Tags: Avatar, CCH Pounder, Dileep Rao, FOX, Giovanni Ribisi, James Cameron, Joel Moore, Laz Alonso, Matt Gerald, Michelle Rodriguez, Sam Worthington, Sigourney Weaver, Stephen Lang, Vince Pace, Wes Studi, Zoe Saldana
has an average rating of 8.4 on IMDb
1080p in AVC MPEG-4 on a 50gb disc
DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio
just has a DVD & online content
– 162 minutes
This uses 41.8GB for the movie out of 43.0GB total.
Overall Verdict – Highly Recommended
The Movie Itself was written by, directed by, filmed by, edited by and even produced by James Cameron, best known for directing “Aliens“, the first two “Terminator” films, and “Titanic” as well which was the previous box-office breaking film. This film broke every record possible at the box-office (in its theatrical run) grossing over 2.6 billion dollars worldwide.
Set over one hundred years in the future, the story focuses on Jake (Sam Worthington), a former Marine now confined to a wheelchair. When his brother passes away, a couple of government suits approach him and offer Jake his brother’s duty (and pay) for his work on the moon Pandora; Jake agrees. On Pandora, the RDA corporation is after a mineral called unobtanium, which is insanely valuable. The only problem is that the mass supply of this mineral on Pandora is at the heart of the colony of an indigenous race called the Na’vi. Because killing the blue cat-like creatures off would be very bad publicity, the RDA is giving an experimental group the opportunity to befriend the particular tribe, and basically ask them to move. This program involves the use of avatars that have been genetically created to be identical to the moon’s native race; the avatars are simply vehicles for the operators to control via advanced neurological technology that allows them to interact in the heart of the race’s territory. Leading the program is Grace (Sigourney Weaver), who does give Jake a hard time as he does not quite have the credentials of his deceased brother, and as part of that disposition, she merely assigns him to be a bodyguard when she and anthropologist Norm (Joel David Moore) leave in the bodies of their avatars into the forest.
Jake becomes separated from the two after an aggressive creatures attacks, and is left behind in the forest to fend for himself as the others cannot find him. Jake is discovered by one of the natives, Neytiri (Zoe Saldana), and she saves him from further attacking predators. Though it is the rule to kill these outsiders, Neytiri sees a sign from her race’s god Eywa to do otherwise, and so she brings him to the center of her tribe at the Hometree. Neytiri‘s mother, Mo’at (CCH Pounder), is the spiritual leader of the tribe, and she declares Jake different from other intruders, and that Neytiri is to teach him their ways.
Jake struggles, yet learn quickly; however, back at the RDA base, the valuable mineral that so many are so greedy for is not being obtained any faster by Jake‘s fun and games with the Na’vi, and it will fall on his shoulders to protect the indigenous race from the violence of outsiders.
“Avatar” is certainly a great film, and it deserved all the hype that surrounded it during its theatrical run plus I think it’ll be a huge success yet again now that it’s available on home video in 2D. Later this year you’ll probably see it be re-released in 2D yet again and then eventually a 3D release of it via the new Blu-ray 3D format. No matter your preference (2D or 3D), the film’s story is sure to strike you as quite solid, and generally a very creative sci-fi flick. The performances of the cast, whether as themselves, or motion-captured versions of themselves, are truly impressive as well, and being that much of their acting was filmed roughly 4 years ago, a few of them are just now getting higher recognition for their work that they deserve. It also seems certain that James Cameron is passionate about his film’s message regarding being opposed to the destruction of nature, as he and/or FOX is collaborating with the Earth Day Network to advocate the action of planting trees for the holiday. Overall, there are many reasons audiences will enjoy this film, but as far as the movie itself goes, it is certainly worth a “5 Star Rating“.
