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  • Writer's pictureThomas Duncan

Avatar (2009)

What is this movie is about?/Elevator Pitch: Preserving our connection to nature at the cost of the military/industrial complex.

Plot Summary: Jake Sully (Sam Worthington), a former Marine confined to a wheelchair, has been recruited to join an expedition to the moon Pandora, where corporate interests are strip-mining for a mineral worth $20 billion per kilogram on Earth. To facilitate their work, the humans use a link system that projects a person's consciousness into a hybrid of humans and Pandora's indigenous humanoids, the Na'vi. This human-Na'vi hybrid – a fully living, breathing body that resembles the Na'vi but possesses the individual human's thoughts, feelings, and personality – is known as an "avatar." Jake must work with Dr. Grace Augustine (Sigourney Weaver), the head of the Avatar program, who is not sure of Sully’s suitability to the project, and Colonel Miles Quaritch (Stephen Lang), head of the mining operation’s security detail. Jake’s mission is to interact with and infiltrate the Na'vi with the hope of enlisting their help – or at least their acquiescence – in mining the ore. A beautiful Na'vi, Neytiri (Zoe Saldana) saves Jake's life and eventually shows him the culture of her people. As Jake's relationship with Neytiri deepens, along with his respect for the Na'vi, he faces the ultimate test as he leads an epic conflict that will decide nothing less than the fate of an entire world.


  • James Cameron, Writer/Director

  • Sam Worthington as Jake Sully

  • Stephen Lang as Colonel Miles Quaritch

  • Sigourney Weaver as Dr. Grace Augustine

  • Michelle Rodriguez as Trudy Chacón

  • Giovanni Ribisi as Parker Selfridge

  • Joel David Moore as Dr. Norm Spellman

  • Dileep Rao as Dr. Max Patel

  • Zoe Saldana as Neytiri

  • CCH Pounder as Mo'at

  • Wes Studi as Eytukan

  • Laz Alonso as Tsu'tey


  • Avatar premiered in London on December 10, 2009, and was released theatrically worldwide from December 16 to 18.

  • 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.

  • 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. 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. On January 31, 2010, 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.

  • Avatar 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 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 $2.92 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 was nominated for 9 Academy Awards including Best Picture, Director (Cameron), Film Editing, Original Score, Sound Editing, and Sound Mixing, and it won 3 for Best Visual Effects, Art Direction, and Cinematography.

  • TIME ranked Avatar number 3 in their list of "The 10 Greatest Movies of the Millennium (Thus Far)" and it also earned a spot on the magazine's All-Time 100 list. IGN listed Avatar as number 22 on their list of the top 25 Sci-Fi movies of all time.

  • Avatar currently holds an 82% among critics on RT, an 83 score on Metacritic, and 3.5 out of 5 on Letterboxd.

Did You Know:

  • James Cameron originally planned to have the film completed for release in 1999. At the time, the special effects he wanted increased the budget to $400 million. No studio would fund the film, and it was shelved for eight years.

  • James Cameron was convinced that CGI effects had progressed enough to make this film when he saw Gollum in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002).

  • The Na'vi language was created entirely from scratch by linguist Dr. Paul R. Frommer. James Cameron hired him to construct a language that would be easy for actors to pronounce but would not resemble any human language. Frommer created about 1,000 words.

  • At the time of auditioning, Sam Worthington was living in his car.

  • Jake's atrophied legs were prosthetics cast from the legs of a real paraplegic. Sam Worthington's real legs were tucked into the wheelchair and digitally removed in post-production.

  • Director James Cameron, known for being tough on set, allegedly kept a nail gun on set that he would use to nail cell phones that had the misfortune of ringing to a wall above the exit sign.

  • The cigarette that Sigourney Weaver's character "smokes" is computer-generated.

  • Some CGI scenes took an average of 47 hours to render.

  • To appease 20th Century Fox's fears, and remembering the harrowing experience of Titanic (1997) and its production overruns and costly delays, James Cameron promised to forgo his director's fee if "Avatar" flopped.

