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Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) is a wheelchair-bound marine. After spending five years in cryonic sleep aboard an intergalactic transport vessel, Jake finds himself being woken as the transport approaches the planet Pandora. Humans have set up a corporate/military mining consortium on Pandora. They are systematically bulldozing Pandora's forests in search of a rare priceless mineral called Unobtainium. But Pandora is populated by a humanoid race called the Na'vi who are getting in the way of the mining operations. Jake is being sent to Pandora to replace his murdered brother in the Avatar Program, an experimental project that transfers the conscious mind of a human 'driver' into a laboratory grown Na'vi avatar.
A rich vein of Unobtainium has been located directly beneath a large Na'vi village. The humans plan to use the avatars to infiltrate the Na'vi and convince them to relocate. If that doesn't work, the humans plan to use Jake's intelligence to assist the consortium's military leader, Colonel Miles Quaritch (Steven Lang), to forcibly remove the Na'vi.
Along with scientists Dr Grace Augustine (Sigourney Weaver) and Norm Spellman (Joel Moore), Jake is sent out on a scouting mission in avatar guise. While investigating the local flora, Jake is attacked by a ferocious beast and separated from the others. A beautiful female Na'vi warrior called Neytirri (Zoe Saldana) rescues Jake. Neytirri is the daughter of the Na'vi clan chieftain. When the clan's spiritual leader senses a strong spiritual significance to Jake, Jake is adopted into the clan and then trained as a warrior.
The Colonel gives Jake three months to convince the Na'vi to willingly relocate. At the end of this time, Jake finds he is in love with Neytirri and has developed strong ties with the Na'vi. He now strongly opposes the Colonel taking any action against the Na'vi. He is eventually joined by his colleagues in a battle to save the owners of the planet.
Exploitation of indigenous populations; genetic engineering
Avatar contains extended sequences of action violence, epic battle and war scenes. There is minimal blood and gore, however. For example:
- While exploring the jungle, avatar Jake is confronted by a large dinosaur-like creature that charges him. Jake holds his ground, shouting and barring his teeth at the creature, which backs off and retreats into the jungle.
- While lost in the jungle, avatar Jake is pursued by a giant alien dog-like creature. The creature leaps onto Jake, biting his backpack, lifting him into the air, and throwing him around like a ragdoll. Jake escapes by leaping from a cliff into a river below. He is uninjured.
- Jake is pursued through the jungle by a pack of dog-like creatures. He wards off the creatures with fire and stabs one with a knife. Just as Jake is about to be overrun by the creatures, Neytirri steps out of the forest and shoots one with an arrow. She then attacks the remaining dogs with her bow and knife, stabbing one in the throat. Afterwards, Neytirri is upset because she had to kill the creatures.
- The Na'vi spiritual leader cuts avatar Jake with a knife and then licks Jake's blood from the blade of the knife.
- Jake shoots a deer-like alien animal with a bow and arrow. He then stabs the wounded animal in the throat as he recites a prayer of thanks to the creature for surrendering its life. He is told he has made a clean kill.
- As part of his manhood test, avatar Jake must capture and ride a large pterodactyl-like creature. Jake walks through a flock of the creatures, and one lunges and attacks him. Jake lassoes the creature's jaws and jumps on its back. The creature jumps off a cliff. Jake crashes into the side of the cliff several times before he gets the creature under control.
- Avatar Jake and Neytirri are asleep in the jungle when Neytirri is awoken by the sounds of giant mining bulldozers crashing through the vegetation. Neytirri tries to wake Jake, but Jake's consciousness is not in his avatar body. The bulldozers knock over trees as they approach. Neytirri pulls Jake's avatar body out of the way of falling trees. When Jake regains consciousness, he runs in front of the bulldozers waving his arms trying to stop the bulldozers, but they keep coming. Jake jumps onto one of the dozers and uses a rock to smash parts of the machine. In response, marines shoot their guns at Jake. Jake escapes into the jungle uninjured while Neytirri cries in grief and distress for the ruined trees.