Video Quality on this release is in full 1080p using the AVC MPEG-4 codec on a BD-50 (50 gigabyte dual-layered Blu-ray Disc) in the 1.78:1 aspect ratio. This presentation is NOT in 3D like the film was originally shown, please do keep that in mind. Second, very much worth noting, this video presentation has been THX Certified. Being that this release is of course not the 3D presentation of the film, we do not want to go too in depth about the nature of the 3D presentation that was available in theaters until the actual 3D release comes out, however, it is definitely a priority to discuss the Sony Fusion 3D Camera System used to make the film. Regarding the technology used for shooting “Avatar” in stereoscopic 3D, the Fusion Camera System (which is also referred to by several other titles, i.e. the Reality Camera System 1, the Pace-Cameron System, etc.) was used. Having been developed by Vince Pace and James Cameron, their Fusion 3D HD system involves the use of two customized cameras, and reportedly Cameron used a specifically designed system all on its own just for “Avatar“. According to an article in Popular Mechanics, this camera’s viewfinder also offered the filmmaker the opportunity to watch the live actors as they are integrated by the system in a provided CG environment, as it senses its position on a motion-capture stage. An interview with CEO of PACE cameras, Vince Pace, who was also a Director of Photography for the film, and further yet, also served as a “Stereographer” for “Avatar“, can be found at Film and Digital Times, as he lends a pretty in depth discussion about filming the movie, and mentions the following:
“For this job, the challenge was the flexibility of the systems. We started with up to 7 or 8 cameras, set up for different configurations—so we could choose which configuration was right for a particular shot: hand-held, Steadicam, crane, Technocrane, dolly, etc.
Two weeks before we were about to start shooting, I got a list of this and that. We discussed it. The most important thing was having the vertical camera of the 3D rig inverted—typically it’s on top, pointing down towards the beamsplitter—which makes the rig very top-heavy. What we did was to flip the beamsplitter 180 degrees and invert the vertical camera—aiming it straight up instead. So one camera is aiming at the action, the other is aiming up, and the beamsplitter is at the intersection. This made hand-holding very well balanced—imagine one camera on your shoulder, and the other camera, the one pointing up, behind your shoulder. It was also very well balanced for Steadicam.
We finally settled on 4 systems: 2 rigs ready for Steadicam, hand-held, cranes and dollies. 1 rig for wide-angle shots and Technocrane. And 1 rig with the cameras set up side by side.
We mostly used Sony F950 cameras (3x 2/3” sensors). We also had Sony HDC 1500 cameras for frame rates up to 60 fps. Remember, we started this project four years ago. In LA, we went to the Sony F23 and F950. Our main lenses were Fujinon 16x 6.3-101mm f/1.8 zooms. We also had some Fujinon 7-35mm short zooms. We didn’t use primes. Jim wanted the flexibility and speed of using zooms.
We recorded to tape on Sony SRW-1 and 5500 recorders. We also used Codex digital recorders. It was all shot at 1920×1080 24p HD.“
Moving on to discussion about this 2D release, a significant topic that was buzzing about the film’s home video release was the aspect ratio it would be presented in. Of course, this 2D release of the film is presented in the 1.78 aspect ratio, and Cameron has mentioned in press conferences that this choice was made as to offer more visual depth in long and open shots, and more of the “claustrophobic” effect in close-ups. Another thought to ponder regarding the film having been filmed in stereoscopic 3D, even when you pause the movie, you do see not only what could otherwise be considered motion blur, but the slight dual-focus you may expect from a 3D presentation.
Another source of the release’s spectacular 2D video presentation is thanks to the folks at WETA Digital, Cameron’s Lightstorm Entertainment, as well as Giant Studios, who have not only done a fantastic job bringing the world of Pandora to life, but rendered this breath-taking video presentation that gives this 2D release of the film the stakes to firmly stand up against its 3D rendering. The color palette is vicious in vibrancy, from the day-glow hues that portray the nightlife of the forest, the rich green hues that overtake the surroundings in day settings, and the copious amount of blue seen of course in the Na’vi characters, which is truly a pop off the screen “Blu-ray” blue. The life-like facial expressions of the Na’vi characters are nothing short of tremendous efforts from those involved in the motion capture art of this film; the fluid exhibit of these live-actors turned into blue cat-like beings is beyond astounding to view in High Definition, leaving no flaw for critiques eyes to catch. Also, detail is extraordinary whether it is in regard to CG subjects or real-life actors/props; the textures of flesh on the Na’vi, and many other creatures has had fine attention paid to its details, and the typical subjects like hair and textures of wardrobe and props involving the live-actors is not left behind either.
Not to be left unmentioned is the equally valuable work of those from Stan Winston Studios who provided many of the physical on-screen character effects. The amount of “3D-Pop” here is excellent and you get a really great sense of depth and such even in a 2D presentation of the film. This 2D release of the film certainly has many pro’s to viewing the film in 3D, with the availability to see so much of the detail, the beautiful saturation, and a solid black level. With no disrespect to the audio presentation, you will perhaps find yourself more taken up with this phenomenal video quality so much that the audio track may be only a background elements to you upon your first viewing. It should really come as no surprise, this earns a perfect “5 Star Rating” for overall video quality and is the utter definition of “reference quality” in terms of Hi-Def visuals, be it 2D or not.
