The film takes place in a future where Earth is a polluted Crapsack World, though the story itself unfolds on Pandora, a large moon of the planet Polyphemus in the Alpha Centauri system. It has lots of Unobtainium (seriously, that's what it's called) which the human Resources Development Administration is mining, but in order to get at the richest source of it, they need to relocate a clan of the native population; ten-foot-tall, blue Humanoid Aliens called the Na'vi who live in the forests.
A paraplegic former U.S. Marine named Jake Sully is given a remotely-controlled Na'vi body called an "avatar" in order to communicate with the Na'vi and gain their trust, but the resident General Ripper has other ideas and wants to remove the Na'vi by force. Jake ends up torn between his human superiors with the promise of getting his real legs back and the Na'vi who wish to preserve their forests and their way of life, made harder by his growing romance with Neytiri, The Chief's Daughter.
James Cameron first got the idea for Avatar in The Nineties and wrote an 80-page scriptment for it, but he shelved the project because he felt that the special effects technology at the time was insufficient for portraying Pandora and its inhabitants adequately, particularly in regards to translating actors' faces to CGI. Thus, he spent the time between Titanic and Avatar creating smaller products as he developed these technologies and amassed a large budget for the movie.
- 3D Movie: Avatar's success fueled an emerging trend of releasing theatrical films in 3D.
- Alien Invasion: By humans, naturally.
- All There in the Manual: With dashes of All There in the Script, All There In The Interview, and All There In The Book. Any information that could possibly help explain why humans are there, what the Unobtainium actually does, or other such information was put in an incredibly detailed encyclopaedia on the Internet.
- Always a Bigger Fish: On Jake's first excursion into the Pandoran forest, a massive titanothere charges at him. Grace tells him to hold his ground. When it halts and then retreats, Jake is exultant, not realizing that the reason for its fear is the even bigger and nastier Thanator creeping up behind him. This time, Grace tells him to run...
- Analogy Backfire: When Jake asks why Neytiri saved him from danger despite perceiving said danger as being Jake's own fault:
Neytiri: You have a strong heart. No fear. But stupid! Ignorant like a child!
Sully: Well, if I'm like a child, then maybe you should teach me.
- Animal Wrongs Group: PETA's at it again in the backstory. In fact, RDA mucking around on Pandora was not popular at all, thanks to ads put out by PETA... until someone revealed that the emaciated Na'vi in the commercials PETA put out was a human with prosthetics. This is what caused the whole "RDA gets mining rights" fiasco and people unaware of Selfridge being an ass to Na'vi, and presumably was a holdover from the first draft (RDA was being monitored by an inspector as a result of charges of abuse, but he was bribed).
- Armies Are Evil
- Artificial Gravity: Venture Star has a pair of centrifuge modules which house the crews.
- Art Major Physics: Averted. Per the Avatar technical companion website Pandorapedia, the starship Venture Star combines beamed light sail propulsion for the outbound flight and a fusion/antimatter hybrid drive to decelerate at Alpha Centauri. Yes, those are some of the leading ideas for interstellar flight that don't involve new science.
- As You Know: "This is why we're here. Unobtainium. Because this little gray rock sells for 20 million a kilo."
- Award Bait Song: The theme song "I See You", composed by James Horner and performed by Leona Lewis was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song in 2010.
- Bioluminescence Is Cool: Taken Up to Eleven; every piece of plant life responds to touch with bioluminescent bloom.
- Bittersweet Ending: Sure, the RDA is gone, but the Omatikaya are homeless, and lost at least some of their members in the fight.
- Body Paint: Jake is covered in this during his initiation ceremony, and almost all Na'vi use warpaint during the Final Battle. Also, Played for Laughs with Trudy and her gunship. Possibly sensible on their part, as it provided a way to quickly say "this one is not a target". (It would equally quickly say "this one IS a target" to the enemy, but as a high-tech force they have Identify-Friend-Or-Foe transponders anyway.)
- Boldly Coming: Jake is sent out as a spy/diplomat. After three months, he's mated to Neytiri.
- Born in the Saddle: The "Horse Clans of the Plain" who provide the initial cavalry charge in the Final Battle seem to be so.
- Bowdlerise: The extended edition DVD/Blu-Ray has an additional audio track with "all objectionable language removed".
- Promotional standees for Avatar add a rear panel to Jake's Avatar loincloth (wherein in the actual movie there is merely a woven thong up the back).
- Brown Note: Several people walked out with motion sickness from watching it in 3D, and one man died, apparently from over-excitement. As might have been expected, the film prompted many people Longing for Fictionland, although most mentions of this were rather sensationalist, to say the least.
- Call a Rabbit a Smeerp: There are several creatures which have Earthlike equivalents -- horses, humanoids, and titanotheres. Many of the land critters also have an extra pair of legs, a few also having an extra pair of eyes, and for most, breathing is performed through operculum-like openings rather than the nose and mouth.
