“Avatar” is not simply a sensational entertainment, although it is that. It’s a technical breakthrough. It has a flat-out Green and anti-war message. It is predestined to launch a cult. It contains such visual detailing that it would reward repeating viewings. It invents a new language, Na’vi, as “Lord of the Rings” did, although mercifully I doubt this one can be spoken by humans, even teenage humans. It creates new movie stars. It is an Event, one of those films you feel you must see to keep up with the conversation.
Watch Avatar (2009), Story, Stars, Reviews & All You Want To Know About A Great Movie
A paraplegic Marine dispatched to the moon Pandora on a unique mission becomes torn between following his orders and protecting the world he feels is his home.
Avatar (also marketed as James Cameron’s Avatar) is a 2009 American epic science fiction film directed, written, produced, and co-edited by James Cameron and starring Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Stephen Lang, Michelle Rodriguez, and Sigourney Weaver. It is set in the mid-22nd century when humans are colonizing Pandora, a lush habitable moon of a gas giant in the Alpha Centauri star system, in order to mine the valuable mineral unobtanium.
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 a genetically engineered Na’vi body operated from the brain of a remotely located human that is used to interact with the natives of Pandora.
Development of Avatar began in 1994, when Cameron wrote an 80-page treatment for the film. Filming was supposed to take place after the completion of Cameron’s 1997 film Titanic, for a planned release in 1999; however, according to Cameron, the necessary technology was not yet available to achieve his vision of the film.
Work on the language of the Na’vi began in 2005, and Cameron began developing the screenplay and fictional universe in early 2006. Avatar was officially budgeted at $237 million, due to a groundbreaking array of new visual effects Cameron achieved in cooperation with Weta Digital in Wellington. Other estimates put the cost between $280 million and $310 million for production and at $150 million for promotion.
The film made extensive use of new motion capture filming techniques and was released for traditional viewing, 3D viewing (using the RealD 3D, Dolby 3D, XpanD 3D, and IMAX 3D formats), and “4D” experiences in selected South Korean theaters.
Avatar premiered in London on December 10, 2009, and was released in the United States on December 18 to positive reviews, with critics highly praising its groundbreaking visual effects. During its theatrical run, the film broke several box office records and became the highest-grossing film at the time, as well as in the United States and Canada, surpassing Cameron’s Titanic, which had held those records for twelve years.
Avatar remained the highest-grossing film in the world for nearly a decade until it was overtaken by Avengers: Endgame in 2019, but a Chinese re-release of Avatar led to the film retaking the worldwide top spot in March 2021, where it has been ever since.
Adjusted for inflation, Avatar is the second highest-grossing movie of all time after Gone with the Wind with a total of more than $3 billion. It also became the first film to gross more than $2 billion and the best-selling video title of 2010 in the United States. Avatar was nominated for nine Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director, and won three, for Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography, and Best Visual Effects.
The success of the film also led to electronics manufacturers releasing 3D televisions and caused 3D films to increase in popularity.
Following the film’s success, Cameron signed with 20th Century Fox to produce four sequels: Avatar: The Way of Water and Avatar 3 have completed principal filming, and are scheduled to be released on December 16, 2022, and December 20, 2024, respectively; subsequent sequels are scheduled to be released on December 18, 2026, and December 22, 2028. Several cast members are expected to return, including Worthington, Saldana, Lang, and Weaver.
Avatar (2009) Trailer
Avatar (2009) Reviews
Pandora harbors a planetary forest inhabited peacefully by the Na’vi, a blue-skinned, golden-eyed race of slender giants, each one perhaps 12 feet tall. The atmosphere is not breathable by humans, and the landscape makes us pygmies. To venture out of our landing craft, we use avatars–Na’vi lookalikes grown organically and mind-controlled by humans who remain wired up in a trance-like state on the ship. While acting as avatars, they see, fear, taste and feel like Na’vi, and have all the same physical adeptness.
This last quality is liberating for the hero, Jake Sully (Sam Worthington), who is a paraplegic. He’s been recruited because he’s a genetic match for a dead identical twin, who an expensive avatar was created for. In avatar state he can walk again, and as his payment for this duty he will be given a very expensive operation to restore movement to his legs. In theory he’s in no danger, because if his avatar is destroyed, his human form remains untouched. In theory.
On Pandora, Jake begins as a good soldier and then goes native after his life is saved by the lithe and brave Neytiri (Zoe Saldana). He finds it is indeed true, as the aggressive Col. Miles Quaritch (Stephen Lang) briefed them, that nearly every species of life here wants him for lunch. (Avatars are not be made of Na’vi flesh, but try explaining that to a charging 30-ton rhino with a snout like a hammerhead shark).
