"This is why we're here. Because this little gray rock sells for $20 million a kilo. That's the only reason. This is what pays for the whole party, and it's what pays for your science. Those savages are threatening our whole operation. We're on the brink of war and you're supposed to be finding me a diplomatic solution. So use what you've got, and get me some results."
— Selfridge, setting up the entire film and its Aesop in a single paragraph.
Avatar is a 2009 Science Fiction film directed by James Cameron.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 removethe 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 (before several of the films it's accused of copying were created) 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.The film is also notable for using using a form of stereoscopic 3D for filming. The film's financial success led to a surge in interest for 3D films. Cameron has announced that two or more sequels are planned, possibly involving exploration of Pandora's oceans and the other moons.If you're looking for the film adaptation of Avatar: The Last Airbender, please go here.
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).
Art Major Physics: Averted. Per the Avatartechnical companion websitePandorapedia, 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.
Badass Bookworm: Norm. He punches a merc on the face, suits up and fights in his avatar, and when his avatar gets killed, he grabs a rifle and proceeds to kick even more ass
Becoming the Mask: The main character even remarks at one point that the situation had become reversed - "out there was reality, and in here [in his human body] was the dream." At the end of the movie, he undergoes a ceremony that permanently puts him in the avatar body, and he leaves his old human body to die in the toxic atmosphere.
Big Bad: Selfidge takes this role at first before it is usurped by Quaritch.
Bittersweet Ending: Sure, the RDA has left, but a lot of Humans are dead. The Omatikaya are homeless and lost at least some of their members in the fight as well. An EU book makes it clear Earth was relying on exporting some of Pandora's flora to help clean up the damage that's been done to Earth, and a recent interview with the director confirms humanity *will be* returning to Pandora eventually.
Call a Rabbit a "Smeerp": There are several cretures 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]].
Colonel Badass: At one point Quaritch charges outside (the atmosphere on Pandora is largely inhospitable to humans) to unload a full clip at the deserters, then, after his assistant has shown up, slips on his breathing mask.
Convenient Cranny: When Jake flees from the creature near the beginning of the film he ends up ducking in the root system of a tree, but his hiding place is not that effective; the beast still manages to claw at him fairly decently.
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 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..."
Data Pad: Transparent ones onto which info can be dragged from computer terminals.
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 donít need you. I need your brother. You know, the PhD who trained for 3 years for this mission?
Jake: Heís dead. I know itís a big inconvenience for everyone.
Deus ex Machina: The humans have all but easily laid waste to the combined Na'vi forces. What happens next? Well it seems that their god pulls a more or less literal example by sending all of the wildlife on Pandora to attack the humans.
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 goddamn trees!
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)
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. It also helps that there's hardly any distance between the camera and Jake.
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.
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.
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: The film is a perfect example of this. The interactions between the alien Na'vi and the humans parrallels indigenous cultures meeting Western explorers and colonists. Most humans see the Na'vi as primitive savages to be exploited for their land's natural resources, while a few scientists genuinely want to communicate with and study them. The Na'vi are distrustful toward the humans, whom they see as greedy invaders and culturally inferior barbarians.
Fearsome Foot: There's a shot of Quaritch's boots as he walks up to give his briefing to the new arrivals.
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).
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 darkside 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.
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 centre 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.
Hindu Mythology: The name Avatar comes straight out of Hindu mythology, where it is often used in the context of a god "descending" into human form. Coincidentally, the two most famous Avatars in Hinduism are usually depicted with blue skin.
How to Invade an Alien Planet: Followed as best the RDA can for the most part. However Phase One Step Seven is ignored, as is Phase Tw, step twelve. 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.
Humans Are the Real Monsters/Humans Are (incredibly) Flawed: Played with. The RDA itself and its security force are this trope, 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.
Infant Immortality: Seemingly averted. After the destruction of Hometree, a Na'vi mother is seen crying over a limp child being carried by an older male. The intensity of her emotions would suggest that he was not merely unconscious. Although we don't actually see it happen, Grace's school was shot up by RDA goons. In the extended edition, she reveals to Jake that Neytiri's sister and some other children were killed during this incident.
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 visibles so that one can check anothers face for signs problems, or communicate without sound.