- Call a Smeerp a Rabbit: Humans have forgone the smeerp route and given the animals names compliant with the earth creatures they resemble—dire horses, hammerhead titanotheres, viperwolves, etc. The Na'vi have their own names for them, as would be expected.
- Casual Interstellar Travel: Averted. Space travel is Slower Than Light, and so witheringly expensive that absolutely nothing that can be made or synthesized on Pandora is brought from Earth—and per Word of God, personnel who develop medical problems that cannot be treated on Pandora are put to sleep.
- Category Traitor: When Jake leads turns against Quaritch, he gets accused of "betraying his species".
- Chekhov's Armoury: Eytukan's bow, the 'angtsik (titanotheres), the neural network itself, toruk, breaking your fall with leaves, and the fact that it's mentioned in passing as being a mobile link station.
- The bad guys lose when they forget the very first thing they're told when they arrive: "everything out there is trying to kill you".
- Chewing the Scenery: Neytiri. "EYWA HAS HEARD YOOOOUUUUU!!!!!"
- Close on Title
- Colonel Badass: Col. Miles Quaritch probably defined this trope for the next decade or so.
- Completely Missing the Point: Selfridge completely misses the point when Grace tries to explain to him how the Na'vi use trees to communicate...
Dr. Grace Augustine: What we think we know -- is that there's some kind of electrochemical communication between the roots of the trees. Like the synapses between neurons. Each tree has ten to the fourth connections to the trees around it, and there are ten to the twelfth trees on Pandora...
Selfridge: That's a lot, I'm guessing.
Dr. Grace Augustine: That's more connections than the human brain. You get it? It's a network -- a global network. And the Na'vi can access it -- they can upload and download data -- memories -- at sites like the one you just destroyed.
Selfridge: What the HELL have you people been smoking out there? They're just god damn trees!
- Also, Jake completely misses the point when first introduced to Eytukan.
Jake: What's he saying?
Neytiri: My father is deciding whether to kill you.
Jake: Your father... It's nice to meet you, sir! -cue every weapon getting aimed at Jake's throat-
- Cool Starship: The ISV Venture Star.
- Crapsack World: Earth in-universe. Wars, terrorism, and accidents kill many people every day, the entire planet's landmass and its moon are covered in immense, massively polluted cities where twenty billion people live in unbelievably crowded and depressing conditions, the oceans have half the animal life they used to have and are used for farming spirulina for food. It is said that the people on Earth in the original script are greyish and sickly due to their diet of cheap carbohydrates and synthetic proteins, and that the atmosphere is so polluted the exopacks used on Pandora are also necessary for human life on Earth. In the movie, there's the human-created Hell's Gate, which is a fittingly named blotch of strip mines and military bases on the otherwise natural and beautiful world of Pandora.
- Cyberpunk / City Noir: The many images of Earth in the Avatar universe show smoggy and futuristic landscapes with countless lights, city streets flowing with people, entire "skies" of advertisements serving as ceilings for lower levels in the cities, elevated trains and immense sky-scrapers, and even a Hive-city structure covered in advertisement screens that has an uncanny resemblance to the Hometree. The air pollution has gotten to the point that everybody has to wear a dust mask outside on the streets, and the few unlucky without them (Jake Sully included) look quite grim. Not unlike other cyberpunk settings, large corporate bodies like the RDA are incredibly powerful and their presence seen everywhere. Computer technology is also shown to have progressed greatly in the movie, with interactive holograms and an incredible interface which allows for easy blueprint making and construction as long as the required materials are present, and of course, there are advertisement screens and lights everywhere.
- A Date with Rosie Palms: Used for a throwaway joke near the end of Jake's first day Avatar piloting, when he inspects his queue. Grace admonishes him not to play with it or he'll go blind. Some people took this seriously and believed it was to do with reproduction, and were completely wrong.
- Contemplate Our Navels: "When I was lying there in the VA hospital, with a big hole blown through the middle of my life, I started having these dreams of flying. Sooner or later though, you always have to wake up..."
- Deadpan Snarker: Various characters are candidates for this, but Grace and Jake are probably the most apparent early in the film.
Grace: Yeah, yeah, I know who you are and I don’t need you. I need your brother. You know, the PHD who trained for 3 years for this mission?
Jake: He’s dead. I know it’s a big inconvenience for everyone.
- Deus Ex Machina: In the final battle, quite literally.
- Elves vs. Dwarves: Na'vi vs. Humans.
- Enhance Button: Used when Jake smashes the camera on the bulldozer thing. Less Egregious than most examples, as it doesn't actually enhance the image very much, and mostly just gets rid of motion blurring.
- Epic Movie: More than 10 years in the making. Astronomical budget. The technology used in the making of the film didn't EXIST until after production had started! A lot of CG. Archetypal plot. Yeah, baby, that's pure unadulterated Hollywood. It's now officially the Epic Movie, having overtaken Titanic in the global box office. On February 1, 2010, 45 days after release, the film had passed the two billion dollar mark.
- Everything Trying to Kill You: Pretty much a given with a world like Pandora... for the marines, anyway.
