A blu ray film review of James Cameron's epic sci-fi film Avatar.
Avatar has taken over $2.7 billion dollars at the worldwide box office, its officially the biggest film of all time and is said to have cost upwards of $280 million dollars to make not including advertising costs.
Avatar used motion capture for its CGI effects and the results are great.
Cameron originally wanted to make Avatar in the late nineties but the effects work required meant the budget would have been so high that no studio wished to touch the project.
James Cameron took the main actors to Hawaii to prepare for the film and he had them walking through the Hawaiian forests, building camp sites and living off the land in order to help them get into character and understand how it would be living on the world of Pandora.
Sigourney Weaver has said in interviews she played her character as if she was the director James Cameron and its certainly something you can see in her performance. The Na'vi language was created by linguist Paul R. Frommer who came up with almost a thousand words.
Unobtainium is used in the aerospace industry to mean material that is good for an application but does not yet exist, violates the laws of physics or is simply too expensive.
Avatar was filmed using Sony HD cameras and the Pace Fusion 3D camera system, the cinema edition had a 1.78:1 aspect ratio in 3D but was also composed for 2.35:1 when shown flat, the Blu Ray 2D edition of Avatar is shown in a full frame 1.78:1 aspect ratio. James Cameron has said his preferred format for this film is 1.78:1 aka 16/9 and that the movie works best at this ratio.
On the far off world of Pandora lies a precious metal called Unobtainium, humankind has come to Pandora to mine the planets precious metal and the company is being helped by the military but the local alien inhabitants, the Na'vi, find their culture and homes under threat of extinction.
Enter Jake Scully, a marine who has lost his legs, he is offered surgery that will give him the ability to walk again but only if he goes undercover and becomes a Na'vi and gets them to move out of the area where the precious metal exists, Jake falls in love with one of the Na'vi whose name is Neytiri which leads to a conflict of interest, will Jake follow marine orders and allow an entire race and their culture to die or will he fight for what he believes in.
James Cameron has always been the type of director who puts every single dollar on the screen, he utilizes technology to tell a story and in Avatar he has pulled out all the stops, this is the very first film where i actually watched CGI and live action seamlessly blend for the entire running time and it did not take me out of the movie, i liked the central rainforest theme.
The Na'vi were brilliantly designed, you felt for these people and their way of life and i was engrossed in the movie from start to finish.
The fluid movement of the Na'vi and the creatures that inhabit their forest is in my opinion a step up for what CGI is capable of, the CGi creations drew me into the film rather than out of it.
Sam Worthington and Zoe Saldana did a fabulous job on this movie, their Na'vi characters have real chemistry and thats thanks to the motion capture work they did as well as their voice work with the characters. It was also good to see Sigourney Weaver back and on top form. The action sequences are skillfully composed and exciting, i also enjoyed the blossoming romance between Jake and Neytiri and the flying dragons.
They could have prepared extras for this release, many extras on films are usually worked on at the same time as the film production and would have been available for this release, they have instead chosen to delay the release of extra content so they can milk the movie and release more editions later this year.
I feel they should be promoting the new 3D format and should have released a 3D edition now rather than later, this 3D format requires a new television or projector and unless you have a Playstation 3 it also requires a new blu ray player, i would argue releasing a film like Avatar in 3D would help promote the 3D format and sell the equipment, waiting till later does not help sell the new format. The studio would argue not enough people have the new 3D equipment ( blah )
The picture was superb, very detailed image quality, close ups, medium and long distance shots all had tremendous detail and the colours in this movie just look amazing, its almost like watching a painting that has come alive.
If your brightness control is set far too high you may spot some minor issues with a few scene transitions when it fades to black and the opening starfield may show what looks like compression artifacts, note these issues are only if your display has the brightness levels very wrong, i consider this a superb transfer. No edge enhancement is visible and it just looks great.
They have used almost the entire disc for this transfer, i wish more releases would use the full disc and put the extra content on the second disc.
The sound mix is reference quality, fantastic sound design and the best i have heard for a long time, speech is crystal clear, rear speakers have lots of discrete split surround effects and the subwoofer goes very deep during many scenes in the film,
I expected a very dynamic sound mix and thats exactly what i got, i also enjoyed the music score for this movie, music and sound effects were mixed together very well and i liked the end title song sung by Leona Lewis which felt appropriate for the film.
I have often watched these so called blockbuster films and come away disappointed as my expectations were not met, this film delivered entertainment and had a message which was never forced down your throat, i do feel saving the rainforests is vital to the planets survival, i feel many possible cures for diseases exist in our rainforests and i believe local tribes and animals must be saved from extinction, James Cameron obviously believes all this too as his films message is that we are destroying our habitats just to make some money.
The script for Avatar is not a masterpiece but it serves its purpose and the film entertains, too often huge sums of money get spent on films with no soul or heart but i feel this movie has a soul and its heart is in the right place, i am not convinced by global warming and climate change arguments but i believe we need to save our rainforests.
The success of this film is not just because it was filmed in 3D, it works well in 2D and i feel the sincerity of the message within the film and the quality of the direction plays a part in its success.
Although some have labelled this a Sci-Fi-Fantasy version of Dances With Wolves i personally feel it has a lot more going for it than that, you could also look at the other influences within the film, Aliens and Ferngully: The Last Rainforest are obvious influences, indeed the robot walking machines which operate with a human at the controls are straight out of Aliens and reminded me of Sigourney Weavers battle with the alien Queen at the end of that film.
I think it is going to be a tough task for James Cameron to direct a great sequel to this movie, i look forward to seeing it but its going to be interesting to see where they can take the story, he has already hinted we will see the underwater world of Pandora.
In the meantime expect an elaborate four disc extended edition of this movie with more footage not seen in this version around November 2010 and possibly a 3D edition at the same time.
You can view some Blu Ray screencaps of Avatar here.