Avatar Beat Sheet
Today, Cat! Jose Silerio offers his take on “Avatar.” Game on! Once again, we’ll post a Cat! Central response in regard to the film’s genre prior to our next Oscar® hopeful Beat Sheet upload.
Extra points! Click here to download the screenplay, and feel free to discuss the differences between the script –- and the finished product!
And now… STC! Beats Out Avatar! Meow!
After six weeks on top of the box office, James Cameron’s Avatar has become the number-one box office movie of all time, beating his own Titanic. Despite this amazing feat, Avatar still has its detractors.
I don’t blame them. It’s Pocahontas. It’s Dances with Wolves. It’s Ferngully — and The Last Samurai.
Indeed, Avatar has a story premise that’s been told before, but because Cameron puts it in a new setting, a new world in fact — and in 3D too — Avatar takes advantage of storytelling that’s tried and tested, and just makes it even better.
So here’s my question: Is that a bad thing?
If you ask Cameron, he has more than 1.8 billion reasons to say that it’s not. But, at Cat Central, we don’t need to look at the ticket sales to know why it’s a mega success. Avatar is a perfect example of what we like to say “Give me the same thing… only different!”
Just as he did with Titanic, Cameron takes advantage of new technologies to help him enhance his story, and to create an unimaginably beautiful world. He gives us eight feet-tall blue humanoids, six-legged creatures, a hero without legs, and a forest that glows in the dark. All in all, it’s something we haven’t seen before, something different. Yes, at its heart, the story is familiar — but Cameron has provided the opportunity for us to see it in a whole new way.
Opening Image: We first meet our hero, Jake Sully, as he awakens from his metallic coffin-like cryo-capsule after five years, nine months and 22 days. As a med tech floating in Zero-G tends to him, tiers of hundreds of cryo-capsules are revealed inside a humongous space transport system as more floating med techs tend to the newly-awakened space travelers. We’re definitely not in Kansas anymore.
Theme Stated: As Jake arrives in Pandora, lost and in awe of this new world, he aptly says, “All I wanted in my sorry-ass life was a single thing worth fighting for.” Well, Jake, you’ve come to the right place.
Set-Up: Jake Sully stands out from the new recruits. He is a grunt. He carries the face of a battle weary warrior, but that’s not what makes him different. Instead, he’s the last guy you’d expect for a mission to another world — he’s confined to a wheelchair. Paralyzed from the waist down, he is a Stranger in an even Stranger Land. Isolated, angry, and alone, Jake is a man without love, without family, and without home.
Jake meets Norm, another Avatar “driver,” who shows him the Avatars for the first time. Grown from a combination of human and Na’vi DNA, Jake’s Avatar was specifically created for Tommy, his brilliant developer/twin brother who recently died. Jake’s identical genetic makeup to Tommy makes him the only one capable of jumping into the Avatar — and the last chance for company to recoup its investment in Tommy.
Jake meets the head of the Avatar project, Dr. Grace Augustine, who immediately dislikes him. He’s a jarhead and not one of the “smart ones.” He doesn’t have the years of training in Na’vi language and culture that Tommy — and Grace — have had. Once again, Jake finds himself on the outside trying to fit in.
Grace confronts Administrator Parker Selfridge about Jake. Selfridge quickly tells her that their only mission is to mine the planet’s Unobtanium, a mineral more expensive than anything else on Earth. The Na’vi are getting in their way of getting it — a problem her Avatars were supposed to solve.
With no choice, Jake is hooked up to the link pod for his mind transfer to his Avatar. As he lifts his legs into the pod, he refuses Grace’s help, telling her in a subtle Stasis=Death way that he’s tired of letting doctors tell him what to do. In other words, he’ll survive without her help.
Catalyst: Jake opens his eyes in the body of his Avatar. As the Med Techs tell him to take it easy, he won’t have any of it. He has control of his legs again and no one’s stopping him from using them.
Jake runs out of the lab and into the Avatar compound. He RUNS even more, faster and farther, pushing himself, enjoying the use of his legs and his freedom once again.