- Evil Counterpart: In a sense, the AMP suits are these to the eponymous Avatars. Both are high-tech means of exploring Pandora while being protected from its hostile environment; both are connected to a human body and imitate either its movements (AMP interface) or thoughts (Avatar mindlink); and both are humanoid in form. Except Avatars are intended to be used for peaceful contact with the Na'vi, while the AMPs are a weapon, and weapons bring death and destruction.
- Exaggerated Trope: The whole Dances with Wolves/The Last Samurai plotline is cranked Up to Eleven, and, thanks to Applied Phlebotinum, the protagonist not only goes to live with the natives and adopts their culture and identity—he bodily becomes one of them. Word of God states this was kinda intentional.
- Expanded Universe: James Cameron wants to flesh out the universe of Avatar in several books and even other films. The official wiki is a great example.
- Eye Awaken: Avatar loves this one, use multiple times, from the opening shot to once Jake is able to reoccupy his Avatar body after the destruction of Hometree, to the very last shot of the movie.
- Fantastic Aesop: Live in harmony with nature. On a planet where there is apparently next to no disease and a global sentient mind.
- Fantastic Racism: On both sides.
- Fantastic Romance: Made possible by the eponymous "Avatar" project.
- Fetal Position Rebirth: Whenever the Tree of Souls is being asked to permanently transfer a human into their Avatar body, both the human and Avatar bodies are in this position. On the other hand, there otherwise wouldn't be place for both bodies, with the Na'vi being almost twice a human's height.
- Follow the Leader: Not necessarily in terms of style or plot (hasn't really been enough time for that yet), but a number of movies that had been filmed in 2D were hastily retrofitted with an additional dimension in the wake of the Avatar phenomenon (including Cameron's own Titanic).
- Foot Focus: Another Cameron trademark. Besides many of the characters being perpetually barefoot, Avatar emphasizes Jake's joy (he's a paraplegic) in being able to move his toes and feel the dirt between them after linking with his Avatar. On a more subtle level, the first shots of the bare feet on Jake's Avatar are also used to show off the unprecedented level of detail in the wrinkles of the fully CGI models.
- Gaia's Lament: Earth has little to no plant or animal life left, warfare and terrorism grip the populace and resources are running out, the entire human race lives in massive polluted cities, the moon's dark side has even been fully developed, most food has been reduced to artificially processed algae, and the exopacks are necessary for human life.
- God Is Good: The neural network that spans Pandora is sentient and the way the Na'vi regard it is often compared to a Goddess. In the climatic battle, Pandora's wildlife wipe out the invading RDA forces thanks to this awareness.
- Going Native: Thanks to Chekhov's moss-mediated brain transfer technology.
- Good Eyes, Evil Eyes: The Na'vi have enormous eyes, the Avatars' eyes are smaller but still much larger than a human's.
- Green Aesop: The whole point—to the point where every other story with a Green Aesop is compared to it.
- Green-Skinned Space Babe. Available in Blue! (Neytiri flavored.)
- Guilty Pleasure: According to the Hatedom, this film is considered as one. Despite it being the highest grossing film of all time, plenty of people on the internet would actually be ashamed to admit that they watched or even liked this film... then again the internet doesn't like popular.
- Heel Face Turn: Played completely straight with Jake and Trudy, averted in the theatrical release of the movie, but nearly played straight for Selfridge as the screenplay and deleted scenes both confirm that he initially opposes military action against the Na'vi and attempts to stop the final attack against the Tree of Souls, but is usurped by Quaritch, and locked in his command center where he can only watch helplessly as Quaritch carries out his Shock and Awe Campaign.
- Heel Realization: Parker is implied to go through one of these during the final attack on the Na'vi.
- How to Invade An Alien Planet: Followed as best the RDA can for the most part. However Phase One Step Seven is ignored. Phase three step two is inadvisable when the people you are fighting are allied with a group of brilliant scientists.
- Hugh Mann: Averted - the Na'vi are well aware that the avatars are not actual Na'vi and are remotely controlled by humans.
- Humanity Is Insane/Humans Are Morons: Seems to be a common opinion of humans among the Na'vi. During his first encounter with the natives, Jake learns that he is "stupid like baby" and must be "cured" of his "insanity", although this refers to not Seeing rather than generally being a human.
- In Jake's case, at least, remember that even after hearing the Everything Trying to Kill You speech from Quaritch, he spends his first day out in the woods poking anything that glows at him.
- Humans Are the Real Monsters/Humans Are (incredibly) Flawed: Played with. The RDA itself and its security force are this trope incarnate, driven by greed, blissful disregard for nature and a healthy dose of Fantastic Racism. The scientists, however, are openly ashamed of and disgusted by their actions, respect Na'vi culture and try to establish some sort of compromise. Note that the scientists care more partly because they understand better. To a lot of the humans, the Na'vi connection to the trees seems mostly sentimental, and a lot of them dismiss the idea of using those trees to communicate as "tree-hugging nonsense", even when a scientist explains explicitly how it works.
