Avatar (film)/Setting

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  • Alien Sky: Pandora is one of the moons of a gas giant named Polyphemus, so we are treated to many shots of said planet in the sky. Other moons are also visible.
  • All There in the Manual: The video game has additional information on the characters, species, etc. that doesn't appear in the movie. Same thing with an independent published guide giving backstory to the creatures, plants, technology, and Na'vi. Also an online encyclopedia. There is an actual manual on the Na'vi in the movie, courtesy of Dr. Grace.
  • Bond Creatures: The Na'vi have a rite of passage where they must sneak into the aviaries of the banshee and bond with one of them. They can do something similar with the direhorse, but with multiple people, as they do not bond with a person for life like with the banshee.
  • Big Damn Heroes: By way of Deus Ex Machina.
  • Call a Smeerp a Rabbit:
    • One of the more frequently-seen Pandoran animals has four eyes, six legs, hairless blue skin, a snout like an anteater, and nostrils in its chest. They call it a direhorse. Fair enough, it is kind of like a horse, and it acts an awful lot like a horse, but still... No one else looked at those horses and thought Odin's eight-legged steed, Sleipnir?
    • The name 'Direhorse' was given by humans to the creatures known by the Na'vi as Pa'li -- much in the way the Ikran were given the name 'Banshees' and the Toruk was given the name 'Great Leonopteryx'. Humans aren't very original with names for alien creatures in THIS universe, it seems.
  • Color Contrast: It emphasizes the purple part of the green/purple contrast a lot more than most forest settings.
  • Death World: Pandora, pretty much every variety all at once.
  • Deus Ex Machina: Done with an actual Deus in the climax of the movie. The Na'vi are starting to get hammered by the forces of humanity, but then, thanks to Jake having asked help from their tree goddess thing earlier, a herd of titanotheres and banshee come out of nowhere and rush the humans, destroying almost all of them[1]. Arguably a type 4, or type 2 to the Hatedom.
  • Expansion Pack World: There are other moons around Polyphemus. Possibly with life on them. Cameron has announced that after the Avatar sequels, which will be focused on Pandora, there may be others exploring other moons and planets in the Alpha Centauri system -- including planets orbiting Alpha Centauri B.
  • Fertile Feet: Reconstructed. Nothing grows as a result of Na'vi passage, but any plants or ground coverings they interact with react with bioluminesce. Mainly just for Rule of Cool and Scenery Porn.
  • Floating Continent: In fact, this is the reason why humans are there. There's also the Hallelujah Mountains. Justified as Superconductors, like the Unobtainium in the Hallelujah Mountians do float in magnetic fields such as the flux vortex.
  • Genius Loci: The entire moon, shown both when the animals massacre the Marine strike force, and in Jake's memory transfer.
  • Giant Flyer: Pandora is full of these. Even an ikran is HUGE compared to a human.
  • Gondor Calls for Aid:
    • You may think Jake appealing to the moon for help against the humans' final assault to be cheesy or perhaps Narm. And then you see the Na'vi getting their asses handed to them. And then you see every animal and its mother ripping the assault force a new one. Good planning indeed.
    • A more traditional version of the trope is the "Toruk Makto unites the clans" montage.
  • Heavyworlder: Inverted. Much of the reason the 10 foot tall humanoid Na'vi can live very well on Pandora is because of the 20% weaker gravity putting far less strain on their bodies. While humans are stronger on Pandora than Earth thanks to decreased gravity, they are still weaker than native animals both proportionally and totally. The Colonel mentions the need for constant exercise to prevent muscle atrophy.
  • Heli Critter: The fan lizard.
  • Hive Queen: Eywa, an overmind-like, super-intelligent being made of alien trees, which is linked to most advanced life forms on Pandora and has a form of internet (i.e. instant global communication) built of its roots and seeds.
  • Horse of a Different Color: It's blue. And has six legs.
  • Hungry Jungle: This is how Colonel Miles Quaritch describes Pandora's jungles to Jake when he first meets him. This is also how Pandora's jungles are initially depicted when Jake finds himself stranded in them during one of his first few nights on the moon.
  • Immune to Bullets: The Hammerhead Titanotheres. Claimed to be so by Dr. Grace Augustine and how! Despite not being fully armored all-over these beasties can withstand explosive, armor-piercing and incendiary 30mm GAU rounds without a hitch. Shooting thanators isn't very productive either, not because they're armored, but because they get seriously annoyed by it and take your gun away from you.
  • Jungle Japes: The beautiful and exotic rainforests of Pandora where the majority of the film takes place.
  • The Lifestream: Kinda played with. Eywa acts as this, kinda. It doesn't happen automatically, they Brain Upload just before they die.
  • Meaningful Name: Before she opened the box, Pandora was created to be the perfect woman, and her name literally means "All-Gifted".
  • Names to Run Away From Really Fast: The thanator. "Thanatos" is the Greek word for "death," and also the name of its personification. It's very appropriate in this case.
    • Then there's the Toruk, which in Na'vi means "Last Shadow".
  • No Biochemical Barriers: Averted and done straight. The air is unbreathable to humans thanks to its concentration of CO2 and H2S, causing a coma in a matter of seconds, and death in minutes. Pandoran plants are loaded to the brim with toxins, as far as humans are concerned. However the namesake Avatars are created by the improbable working combination of human and Na'vi DNA. Which is another can of worms in itself, because the Na'vi, according to Pandorapedia, do not have DNA. There's a mention of NV Transcriptase, which had been done science to in order to interact with human DNA.
