- Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
- Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
- Resolution: 108op/24
- Audio Codec: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, English Dolby Surround, English Descriptive Audio 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1, Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1, Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
- Subtitles: English SDH, Portuguese, Spanish
- Region: A
- Rating: PG-13
- Discs: 2
- Studio: 20th Century Fox
- Blu-ray Release Date: April 22, 2010
- List Price: $39.99
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)
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 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.
Despite this film rather conspicuously debuting on Blu-ray sans a 3D version, the AVC/MPEG-4 encoding of its 2D edition looks spectacular. Even if some of the CG effects do look a bit exposed in the cold light of regular ol’ 2D HD, the splendidly vivid colors, clean extended details and artifact-free compression make up for it all.
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.
Supplements? Forget about it with this barebones release from Fox. You get nothing but a standard definition DVD of Avatar, a $25 coupon on select Panasonic Blu-ray players and Blu-ray Home Theatre systems and a chance to join the Avatar Program, whoopee! You’ll have to wait until November when the studio decides to re-release Avatar in the “Special Edition” version to get all the extras, including the rumoured bonus footage, but you still won’t be getting the 3D version, so don’t hold your breath.
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 is a reference release all around as well, even if it passes on the 3D and lacks any extras.
Additional Screen Captures: