“Avatar” is a 2009 epic science fiction film directed, written, produced, and co-edited by James Cameron. It stars Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Stephen Lang, Michelle Rodriguez, and Sigourney Weaver. With the sequel, “Avatar: The Way of Water,” coming out later this year, Cameron and producer Jon Landau decided to remaster the film, aka update it for today’s audiences.
They updated the scan in 4K with a high-dynamic range and some scenes were updated with a frame rate of 48-frames-per-second. The film was compressed highly before, and Cameron felt that it affected the viewing experience of the CGI. He also wanted to add in high dynamic range (HDR) video that would give a better perception of colors and the overall quality of the film. Another update was in the sound department as Dolby Atmos wasn’t introduced until 2012. Four-time Oscar-winner Christopher Boyes gave the new “Avatar” remaster an upgraded mix and he was responsible for the sound editing, designing, and mixing of the original release.
But after all of those updates, is the film worth seeing again in theatres?
The main protagonist is Jake Sully, a former Marine confined to a wheelchair. He is recruited to travel to Pandora, where a corporation wants to mine a rare mineral which is apparently the key to solving Earth’s energy crisis. Here, he becomes the newest human connected to an Avatar, a genetically engineered hybrid of human and Na’vi (Pandora’s natives) DNA. He then interacts with Na’vi and learns to respect the Na’vi way and finally takes his place among them. He then faces the ultimate test as he leads them in an epic battle that will decide the fate of an entire world.
There are very obvious ecological messages that unfortunately still apply. It has greedy corporations destroying lives to increase their profits, indigenous communities threatened with extinction, and scientists who get ignored when their voices challenge the status quo. From a theme perspective, it’s sad that Avatar has become more relevant over time.
The sound upgrade is noticeably different as the Atmos feel comes both in the bass and surround speakers. As a creature is about to come on screen, one can hear them come from all around the screen instead of only in front of them. This comes to the 4DX such as when Jake first rides his horse and N’teri tells him to feel the horse. The viewer feels the horse’s heartbeat as Jake would. Frankly, this was one on the same level as “Top Gun: Maverick” when it comes to 4DX experiences. Here, one gets to experience Pandora in ways that they didn’t before.
One feels the water physically and smells it as Jake explores the landscape of Pandora. This is cool because this aspect is a crucial feature of Pandoran life. One can breathe in the scents and visuals of Hometree with smells allowing them to be there among Pandora’s remarkable flora and fauna as the film states that the Na’vi tribe works in harmony with the landscape. One can be enveloped by the wind as you soar with the ikran in Jake’s coming-of-age flight. These sights, feelings, and sounds that only 4DX can provide were the main reason for my being able to enjoy a trip back to Pandora.
The film is still not original from a story perspective. Films such as “Dances with Wolves,” “The Last Samurai,” and the animated, “Pocahontas” came out years before this that showed a heroic white man who saves “a poor helpless native population who are viewed as savages and can’t take care of themselves.” Additionally, Worthington’s acting isn’t the best especially when it’s really obvious that he’s Australian and not American as the film states.
At the end of the day, is the new remaster worth paying money again for it? Frankly, it depends on what you prioritize. It’s not a different story but it is the best the film has ever looked and sounded. This 4K HDR remaster brings Pandora and its native Na’vi back in a great way. Does it change any opinion on the film itself? No, not at all. But then again, it wasn’t meant to. It’s a fun time at the theatre though.
If you want the full analysis of the film, check out the video below.
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