In a far-flung place, an alien world has just been discovered by humans. It is a world completely unlike our own, full of bizarre trees, strange fruit, and unnamed animals. Discoverers have yet to fully explore this strange place, but as they encroach, they bring their guns and their best soldiers to tame this foreign environment.
They have already chosen a name for this “New World”: America.
Except that name was taken. So they named it: Japan.
But that name was also taken. So they named this new frontier “Pandora”.
In this wild, untamed world, humans have established an outpost — a small measure of humanity in the wild and rugged edge of civilization. Why has humanity encroached upon this world? Well, it turns out that in this untamed wilderness, there is something precious, something valuable, something truly unobtainable, buried deep within the soil of this world. We could call it something ridiculous like “gold” or “spice”, but let’s call it something like this: “unobtainium”.
Either way, it doesn’t really matter what it is (or even what we use it for), it just matters that we want it. We want it bad.
Enter our protagonist. He is a dangerous but good-looking hero-type. He’s the kind of guy we all can identify with — all the guys want to be like him and all the (straight) girls want to be with him. Yet, recently, he fought in a terrible battle where he was badly wounded, leaving him an empty shell of a person (which we can tell by his excessive facial hair).
Except our hero’s kind of short…
… and he’s in a wheelchair.
Meanwhile, the native people of this wild, alien place are completely unlike us. They appear to be stronger than us. They ride horses and use bows, arrows, and small bladed weapons to fight. They have long black hair (maybe with feathers or beads in it) but over their bodies they wear almost nothing at all (mostly coarse animal skins shaped into cloaks or loincloths)…
…except let’s make them blue!
Our hero initially distrusts the Natives (let’s call them the “Na’vi”), but through irrelevant plot twists, he ends up being brought to the Na’vi camp. He meets the old Na’vi leader, and the war-like, untrusting, Na’vi prince (who is next in line to lead the Na’vi community). Although they should probably have killed our hero because they are at war with his people, instead (for irrelevant plot reasons) they choose to care for him. And eventually, our hero is taught their ways and their language by the beautiful daughter of the chief Na’vi. This woman is a member of the Na’vi, although she doesn’t quite fit in like the others:
Yet, she knows the ways of the Na’vi. She’s also beautiful, feisty, yet wildly sexy…
… and she’s blue and has a tail!
Underscoring how wild and unusual the Na’vi civilization is, our romantic love interest has a strange, virtually unpronouncable name, like “Taka” or “Neytiri”. But, our hero soon finds that he integrates into the Na’vi civilization, and grows to love their deep spirituality and “one-ness” with their surroundings. He learns about how they are in tune with nature, and grows to find his own deep connection with the wilderness.
He grows his hair, and changes his appearance to look more like his newfound Na’vi brothers and sisters.
He also falls in love with our romantic love interest (and even takes her as a mate), cementing his inclusion into their society.
But then, the people of our hero’s old life, whom he now sees as the wild and untamed ones, once more make an appearance. So hellbent are they on getting “unobtainium”, that they threaten to destroy the peaceful way of life of the Na’vi. Their ferocity is embodied by a villain who represents pure capitalism, and one who represents warlike viciousness.
Our hero is torn between his new life and his old life. Complicating matters, he is initially cast out by his Na’vi brothers because he is still unsure if he remains a part of his old people, yet his old war buddies believe that he has “gone native” and can never return to his old ways.
To regain the trust of his Na’vi brothers and sisters, our hero masters their ways, and becomes a legendary warrior even by the standards of the Na’vi. Perhaps he shoots buffalo better than the other Na’vi…
or maybe he wields a samurai sword better than the other Na’vi warriors…
…or perhaps he even manages to tame the biggest, scariest bird in the sky (a feat accomplished by only five others in all of Na’vi history).
Either way, he proves that not only is he like all the other Na’vi, he’s actually better than all the other Na’vi. In so doing, our hero becomes the de facto leader of the Na’vi tribes. In that position, our hero wages war on his former civilization, pitting their guns against the bows and arrows (and guerilla tactics) of the vastly outnumbered, underdog Na’vi.
At this point, insert a giant battle scene that consumes 75% of the film’s budget.
Whether the Na’vi win or lose is really kind of irrelevant, but sufficed to say, our hero proves himself a full-fledged member of the Na’vi. At the end of the movie, he gets the girl and the Na’vi, in turn, embrace him as one of their own and he goes off into the still untamed wilderness to live out the rest of his days as a Na’vi warrior and husband.
Cue blackout, roll credits, and watch the ticket money pour in.
(This post aside, ‘Avatar’ is a visually stunning movie, and you should really go check it out.)