- In Case You Forgot Who Wrote It: The film is referred to as James Cameron's Avatar by third parties (probably to avoid confusion with the other Avatar), though this is rare for the film itself.
- In Space Everyone Can See Your Face: The exopacks show a lot more face than your typical oxygen mask, although technically they aren't oxygen masks, they are more like air filters/gas masks—the oxygen comes directly from Pandora's atmosphere. Also it makes sense to make the faces in the mask more visible so that one can check another's face for signs problems, or communicate without sound.
- Ironic Echo:
- Grace mentions that she would die for a chance to have access to the Tree of Souls so she could take samples. After being mortally wounded, she is brought to the Tree of Souls in an attempt to use it to save her life. Despite being in too much pain to move, she still manages to express her desire to take samples.
- Also the various uses of "time to"/"have to wake up" throughout the film in concurrence with the film's real world/dream state theme.
Trudy: Damn, I was hoping for a plan that didn't involve martyrdom.
Grace: What are you gonna do, shoot me?
Quaritch: Oh, I can do that.
Jake: One life ends, another begins.
Jake: Everything is backwards now, like out there is the true world, and in here's the dream
Jake: Sooner or later, you always gotta wake up.
- Then there's "I See you."
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Grace comes across as condescending and rude earlier on in the film, but later on is shown to be more compassionate and understanding than most other human characters.
- Jungle Opera: A rare latter-day example, and IN SPACE!
- Lens Flare, and yes, they're 3D.
- Limited Special Collectors' Ultimate Edition: Unlike most, this one takes the form of a Theatrical 3D Re-Release. There is also the later collector's edition, plus an exclusive one limited to 1000 copies.
- Loin Cloth: All the Na'vi.
- Love Across Battlelines: The protagonist is a human soldier falling in love with a warrior of the clan he's hired to defend the evil megacorporation against.
- Ludd Was Right: Averted. The message is that technology is neutral, it's how you use it that matters.
- Magical Native American: Averted. The game veers into this at times though.
- Major Injury Underreaction: Grace just goes "this is gonna ruin my whole day" after being shot. For bonus points, the only time she goes "ouch" after that is from a syringe, and it's rather flat. On the other hand, receiving such an injury can actually have this effect as the body dumps a load of adrenaline into the system to try and cope, plus the potential for shock.
- At one point, Colonel Quartich ignores that he is on fire. He triages the problem of first and second degree burns to his arm to focus on a complex bailout from a crashing aircraft. Then he puts the fire out.
- The Man Is Sticking It to the Man: The amazingly realistic CGI used in this film, plus the film's overall budget, required a hell of a lot of corporate finance. And the themes of the film are arguably somewhat anti-corporate. Fox wanted James Cameron to reduce the prominence of the message. He refused, and they made it anyway.
- Manly Tears: In the original script when Jake first gets to use the legs of his avatar body, he cries.
- Mega Corp: The RDA, which is stated to be better funded than most world governments.
- The Metric System Is Here to Stay
- Meaningful Name:
- Unobtainium. The humans don't get much of it. This is an in-joke relating to something that has incredible properties. See Unobtainium.
- Jake, or Jacob, is the name of one of the great Patriarchs of The Bible; his brother Thomas' name means simply "the twin." Grace Augustine is named after both a heavenly gift and the great Doctor of the church... it goes on.
- Some people think Eywa sounds like Yahweh, the Hebrew name for God.
- Mineral MacGuffin: Obviously, this is Unobtainium again. Despite the backstory provided, we only see one TINY piece of it once during the movie, which is somewhat justified - even a sliver of it is enormously valuable.
- Mohs Scale of Science Fiction Hardness: Pretty damn hard, as James Cameron personally made sure that every aspect of his universe was plausible at the very least. Even things which would seem nonsensical in other works of Science Fiction (such as the floating mountains of Pandora) are explained away, with very few cases where disbelief needs to be suspended very far.
- Motherly Scientist: Dr. Grace comes to fit this role, becoming a bit of a mother figure for the protagonist and caring for the natives. In the extended cut, she even mentions that Na'vi children she taught at her school called her "mother".
- My Sibling Will Live Through Me: Quite literally. Because Tom Sully's Avatar was created to work with his DNA, when he is killed, only his identical twin brother, Jake, can operate the Avatar. So he does.
- Myself, My Avatar: The eponymous Avatars.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Jake Sully provides all the intel that the RDA needs to successfully take down Hometree.
- Not only that but he completely neglects to mention that the marines are going to try to bulldoze their land. He goes so far as to sleep with Neytiri before it was scheduled to happen.
- Non-Mammal Mammaries: Averted, as the Na'vi are mammals. James Cameron did say they weren't in one very early interview, but also got Jake's name wrong and called Pandora a planet, so was clearly discussing something much earlier in the development process than the finished universe.
- Nose Art: For the film's climax, Trudy has a white and blue cheatline painted on her chopper, presumably to help the Na'vi tell her apart from the other aircraft flying around.