Debate: Back in his human body, Jake is recruited by Quaritch to be his man on Grace’s team, and to gather intel on the Na’vi and report back to him what he learns. He thinks the Avatars are a joke and a waste of time. This is a war, nothing else, and he needs a man who can help him from behind enemy lines. As an extra incentive, Quaritch promises Jake he’ll help him get his real legs back.
Break into Two: Jake, Norm, and Grace ride their Avatars into the jungle. It’s a whole new world to Jake — and to us. Six-legged animals, beautiful winged creatures, plants that disappear into the ground. The world is unbelievable, but dangerous nonetheless as Jake runs for his life from a creature that could easily eat a T-Rex.
Separated from the team, Jake finds himself alone in this strange world as nighttime slowly falls around him. With the darkness comes new dangers. Soon, Jake is fighting for his life when he is surrounded by a pack of wolf-like creatures.
B Story: Outnumbered and about to be turned into dinner, Jake is saved by Neytiri, a native Na’vi, when she kills the creatures — and then blames Jake for their unnecessary deaths. She prays over one of them, asking for its forgiveness. Clearly, Neytiri and Jake do not see things the same way. She sees him as a half being, a “Dreamwalker,” corrupted by the Sky People — the Na’vi name for humans.
Fun & Games: Jake has no choice but to follow Neytiri as she plunges deeper into the forest. She leads him to her home, after tiny luminous Woodsprites — pure spirits — envelope Jake in a playful dance. Neytiri sees this dance. Something magical has happened, and her attitude towards Jake alters a tiny bit.
Jake is unwelcome as they make it to the Hometree, where Neytiri’s people live. Only because of Jake’s mysterious interaction with the Woodsprites is he allowed to live. Despite Neytiri’s protests, her mother and clan matriarch, Mo’at, tasks Neytiri to teach Jake the ways of the Na’vi. Jake also meets Eytukan, the clan leader and Neytiri’s father, and Tsu’tey, the clan’s bravest warrior — and Neytiri’s would-be husband.
Back in Hell’s Gate, as Jake provides Quaritch with information on the Na’vi and their home, Selfridge reveals that the Hometree stands over the biggest deposit of Unobtanium in the planet. Quaritch tells Jake he has three months to get the Na’vi to move.
Neytiri teaches Jake how to be one of the Na’vi by using his “bond” with the planet’s spirit and all things living. In this world, things are different from what Jake is used to. There is a respect and connection for all living things that Jake must learn.
Suspicious of Quaritch, Grace moves their lab into the Hallelujah Mountains, far from Hell’s Gate.
The bond between Jake and Neytiri grows as Jake slowly becomes more Na’vi than human. He speaks their language with better fluency as he spends more time with them, learning their history, their secrets, their ways. Soon, Jake is allowed his first kill, and like all Na’vis, he offers the creature’s spirit to their goddess Eywa.
But Selfridge is not impressed with Jake’s success, so Grace pleads for more time. Quaritch questions Jake’s resolve to their mission.
Neytiri tells Jake of Toruk Macto, an ancestor who was chosen during a time of sorrow to unite all the clans. Toruk Macto was one of only five of the Na’vi to be chosen by Toruk, the greatest and fiercest of winged predators on the planet, to join with him as rider. No other Na’vi has been chosen since.
Jake is welcomed into the clan as one of the Na’vi. Yet, as he is still human, he is truly torn between the two worlds.
Midpoint: Jake confesses his love for Neytiri, and she confesses her love for him. They join as one, and, in the tradition of the Na’vi people, become mated for life.
Bad Guys Close In: Selfridge and Quaritch launch their plan to evict the Na’vi from the Hometree. Jake tries to stop the oncoming onslaught in vain, barely escaping with his own life.
The Na’vi will not listen to Grace and Jake’s pleas to move. Before Jake can tell Neytiri the truth, he is yanked back to his human body by Quaritch, and taken into custody as a traitor to his own kind. Grace and Jake plead with Selfridge to spare the Na’vi. Instead, Selfridge uses one of Jake’s recorded reports against the Na’vi. Their refusal to leave opens them up to the usage of military force — and he decides to use that force in order to get rid of the Na’vi once and for all.
