‘Avatar’ Plot: Can You Remember It?

In my head it’s kind of like Disney’s Pocahontas? There’s some kind of Science or Exploration Space Guy and he’s on a mission to, presumably, space, looking for “unobtanium.” This is the only thing I am certain I remember because even though I was sunburnt and sleepy and the 3D glasses were giving me a headache, I was open-mouth stunned at the insanity of that word choice. How deep underwater were you in your little one-man submarine when you came up with that?

Okay, so I guess the humans from Earth land on a planet somewhere in another galaxy that has a kind of FernGully vibe, and there are clashes with the big blue local people. I haven’t revisited the film since that original viewing, but I feel there is simply no way the blue guys are not problematic in retrospect, and have a vague sense they may even have been problematic at the time. My big memories are: runes, loin cloths, Zoe Saldana. They’re famously very long and tall, and I think they’re also strong?

Oh my god sorry, I just remembered that they all TURN INTO THE BLUE GUYS, even the people visiting from earth. I can’t remember how they do this, maybe some kind of Matrix way, like with a plug? Or through quasi-spiritual space magic? I think this is possibly one of those movies that features a lot of shots of science guys clustered around a screen in a very “sir, you’re gonna wanna take a look at this” way while a spiritual elder character closes her eyes serenely and things start to glow that should not, per science, be glowing. I think the glowing may also feature in a sort of needlessly erotic portion of the movie as well?

The denouement and conclusion of the film are a complete blank to me. But I guess it leaves five movies’ worth of unanswered questions, so how satisfying could it be? — Monica Heisey, writer

“I’m not sure what I’m just conflating with The Matrix.”

What I remember is like, a guy getting attached to some shit and then he’s in the Na’vi world with all the blue people in the blue people planet. And they’re in a war or something and he’s in love with a blue lady. The thing with him being in the goo and in this other world is something where I’m not sure what I’m just conflating with The Matrix. I’m kinda in the same boat re: not really remembering that much vis a vis Avatar 1. — Brandon Wardell, comedian

“Aesthetically pleasing in the way a Windows screen saver is pleasing.”

I don’t remember anything about Avatar, even though I’m pretty sure I saw it in movie theaters twice. The key plot points flicker to life in my brain before its more prejudiced parts conflate it with the live-action Smurfs movie, the music video for Daft Punk’s “Digital Love,” and the ’90s Saturday morning cartoon ReBoot—an inelegant mishmash of blue lives finally mattering. The movie was fine, aesthetically pleasing in the way a Windows screen saver is pleasing, and maybe my inability to recall anything concrete about the film to the fact that it borrowed heavily from other movies while barely attempting to hide its references. — Chris Gayomali, GQ articles editor

“I think the movie was about the struggle to see how on-the-nose an allegory can get.”

So I’ve never seen Avatar. But just my general impressions at the time is that the movie came out in 2009, and seeing a movie with really impressive graphics of tropical locales was as much excitement as people could afford, I think, so now it’s the highest grossing movie of all time . I remember people saying that it had the same plot as FernGully: The Last Rainforest, which is also a movie I don’t remember but did see. And that’s about protecting the environment. I know that in Avatar, people are looking for some substance called “unobtanium,” so I think the movie was about the struggle to see how on-the-nose an allegory can get before people walk out in the middle. I think it was a parable about protecting the environment. But it didn’t work, because they still needed to make Don’t Look Up. Which I think did the trick, and now the environment’s cool. — Josh Gondelman, comedian and head writer for Desus and Mer

“They did it with their ponytails.”

I remember! Okay so what happened was that Kevin Costner was sent to explore this foreign land filled with wild eagle and buffalo and restless aliens. But then he met a pre-Sneakers Mary McConnell, who played the lady alien buffalo. Then Costner was like, “At first I feared this new land and its customs, but strange now I am one with it. And I love the girl buffalo.” And then he and McConnell did it with their ponytails. — Drew Magary, writer

“It’s a little weird and intimate but not really germane to the overall plot so don’t worry about it.”

There’s a planet, Pandora, that has these huge blue guys on it, but also a bunch of this stuff called unobtanium that Giovanni Ribisi wants. Also it’s the future and we are able to get to other planets obviously. (Not for nothing but unobtanium was also what Delroy Lindo called the metal that he used on the ship that goes to the Earth’s core in The Corewhich came out like a decade before Avatar.) Anyway, while the miners and military escorts dig around for the unobtanium for Giovanni Ribisi, some scientists including Sigourney Weaver and the game developer from Grandma’s Boy are studying the huge blue guys, who are called the Na’vi. The scientists created a way of beaming your consciousness into a blue guy host body so you can hang out with the blue guys, and that body is called your [looks directly into camera] avatar You sleep in a pod while you’re running around with the blue guys, and when you’re awake in your human body the avatar is asleep instead.

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