Like “Star Wars” and “LOTR,” “Avatar” employs a new generation of special effects. Cameron said it would, and many doubted him. It does. Pandora is very largely CGI. The Na’vi are embodied through motion capture techniques, convincingly. They look like specific, persuasive individuals, yet sidestep the eerie Uncanny Valley effect. And Cameron and his artists succeed at the difficult challenge of making Neytiri a blue-skinned giantess with golden eyes and a long, supple tail, and yet–I’ll be damned. Sexy.
At 163 minutes, the film doesn’t feel too long. It contains so much. The human stories. The Na’vi stories, for the Na’vi are also developed as individuals. The complexity of the planet, which harbors a global secret. The ultimate warfare, with Jake joining the resistance against his former comrades. Small graceful details like a floating creature that looks like a cross between a blowing dandelion seed and a drifting jellyfish, and embodies goodness. Or astonishing floating cloud-islands.
I’ve complained that many recent films abandon story telling in their third acts and go for wall-to-wall action. Cameron essentially does that here, but has invested well in establishing his characters so that it matters what they do in battle and how they do it. There are issues at stake greater than simply which side wins.
Cameron promised he’d unveil the next generation of 3-D in “Avatar.” I’m a notorious skeptic about this process, a needless distraction from the perfect realism of movies in 2-D. Cameron’s iteration is the best I’ve seen — and more importantly, one of the most carefully-employed.
The film never uses 3-D simply because it has it, and doesn’t promiscuously violate the fourth wall. He also seems quite aware of 3-D’s weakness for dimming the picture, and even with a film set largely in interiors and a rain forest, there’s sufficient light. I saw the film in 3-D on a good screen at the AMC River East and was impressed. I might be awesome in True IMAX. Good luck in getting a ticket before February.
It takes a hell of a lot of nerve for a man to stand up at the Oscarcast and proclaim himself King of the World. James Cameron just got re-elected.
Avatar (2009) Credits
Stephen Lang as Col. Miles Quaritch
Joel David Moore as Norm Spellman
Wes Studi as Eytukan
CCH Pounder as Moat
Dileep Rao as Dr. Max Patel
Giovanni Ribisi as Parker Selfridge
Sam Worthington as Jake Sully
Zoe Saldana as Neytiri
Michelle Rodriguez as Trudy Chacon
Laz Alonso as Tsu’tey
Sigourney Weaver as Grace
Matt Gerald as Corporal Lyle Wainfleet
Written and directed by
- James Cameron
Avatar (2009) Plot
In 2154, Earth’s natural resources have been depleted. The Resources Development Administration (RDA) mines the valuable mineral unobtanium on Pandora, a moon in the Alpha Centauri star system. Pandora, whose atmosphere is poisonous to humans, is inhabited by the Na’vi, 10-foot-tall (3.0 m), blue-skinned, sapient humanoids that live in harmony with nature.
To explore Pandora, genetically matched human scientists use Na’vi-human hybrids called “avatars”. Paraplegic Marine Jake Sully replaces his deceased identical twin as an operator. Avatar Program head Dr. Grace Augustine considers Sully inadequate but accepts him as a bodyguard.
While escorting the avatars of Grace and Dr. Norm Spellman, Jake’s avatar is attacked by Pandoran wildlife and he flees into the forest, where he is rescued by female Na’vi Neytiri. Witnessing an auspicious sign, she takes him to her clan. Neytiri’s mother Mo’at, the clan’s spiritual leader, orders her daughter to initiate Jake into their society. Colonel Miles Quaritch, head of RDA’s security force, promises Jake the company will restore his legs if he provides information about the Na’vi and their gathering place, the giant Hometree, under which is a rich deposit of unobtanium.
Learning of this, Grace transfers herself, Jake, and Norm to an outpost. Jake and Neytiri fall in love as Jake is initiated into the tribe. He and Neytiri choose each other as mates. When Jake attempts to disable a bulldozer which is threatening a sacred Na’vi site, Administrator Parker Selfridge orders Hometree destroyed. Despite Grace’s argument that destroying Hometree could damage Pandora’s biological neural network, Selfridge gives Jake and Grace one hour to convince the Na’vi to evacuate.
Jake confesses that he was a spy and the Na’vi take him and Grace captive. Quaritch’s men destroy Hometree, killing many including Neytiri’s father, the clan chief. Mo’at frees Jake and Grace, but they are detached from their avatars and imprisoned by Quaritch’s forces. Pilot Trudy Chacón, disgusted by Quaritch’s brutality, airlifts Jake, Grace, and Norm to Grace’s outpost.
