2009 saw the release of James Cameron's epic science-fiction film, "Avatar." Renowned for its groundbreaking visuals and record-breaking box office success, "Avatar" is a film that still has people talking about it today. But why does it seem like its script often gets left out of the conversation? Well, that ends today! Click the link for the "Avatar" screenplay PDF download, and keep reading along for my breakdown of the script!
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Who wrote Avatar?
Award-winning filmmaker James Cameron wrote and directed "Avatar." Cameron is responsible for some of the most profitable films of all time, including "Titanic" and "The Terminator" franchise.
When did Avatar come out?
The first "Avatar" movie was released in December 2009. It went on to become the highest-grossing movie ever! After a long 13-year wait, the sequel, "Avatar: The Way of Water," hit screens in December 2022. Sequels "Avatar 3" and "Avatar 4" are planned for release in December 2024 and December 2026, respectively. There's even an "Avatar 5" planned and slated for release sometime in 2028!
What is Avatar about?
"Avatar" is set in the 22nd century and follows as humans colonize a habitable moon called Pandora for the purpose of mining a valuable mineral. The mining endangers the existence of the indigenous tribe, the Na'vi, tall blue humanoid creatures. Pandora's atmosphere is poisonous to humans, so human scientists must upload their minds to Na'vi "avatars" to explore the planet.
Avatar Screenplay Breakdown
Here's a breakdown of the Avatar screenplay using the five plot points.
We delve into the exposition when we meet the protagonist, Jake Sully, a former Marine who uses a wheelchair living on the rough side of town on what we can presume is futuristic earth. Jake learns of the death of his scientist twin brother.
- INCITING INCIDENT
A mining company recruits Jake to Pandora to replace his brother on a team of scientists meant to explore the moon using Na'vi avatars. The scientists psychically link themselves to the avatars to overcome the toxic (to humans) environment. The avatars are specifically created for the human user, so Jake is the only person able to operate his deceased twin brother's Avatar.
- LOCK IN (End of Act One)
The head scientist, Grace, doubts Jake's qualifications but accepts him onto the team as a bodyguard. While accompanying the scientists on an excursion, they are attacked by local wildlife, and Jake is separated from the group. Na'vi warrior Neytiri reluctantly rescues him and brings him to her tribe, where he is allowed to stay. Unbeknownst to the Na'vi, Jake is gathering intelligence about them and reporting back to Colonel Quaritch, head of the mining company's security.
- FIRST CULMINATION (Midpoint)
Jake spends time training with Neytiri, forming a close bond. Jake manages to gain the acceptance of the Na'vi and is initiated into the tribe. Jake and Neytiri fall in love and become a couple.
- MAIN CULMINATION (End of Act Two)
Colonel Quaritch launches an attack against the Na'vi. Feeling guilt over his betrayal, Jake confesses to Neytiri that he is a spy, and she rejects him.
- THIRD ACT TWIST
The humans attack the Na'vi's sacred Hometree, resulting in Grace's death. The Na'vi are assisted in their fight against the humans by Pandoran wildlife. Neytiri saves Jake's life, and his consciousness is permanently placed into his Avatar. The Na'vi succeed in forcing most of the humans to retreat from Pandora.
Why does Avatar work?
"Avatar" has an engaging but familiar story at its core. Frequently compared to Disney's "Pocahontas" or "Dances with Wolves,” "Avatar" tells the story of the damaging actions of colonizers toward a group of indigenous people, all for the sake of money, power, and resources. The story is exciting, despite the viewer likely being able to predict the ending. The film's predictability doesn't make it any less satisfying to watch Jake do the right thing and turn against the colonizing humans. Despite its similarity to other films, Avatar tells a familiar story in a new and exhilarating way.
And that's “Avatar”! I hope this script breakdown helped show you how screenplay structure can be broken down into key beats. Read the “Avatar” screenplay, or check out the film if you haven't seen it! Happy writing!