Director: James Cameron
Stars: Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Sigourney Weaver
Plot: When his brother is killed in a robbery, paraplegic Marine Jake Sully decides to take his place in a mission on the distant world of Pandora. There he learns of greedy corporate figurehead Parker Selfridge's intentions of driving off the native humanoid "Na'vi" in order to mine for the precious material scattered throughout their rich woodland. In exchange for the spinal surgery that will fix his legs, Jake gathers intel for the cooperating military unit spearheaded by gung-ho Colonel Quaritch, while simultaneously attempting to infiltrate the Na'vi people with the use of an "avatar" identity. While Jake begins to bond with the native tribe and quickly falls in love with the beautiful alien Neytiri, the restless Colonel moves forward with his ruthless extermination tactics, forcing the soldier to take a stand - and fight back in an epic battle for the fate of Pandora.
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. 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).
According to James Cameron, the Na'vi are blue to create a conceptual parallel with traditional Hindu depictions of God. The word "avatar" is Sanskrit for "incarnation." It is used extensively in Hindu scriptures to refer to human incarnations of God.
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 (2009) flopped.
James Cameron admitted in an interview that he got the idea for "Avatar" after watching Disney's 1995 animated film Pocahontas (1995). Jake Sully's initials (J.S.) are the same as John Smith, a central figure in the historical and often romanticized story of Pocahontas. This film shares many similarities with the Pocahontas story in plot and theme. Like John Smith, Sully is a member of an invading force who falls in love with a tribal princess, after learning her customs.
All animals on Pandora have six limbs, except for the humans and Na'vi.
Michael Biehn was considered for the role of Col. Quaritch. James Cameron rejected him because he'd already cast Sigourney Weaver, and he didn't want people to think it was Aliens (1986) all over again.
The Chinese renamed one of their national park mountains as Avatar Hallelujah Mountain, because of this film. Of course, according to James Cameron, the design of the mountains in the film are inspired by the mountains around southern China, in particular, Huangshan.
In the final battle sequence, Neytiri has a white hand print on her chest as part of her warpaint. It has five fingers, indicating that it is Jake's hand (avatars have five fingers while Na'vi only have four).
When Jake is examining his ponytail, Dr. Augustine states, "Don't play with that, you'll go blind." This is a common phrase that is taught to adolescent boys (referencing their genitalia) to discourage them from masturbating. It is shown later in the film that the Na'vi use their ponytails to link their minds during mating.
Stephen Lang has hinted that Col. Quaritch could return for a sequel, saying, "You think those two arrows in my chest are going to stop me from coming back? Nothing's over so long as they've got my DNA."
In the scene that introduces the concept of the tree of souls to the viewer, Grace remarks that outsiders are forbidden to go there, but that she would "die to get samples." This turns out to be an unfortunately prophetic figure of speech as later, she is allowed to go to the tree of souls because she is dying. Her first words upon arriving are, "I need to get samples . . . "
Grace Augustine says to Quaritch, "Or what, Ranger Rick, you going to shoot me?" Of course, he eventually does shoot Augustine.
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 Na'vi language was created entirely from scratch by linguist Dr. Paul R. Frommer. James Cameron hired him to construct a language that the actors could pronounce easily, but did not resemble any single human language. Frommer created about 1,000 words.