In "Avatar," following his twin brother's death, Jake Sully (Sam Worthington), a paraplegic ex-Marine, is dispatched to the moon Pandora on a unique mission. There he finds himself thrust into hostilities on a beautiful alien planet filled with exotic life forms and native humanoid "Na'vi" with long, cat-like tails. As an Avatar, a human mind in an alien Na'vi body, he finds himself torn between two worlds, in a desperate fight for his own survival and that of the indigenous people. After he learns of greedy corporate intentions of driving off the native humanoids to pillage their planet's natural resources, Sully becomes a reluctant hero and embarks on a journey of redemption and discovery as he leads a heroic battle to save a civilization. The adventure features a love story between Sully and the beautiful blue alien Neytini (Zoé Saldana). (Gary Reber)
Special features include the documentary "Capturing Avatar" (HD 01:38:25 ); featurettes "Memories From Avatar" (HD 21:20), "Avatar: A Look Back" (HD 10:03), "Sculpting Avatar" (HD 03:46), "Creating The Banshee" (HD 09:52), "Creating The Thanator" (HD 03:21), "The AMP Suit" (HD 04:31), "Flying Vehicles" (HD 05:14), "Na’vi Costumes" (HD 04:14), "Speaking Na’vi" (HD 06:37), "Pandora Flora" (HD 05:41), "Stunts" (HD 05:14), "Performance Capture" (HD 06:33), "Virtual Camera" (HD 03:21), "The 3D Fusion Camera" (HD 03:44), "The Simul-Cam " (HD 02:19), "Editing Avatar" (HD 07:00), "Scoring Avatar" (HD 06:07), "Sound Design" (HD 08:51) and "The Haka: The Spirit of New Zealand" (HD 05:18); and a Movies Anywhere digital copy.
The movie was produced in the PACE/Cameron Fusion 3D camera format and originally released theatrically in the IMAX® DMR dual-strip blow-up 3D and D-Cinema 3D formats. The 1.78:1 2160p HEVC/H.265 4K Ultra HD picture, reviewed on a VIZIO Quantum X P85QX-JI UHD/HDR display, is reference quality and sure to establish standards in resolution for other filmmakers to emulate. Originally reviewed in Issue 148 (2010), the production quality set the bar for Blu-ray Disc quality as does this new upscaled 4K Ultra HD version. The picture is framed in James Cameron's preferred 1.78:1 aspect ratio. As with the Blu-ray Disc review, while the resolution exhibited in real objects and people is absolutely superb, remarkably the various CGI creations exhibits unprecedented naturalism and realism with impressive resolution quality. The CGI-created characters have a reality and an emotionality that completely conveys the actors' performances, perfectly captured visually to enhance the "suspension of disbelief." Fine detail throughout is displayed in every frame. Clarity and sharpness are exemplary. Every nuance is descriptive in intricate detail. Everything looks perfectly real and naturally organic. Facial features and "skin" tones are rendered perfectly, as are object textures. Even degrees of gloss level and sheen are perceptible in flesh tones and objects. Human flesh tones are accurate throughout. The natural habitat and foliage is so realistic and eye-catching. Real actors perfectly integrate and blend in with the digital backgrounds, which are wildly complex and beautifully rendered. Color is lush throughout, with a perfectly natural palette of varied hues that often ignite the screen with bursts of intense and rich color. The Na'vi's blue is soothing and distressing and rich in warm hues. The fluorescence jungle night scenes are gorgeous with all sorts of phosphorescent colors. What color and spectacle! The Na'vi village is wonderfully dimensional and colorful. Amazingly, the threaded cloth that adorns Neytini's mother is fabulously detailed and textured. All this splendid Pandora color palette is contrasted against the gunmetal grays of the invading military base and the man-made machinery and weaponry. hDR contrast is perfectly balanced throughout, resulting in naturally deep and solid blacks and perfectly delineated shadow delineation. The movie's Oscar® awards for cinematography, production design, and visual effects are unquestionably deserved. The technology used in "Avatar" has been in development for the better part of a decade. The visual design is dimensional throughout, as would be expected in a production designed and shot for 3D. The 3D Blu-ray Disc version will no doubt be unbelievable when re-released. When reviewing so many movies on Blu-ray Disc, few if any, have achieved the vividness and immersiveness that "Avatar" exhibits. One wonders why so many other filmmakers have produced such inferior visual qualities compared to this picture's reference quality. As with the Blu-ray Disc presentation picture quality is flawless and is pristine throughout. The 4K Ultra HD version reveals a higher degree of dimensionality (though the 3D version is far superior), a nuanced color palette with natural rich colors and fine degrees of hue shadings and vividness.
Again, "Avatar" has set a new bar of performance expectation. Hopefully, other filmmakers and studios will follow suit and deliver on the spectacular picture quality that is possible with the 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray formats. (Gary Reber)
As with the original Issue 148's DTS-HD Master Audi0 5.1-channel soundtrack the repurposed Dolby Atmos/Dolby TrueHD 7.1-channel soundtrack perfectly complements the visually stunning picture. The dynamic soundtrack is magically immersive, powerful, and intimate, all at the same time. Every sound element works and complements each other for an exceptionally holosonic® soundfield experience. The surround channels are constantly engaged with, at times, subtle low-level sounds and at other times aggressively directional sound effects and music. The ambiance is dimensional and establishes the diversity of soundscapes, making the experience feel alive and believable. Atmospheric effects and other sound effects range from minute sounds of habitat rustlings to heavy tree-crashing explosions with directionally accurate cues. Likewise, Foley effects never miss a movement or nuance. Pans are all around as well and descriptive of flying arrows, pterodactyl wings, gunships, and helicopter rotors. At times SPL energy is extremely strong, and deep bass extension rumbles below 25 Hz in the .1 LFE channel. Yet the bass sounds natural and not "overly produced." James Horner's orchestral/choral score is well recorded, with an expansively wide and deep soundstage that wraps deep into the four surrounds. Instrumental timbre is clearly discernible. The overall balance and fidelity is impressive. Sam Worthington's narration is also well balanced against the other sound elements. Dialogue is perfectly intelligible and effectively integrated spatially.
The Immersive Sound element though is a disappointment. Only sporadic sound effects and atmospherics are heard in the height layer. A tremendous more could have been achieved to further soundfield spherical sound dimensionality.
The epic's climactic destruction scene is a tour de force and potentially challenging to lesser sound systems. The sonic impact is impressive. The "Avatar" soundtrack is absolutely holosonically engaging and is a remarkable achievement in cinema sound. (Gary Reber)