the context of imperialism and deep ecology.Cameron said his inspiration was "every single science fiction book I read as a kid", and that he was particularly striving to update the style of Edgar Rice Burroughs's John Carter series.The director has acknowledged that Avatar shares themes with the films At Play in the Fields of the Lord, The Emerald Forest, and Princess Mononoke, which feature clashes between cultures and civilizations, and with Dances With Wolves, where a battered soldier finds himself drawn to the culture he was initially fighting against.
In a 2007 interview with Time magazine, Cameron was asked about the meaning of the term Avatar, to which he replied, "It's an incarnation of one of the Hindu gods taking a flesh form. In this film what that means is that the human technology in the future is capable of injecting a human's intelligence into a remotely located body, a biological body."
Principal photography for Avatar began in April 2007 in Los Angeles and Wellington, New Zealand. Cameron described the film as a hybrid with a full live-action shoot in combination with computer-generated characters and live environments. "Ideally at the end of the day the audience has no idea which they're looking at," Cameron said. The director indicated that he had already worked four months on nonprincipal scenes for the film.The live action was shot with a modified version of the proprietary digital 3-D Fusion Camera System, developed by Cameron and Vince Pace.In January 2007, Fox had announced that 3-D filming for Avatar would be done at 24 frames per second despite Cameron's strong opinion that a 3-D film requires higher frame rate to make strobing less noticeable.According to Cameron, the film is composed of 60% computer-generated elements and 40% live action, as well as traditional miniatures.