Avatar is a 2009 American science fiction epic film written and directed by James Cameron and starring Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Sigourney Weaver, Michelle Rodriguez and Stephen Lang. The film is set in the year 2154, when humans are mining a precious mineral called unobtanium on the lush moon Pandora in the Alpha Centauri star system. The colonists' expansion threatens the continued existence of the Na'vi—a race of humanoids who are indigenous to Pandora—as well as the moon's ecosystem. The film's title refers to the genetically engineered Na'vi bodies used by several human characters 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 technology was not yet available to portray his vision of the film. Work on the language for the film's extraterrestrial race began in summer 2005, and Cameron began developing the script and fictional universe in early 2006.
Avatar was officially budgeted at $237 million. Other estimates put the cost at $280–310 million to produce and $150 million for marketing. The film was released for traditional two-dimensional projection, as well as in 3-D, using the RealD 3D, Dolby 3D, and IMAX 3D formats. The film was touted as a breakthrough in filmmaking technology, for its development of 3D viewing and stereoscopic filmmaking with cameras that were specially designed for the film's production.
Avatar premiered in London on December 10, 2009, and was released internationally on December 16, and in North America 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 worldwide, surpassing Titanic, which had held the record for the previous 12 years. Following the film's success, Cameron stated that there will be a sequel.
In 2154, the RDA corporation is mining Pandora, a lush, Earth-like moon of the planet Polyphemus in the Alpha Centauri star system, for its reserves of a valuable mineral called unobtanium.Parker Selfridge (Giovanni Ribisi) heads the mining operation, which employs private military contractors (mainly former Marines) for security. Pandora is inhabited by the Na'vi, a ten-foot-tall blue-skinned species of sapient humanoids. The Na'vi live in harmony with nature, worshiping a mother goddess called Eywa.
Pandora's atmosphere is toxic to humans, forcing them to use breathing masks. Attempting to improve relations with the natives and learn about Pandora's biology, scientists grow Na'vi-human hybrids called avatars, controlled by genetically matched, mentally linked humans. Jake Sully (Sam Worthington), a paraplegic former Marine, replaces his murdered twin brother, a scientist trained to be an avatar operator. Dr. Grace Augustine (Sigourney Weaver), head of the Avatar Program, considers Sully an inadequate replacement for his brother and assigns him as a bodyguard.
In their avatar forms, Augustine, biologist Norm Spellman (Joel David Moore) and Jake leave the base to take biological samples and reestablish peaceful relations with the Na'vi. A predator attacks them and Jake becomes separated and lost. Neytiri (Zoe Saldana), a female Na'vi, rescues him, bringing him to Hometree, which is inhabited by her clan, the Omaticaya. Neytiri's mother Mo'at (C. C. H. Pounder), the clan's shaman, shows interest in the warrior "Dream-walker" and instructs her daughter to teach Jake their ways. Colonel Miles Quaritch (Stephen Lang), leader of the security forces, enlists Jake to bring him intelligence about the natives that could help RDA convince the Na'vi to leave Hometree so the company can mine the unobtanium that lies beneath it. He promises Jake that he will help him obtain the treatment needed to restore his legs.
Jake delivers information to Quaritch, but Augustine becomes suspicious and relocates herself, Jake and Norm to a remote outpost with avatar link units. Over three months, Jake grows close to Neytiri and the Omaticaya, eventually rejecting RDA's agenda. He is initiated into the Omaticaya, and he and Neytiri choose each other as mates. Jake reveals his change of allegiance when he disables a bulldozer as it destroys the tribe's Tree of Voices. Quaritch presents Selfridge with Jake's video diary, in which Jake admits that the Omaticaya will never abandon Hometree. Selfridge orders Hometree destroyed.
Despite Augustine's argument that the destruction of Hometree could affect the bio-botanical neural network that Pandoran organisms are connected to, Selfridge gives Jake and Augustine one hour to convince the Na'vi to leave Hometree. Jake reveals his original mission to the Omaticaya, and Neytiri accuses him of betrayal. Jake and Augustine's avatars are taken captive. Quaritch's forces destroy Hometree, killing Neytiri's father, the clan chief Eytucan (Wes Studi), and many others. Jake, Augustine and Norm are imprisoned. Trudy Chacón (Michelle Rodriguez), a security force pilot disgusted with Quaritch's methods, breaks them out and flies them to the outpost, which they relocate. During the escape Quaritch shoots Augustine, seriously wounding her.
To regain the Omaticaya's trust, Jake tames a Toruk, a powerful flying beast that only five Na'vi have ever tamed. Jake finds the Omaticaya at the sacred Tree of Souls and pleads with Mo'at to heal Augustine. The clan attempts to transfer Grace from her dying human body into her unconscious avatar body with the aid of the Tree, but she succumbs to her injuries before the transfer is complete. Mo'at declares that "she is with Eywa now".
With the assistance of Neytiri and Tsu'Tey (Laz Alonso), the new leader of the Omaticaya, Jake assembles over two thousand Na'vi to repel the humans, with eighteen thousand still on the way. Jake prays to Eywa, via neural connection to the Tree of Souls, to intercede on behalf of the Na'vi in the coming battle. Quaritch notes the mobilization of the Na'vi clans and convinces Selfridge to authorize a preemptive strike on the Tree of Souls. Because it is a center of Na'vi religion and culture, its destruction would leave the Na'vi too demoralized to resist further encroachment.
As the security forces attack, the Na'vi retaliate but suffer heavy casualties, including Tsu'Tey and Trudy. Suddenly, the Pandoran wildlife joins the attack on the corporation's forces, overwhelming them, an event Neytiri interprets as Eywa answering Jake's prayer. Jake destroys the bomber before it can reach the Tree of Souls. Quaritch finds the avatar link unit where Jake's human body is located and attacks it, exposing Jake to Pandora's atmosphere. Neytiri kills Quaritch and saves Jake. With the attack repelled, Neytiri and Jake reaffirm their love as she sees his human body for the first time.
Selfridge and the remaining corporate personnel are expelled from Pandora, while Jake, Norm, and other scientists are allowed to remain. Jake is seen wearing the insignia of the Omaticaya leader. The clan performs the ritual that permanently transfers Jake from his human body into his Na'vi avatar.