Fourteen years ago, James Cameron released Avatar to the world and changed the landscape of the moviegoing experience, for better or worse. Despite its stereotypical plotlines, the film still holds up remarkably well after all these years.
First, let’s talk about Avatar’s storyline. Yes, we’ve seen this “colonizer slowly switching to the tribal native’s side” storyline plenty of times. Just on the top of my head, we have Dances with Wolves, Ferngully: The Last Rainforest, The Last Samurai, and to a certain extent, Lawrence of Arabia. It’s a tried and true storyline, and we’ve never seen it set in a sci-fi world on this scale before. Nevertheless, several instances of the film fall flat because of its predictability. At the same time, Avatar’s environmental and anti-corporate themes are very in your face. It’s difficult to appreciate these themes when there’s a lack of nuance to them.
Despite the old-school storyline, the world of Pandora is absolutely jaw-dropping. From Terminator to Titanic, James Cameron spends considerable time perfecting his craft. So, it’s not surprising that he’s put a lot of time, effort, and love into this project, which shows in the film he has created. Cameron demolished the boundaries of how filmmakers make movies by developing brand-new technology to achieve his vision. As a result, it’s easy to get lost in the gorgeous visuals of Pandora.
However, it’s not just the visuals that made Avatar the number-one-grossing film of all time. Sam Worthington and Zoe Saldaña delivered impressive performances and opened themselves so audiences could understand their characters. Thus, we invest three hours of our lives in these characters and enjoy our time doing so.
Overall, Avatar is a masterful technological achievement that is still incomparable after all these years. There’s a reason why people say, “never doubt James Cameron,” because he has proven time and again that no matter what obstacles he faces, he’s overcome them with flying colors.
Movie Review: 4/5 atoms
Avatar hits Ultra HD Blu-ray with an upscaled 4K, HEVC / H.265, HDR10 presentation with a 1.78 aspect ratio. In 2009, 20th Century Fox released Avatar with a 2K digital intermediate. To coincide with the release of Avatar: The Way of Water, James Cameron and crew remastered the film using new AI-upsampling tech for a new 4K digital intermediate. Of course, the results are jaw-dropping. The picture comes with more substantial black levels and an uptick in brightness within the bright sky and light sources. There is more shading and shadows on the skin tone of the Na’vi. The rich cool toned color palette looks richer thanks to the HDR10 enhancements.
Even the CG characters and creatures look like they’ve been given new life with new fine-looking skin, hair, and appendage textures. Yet, it’ll also pick up some discrepancies between the CG backgrounds and the humans in the foreground. It’s not much but in the scene around the 12:37 mark where Sigourney Weaver is talking to Giovanni Ribisi, Sigourney’s hair partially distorts the high-tech screen in the background. Regardless of this minor issue, Avatar’s 4K Ultra HD release is phenomenal.
Video Review: 5/5 atoms
Avatar hits Blu-ray with a Dolby Atmos or a 7.1 Dolby TrueHD audio presentation if Atmos is not supported. This review will cover the Blu-ray’s Dolby Atmos mix. The sound dynamically moves smoothly across the soundstage—such as when arrows are fired from behind to the front or mechs battle and come from the sides. The audio mix uses the height speakers with either rain effects or the sounds of rustling leaves. When the big final battle occurs, the soundstage really opens up. Several times throughout the film, atmospheric and discrete sound effects are mixed in different parts of the soundstage, creating a head-turning immersive experience. James Horner’s gorgeous score also plays quite beautifully across the soundstage throughout the film. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout without issue there.
Audio Review: 5/5 atoms
v doesn’t have any bonus features on the Ultra HD disc. However, the following bonus features can be found on the Bonus Features Blu-ray disc:
- Memories from Avatar
- Avatar: A Look Back
- Capturing Avatar
- Part One
- Part Two
- Part Three
- Part Four
- Sculpting Avatar
- Creating the Banshee
- Creating the Thanator
- The AMP Suit
- Flying Vehicles
- Na’vi Costumes
- Speaking Na’vi
- Pandora Flora
- Performance Capture
- Virtual Camera
- The 3D Fusion Camera
- The Simul-Cam
- Editing Avatar
- Scoring Avatar
- Sound Design
- The Haka: The Spirit of New Zealand
Sadly, Disney/20th Century Studios decided not to include many bonus features from the 2010 extended collector’s edition. As a result, you might want to hold onto that copy instead of donating it/getting rid of it. For this release, we get two new bonus features: Memories from Avatar and Avatar: A Look Back. As you might expect, these two are retrospective featurettes where the cast and crew share their stories of making Avatar over a decade ago. Memories feature Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldaña, Sigourney Weaver, Stephen Lang, and producer Jon Landau moderating the retrospective discussion. A Look Back is a retrospective documentary where the cast and filmmakers reflect on their extraordinary journey in making this groundbreaking film. Also, the featurette looks at the highly complex and groundbreaking motion capture technology behind bringing the Na’vi and Pandora to life.
Capturing Avatar is a feature-length documentary that follows James Cameron and his crew as they look to change the landscape in filmmaking. The featurettes are a series of “snackable” documentaries that cover a wide array of subjects related to the making of Avatar. Watching them all adds up to a feature-length runtime, but all seventeen featurettes are worth your time.
Special Features Review: 4/5 atoms
Overall, Avatar is a film that still holds up remarkably well after all these years. With a spectacular (and brand new) video and audio presentation, it’s no better time to return to Pandora before you watch Avatar: The Way of Water again at home.
Overall Review: 4.5/5 atoms
Avatar hits stores on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray on June 20th.
This Blu-ray was provided by Walt Disney Home Entertainment for review purposes.