Incarcerated, Jake and Grace learn that Quaritch has launched his assault on the Hometree. They plead one more time to Selfridge. He gives Jake one hour to convince the Na’vi to leave.
Jake returns to speak to the Na’vi and confesses to Neytiri that he knew of the assault even before it started. Shocked, Neytiri proclaims him a traitor to her people. Jake and Grace are held captive as the Na’vi refuse to leave their home.
(In the above section, the A and B Stories finally cross and catch up to Jake.)
All Is Lost: The assault on the Hometree begins. What took centuries to grow is obliterated in seconds in a sequence of cold, calculated military attacks led by Quaritch. Among the casualties is Eytukan. Neytiri banishes Jake and tells him never to return.
Back at the base camp, Selfridge pulls the plug on the Avatars. Jake and Grace fall to the ground, as lifeless and broken as the Na’vi Hometree.
Dark Night of the Soul: With Trudy’s help, the group escapes from Hell’s Gate but Grace is injured. Jake returns to the Hometree and wanders through the devastation alone — neither human nor Na’vi.
Break into Three: Jake has no choice if he is to help the Na’vi and win back Neytiri’s trust and love. He must return to them… but first, there is something he must do. The theme comes back to push our hero through the third act. Finally, he has found something worth fighting for.
Finale: Flying on his faithful banshee, Jake seeks out the great winged Toruk. He must do what no other chosen one has done before.
As the Na’vi lament and pray by the Mother Tree, the mighty Toruk swoops down on them, causing great panic. Their fear is quickly replaced by surprise and awe as they see Jake astride the magnificent beast. He is the new Toruk Macto. Jake submits himself to Tsu’Tey and is accepted back by Neytiri as he offers to fight alongside them against the Sky People.
At the Well of Souls, Grace is brought before the Mother Tree, together with her Avatar. But she is too weak and does not survive the spirit transfer. In death she finally achieves what she sought in life: to become one with the Na’vi.
Later, Jake stands at the base of the Mother Tree. He asks for Eywa’s help defeating the Sky People. Neytiri approaches. She cradles Jake’s hand in hers and tells him that Eywa does not take sides. “She only protects the balance of life.”
As Toruk Macto, Jake unites the clans of Pandora once again to fight a common enemy. Together, they ride and fly. Quaritch mounts his attack. Though they fight gallantly, the Na’vi are no match to Quaritch’s firepower. One by one, their plan of attack and defense are thwarted by Quaritch’s army.
Just as it seems that the battle is over, hundreds of thousands of the planet’s animals join the fight to aid the Na’vi. The goddess Eywa has decided that it is time for balance to be restored. Nature conquers technology.
Jake and Quaritch find themselves in an Avatar-to-man duel to the death. Quaritch gains the upperhand as he damages Jake’s link pod, depriving his human body of air. As Jake struggles to maintain consciousness, Quaritch goes for the death strike. Once again, Neytiri saves the day. With a series of arrow strikes, she kills the villainous Quaritch.
Neytiri rushes to Jake’s human body to save him and, for the first time, she sees him as he truly is. She cradles his tiny, broken form in her great Na’vi arms in an act of pure love.
Final Image: Under the Mother Tree, Jake is transformed wholly into Na’vi as his human spirit joins his Avatar. At last, Jake has a people and a purpose. He is home.
- jin choung
i disagree that a movie that is successful is necessarily good. the last 3 star wars movies prove that.
and imo, avatar isn’t great.
it’s the opinion that i had it the first time i saw it and even upon second viewing… it’s just ok in terms of story.
there are a lot of other reasons why avatar was a success but it wasn’t for the story as presented on screen.
my critique is actually that it’s too short! there were lots of criticisms that i had about the story that are actually addressed in the screenplay… but they had to cut it for time.
anyhoo, can’t wait for the director’s cut DVD… for once, i think a cameron director cut will in fact be better than the theatrical.