Grace is shot during the escape. Jake regains the Na’vi’s trust by connecting his mind to that of Toruk, a dragon-like creature feared and revered by the Na’vi. At the sacred Tree of Souls Jake pleads with Mo’at to heal Grace.
The clan attempts to transfer Grace into her avatar with the aid of the Tree of Souls but she dies. Supported by new chief Tsu’tey, Jake unites the clan, telling them to gather all the clans to battle the RDA. Quaritch organizes a strike against the Tree of Souls to demoralize the Na’vi. Jake prays to Na’vi deity Eywa via a neural connection with the Tree of Souls. Tsu’tey and Trudy are among the battle’s heavy casualties.
The Na’vi are rescued when Pandoran wildlife unexpectedly join the attack and overwhelm the humans, which Neytiri interprets as Eywa answering Jake’s prayer. Quaritch, wearing an AMP suit, escapes his crashed aircraft and breaks open the avatar link unit containing Jake’s human body, exposing it to Pandora’s poisonous atmosphere.
As Quaritch prepares to slit Jake’s avatar’s throat, he is killed by Neytiri who saves Jake from suffocation, seeing his human form for the first time. With the exceptions of Jake, Norm, and a select few others, all humans are expelled from Pandora. Jake is permanently transferred into his avatar with the aid of the Tree of Souls.
Avatar (2009) Box office
Avatar was released internationally on more than 14,000 screens. It earned $3,537,000 from midnight screenings domestically (United States and Canada), with the initial 3D release limited to 2,200 screens.
The film earned $26,752,099 on its opening day, and $77,025,481 over its opening weekend, making it the second-largest December opening ever behind I Am Legend, the largest domestic opening weekend for a film not based on a franchise (topping The Incredibles).
The highest opening weekend for a film entirely in 3D (breaking Up‘s record), the highest opening weekend for an environmentalist film (breaking The Day After Tomorrow‘s record), and the 40th-largest opening weekend in North America, despite a blizzard that blanketed the East Coast of the United States and reportedly hurt its opening weekend results.
The film also set an IMAX opening weekend record, with 178 theaters generating approximately $9.5 million, 12% of the film’s $77 million (at the time) North American gross on less than 3% of the screens.
International markets generating opening weekend tallies of at least $10 million were for Russia ($19.7 million), France ($17.4 million), the UK ($13.8 million), Germany ($13.3 million), South Korea ($11.7 million), Australia ($11.5 million), and Spain ($11.0 million).
Avatar‘s worldwide gross was US$241.6 million after five days, the ninth largest opening-weekend gross of all time, and the largest for a non-franchise, non-sequel and original film. 58 international IMAX screens generated an estimated $4.1 million during the opening weekend.
Revenues in the film’s second weekend decreased by only 1.8% in domestic markets, marking a rare occurrence, earning $75,617,183, to remain in first place at the box office and recording what was then the biggest second weekend of all time. The film experienced another marginal decrease in revenue in its third weekend, dropping 9.4% to $68,490,688 domestically, remaining in first place at the box office, to set a third-weekend record.
Avatar crossed the $1 billion mark on the 19th day of its international release, making it the first film to reach this mark in only 19 days. It became the fifth film grossing more than $1 billion worldwide, and the only film of 2009 to do so. In its fourth weekend, Avatar continued to lead the box office domestically, setting a new all-time fourth-weekend record of $50,306,217, and becoming the highest-grossing 2009 release in the United States.
In the film’s fifth weekend, it set the Martin Luther King Day weekend record, grossing $54,401,446, and set a fifth-weekend record with a take of $42,785,612. It held the top spot to set the sixth and seventh weekend records earning $34,944,081 and $31,280,029 respectively. It was the fastest film to gross $600 million domestically, on its 47th day in theaters.
On January 31, it became the first film to earn over $2 billion worldwide, and it became the first film to gross over $700 million in the U.S. and Canada, on February 27, after 72 days of release.
It remained at number one at the domestic box office for seven consecutive weeks – the most consecutive No. 1 weekends since Titanic spent 15 weekends at No.1 in 1997 and 1998 – and also spent 11 consecutive weekends at the top of the box office outside the United States and Canada, breaking the record of nine consecutive weekends set by Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest.
By the end of its first theatrical release Avatar had grossed $749,766,139 in the U.S. and Canada, and $1,999,298,189 in other territories, for a worldwide total of $2,749,064,328.