- Not What I Signed on For: When Trudy refuses to participate in the destruction of the Na'vi home.
"Screw this. I didn't sign up for this shit!"
- Nubile Savage: Neytiri all the way.
- Of the People
- Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Jake; American character, Australian actor, accent bouncing back and forth as much as it liked.
- The Other Darrin: according to DVD Bonus Content, Cameron shot a short proof-of-concept scene as a "hey, look how awesome this is!" demo. In it, Jake is played by Daniel Bess (Heroic-Sacrifice Mudder, Season 1 kidnapper-cum-love-interest) and Neytiri by Yunjin Kim.
- Pieces of God: Just about all plantlife on Pandora forms a neural network. The fauna is also connected, to a lesser extent.
- Pinball Protagonist: Until Grace dies, Jake doesn't actually really make any moral decisions, with one key exception - otherwise, he is just drifting along with the plot. Even afterwards, all he's doing is trying to make up for his errors, and get together with the only people who'd accept him.
- Planetary Romance: Reconstructed. The film was, according to Word of God, inspired by John Carter of Mars, and tries to update and re-imagine many tropes characteristic of the genre.
- Precision F-Strike: Trudy saying "I didn't sign up for this shit" when refusing to participate in the destruction of the Na'vi home. Not the only instance of vulgarity in the movie, sure, but probably the most impactful one given the context.
- Grace's "Oh shit." earlier in the film is another great example.
- Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: "They have sent us a message. That they can take whatever they want. Well, we will send them a message. That THIS! THIS IS OUR LAND!"
- Reality Is Unrealistic: Some people have complained that the film's plot of a more advanced civilization screwing over a less advanced one for a resource is unlikely, despite it having happened many times in history already.
- Remote Body: Jake spends most of the movie as the controller of a synthetic alien.
- Rule of Symbolism: The film, despite taking a lot of flak for its derivative plot, makes judicious use of symbols: dreams, twins/doubles, living inside another body...
- Scenery Porn: Pandora is beautiful—especially at night with the bioluminescence.
- Science Hero: Grace Augustine, Norm, Max, and ultimately Jake.
- Science Is Bad: Played with, as on the surface it looks straight (evil humans with tech versus Noble Savages), but a closer look reveals a subversion—the most sympathetic humans are all scientists, the only way the protagonist is able to interact with the Na'vi is through science, and the Na'vi forces use some stolen tech themselves in the Final Battle. Indeed, even the Na'vi goddess is shown as being a scientifically based and verifiable entity. Ultimately it's more "Imperialism is Bad", and the imperialists (as is generally true in history) have the more advanced weapons. Science used responsibly is treated as a Good Thing. Besides, a Science Is Bad aesop would also be remarkably silly for a film that required entirely new technology to be invented for it to be possible.
- Sentient Cosmic Force: A physical one in Eywa.
- Serious Business: This movie is serious business for a lot of people. It's got the longest Headscratcher page on the wiki, and most of that is just debating the morality of the movie, plus a few people who disliked the film making half-arsed comments about genocide without any understanding of the context of the film. CNN claims people became suicidal over it despite it having no evident basis in actual reactions.
- Serkis Folk: The Na'Vi (both real and Avatars).
- Also the direhorses, whose movements were performed by real horses (although the animators had to add an extra pair of legs).
- Shades of Conflict: The movie is closer to White and Grey Morality than a lot of fans and detractors may claim. While the Na'vi just want to be left alone, the humans are willing to disrupt the Na'vi culture in order to get a MacGuffin that can be used to improve the already abysmal quality of life back on Earth, as well as helping with space travel. Whether it would actually be used to make Earth suck less is a lot less clear; Selfridge seems largely concerned with mining Unobtainium, regardless of environmental impact, and when Grace tells him Eywa is alive, he brushes her off entirely. We don't know if his attitude is the typical one of the RDA administration, but there's a good chance we'll see in the sequel.
- Shaky Cam: Used lightly enough that the audience can tell more-or-less what's going on. There may be hope for this trope yet.
- Shown Their Work:
- The biggest problem a large spaceship will have is getting rid of waste heat; the Venture Star has huge radiators, and they're red-hot.
- See also the amount of detail in Pandorapedia, such as their careful examination of the Scorpion's vulnerabilities and advantages against the Na'vi. Or this series of articles.
- Also regarding the Na'vi language: While James Cameron isn't an expert in language construction, he had the very good sense to hire people who were. He also had the actors practice their Na'vi lines until everything was perfect.
- Signed Up for the Dental: Jake's major motivation to participate in the Avatar program is to get his paralysis fixed. To repeat the line from the Crapsack World point:
Jake: "Sure, they can fix a spinal (cord injury) if you have the money, but on veterans' benefits? Not in this economy."
- Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: Despite the classic Humans Are the Real Monsters plot, the film falls squarely on the idealistic side: the cynical, war-loving Colonel is defeated by the peaceful scientists, the Na'vi and mother nature, who are bonded by The Power of Friendship via a Psychic Link.