  • Negative Space Wedgie: the 'flux vortex' of the moon's strong magnetic field makes a lot of instruments, such as mapping and targeting systems, completely useless. Things like thermal scans, communications, and motion sensors still work, though they get staticy.
    • Also the mobile uplink has no problems, even when right near to the center of the Flux.
  • Ominous Fog: The otherwise scenery pornographic Pandora gets this trait once Hometree is destroyed, since the ashes contribute to the fog.
  • One Product Planet: Pandora may appear to be this as it is valued for its Unobtainium, but the background mentions genetic development from plants on Pandora. Also, one of the few examples of this trope that uses Slower-Than-Light travel.
  • Planetary Romance: It's set on a detailed alien world with a mostly primitive setting involving frequent use of melee weapons and seemingly magical abilities with vague scientific explanations. James Cameron even stated that he was heavily inspired by John Carter of Mars, the first major planetary romance ever written.
  • Psychic Link: The link between avatars and their operators, enabled by the link bed.
  • Rock of Limitless Water: The floating islands have waterfalls constantly flowing from out of them, despite not having a source for such water. In this case, there is a somewhat logical reason given for the phenomenon that does not quite justify the amount of water created this way.
  • Rubber Forehead Aliens: Averted. Despite being 10 foot tall CGI figures, the Na'vi are amazingly humanlike in their appearance, especially compared with the other wildlife shown on Pandora. This was done so that the audience could identify with them more easily. Lampshaded and discussed in extra material - a scientist notes that, despite looking and acting very human, we have more in common with garden snails than with them.
  • Savage Piercings: One clan of Na'vi wear nose bones.
  • Scenery Gorn: When Hometree is destroyed.
  • Scenery Porn: Arguably the most visually stunning movie ever created.
  • Shadow of Impending Doom: The Na'vi name for the Great Leonopteryx, a flying Apex predator, is Toruk, which translates to "Last Shadow". Toruk's favored method of attack is to dive with the sun behind it so by the time you see its shadow fall on you, it is often already too late.
  • Sickly Green Glow: Inverted. Almost all of the plants and animals have some form of bioluminescence -- even the Na'vi have spots on their face and body -- usually in the green-blue hues, some of which could be considered sickly in other settings. In this one? Try "gorgeous."
  • Single Biome Planet:
    • Fully averted in the background material (there is no land mass at either of the poles, so the icecaps are floating with no fixed features), and partly averted in the movie itself, but there's never a location visited where temperatures look like they could drop below freezing (with the POSSIBLE exception of the plains).
    • The sequel will feature Pandora's oceans, which fits with Cameron's obsession with the ocean.
  • Square-Cube Law: the lighter gravity of Pandora partly accounts for the huge bodies (though not the great strength) of the Na'vi, Avatars, and wildlife (although the AMP suits may seem to stretch the suspension of disbelief [2]).
  • Starfish Aliens:
    • The creatures of Pandora were supposed to be like this, and they even got Wayne freakin' Barlowe and Neville Page to help out. But eventually they had to tone it down because the creatures looked "too alien". At one point the banshee and Leonopteryx looked like giant flying manta rays. This was part of an overall theme change, as the Na'vi concept art at the time had a reptilian look, which is where all the confusion about their being mammals originated from thanks to out-of-date information.
    • Pretty much all life on Pandora has six limbs, four eyes, and breathes through an operculum on the chest... except the Na'vi, Prolemuris (a clear evolutionary link intended to show the reasoning behind it), and ikran.
    • Though there are still some minor creatures in film that are definitely Starfish Aliens, many of the flora and fauna were inspired by deep sea Earth creatures and plants.
    • The creatures on Pandora, while looking vertebrate-y, are also shown to breathe through an operculum (e.g. ikran, toruk and pa'li).
  • Super-Persistent Predator: The thanator scene most obviously, but from the sound of things, pretty much every single piece of wildlife on Pandora. May be justified, if everything is this vicious, it may be necessary just to land a meal.
  • Taxonomic Term Confusion
  • Tree-Top Town: Hometree appears to play this trope straight, except it just consists of one huge tree instead of several.
  • Universe Bible: 350 pages of alien language (Speak Na'vi), plants and wildlife taxonomy, a scale structure for the alien music, Pandora's physical properties etc. etc.
  • Vertebrate with Extra Limbs: Every creature on Pandora, except the Na'vi, ikran and stingbats. Word of God explains that this is due to the fact that they evolved from the monkey-like Prolemuris, which as we see in the film has six limbs -- but two of those are two arms that bifurcate into four forearms (each with a two-fingered hand as opposed to the Na'vi four-fingered hand). These forearms fused into two by the time the Na'vi had evolved, leaving them the only ones with four limbs.
  • World Tree: Hometree, and especially the Tree of Souls.
  • Worm Sign: The Toruk is named Last shadow by the Na'vi for a reason.Notes
  1. And then it was pointed out that she only protects the balance of life. The fact that the humans were killing everything in their path probably helped speed up the decision
  2. From an engineering standpoint there's no reason the AMP suits shouldn't work; most of the problems with Humongous Mecha as war machines don't apply in an alien environment where you're more concerned with hacking your way through the underbrush and carrying heavy enough weapons to put down most things short of titanotheres than you are with the enemy spotting you at long range and taking you out with antitank missiles.