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.
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.
Limb-Sensation Fascination: One of the things Jake loves about his avatar body is that it is whole. When he first "wakes up" in it, there is focus on his exploring new things he can do, like running and jumping.
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.
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 twice 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 seemingly implausible aspects such as floating mountains are explainable by the nature of superconductors (such as unobtanium) to repel magnetic fields (such as the abnormally intense planetary magnetic field of Pandora.)
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.
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.
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.
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!"
Reed Richards Is Useless: There exists the technology to reach planets far beyond our solar system, make giant robot mechas, and put a human conscience into an Avatar body... yet they can't fix Jake's legs or make better wheelchairs.
Jake's monologue in the opening suggests that they can, but he (and most other people) just can't afford it.
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...
Scared of What's Behind You: One of Jake's early experiences in his avatar found him seperated from the group and facing down a strange aggressive creature that he had to try to intimidate. When the creature runs away, Jake jeers at it, until he starts to realize that there's another, much larger creature behind him...
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.
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.
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.
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.
Space Plane: The absolutely massive "Valkryie" shuttle is capable of going either to or from space unaided, and can rotate its engines to land without a runway.
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.
Techno Babble: Both played straight and subverted. Played straight when Grace uses a jargon-heavy explaination to describe to Selfridge why the Na'vi concept of Eywa residing in all of Pandora's plant life is actually a very real fact. Subverted, as the unnecessarily Techno Babble -heavy explaination goes right over Selfridge's head.
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.
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.
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.
Updated Re-release: 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...
Weaker Twin Saves the Day: Jake is paralysed 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 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.
Bioluminescence is a major part of Pandora - the forest glows at night.
The Hallelujah Mountains, which are, er, mountains. That float magnificently, thanks to gravity and magnetic fields.
Pandora and the wildlife
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.
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 themnote 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. 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.
You may think Jake appealing to Eywa 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.
Handy Feet: Na'vi have them, at least those who are not serving as avatars to humans anyway.
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.
Hey, It's That Sound Effect: Some of the Pandoran wildlife have the same sound effects as some of the dinosaurs of Jurassic Park; the Dire-Horse and Viperwolf utilize raptor calls in their repertoires (barking and rasping in the former, hissing in the latter), while the Thanator occasionally roars like the T. rex.
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.
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, armour-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".
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.
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.
Only The Chosen May Ride: The Ikran are dragon-like creatures that the Na'vi use as mounts. Every Ikran chooses its own master, and only then if the one they choose can best them in combat and tame them.
Worth special mention is Toruk Makto, who is said to be untameable by even the strongest of Na'vi. Jake manages to do so.
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. One might argue that the film is a Reconstruction of (or a Genre Throwback to) this century-old genre, updating and re-imagining many tropes characteristic of it.
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.
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 favoured 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."
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 note 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.).
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.
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.
Wormsign: The Toruk is named Last shadow by the Na'vi for a reason.
Warfare, battles and events, armaments and related tropes
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.
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.
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.
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 Heel Face Turns in their own troops.
More like Gory Camera Pan. A lot of the attacks that would be bloodier are quickly panned away from. Most noticable 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 Jake 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. And, as mentioned below, Pandora's very strong magnetic field and thick atmosphere would make the railguns, coilguns, and other such things common on Earth unreliable at best and useless at worst.
Kinetic Weapons Are Just Better: The small arms used by the humans aren't that dissimilar to ours - in fact, in the background, the machine gun is an M60 variant, 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.
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.
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.
Out Run 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 valurable 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.
Punny Name: A few human firearms manufacturers have this. Hirte and Fahl? (Hurt and Fall) Massa-Cirre? (Massacre) Subtle.
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?
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 in that he didn't break the machine, just its camera, blinding its remote operator.
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.
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.
Trudy: Damn, I was hoping for a plan that didn't involve martyrdom.
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. A deleted scene from the final battle shows the Avatar Project staff storming the link room, and using the Avatars to take over Main Ops from the RDA and Selfridge.
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, who can actually withstand the heavy fire. And Viperwolves. And many many more Banshees. Capped off with a Thanator offering itself to Neytiri as an Epic Mount.