- A Na'vi man attacks avatar Jake with a knife and Jake punches the Na'vi in the face. We see blood on the Na'vi's nose and face. The Na'vi tries to cut Jake's throat, but Neytirri steps in and physically restrains the Na'vi man.
- Dozens of flying gunships approach the Na'vi village and shoot hundreds of gas cylinders into the village. Na'vi people stagger around coughing and gasping for breath. The gunships then fire rockets at the Na'vi. Trees and the ground erupt in flames, and the Na'vi run and scream in panic. Na'vi villagers are thrown through the air like ragdolls. The gigantic tree that is their home breaks apart and crashes to the ground, falling on many of them. At the end of the attack, Neytirri's father, the Na'vi chief, is left dying on the ground with a large wooden stake impaled through his back as Neytirri looks on. We see minimal blood and gore. Later we see images of the Na'vi carrying injured Na'vi children in their arms.
- In response to the destruction of the Na'vi village, Jake, Dr Augustine and several other scientists confront the Colonel. A scuffle breaks out, and one of the scientists punches a marine in the face. In response, Jake, Dr Augustine and the other scientists are restrained and imprisoned by the soldiers.
- A female military pilot opposed to the Colonel's destruction of the Na'vi village pistol-whips a prison guard to unconsciousness in an attempt to rescue Jake, Dr Augustine and the other scientists from prison.
- While attempting to escape the military base in a stolen airship, Jake and the scientists are shot at by the Colonel with a machinegun and then a handgun. Bullets ricochet off the airship's windscreen. A short time later, we see Grace remove a bloody hand from her stomach to reveal a blood-soaked gunshot wound. Jake takes Grace to the Na'vi for healing, but we are told that is too late. Grace dies.
- In a final epic battle between the Na'vi and the humans, a fleet of heavily armed military airships fly towards the floating mountains with the intent of destroying the Na'vi and their sacred tree. We see images of the airships fitted with machineguns and missiles. Cargo bays are loaded with troops and dreadnaughts (large human-piloted battle suits). The Na'vi warriors ride large horse-like animals or fly on the backs of pterodactyl-like creatures.
- Na'vi archers shoot six-foot arrows through glass windshields, impaling human pilots through the chest. There is minimal blood and gore.
- Human soldiers shoot Na'vi warriors off their flying mounts with heavy machine guns, and the Na'vi fall through the air to the ground below. Na'vi warriors on the ground are shot by dreadnaughts wielding giant spinning machine guns. We see airships firing on each other. Airships explode in flames and spin out of control to the ground. A Na'vi warrior jumps from his flying mount onto an airship and attacks the human soldiers. He hurls the humans around like toy soldiers.
- Dreadnaughts and squads of soldiers with flamethrowers burn everything in their path. These ground forces are destroyed by large rhinoceros-like creatures. We hear the screams of soldiers being trampled. Meanwhile, in the air, pterodactyl-like creatures grab airship soldiers in their jaws and throw them from the airship.
- The final showdown is between the Colonel in a dreadnaught suit and Jack and Neytirri riding a giant wolf-like creature. Neytirri on her wolf creature attacks the Colonel. He viciously stabs the wolf to death while Neytirri remains trapped under her mount. The Colonel then turns on the trapped Neytirri and is about to stab her when avatar Jake attacks the Colonel. The fight is fierce with both Jake and the Colonel trying to stab each other with giant hunting knives. The Colonel appears to gain the upper hand when he grabs Jake by the hair, lifting him into the air, but the Colonel is impaled through the chest by an arrow shot by Neytirri, who fires a second arrow through the Colonel's chest. The Colonel and dreadnaught crash to the ground. There is minimal blood and gore.