Including the revenue from a re-release of Avatar featuring extended footage, Avatar grossed $760,507,625 in the U.S. and Canada, and $2,029,172,169 in other countries for a worldwide total of $2,789,679,794. Avatar has set a number of box office records during its release: on January 25, 2010, it surpassed Titanic‘s worldwide gross to become the highest-grossing film of all time worldwide 41 days after its international release, just two days after taking the foreign box office record.
On February 2, 47 days after its domestic release, Avatar surpassed Titanic to become the highest-grossing film of all time in Canada and the United States. It became the highest-grossing film of all time in at least 30 other countries and is the first film to earn over $2 billion in foreign box office receipts. IMAX ticket sales account for $243.3 million of its worldwide gross, more than double the previous record.
Box Office Mojo estimates that after adjusting for the rise in average ticket prices, Avatar would be the 14th-highest-grossing film of all time in North America. Box Office Mojo also observes that the higher ticket prices for 3D and IMAX screenings have had a significant impact on Avatar‘s gross; it estimated, on April 21, 2010, that Avatar had sold approximately 75 million tickets in North American theaters, more than any other film since 1999’s Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace.
On a worldwide basis, when Avatar‘s gross stood at $2 billion just 35 days into its run, The Daily Telegraph estimated its gross was surpassed by only Gone with the Wind ($3.0 billion), Titanic ($2.9 billion), and Star Wars ($2.2 billion) after adjusting for inflation to 2010 prices, with Avatar ultimately winding up with $2.8 billion after subsequent re-releases.
Reuters even placed it ahead of Titanic after adjusting the global total for inflation. The 2015 edition of Guinness World Records lists Avatar only behind Gone with the Wind in terms of adjusted grosses worldwide.
Avatar (2009) Critical Response
On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, 82% of 319 reviews are positive, and the average rating is 7.4/10. The site’s consensus reads, “It might be more impressive on a technical level than as a piece of storytelling, but Avatar reaffirms James Cameron’s singular gift for imaginative, absorbing filmmaking.”On Metacritic — which assigns a weighted mean score — the film has a score of 83 out of 100 based on 35 critics, indicating “universal acclaim”.
Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of “A” on an A+ to F scale. Every demographic surveyed was reported to give this rating. These polls also indicated that the main draw of the film was its use of 3D.
Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times called the film “extraordinary” and gave it four stars out of four. “Watching Avatar, I felt sort of the same as when I saw Star Wars in 1977,” he said, adding that like Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, the film “employs a new generation of special effects” and it “is not simply a sensational entertainment, although it is that.
It’s a technical breakthrough. It has a flat-out Green and anti-war message”. A. O. Scott of At The Movies also compared his viewing of the film to the first time he viewed Star Wars and he said “although the script is a little bit … obvious,” it was “part of what made it work”.
Todd McCarthy of Variety praised the film, saying “The King of the World sets his sights on creating another world entirely in Avatar, and it’s very much a place worth visiting.” Kirk Honeycutt of The Hollywood Reporter gave the film a positive review. “The screen is alive with more action and the soundtrack pops with more robust music than any dozen sci-fi shoot-’em-ups you care to mention,” he stated.
Peter Travers of Rolling Stone awarded Avatar a three-and-a-half out of four star rating and wrote in his print review “It extends the possibilities of what movies can do. Cameron’s talent may just be as big as his dreams.” Richard Corliss of Time magazine thought that the film was “the most vivid and convincing creation of a fantasy world ever seen in the history of moving pictures.” Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times thought the film has “powerful” visual accomplishments but “flat dialogue” and “obvious characterization”.
James Berardinelli of ReelViews praised the film and its story, giving it four out of four stars; he wrote “In 3-D, it’s immersive – but the traditional film elements – story, character, editing, theme, emotional resonance, etc. – are presented with sufficient expertise to make even the 2-D version an engrossing 2+1⁄2-hour experience.”
Avatar‘s underlying social and political themes attracted attention. Armond White of the New York Press wrote that Cameron used “villainous American characters” to “misrepresent facets of militarism, capitalism, and imperialism”. Russell D. Moore of The Christian Post concluded that “propaganda exists in the film” and stated “If you can get a theater full of people in Kentucky to stand and applaud the defeat of their country in war, then you’ve got some amazing special effects.”
Adam Cohen of The New York Times was more positive about the film, calling its anti-imperialist message “a 22nd-century version of the American colonists vs. the British, India vs. the Raj, or Latin America vs. United Fruit”.