Didn’t Jake go and become Toruk Macto BEFORE returning to the clan and asking them to try to heal Grace? I recall he was wandering among the ashen remains of hometree, when his Banshee arrives and Jake says the bit about going to try a crazy idea… conquering the Toruk.
Yeah, he definitely returns as Toruk Macto before going to the tree of souls with Neytiri. That is part of the finale (an element of step 1 in the 5 parts.)
The Na’vi only agree to try to save Grace because Jake has proven his allegiance to them by becoming Toruk Macto.
Phil, you are right! That was my bad as I copied and pasted the upload. I was having WordPress problems yesterday, and instead of being allowed to upload the entire document, I had to do it in pieces – which is why it came out so late in the day. THANK YOU SO MUCH for your sharp eyes, and we will get that fixed asap! Thank goodness I have Jose’s great document to keep it all in line! ~ anne
Using Jose’s breakdown I have attempted to construct the logline for Avatar. Of course, all suggestions are welcome!
My attempt at the logling for Avatar:
On the verge of life in a wheelchair, an invalid ex-grunt uses a genetically constructed avatar on an alien world where he is rescued by a native of the planet; but when the two mate for life, he must realize he’s found something worth fighting for, before the natives home is destroyed, and to stop a ruthless Colonel from destroying the planet.
Okay…I actually went to see this again today. :) So, I’ve given my logline a little tweak here and there.
Avatar Logline Take 2:
On the verge of life in a wheelchair, an invalid ex-grunt uses a genetically constructed avatar to infiltrate an alien world where he is rescued by a native of the planet; but when he becomes one of the tribe, he must realize what he’s found is worth fighting for, before the natives’ home is destroyed, and to stop a ruthless Colonel from destroying the planet.
Bobbye, great job! I like your change from “mated for life” to “becomes one of the tribe” because that’s really what the midpoint was all about – acceptance and bonding, which raises the stakes for Jake. The other thing I would try to change would be the “life in a wheelchair” because he already has been in a wheelchair for some time. More importantly, what does that represent to Jake? Is it being always told what to do because of how people see him as a cripple? Is it about being limited, not just physically, but emotionally as well? Or maybe, this is one instance wherein it doesn’t start with a “On the verge of…” but “Facing a life confined to a wheelchair…”
Another thing I’d try to change is the “invalid” part because (1) it kinda repeats the wheelchair part, and (2) when we say “flawed protagonist” we really want to get to his emotional flaw, not physical. The emotional flaw directly ties in your hero’s journey with the theme of your story that the hero learns.
It’s all about making your logline as emotional as possible, not just for us, but from your hero’s point of view as well. Thanks for sharing. It’s very much appreciated!
Great analyzis, but according to me the “Theme Stated” is the first sentence of the movie :
“[…]I started having these dreams of flying. Sooner or later though, you always have to wake up…”
For me, the theme is to wake up. It is the main action Jake must do, but he avoids doing it because he is “like a child” at the beginning. He prefers dreaming rather than facing reality. And, in this story, everybody must stop dreaming, wake up and realize this situation can not continue anymore. As Grace said it : “You need to wake up, Parker.”
Cats, GREAT WORK!
Keep it up!
Oooh, I can’t wait until Wednesday, when we post the STC! response to the Genre question! My paws are dancing; I must go run up and down the stairs and scratch some furniture!
Bravo and special props to Bobbye for taking on the logline issue. Bobbye, I hope you found Jose’s notes useful… and feel free to take a swat again!
After we upload our take on Wednesday, look forward to Thursday’s addition to the fodder – “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire”.
Upcoming sheets include “500 Days of Summer”, “Up In the Air”, “Bright Star” – and more!
Meow! You are all Cat-tastic!
- Melody Lopez
Good job on the log line… nice use of the template…
Anne,My son wouldn’t let me do Avatar.He says I trip too much as it is.But I’m going to do “precious”.Since we have to read a book,analyze a movie and also motivate one another on this blog,can we get more time,and really learn something about adaptation.I’m down for this ,ANY TAKERS calling me out?