Best Performance: Stephen Lang (Quaritch)/James Cameron (Writer/Director)

Best Secondary Performance: James Cameron (Writer/Director)/Zoe Saldana (Neytiri)

Most Charismatic Award: Sam Worthington (Jake Sully)/CGI

Best Scene:

  • Journey to Pandora

  • First Day in Avatar Body

  • Neytiri Saves Jake

  • Learning to Fly

  • Up In the Mountains

  • Death of Hometree

  • Jake's Redemption

  • Quaritch Attacks

  • Jake v. Quaritch

Favorite Scene: Journey to Pandora/Learning to Fly

Most Indelible Moment: Death of Hometree/Jake v. Quaritch

In Memorium:

  • Bob McGrath, 90, American actor and singer (Sesame Street, Follow That Bird, The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland). " accomplished tenor and musician, performed in “concert halls from Las Vegas to Saskatchewan to Tokyo many times over,” according to Sesame Workshop."

  • Quentin Oliver Lee, 34, American Broadway actor (Phantom of the Opera and Carolina or Change). Notably played the Phantom in 2018.

  • Cliff Emmich, 85, American actor (Payday, Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, Mouse Hunt). Was in several episodes of Little House on the Prairie, Happy Days, and many other major TV shows of the 70s and 80s.

  • Yakira Chambers, 42, American television writer (NCIS: Hawaii) and actress (John Henry and Insecure). Worked with several notable black female creators in Issa Rae and Lena Waithe, and was the current story editor for NCIS: Hawaii.

  • Al Strobel, 83, American actor (Twin Peaks, Child of Darkness, Child of Light, Megaville).

  • Kirstie Alley, 71, American actress (Cheers, Veronica's Closet, Look Who's Talking, David's Mother), Emmy winner (1991, 1994).

Best Lines/Funniest Lines:

Jake Sully: Everything is backwards now, like out there is the true world, and in here is the dream.

Jake Sully: Well, uh, I guess this is my last video log. Because whatever happens tonight. Either way I'm... I'm not gonna be comin' back to this place. Well, I guess I better go. I don't wanna be late for my own party. It's my birthday, after all. This is Jake Sully signin' off.

Mo'at: It is hard to fill a cup that is already full.

Jake Sully: My cup is empty. Trust me. Just ask Dr. Augustine. I'm no scientist.

Mo'at: Then what are you?

Jake Sully: I was a marine. A warrior... of the uh... Jarhead Clan.

Jake Sully: She said all energy is only borrowed, and one day you have to give it back.

Jake Sully: This is how it's done. When people are sittin' on shit that you want, you make 'em your enemy. Then you're justified in taking it.

Col. Quaritch: You are not in Kansas anymore. You are on Pandora, ladies and gentlemen. Respect that fact every second of every day. If there is a Hell, you might wanna go there for some R & R after a tour on Pandora. Out there beyond that fence every living thing that crawls, flies, or squats in the mud wants to kill you and eat your eyes for jujubes. We have an indigenous population of humanoids called the Na'vi. They're fond of arrows dipped in a neurotoxin that will stop your heart in one minute - and they have bones reinforced with naturally occurring carbon fiber. They are very hard to kill. As head of security, it is my job to keep you alive. I will not succeed. Not with all of you. If you wish to survive, you need to cultivate a strong, mental aptitude.

Jake Sully: [Narrating] Sometimes your whole life boils down to one insane move.

Jake Sully: I became a Marine for the hardship. Told myself that I can pass any test a man can pass. All I ever wanted was a single thing worth fighting for.

Jake Sully: [narrating] There's no such thing as an ex-marine. You may be out, but you never lose the attitude.

The Stanley Rubric:

Legacy: 5.5

Impact/Significance: 9.25

Novelty: 8.5

Classic-ness: 8.5

Rewatchability: 3.75

Audience Score: 8.4 (86% Google, 82% RT)

Total: 43.9

Remaining Questions:

  • As the only leading man left from the Na'vi, does Jake become their chief?

  • Where do you think Pandora is located since you can see an image of Jupiter in the movie from the surface of the planet?

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