Ross Douthat of The New York Times opined that the film is “Cameron’s long apologia for pantheism […] Hollywood’s religion of choice for a generation now”, while Saritha Prabhu of The Tennessean called the film a “misportrayal of pantheism and Eastern spirituality in general” and Maxim Osipov of The Hindustan Times, on the contrary, commended the film’s message for its overall consistency with the teachings of Hinduism in the Bhagavad Gita.
Annalee Newitz of io9 concluded that Avatar is another film that has the recurring “fantasy about race” whereby “some white guy” becomes the “most awesome” member of a non-white culture. Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune called Avatar “the season’s ideological Rorschach blot”, while Miranda Devine of The Sydney Morning Herald thought that “It [was] impossible to watch Avatar without being banged over the head with the director’s ideological hammer.”
Nidesh Lawtoo believed that an essential, yet less visible social theme that contributed to Avatar‘s success concerns contemporary fascinations with virtual avatars and “the transition from the world of reality to that of virtual reality”.
Critics and audiences have cited similarities with other films, literature or media, describing the perceived connections in ways ranging from simple “borrowing” to outright plagiarism. Ty Burr of The Boston Globe called it “the same movie” as Dances with Wolves. Like Dances with Wolves, Avatar has been characterized as being a “white savior” movie, in which a “backwards” native people is impotent without the leadership of a member of the invading white culture.
 Parallels to the concept and use of an avatar are in Poul Anderson’s 1957 novelette “Call Me Joe”, in which a paralyzed man uses his mind from orbit to control an artificial body on Jupiter. Cinema audiences in Russia have noted that Avatar has elements in common with the 1960s Noon Universe novels by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky, which are set in the 22nd century on a forested world called Pandora with a sentient indigenous species called the Nave.
Various reviews have compared Avatar to the films FernGully: The Last Rainforest, Pocahontas and The Last Samurai. NPR’s Morning Edition has compared the film to a montage of tropes, with one commentator stating that Avatar was made by “mixing a bunch of film scripts in a blender”.
Gary Westfahl wrote that “the science fiction story that most closely resembles Avatar has to be Ursula Le Guin’s novella The Word for World Is Forest (1972), another epic about a benevolent race of alien beings who happily inhabit dense forests while living in harmony with nature until they are attacked and slaughtered by invading human soldiers who believe that the only good gook is a dead gook.”
The science fiction writer and editor Gardner Dozois said that along with the Anderson and Le Guin stories, the “mash-up” included Alan Dean Foster’s 1975 novel, Midworld. Some sources saw similarities to the artwork of Roger Dean, which featured fantastic images of floating rock formations and dragons.
In 2013, Dean sued Cameron and Fox, claiming that Pandora was inspired by 14 of his images. Dean sought damages of $50m. Dean’s case was dismissed in 2014, and The Hollywood Reporter noted that Cameron has won multiple Avatar idea theft cases.
Avatar received compliments from filmmakers, with Steven Spielberg praising it as “the most evocative and amazing science-fiction movie since Star Wars” and others calling it “audacious and awe inspiring”, “master class”, and “brilliant”. Noted art director-turned-filmmaker Roger Christian is also a noted fan of the film. On the other hand, Duncan Jones said: “It’s not in my top three James Cameron films. … [A]t what point in the film did you have any doubt what was going to happen next?”.
For French filmmaker Luc Besson, Avatar opened the doors for him to now create an adaptation of the graphic novel series Valérian and Laureline that technologically supports the scope of its source material, with Besson even throwing his original script in the trash and redoing it after seeing the film.
TIME ranked Avatar number 3 in their list of “The 10 Greatest Movies of the Millennium (Thus Far)” also earning it a spot on the magazine’s All-Time 100 list, and IGN listed Avatar as number 22 on their list of the top 25 Sci-Fi movies of all time.
Avatar (2009) Accolades
Avatar won the 82nd Academy Awards for Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography, and Best Visual Effects, and was nominated for a total of nine, including Best Picture and Best Director. Avatar also won the 67th Golden Globe Awards for Best Motion Picture – Drama and Best Director, and was nominated for two others.
At the 36th Saturn Awards, Avatar won all ten awards it was nominated for: Best Science Fiction Film, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Director, Best Writing, Best Music, Best Production Design and Best Special Effects.
The New York Film Critics Online honored the film with its Best Picture award. The film also won the Critics’ Choice Awards of the Broadcast Film Critics Association for Best Action Film and several technical categories, out of nine nominations. It won two of the St. Louis Film Critics awards: Best Visual Effects and Most Original, Innovative or Creative Film.
The film also won the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) award for Production Design and Special Visual Effects, and was nominated for six others, including Best Film and Director. The film has received numerous other major awards, nominations and honors.
Avatar (2009) Movie Info
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