After much thought and deliberation, the genre we felt Avatar most
represented was Institutionalized. Though Avatar could easily be an
Epic Love (Buddy Love) story, in the end, it was really about a Naif
fighting against the “company” that Selfridge and Quaritch
represented. Jake and Neytiri’s story was simply the B Story, and it
really becomes clear, when we Break into Three, that Jake isn’t just
fighting for his love for Neytiri, Jake was fighting for what was
simply the right thing to do. He was the caveman who told his tribe
he’s had enough of hunting down woolly mammoths.
This past two weeks has brought about some of the most interesting and
passionate discussion about genre we’ve ever seen on the site. Meow!
We urge everyone to continue participating in these discussions.
The STC! tools were primarily developed to assist writers in writing,
not analyzing. Though it helps to make use of examples to drive a
point, and our beat sheets provide invaluable guidance in studying a
film, in truth, we don’t really know what the screenwriter’s original
intentions were for a particular story — we can only speculate. As we
all know, we can start off writing one story, but end up with a very
different story in the end. This doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s a
bad story; in fact, it may be even better!
Dissecting a story can be very subjective depending on what aspect of
that story resonates with the viewer most. But, there is no doubt that
the STC! tools are meant for practical applications of story structure
principles. They are meant to improve a writer’s skill in creating a
story that is stronger, more meaningful, and more powerful.
- Al Rodriguez
Good point, Jose. Blake subcategorizes a military strain of the Institutionalized genre, and Jake matches up perfectly with the iconoclast protagonist who rebels against the system and refuses to follow orders. “Dances with Wolves,” the film with which “Avatar” is often compared, is exactly the same — Costner’s character is an Army man who clashes with his superiors over his feelings for the indigenous population and must realize his true, hidden self in order to be a complete hero.
And what about the Hurt Locker?
AVATAR was a much easier one to pin down than The Hurt Locker… is there an official Genre disclosed yet for The Hurt Locker?
Here is the link again:
Scroll down to Jose’s post (I think it is number 28) to see his answer!
Ah… I see it. There is still a lot of heated debate afterwards lol
That’s the frustrating part… I find the Beat Sheet easier to figure out than the darn genre! lol
Thanks for all the feedback Cats! I definitely agree with Jose on the stasis=death statement “Facing a life confined to a wheelchair…” and will make that change.
One thing that I have found helps when I’m writing loglines using this formula is to take one of “The 6 Things That Need Fixing” and drop it into the FLAWED slot. In the future I will take the most pressing FLAW of “The 6 Things” to drop in that slot. This formula has turned into one of the most indispensible tools I’ve found on the Cat site. It’s like the small end of the telescope that opens up into a wide lens that lets me look at the whole of my world in just a few short statements.
Avatar Broke Blake Snyder’s Most Important Rule!
But before I begin, hi everyone! This is my first time posting on this site, but I am a huge Blake Snyder fan and I own all the books. I want to preface what I say by first mentioning that James Cameron is a huge hero of mine, so I don’t disparage the man in anyway when I become critical of the key story points of Avatar.
Now for the tough love. Avatar did not have a great script, and I must agree with the commenter who mentioned Phantom Menace made a ton of money. So money as a baseline for quality does not always follow a one-to-one correlation.
Did Avatar have a bad story? No, I won’t go that far. But the emotions were hollow because of the characterization and some fundamental missteps that Blake Snyder would have seen from a mile away.
I think it is very telling that Avatar it didn’t get an oscar nomination given it’s other merits. The deal with Avatar is that it can be appreciated with a certain degree of relativity. Let me explain. If you compare it to a mild mannered, family available popcorn flick like Jurassic Park, then it manages to be effective and delivers a great experience. However, when comparing to the very movies that compose its DNA — Dances with Wolves and other epics — the story does not match it’s visuals. And the emotions are wanting. The child us in loves it, but the adult in us knows that romance was not earned, and the characterizations were too thin.
