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‘Avatar’ Limited 3D Edition (Blu-ray Review)

Avatar is finally available for all of those who wanted to purchase a 3D version of the film.  James Cameron’s groundbreaking film has obviously had an effect on how people now view movies (for better or worse), given the onslaught of 3D releases, but now anyone with the proper capabilities will be able to experience the film that ranks amongst the best to utilize the format.  While a 3D version has been made available before, certain licensing rights have made it difficult to obtain on its own.  Now, a special Limited Edition is available for everyone to get their hands on and they will be able to experience the thrilling visuals from the biggest film of all time in stunning 3D.  Avatar continues to bring the revolutionary experience first seen in theaters to the homes of anyone looking to revisit the visual marvel that is Pandora and the adventures that occur there.  Read on the learn more about this Blu-ray release and its absolutely stunning transfer.

Film: 

Note:  We at Why So Blu have covered Avatar quite a bit in the past (Here, Here, and Here in particular), so feel free to check out those regards for the film by the fellow writers for the site.

Working from a script that Cameron first put together over a decade ago, the plot follows paraplegic Marine Jake Sully (Worthington).  When his twin brother is killed, Sully decides to take his place in a mission on the distant world of Pandora.  There he learns of greedy corporate figurehead Parker Selfridge’s (Giovanni Ribisi) intentions of driving off a tribe of the native humanoids, the “Na’vi”, from their land in order to mine for the precious material scattered throughout their rich woodland environment.  In exchange for the spinal surgery that will fix his legs, Jake gathers intel for the cooperating military unit spearheaded by gung-ho Colonel Quaritch (Stephen Lang) through the use of genetically created Na’vi bodies, known as Avatars (which are controlled by their users in a separate location), in order to infiltrate this particular tribe of Na’vi people.  Accompanied by scientists played by Sigourney Weaver and Joel David Moore, as well as a helicopter pilot, played by Michelle Rodriguez, Jake is brought into the world of Pandora, only to fall straight into the good graces of the Na’vi tribe, claiming to only want to learn.  While Jake begins to bond with the native tribe and quickly falls in love with his new life, as well as the beautiful Na’vi Chief’s daughter, Neytiri (Zoe Saldana), the restless Colonel moves forward with his ruthless extermination tactics, forcing the soldier to take a stand – and fight back in an epic battle for the fate of Pandora.

Coming back from a 13 year hiatus, following the epic success that was Titanic, James Cameron returned in full force to sci-fi/adventure territory.  While some of his time was spent making underwater documentaries, the rest of that time was spent on this film.  In a move that defines ambitious, Cameron was aware that the technology would just have to advance to a new level before he could make this film, and he was able to do so.  This is a film that employs so many different levels of special effects technology that the end credits had to condense the names and departments into giant paragraphs to not last for twenty minutes.  All the work put into making this world of Pandora has completely paid off.

For Avatar, besides using almost every major effects house to help out, Cameron developed a new way for 3D to function in a film. Never going for the gimmicky feel of “whoosh” shots, the way 3D works into this film is by immersing one into the experience, adding another layer to how the camera establishes each scene.  It is certainly the ultimate way to watch this movie. Now along with one of the best uses yet of 3D, Cameron, the visual pioneer that he has proven to be in the past, outdoes himself again, not only by creating a new world effectively, but a seamless one. The way everything presented works its way into this film and never feels false, instead leading me to a point where I just don’t care about what’s real and what isn’t is impressive to say the least.  I could go on to talk about how much stuff is happening in the background, how well humans interact with the effects around them, and how fully realized the Na’vi people are, but suffice it to say that it is all incredible.

As far as the story goes, one can say what they will about how Cameron handles his characters and dialogue (Titanic won 11 Oscars, but wasn’t nominated for best Screenplay), but his effectiveness as a storyteller is certainly present here. It is certainly not the freshest of plots and some of the characters could use some more development, but I was right there with the beats that were being hit throughout. It certainly helps that many of the performances were effective enough to service the film positively.  Sam Worthington emerged from nowhere, only to star both here and in the latest Terminator film, and he proves himself as an acceptable lead, albeit not a true charismatic action star as of yet.  Stephen Lang joins the leagues of entertaining gung-ho Colonels in this film, doing some solid scene-chewing villain work.  Sigourney Weaver and Ribisi also do a good job with somewhat underwritten characters.  I was most impressed with Zoe Saldana however.  Playing one of the Na’vi, it’s not just a vocal performance, but the performance capture work and, essentially, the acting that she has done for this role, which was a great piece of work in bringing this character to life and making her resonate.