- Solar Sail: The Venture Star has a large solar sail which is used for accelerating towards Pandora. The sail is shot at by a large laser somewhere in the Solar System to provide enough thrust to reach 70% lightspeed.
- Soul Jar: Not exactly, but when Jake (in Avatar form) is fighting the colonel toward the end of the film, and he makes a move to attack Jake's unprotected human body, the effect is similar.
- Subspace Ansible: It never appears in the film itself, but the Pandorapedia mentions that the Venture Star, the otherwise-realistic starship, has a low-bitrate superluminal communication ability using quantum entangling.
- Taxonomic Term Confusion: The tie-in novel to the movie lists the scientific name of the Na'vi as Homo pandorus. However, in biology creatures with separate evolutionary origins are not allowed to be given the same genus name.
- Technology Porn: Mechas! Guns! Dropships! But then, it is James Cameron.
- The few scenes showing Earth, which were not ever seen in the theatrical release, also show endless amounts of lights and neon signs, and entire planes of advertisement screens, only matched in real life by cities like Tokyo or Shanghai. Earth may be in a potentially irreversible state of severe environmental decay, but at least its technology is amazing, and its cities bright and lively.
- Tempting Fate
Grace: What're you gonna do, Ranger Rick? Shoot me?
Quaritch: I can do that. (He does).
- Thank Your Prey: The Na'vi. Taken from tribal cultures that do the same.
- Throwing Off the Disability: Achieved by means of transferring his brain/mind into a different body. Jake actually signed up for the program for both a chance at this and the fact RDA would fix his spine as soon as his tenure was over, but decided that it wasn't worth performing genocide for.
- Tiny Guy, Huge Girl: Done briefly when Neytiri cradles Jake's dying human form.
- Trailers Always Spoil: Not a trailer, but the soundtrack album gave away a couple of key plot points in its track titles. Most notably, " The Destruction of Hometree" and Shutting Down Grace's Lab". The trailer gave away basically the entire plot.
- Tribal Face Paint: When Jake is inducted into the Na'vi they paint his entire body with a white paint of some sort. Also, some of the Na'vi (e.g. Neytiri) wear a different kind of paint when going into battle. The bioluminescent spots on the Na'vi can be viewed as a sort of permanent face paint.
- Unobtainium: They actually call it that. Word of God is that it is used in starship drives. Before the discovery of Pandora, interstellar travel was too costly and long.
- Updated Rerelease: The movie was sent back to the theaters after its original premiere with new scenes.
- Vanilla Edition: The Earth Day release of the movie has absolutely nothing outside of the movie, main menu, and an options menu. Even the 2-disc BluRay set. Then Fox releases a "special edition" set in late 2010...
- Watching Troy Burn: The destruction of Hometree.
- Weaker Twin Saves the Day: Jake is paralyzed from the waist down - however, he still gets to be the hero by virtue of his DNA being identical to his dead brother's (who was meant to be the original user of the avatar)
- Subverted, however, as he is only the weaker twin in his human body. In the avatar body the twins would be physically equal. Their relative 'strength' then depend on whether you view them from the scientists' perspective or the marines'.
- What Did You Expect When You Named It?: Really, humans? You named this world Pandora? Even if it does mean "All-Gifted," there is a reason that name has fallen out of use.
- Also possible that they named it after learning that for humans, it was effectively a Death World.
- What Measure Is a Non-Human?: Played with VERY strangely. Here we have human characters taking on alien forms, learning to associate with said alien species, etc... and the protagonist taking the side of said aliens over that of his Evil Mentor.
- The World Is Just Awesome: Many. Just to name a few:
- Bioluminescence is a major part of Pandora - the forest glows at night.
- Hallelujah Mountains.
- Annoying Arrows:
- Justified in the attack on the home tree, where the Na'vi arrows harmlessly bounce off the gunship cockpits. Later when the Na'vi fire their arrows from a dive on their banshees at the gunship canopies, they have sufficient velocity and the right angle to penetrate.
- Armies Are Evil: This one is led by a General Ripper who sounds like a AM talk show host, and takes his orders from a Corrupt Corporate Executive. All of the science department employees shown in the movie are shown as closer to Earth and completely accepting of the Na'vi.
- Attack Its Weak Point: The enemy AMP suits and vehicles all have canopies and air intakes where they're vulnerable. The Na'vi have a weak point in the form of the tree that's their primary link to their deity (Quaritch specifically goes after it to "blast a hole in their racial memory"), and in their queue (the braid-looking neural link thing), as seen when Jake and Grace are taken prisoner and frog-marched with knives held to their queues.
- Awesome but Impractical: The Dragon Gunship is very powerful (carrying enough conventional weaponry to wipe out Manhattan in six seconds), but requires several components to be shipped all the way from Earth. There was a second Dragon airframe on Pandora, but said components hadn't arrived from Earth yet.
- BFG: The Na'vi weapons—the arrows are 6 feet long. Also, the autocannons and Flamethrowers carried around by AMP Suits.