But that is not why I write here. I write to uphold one of Blake’s most important story values.
What did Blake Snyder name his books?
Save the Cat. Why? Because it was the single most fundamental concept to him, and it sort of embodied the other concepts. And guess what?
It was the one thing missing from Avatar. Now I know you can tell me how Jake might have done heroic things in that movie, but in the critical set-up to that movie, we don’t really get to see Jake have that critical and fundamental beat. Jake did not save the cat and our movie sort of pushed forward before we could emotionally identify with Jake as a character — whether heroic or villainous. There was no arc to be had because he was a vacant being, filled with wonder at his predicament. He stood out against the military thugs, but we were not SHOWN why.
An opening sequence could have remedied the situation, while proving some other critical information. We are told that jake has lost his legs and his brother has passed away. We are told that Earth is not in great shape and people are in dire need a rare mineral, Unobtanium.
But none of that is shown to us but only told in voluminous exposition. Avatar benefits from repeated viewings ( I saw it three times) because you can catch all the information that whizzes by so fast in multiple viewings.
But why not have an opening teaser segment that does some of this heavy lifting while introducing us to why Jake is such a unique and interesting guy.
Hell, is that why Jake lost the legs? Performing some heroic thing on Earth that shows us why we should care about him and why Earth needs unobtanium so badly. The stakes would be higher if we sort of sympathized with Earth in the beginning. If you don’t believe me, rent Dances with Wolves and check out the first sequence in that movie. (where Kevin Costner jumps on a horse and risks certain death, effectively saving the lives of many men well before the real story gets started) On a related note, the executives tried to cut that first sequence of Dances with Wolves, but Coster stuck to his guns. Everyone took home an oscar as a result.
Unfortunately, in Avatar we see Jake only as a gentle but uncharismatic everyman that doesn’t seem to be a hero at all, even later when he makes his bold decision to save the Na’vi. This wasn’t helped by the performance of Sam Worthington, who wasn’t able to inject more personal humanity into the character. Then pile on top of this the CGI and you essentially get what is a loveless romance — far from the nuance of Titanic.
Now I don’t know if Blake would agree with me, and I know people post their little paradigms on here showing how a movie fits the beats so perfectly, but we should all be a bit more critical. If there is a fault to Blake’s almost too elegant system, it is demonstrated by a movie like Avatar that seems to check off the various beats without letting us really get emotionally involved.
In a sense, Avatar was too formulaic. So I am not surprised to see a post showing it fit the 15 beats so perfectly. But to vindicate Blake, his more fundamental paradigms about movies take precedence over these beats. And so I think Blake might agree: Jake could have saved a few cats before we got to Pandora.
I agree with you on many aspects of what you wrote, James. I remember saying to friends, “What happened to Jake? How did he lose his legs?” And later thought how perfect it could have been to show him in a heroic act saving lives, trying to save Earth, etc. You are right, Avatar is missing that key Save the Cat! moment. Of course, one friend argued that the Na’vi are feline in appearance. ;-)
- Captain Perry
Thanks James for the insight of how well the Pro could be established in the setup to make a better movie.I also believe you are write.You do it well.
Welcome to the Cats!, James!
Thank you for your thoughtful post on the STC! moment.
The STC! moment is a really complex little tool! You can, of course, literally have an STC! moment (browse our archives to see the YouTube video example of an STC! moment used in a Clint Eastwood western); the moment can also be painted in subtle hues. One of these moments that Blake discussed in workshop is the STC! moment for Clarice in “Silence of the Lambs” – a young woman competing in a very male world. Demme reveals a complete moment of vulnerability when he shows us Clarice in the elevator, surrounded by HUGE men. She’s tiny… and alone.
What do the rest of you think about “Avatar” – and why it did (or did not) deliver for you?
We’ll be commenting on the “Precious” Genre at the end of that blog later today, and this afternoon, check out our Beat Sheet for “500 Days of Summer”! (James, you’ll appreciate this one, as the weak points of the film are discussed!:) )
- Jaime Bengzon
In his intro to STC! Blake defines the “Save the Cat” scene as one that defines who the hero is and makes the audience like him.