Audio Quality on this release is presented in DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio. First, note that just like the video presentation, this audio presentation too has been THX Certified. As this audio track simulates the fictional world of Pandora, the 5.1 setup offers an amazing audible performance that is well representing of the story’s sci-fi and ethereal nature, making it nearly impossible to decide on where to start in describing this presentation. One of the first things that will surely charm your ears is the original music composed by James Horner (“Apocalypto“, “Troy“, and “Titanic“, “Apollo 13“, and “Braveheart” to name a few), perfectly conveying the tones of both worlds; the humans’ camp with a more hearty and war-like brass sound, and the natural world of the Na’vi, translating a more tribal and passive sound. In the scene involving Jake‘s avatar being captured by the tribe, the background chatter of the surrounding Na’vi people fills the soundscape, providing 360 degrees of voices that simulate the feeling of truly standing within the action. This for instance is a great example of the superb usage of all the channels in the 5.1 setup, however, when it comes to this release, generally it is not even necessary to pinpoint a specific scene, as one could basically scan through the film on Blu-ray and be impressed.
Christopher Boyes (“Iron Man“, all of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” films, “King Kong“, “Pearl Harbor“, all of the “The Lord of the Rings” films, and “Titanic” just to name a few) is credited as Sound Designer, Sound Re-Recording Mixer, and Supervising Sound Editor for “Avatar“, and with credentials like his, you know that this THX Certified audio presentation will kick some ass. In a January 2010 article in Mix Magazine, Boyes discussed his experience of working on the film’s sound, explaining how its process was much different from any other, in that “Avatar“‘s post-production was not exactly the typical post-production, but rather Cameron wanted to be editing a product that already had soundeffects, and still yet go back and shoot more of the scene.
All general soundeffects are impressive, offering multiple channel usage, panning at times, and simply a general clarity of sound. You’ve really got to hand it to those behind the efforts in the sound department here in having created the sounds of imaginative fictional creatures, sci-fi machinery of multiple sorts, and even a setting that, though merely portraying the paradise-like world of Pandora, is itself absolutely glowing with subtle sound. The dialogue is presented perfectly on this release, as both the live action organic recordings from the live actors on set, and the presumably voiced-over dialogue of the Na’vi characters. Overall this is just downright impressive, almost as much as the visuals in terms of sound mix and very much worthy of deeming “demo material” in terms of audio as well. “Avatar” in its debut to Blu-ray Disc earns a perfect “5 Star Rating” for audio quality.
Bonus materials ARE NOWHERE TO BE FOUND on this release, just a DVD (Standard Definition) version of the film included on a 2nd disc and some code for online content. Below you’ll find some images of that online content as well as me discussing it in further detail.
“The Avatar Program” is an online bit of bonus content that you are given a registration code for which you can use over at the URL provided (see HERE). Once you’ve registed and logged in you’ll have access to first-looks, sneak peeks, content & updates, money saving offers and be linked to be part of the “Home Tree Initiative” to plane one million trees. One of the first new features available right now is an “Avatar Interactive Desktop” which will require you to install Adobe Air and is compatible with both PC and Mac. This proves to be pretty cool if you really, really enjoyed the film and want to keep this as your desktop for a while.
click on the thumbnails for a larger view
This is a big appealing to some consumers that are internet savvy but for the average consumer, I get the feeling this sheet with the code will likely end up being thrown away or never even being used. Still, it is nice to see some sort of supplemental material of some sort, even if it is via the internet like this being included. My only gripe here is that just as they warn you, you do have to check your “Spam” folder of your email inbox to find the message they send you to confirm your registration. I’m using Google’s Gmail too which is by far the most popular email service out there so you’d think it would have not been marked as spam.
Blu-ray Disc packaging:
You’ll also notice in the third shot of the packaging (to the right on the BD disc itself) that this is a THX Certified release.
NOTE: The full-sized 1920×1080 files are in a .PNG file format and uncompressed. Bare with the slow loading times, keep in mind these files are at least 1MB (1 megabyte) in size each.