- Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
- Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4; Full HD 3D
- Resolution: 1080p/24
- Audio Codec: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1, Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1, Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
- Subtitles: English SDH, French, Portuguese, Spanish
- Region: A
- Rating: PG-13
- Discs: 1
- Studio: 20th Century Fox
- Blu-ray Release Date: December 1, 2010
- List Price: Not Available at Retail (Panasonic Exclusive)
Click thumbnails for high-resolution 1920X1080p screen captures
(Screen captures are lightly compressed with lossy JPEG thus are meant as a general representation of the content and do not fully reveal the capabilities of the Blu-ray format)
Special thanks to Jeff Samuels at Panasonic for providing us with a copy of the Avatar Blu-ray 3D for review.
Filmmaker James Cameron has never been known to approach any of his films in a small way. He has been pushing the technological and budgetary boundaries of filmmaking for years. His philosophy has always been to bring something new to moviegoers; employing grand spectacle on the big screen to place viewers in a world where they can escape the mundaneness of their real world problems. From The Abyss, through Terminator to Titanic, Cameron has honed his craft as the wizard of special effects wonder and sci-fi epics. But what Cameron has lacked in any compelling fashion along the way is any inkling that he might perhaps be able to sculpt a deep enough story to hold one’s attention for the nearly three-hour journey that Avatar begs its viewers to tag along for.
Of course, when embarking on such an adventure the argument can be made that character and plot development are elements that must necessarily take the background to allow the awesome adventure and flight of fantasy to unfold. If only Tolkien and Peter Jackson were aware of that fact.
As the case may be, Cameron’s Avatar is filled with caricatures and platitudes that plod through his heavy-handed ideas on environmentalism, the evils of capitalism and warfare set against the distant backdrop of a faraway land known as Pandora. There the seemingly primitive tree dwelling native population the Na’vi dwell upon a cache of a highly sought after mineral known as — I kid you not — “unobtanium.”
In come the evil humans, fresh from their desolate planet where they have used up all the fossil fuels, killed off all the trees and now desperately need to displace the Na’vi to get at the unobtanium for their energy needs. Paralyzed soldier Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) arrives on Pandora into all of this confusion and is used as a human “Avatar.” His consciousness is projected into the bioengineered body of a Na’vi. On an expedition into the Pandoran forest with Dr. Grace Augustine (Sigourney Weaver), also in avatar form, Jake is separated from his party when a particularly vicious native beast chases him down. Lost and alone, Jake ends up having to stay overnight in the mysterious forest where the Pandoran Neytiri (Zoe Saldana) finds him. She rescues him from a pack of wolf-like creatures and takes him back to her tribe after receiving a sign from the Pandoran god.
Sully becomes ensconced in the culture of Pandora from that point, learning the ways of the natives and losing his sense of reality — which is the real world and which is the dream world? Of course, Cameron also throws in an obvious inter-alien love story between Neytiri and Jake.
Soon, Jake must make a decision about which side he is on when the humans, that is to say, the corporation and the mercenary soldiers that work for them, are no longer willing to wait for the Na’vi to move peacefully so they can get at the unobtanium.
The cliché story aside, Avatar is a feast for the eyes and ears, even in its regular, flat 2D version, the 3D version makes it even more appetizing to watch. The CGI motion-capture visual effects are nothing short of stunning and the “air brush” color palette simply leaps from the screen. This is an adventure meant to be watched and enjoyed for its technical prowess, and it allows for excusing the at times awfully silly dialogue and obvious plot devices. But Avatar on Blu-ray 3D is a Home Theatre event and it makes it even more clear what lengths Cameron and crew went to, to design this film from the ground up for the 3D format, rather than thinking of 3D as a secondary, last minute money-making gimmick.
This Blu-ray 3D version, it should be noted, includes only the original theatrical release of the film and not the extended versions.
I’ve already reviewed Avatar on 2D Blu-ray twice, here and here, and they were both excellent, so in this review I will focus strictly on the 3D. From the very opening scenes, it is obvious that this is a different sort of 3D experience being crafted by James Cameron. While Avatar 3D adds great sense of spatial depth while retaining detail and the splendor of its color palette, it doesn’t ever lapse into the realm of gimmickry — meaning there are no “in your face” 3D moments. Things don’t fly off the screen at you or by you. The closest Avatar gets to that sort of thing is some of the foliage in the foreground in the forests of Pandora coming farther off the edges of screen.
The film, rather, puts you in the middle of the action, sort of like you’re in an imaginary Avatar sphere, experiencing the moment with the characters. Some of the most exhilarating 3D scenes are those where Sully is flying his dragon-like creature, and the film’s epic battle scene between the Na’vi and the military.
There is some slight crosstalk throughout, but this is one of the better titles I have seen in that regard, once again adding proof to the belief that a lot of issues with crosstalk are not just display related, but also have to do with the source material.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack is equally enjoyable and pure reference quality stuff for a film of this nature. The surround channels are engaged throughout the film with all manner of discrete and ambient sound effects while low frequencies are downright thunderous. Dialogue is clear and never lost in the action.
The Definitive Word
James Cameron has once again pushed the boundaries of what can be technically achieved in filmmaking with Avatar. Despite its storytelling flaws there is no doubt that people will be looking to this film for years to come as the benchmark for visual effects in filmmaking. Fittingly the Blu-ray 3D is a reference release all around as well, even if it is barebones and exclusive to Panasonic (for now).