Content that may disturb children
Avatar contains an array of fantastic and monstrous dinosaur-like creatures with large sharp teeth and claws. For example:
- The Na'vi themselves are three metres tall. They are blue-skinned and yellow-eyed with catlike features and two sharp fang-like teeth, which they bare when angry. At times, they wear war paint that emphasises their cat-like features.
- Large ferocious pterodactyl-like flying creatures have snapping jaws full of large snapping teeth.
- Dreadnaught-style power suits encase the human pilot. These are large and threatening in appearance and equipped with large machine guns and hands that can wield giant hunting knives.
- Large colourful scorpion-like creatures live in the trees.
- There are large, four-limbed, monkey-like creatures.
- There are large, multicoloured, hammerhead rhinoceros-like creatures.
- Very fast and aggressive giant skeletal dog-like creatures have snapping jaws full of large sharp dagger-like teeth.
In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes and scary visual images, this movie contains some scenes that could particularly disturb children aged 5-8. For example:
- We see images of Jake's dead brother in a cardboard coffin as it is consumed in cremation fires while Jake watches.
- Colonel Quaritch has large, livid, claw-like scars across the side of his head and face.
- A wolf-like dog impaled on an arrow whimpers in pain until it is put out of its misery.
- Neytirri becomes upset, crying in a very distressed way.
- To save the life of Dr Augustine, who has been shot in the stomach, Jake takes her to the Na'vi's sacred tree. Hundreds of Na'vi sit in front of a giant tree, singing and swaying in unison. They are partially covered by very fine roots coming from the sacred tree. The doctor and her avatar are also covered by fine roots.
Children in this age group might also be scared or distressed by some of the images listed above.
Most children in this age group are unlikely to be disturbed by anything in this movie.
Avatar contains occasional mild sexual references. For example:
- When a group of new soldiers arrive on Pandora, we hear a soldier shouting, 'Let's go ladies, look at all this fresh meat'.
- Avatar Jake plays with his tail. Dr Augustine says, 'Don't play with that - you'll go blind'.
- When Jake passes his manhood test, Neytirri tells him that he can now choose a woman to mate with. Later we hear Neytirri telling her mother that she and Jake have mated.
- We hear the Colonel sarcastically tell Jake, 'I'm getting all emotional - I might just give you a big wet kiss'.
Alcohol, drugs and other substances
This movie contains some use of substances. For example:
- Dr Augustine smokes cigarettes in several scenes.
- Jake gives the Doctor an injection after she is shot.
- A character says, 'What the hell have you people been smoking?'
Nudity and sexual activity
Avatar contains partial nudity and some low-level sexual activity. For example:
- A female military pilot wears low-cut tops that reveal cleavage.
- Both male and female Na'vi are shown entirely naked except for a loin cloth that covers their crotch area.
- Jake and Neytirri kiss passionately. Jake lifts Neytirri onto his lap and Neytirri says, 'I am with you Jake. We are mated for life'. The scene ends.
None of concern
Avatar contains some medium-level coarse language and name-calling.
Ideas to discuss with your children
Avatar is an action science fiction adventure aimed at a male teenage and young adult audience. It is also likely to entertain grown-ups of all ages. The movie's CGI-enhanced alien characters are extremely realistic. The story line is not a new one and has many similarities to events in both current and past human history.
The main messages from this movie are:
- Some humans are capable of great injustice and crime to achieve profit or gain. Other humans are capable of great personal sacrifice to address those injustices and crimes.
- It is unjust and morally wrong to forcibly remove indigenous people from their native land.
Values in this movie that you could reinforce with your children include personal sacrifice, environmental awareness and scientific curiosity.
This movie could also give you the chance to talk with your children about real-life issues such as present or past similarities between the Na'vi's treatment by the humans, and the treatment of Earth's indigenous populations. Also, at one point in the movie, Jake says that everything is backwards. He says that the real world exists when he is in his avatar body and that the dream world is when he is in his human body. Could refugees integrating from one culture to another have similar feelings?