Having just seen Avatar for the fourth time (and in IMAX 3D, the only way to watch it imho) I found myself getting a sense of who Jake is when the shuttle lands on Pandora. Not only is he looking for something worth fighting for, but despite his disability moves with the confidence and self assurance of an able-bodied person. His body may be broken but his spirit is not; he still considers himself a Marine despite the medical discharge. This scene also has the first instance of Jake’s arc, an outsider trying to fit in, as evidenced by the “That’s just wrong and the “meals on wheels” comments. I found it to be both a save the cat and kill the cat moment.
But that’s just me!
On another note, it’s Jake’s perspective as outsider that will ultimately serve him well and propel him to become the Toruk Macto. Because he is caught between two worlds belonging to neither he is able to synthesize the Na’vi’s history/racial memory with a recon marine’s battle tactics and take down Last Shadow as death from above.
- David Saint
Man, it’s true. There are haters everywhere.
Look, AVATAR is an incredible movie. It’s THE PERFECT movie. When so many people go and are moved by something, there’s a reason. It’s not missing anything.
There is no STC moment because the opposite is present: It’s the STOMP THE CAT moment. Jake is ridiculed for being a no-good wheelchair-bound marine before he even gets off the shuttle, then again once he gets off, tolerating snide comments and being nearly run over by the huge machinery every time he turns around. That’s when we identify with him.
And I gotta say I think this beat sheet up to the midpoint is way off. Here’s how it goes:
OPENING IMAGE: Beautiful, mysterious world of Pandora.
THEME STATED: Jake’s VO monologue: “I told myself I could pass any test a man could pass… have one thing worth fighting for, etc.”
SET-UP: Jake meets the crew, we meet all the players on this world, Jake meets his Avatar, and we see how the whole thing works: Jake links with Avatar, he can control it, etc.
CATALYST: Quaritch pitches Jake the mission assignment, which he accepts.
DEBATE: Can Jake survive Pandora? Grace and Norm and Jake go out for samples, and Jake wonders off, then gets separated from Grace. He has to make it through the night. Which he does, thanks to Neytiri.
BREAK INTO TWO: Jake tries to follow Neytiri despite her many warnings. The fancy dandelion blooms cover him, and he’s taken to the clan leaders. They accept him. Back with humans, Jake convinces the leadership that he can do this. And he’s given permission. He gets linked back up.
B STORY: Neytiri and Na’vi people. Jake learns to “see.” Goes from being a “baby” (“you like a baby!”) to being a man (i.e., a na’vi warrior).
FUN&GAMES: Jake balances his activities with the Na’vi — getting deeper and deeper into their society, discovering their world, completing little challenges, etc. — and his mission and duty to Quaritch — gathering intel.
MIDPOINT: Jake is fully accepted as a Na’vi and flies triumphantly on his dragon. Jake and Neytiri bump uglies. On the human side of things, they decide it’s time to attack the Hometree.
And then we proceed into bad guys close in, etc.
Amazing film. If you haven’t read Cameron’s 90+ page scriptment I highly recommend it. You see first hand just how strong a writer he really is.
Jake saves the cat in the extended version.
- The Coffee Trader
So what determines the better kind of STC moment for a particular hero? There seems to be two kinds: A) We like him because he’s heroic. B) We like him because he’s vulnerable. Or even C) A complex blend of both?
- Grant Gladish
“I see you.” And understanding that this means more than physically: this is the theme. It starts with him having a dream, and he doesn’t normally dream, to the “dream” becoming reality and JakeSulley finally being able to forever “see them.”
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Great breakdown, Jose! I would add that part of the finale is the ejection of the military presence, the “sky people,” from Pandora, a sort of reverse Trail of Tears, and a flip of fortunes from powerful to powerless for the antagonists. I only wish that Cameron had spent as much time coloring the antagonists as he did the world of Pandora. There’s not much depth to either Quaritch or Selfridge, and so they don’t have the resonance a more complex enemy might have had.