Avatar 3D

Featured In Issue 157, May/June 2011

3D Picture5+
WSR Score5
Basic Information on new release titles is posted as soon as titles are announced. Once reviewed, additional data is added to the database.
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
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Intense epic battle sequences and warfare, sexuality, language and some smoking
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Single Side, Dual Layer (BD-50)
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James Cameron
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Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS HD Lossless 5.1
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Following his twin brother's death, Jake Sully (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 (Saldana). (Gary Reber)

There are no special features.

The movie was produced in the PACE/Cameron Fusion 3-D camera format and originally released theatrically in the IMAX® DMR dual-strip blowup 3-D and D-Cinema 3-D formats. The 1.78:1 1080p MVC picture is reference quality and sure to establish standards in resolution for other filmmakers to emulate. This is production quality that sets the bar for Blu-ray Disc™ quality. The picture is framed in James Cameron's preferred 1.78:1 aspect ratio. 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 3-D Blu-ray Disc version reviewed here is the Panasonic Exclusive Release, which was produced by the Panasonic Hollywood Laboratory. A catalog 3-D release for general retail release is slated for after February 2012, when the Panasonic exclusive expires, in which all 16 minutes of new scenes will be presented in 3D, along with some behind-the-scenes and bonus footage shot in 3D. This preview release is absolutely stunning in 3D, exhibiting a mesmerizing visual experience. Viewed theatrically in 3D, and numerous times on Blu-ray Disc in 2D, this 3-D experience is virtually perfect and vastly superior to the previous viewings. Ghosting is virtually non-existent. Thus, the portrayal of Pandora is seemless in its complex visual splendor, with a magnitude of natural depth that "puts you there!" As Jake wanders through the jungle at night, lots of small luminous insects are seen floating around at different depths and positioned to add a sense of realism to the scene. The same applies to the scene where the glowing tree seeds slowly descend and cover Jake. Each is individually positioned at various distances, both in front and behind the screen, giving an almost magically immersive sense of reality. One view from the top of Home Tree is almost vertigo-inducing, with the view down the trunk, and the tiny people walking far below. While the resolution exhibited in real objects and people is absolutely superb, remarkably, the various CGI creations exhibit 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 and depth is displayed in every frame. Such extra image depth often comes with the entire image in focus, which enhances the perception of vastness. In 2D the imagery appears flattened by comparison. 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 fleshtones and objects. Human fleshtones are accurate throughout. The natural habitat and foliage is incredibly realistic and eye-catching. With such amazing depth, one can appreciate the scale of the place. Even the outpost's control rooms and workstations are spatially defined with an uncanny realism. Real actors perfectly integrate and blend in with the digital backgrounds, which are wildly complex and beautifully rendered, whether within the outpost and shack compounds or in the wild of Pandora. The last battle scene is absolutely incredible and breathtaking in 3D! The color palette is just as vivid in 3D as it is in the 2-D presentations, with no perceptual drop-off in saturation. 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 fluorescent 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. Blacks are deep and solid, as well as dimensional. Contrast is perfectly balanced throughout, resulting in naturally deep and solid blacks and perfectly delineated shadow delineation. The place appears so real that one is unconsciously transported there and forgets that this is a movie! There is virtually no exaggeration, and one nevers feels a disconnect from the experience. The production manages to create a true "virtual reality" experience. The movie's Oscar® awards for cinematography, art direction, and visual effects are unquestionably deserved. 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 q

The DTS-HD Master Audio™ 5.1-channel soundtrack perfectly complements the visually stunning 3-D 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, and perfectly complementary to the 3-D visual experience. Atmospheric effects and other sound effects range from minute sounds of habitat rustlings, to beastly sounds, to heavy tree-crashing explosions with directionally accurate cues. Even the atmospheric sounds that define the outpost interiors are incredibly precise and defining of the ambiance sonics associated with the human environment. 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," even during segments of intense vehicular rumble and rocket and machine gunfire. James Horner's elaborate and impressively beautiful orchestral music score is well recorded, with an expansively wide and deep soundstage that wraps deep into the 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 epic's climactic destruction scenes are a tour de force and potentially challenging to lesser sound systems. The sonic impact is impressive and perfectly balanced throughout, with an incredible sense of spatial context and three-dimensionality. The Avatar soundtrack is absolutely holosonically engaging and is a remarkable achievement in cinema sound. (Gary Reber)