Avatar is certainly a sci-fi epic, with more time devoted to simply exploring the world of this film and hitting some emotional beats, but when the film gets into its action, it goes for broke with some standout sequences within the middle of the film, only leading to the final battle, which lasts for a good half an hour.  Accompanied by a very James Horner sounding James Horner score (which is acceptable), the staging of the action that features an incredible display of Na’vi/creatures vs. machines is all kinds of awesome.  Again, suffice it to say, there a lot of ”Yeah!” moments to sink one’s teeth into (and between this movie and 2009’s District 9, it was a good year for Mech Battles).

Finally, beyond all the effects and the story that is present in this film, I really just loved the ideas presented.   The concepts of both the technology that now exists in the year this film takes place (2154) as well as the creatures on display here (what the purpose of the Na’vi’s hair is, for example) is all very intriguing, and will easily lend itself to making this film very re-watchable, in order to take everything in (Of course the Blu-Ray special features on the extended edition Blu-ray help with this as well).

Some are saying this film is a benchmark in the timeline of movies, like the Wizard of Oz and Star Wars, and while I wouldn’t necessarily go that far, I would certainly say it’s the next Jurassic Park.  Minor story flaws aside, I really loved how this film played out and that’s only accompanying the truly magnificent effects work on display.  A truly grand epic of sci fi filmmaking.

Video: 

Avatar continues to be one of the best available Blu-rays on the market in terms of its audio and video quality.  Starting with the video, it’s perfect.  Everything about what makes this movie a magnificent technical production is reflected well in video quality presented on this Blu-ray.  Of course, the main concern for this release is the quality of the 3D transfer and it suffices to say, this film’s 3D presentation is still stunning.  James Cameron is definitely doing things right, as his hand in making sure the film looks as good as possible shows.  While I have been previously impressed with other 3D releases on Blu-ray in the past, particularly post-converted films that end up looking better at home than they did in the theater, Avatar is one that still manages to impress, even after having seen it several times in IMAX.  The thrill of viewing this world and being fully immersed thanks to how Cameron handled the filming of Avatar is captured on this release and without any sort of issue concerning brightness levels.  This is the reason to by this disc and the wait was certainly worth it.

Audio: 

Just like the perfect video quality, Avatar features a flawless DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless soundtrack.  This is basically the best example of what Blu-ray has to offer.  Every audio aspect about this film registers loud and clear, in the most impressive way possible.  It is exhilarating to listen to the sounds of Pandora combine with the various forms of technology intruding during the action sequences.  The sounds of the dragon-like creatures that Jake Sully and others all ride into battle are a great example of unique sounds as well, with even more coming from the sounds of the wings flapping, the noises from the creatures, and the score in the background.  Even the dialogue-heavy scenes are well balanced and continue to emphasize how well-handled the Blu-ray’s audio track is as a whole.  This is what the best of Blu-ray has to offer.

Extras: 

This Blu-ray release is only available for the sake of presenting the 3D transfer.  Because of this, the release is completely barebones and contains only the theatrical cut of the film.  If one is truly seeking out extras regarding the making of the film, the Extended Edition Blu-ray release is the one to seek out, as it is jam-packed with extra features that dive into how Avatar was put together.  That being said, this release does contain a 2D version of the film, as well as a DVD copy.

Summary: 

The score for this release has to be adjusted, as it is a reflection of the objective of this release, which is to provide fans of the film and the 3D Blu-ray format in general with the superb 3D presentation of Avatar.  For anyone that wants to watch the film the way in which it was intended, this is the Blu-ray to seek out.  Anyone that already owns other versions of Avatar on Blu-ray, there is nothing else to gain from this release, aside from the 3D version of the film.  All the great extras can be seen on the previous Special Extended Edition release of the film.  Regardless, I still really enjoy Avatar, as I find it to be a superbly entertaining sci-fi/adventure film that looks great on Blu-ray especially.

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Aaron is a writer/reviewer for WhySoBlu.com.  Follow him on Twitter @AaronsPS3.
He also co-hosts a podcast,
Out Now with Aaron and Abe, available via iTunes or at HHWLOD.com.

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Writer/Reviewer, Film Lover, Podcaster, Gamer, Comic Reader, Disc Golfer & a Lefty. There are too many films, TV, books, etc. for me to list as favorites, but I can assure that the amount film knowledge within my noggin is ridiculous, though I am always open to learning more. You can follow me on Twitter @AaronsPS4, see what else I am up to at TheCodeIsZeek.com & check out my podcast, Out Now with Aaron and Abe, on iTunes.

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