- BFS: In the final battle, Jake uses an AMP suit bayonet as a sword, before switching to using it more as an axe.
- Bloodless Carnage: Toyed with, likely to keep a PG13 rating. Though characters get battered and bloody, and wounds are shown after the fact, when characters are actively seen being shot/arrowed/sliced in battle, there's little, if any, blood shown. Also, they seem to have no problem showing humans being killed pretty brutally (but again, without blood), but the Na'vi simply drop in most instances. Particularly noticeable in the final battle where dozens of Na'vi are gunned down, and simply drop like it's an old western. On the other hand, the level of realism does make the Instant Death Bullet unlikely.
- The Cavalry: In the form of stampeding six-legged titanotheres the size of houses, no less.
- Cool Versus Awesome: Most of the battles, given that one side is armed with helicopter gunships and Mini-Mecha and the other is an army of 10-foot Noble Savages riding pteranodons and six-legged horses.
- Curb Stomp Battle: The first major fight is this, with RDA wiping out the Na'vi Hometree (and, unbeknownst to them, killing their leader in the process) causing hundreds of Na'vi deaths. Indeed the only downside to that fight for them is, beyond seriously pissing off the Na'vi, is causing a couple of HeelFaceTurns in their own troops.
- David Versus Goliath:
- Trudy's Samson vs. Quaritch's Dragon.
- Quaritch in his 14 foot AMP suit VS Jake in his 10 foot Avatar body.
- Conversely, the 10 foot tall Na'vi versus any human NOT in an AMP suit.
- The Na'vi are a small, nearly powerless society going up against an arm of the largest and most powerful empire in the stellar neighborhood. They are only able to win a narrow victory after their entire biosphere produces a literal Deus Ex Machina, and only then against a force that, while apocalyptic to them, would barely register back on Earth.
- Gaia's Vengeance: The Na'vi equivalent to Mother Earth eventually does this to the humans.
- Gas Mask Mooks:
- Humans need to wear exopacks when outside their structures. A subversion in that they are designed to leave the face clearly visible.
- Subverted in the official game, where some RDA soldiers wear masks which hide their lower faces.
- Gory Discretion Shot:
- More like Gory Camera Pan. A lot of the attacks that would be bloodier are quickly panned away from. Most noticeable near the end where Jake is running on the top of the shuttle and unloads his machine gun into a group of marines. You see him open fire, but the camera very quickly pans up so you can't see most of the results, although you know exactly what they are. Gotta keep that PG-13 rating.
- Quaritch's second in command getting crushed by a titanothere. It's only shown crushing his AMP suit but we can still hear him scream.
- The additional scenes in the special edition show a few more nasty deaths of humans. We can see the aftermath of a raid against mining bulldozers, with one shot showing a soldier impaled by arrows and another one a burned out AMP suit, with pilot being implied to have been burned alive in it. Also an additional scene of a sturmbeest crushing an AMP against a tree (and impaling it straight through the cockpit in the process, no less).
- Same with a soldier being crushed by an crate full of explosives.
- Hoist By Their Own Petard: Jake's intel gives the marines the info needed to destroy Hometree. By the end of the movie... well, let's just say it doesn't work out for the bad guys.
- Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: Those Na'vi arrows are HUGE. Quaritch in particular, who gets two straight through the chest, pinning him to the interior of his ampsuit.
- Improbable Aiming Skills: exhibited in a deleted scene where the Na'vi are hunting sturmbeest on horseback and with air support. Both Tsu'tey and Jakesully manage to land arrows in the nostril, from the air (after which Jake yells "Hell yeah!" and Neytiri repeats it). Justified by the sight of other (lesser) warriors failing to get arrows through the beasts' armor plating; either you Attack Its Weak Point or the projectile bounces off.
- Improperly Placed Firearms: The machine guns the humans (and a few Avatars) use looks suspiciously like a German MG3 with extra plastic parts. Note the outdated drum magazine at the side, and an internal Shout-Out to the Aliens Smart Guns. All There in the Manual that it is actually an M60 variant with a heatshield/grip and drum magazine, which is around the right size that while being impractical for a human to carry, it is just about assault rifle size for a Na'vi, who are also strong enough to handle the weight and recoil without a problem. They're also using outdated variants on purpose - importing weapons and ammo from Earth is extremely time-and-resource consuming and would malfunction in Pandora's harsh environment.
- Kill It with Fire: Human soldiers favor incendiary missiles and flamethrowers. Makes sense in Hungry Jungle.
- Kinetic Weapons Are Just Better: The small arms used by the humans aren't that dissimilar to ours, although other sources state that forces back on Earth have more advanced weapons, such as railguns, its just that the weapons used on Pandora are cheaper and easier to make and maintain, plus Pandora's very strong magnetic field and thick atmosphere make many weapons unreliable at best and useless at worst.
- A Mech by Any Other Name: The combat AMP suits used by the military, which are pretty much the descendants of the Power Loader from Aliens, or Terran Goliaths. They were originally developed as the equivalent of power loaders, but modified to carry armament and having been used on Earth in this capacity as well, particularly in environments dangerous/toxic to unprotected humans. At least their large cabin, with excellent view but poor protection, and lack of in-built weaponry heavily suggests this. Quaritch's suit is seen to have a combat knife. The manual, on the other hand, states that they are purpose-built for combat and that several armies back on Earth use them.
- Mini-Mecha: The AMP suits straddle the line between Power Armor and Humongous Mecha.
- Though it also states that AMP suits are normally equipped with armored cover which is placed over the cockpit. However because of the electronic problems on Pandora this had to be removed in order to give the pilots a better field of vision.
- More Dakka: The Tie-in guide says that AMP Suits have a flamethrower and (auto)cannon built in, for self-defense and defoliation. In the movie, the actual weapons are more "Interchangable", the ammo system is the "built in" part. The Dragon Gunship has about 300 missiles, 10 grenade launchers, and four Miniguns. More or less every ranged weapon trope besides Kill It With Fire (though that would depend on whether the commander decided to spring for incendiaries) on a heavy-duty flying platform.
- Only a Flesh Wound/Instant Death Bullet: Averted, painfully. One character takes a rifle bullet to the stomach and is in too much pain to move for the next few scenes; the protagonists perform first aid and rush them to a healer, but the wound is too severe, and they arrive too late anyway.
- Outrun the Fireball: Quaritch does this to escape the exploding gunship. Granted, he's in a giant robot suit, which should help to protect him from the heat, though it gets some burning fuel on it.
- Several Na'vi are also shown doing this while Hometree explodes around them.
- Planet Looters: A peaceful moon is brutally invaded by short, militaristic aliens who want a valuable mineral to make their dying world a little more convenient and make a shitload of money in the process. To the aliens' credit they tried to negotiate mining rights first. Kind of subverted in that the natives don't seem to know or care how important the mineral is themselves, and the moon is too remote and too dangerous for colonization.
- Private Military Contractors: All the human soldiers are explicitly this, even though most served as army or marines in the past. Most likely a result of how much flak Cameron took for portraying actual marines this way in Aliens.
- Reality Ensues: Jake and the rest of the Na'vi leadership task the Horse Clan with intercepting Quaritch's ground troops. Quaritch's ground troops are armed with a wide array of nasty weapons including 30mm automatic cannons. The Horse Clan might have been more effective if they hadn't attacked head on and tried flanking tactics. As it happened...World War I anyone?
- And then the gunships open up on what's left. With rockets.
- Real Robot: The AMP suits have been jury-rigged as heavy weapons platforms by the Space Marines.
- Rock Beats Laser:
- Played with. In the first battle, the natives' basic weapons do very little damage to human gunships. In the second, after they work on their tactics with advice from Jake, and with much nastier compound bows it's subverted when that's still not enough to carry the day against the wall of gunfire, despite doing quite well at first. Then the Deus Ex Machina kicks in. Also, Lampshaded by Trudy:
"You're going up against gunships with bows and arrows."
- It is also used straight—a billion-dollar mining machine is blinded and halted by a guy with a rock. Justified Trope in that he didn't break the machine, just its camera, blinding its remote operator.
- Rule of Cool: The whole movie, basically.
- Space Marine: The corporation's private military contractors fill this role in this movie, although one wonders why Cameron didn't just bite the bullet and call them the Colonial Marines. With their AMP suits supporting foot-mobile infantry, they're ironically far closer to the Mobile Infantry of Starship Troopers than the so-called film adaptation of that book.
- Standard Sci-Fi Army
- Stuff Blowing Up: The Dragon ship and the makeshift bomber go out with huge kabooms that put Michael Bay to shame. Justified in case of the bomber, because it's loaded with lots of explosives. Also, the Hometree falls after perhaps several dozen huge explosions.
- This Is for Emphasis, Bitch: "You're not the only one with a gun, bitch."
- Throwing Your Sword Always Works: Inverted: using your longbow as a club always works in the movie. Justified, as Na'vi bows are at least 8 feet long and would have to be heavy enough to be used as a melee weapon in order to withstand their draw weight.
- Vasquez Always Dies: Trudy Chacon explodes with her gunship in the climactic battle..
- War Is Glorious: So much cool hardware and stirring martial prowess, this one's inevitable.
- What Happened To The Avatars?: When Jake first exits the RDA Complex, we see dozens of Avatars running around. Apart from Grace, Norm and Jake, none of them are ever shown after this point.
- You Killed My Father: Neytiri's father is killed in the attack on Hometree. Sure enough, she gets her revenge using her father's own bow.
- Zerg Rush: Attempted by the Na'vi in the final battle. Didn't work very well, until Eywa performs a much larger Zerg Rush - this time with Titanotheres. And Viperwolves. And many many more Banshees. Capped off with a Thanator offering itself to Neytiri as an Epic Mount.
- not that it didn't have other problems, such as completely contradicting canon