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“Avatar ” {Blu-ray} - (Wayne)
Reviewer:
Wayne Klein
Studio: 20th Century Fox Home Video
Genre:
Science Fiction
Release Date:
4/23/10
Special Features:

DVD version of movie

Review:

James Cameron shows no fear but he can be stupid, ignorant like a child. Luckily, having no fear worked to his benefit making “Avatar” the highest grossing film of all time (in current dollars). Cameron understands spectacle and as simplistic and predictable as the story of “Avatar” is he manages to invest every second of the film with that spectacle and we sure do love spectacle. He also create fully realized world with images as magical as those Roger Dean Yes album covers that probably inspired some of the visuals in “Avatar”. Although the home video release isn’t in 3D it doesn’t really need to be; as this is a sharp, brilliant looking film. ***

Cameron simplified his story quite a bit for “Avatar” (if you look hard enough online you’ll be able to find his original outline which features a much more complete story)but the story IS engaging. Former Marine Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) found all meaning drained from his life when he became a paraplegic in battle. He rediscovers his purpose when his twin brother dies. Jake’s chosen to replace his brother as part of the avatar program; this program allows his consciousness to be transfer into the body of an alien so he can interact with the natives on a planet called Pandora. It seems that the greatest energy source ever discovered is there—unobtainium which the company (and Earth) wants/needs. Unfortunately, the aliens called the Na’vi live on the greatest desposit of unobtainium and Jake’s job is to get the aliens to peacefully move or be forced to relocate by Colnel Miles Quartich (Stephen Lang)and the company representative on the planet Parker Selfridge (Giovanni Ribisi). Jake finds himself conflicted though as he begins to fall for the his Na’vi teacher Neytiri (Zoe Saldana). His support for the military wavers as he becomes assimilated into the Na’vi culture. Jake ends up working with the scientific team sent there commanded by Dr. Grace Augustine (Sigourney Weaver). ***

A brilliant looking, colorful film, “Avatar” is notable not just for its groundbreaking 3D technique but for its more accurate CGI rendering and Cameron’s ability to overcome a problem unique to CGI characters called “valley drift” where there’s something unnerving and creepy about the emptiness behind the characters eyes. ***

In many respects “Avatar” could be set in Earth’s past on the frontier with white settlers wanting the gold or other valuables of American Indians; it’s about the cultural divide and the greed that often separates us from other cultures and in that regard Cameron’s story is both universal, entertaining and unoriginal. As they say though originality can be overrated for what the film lacks in that area in terms of the story itself Cameron more than makes up for it by creating a realistic world and culture for the Na’vi. Sure the 3D element was a big selling point for the movie in theaters but it was the entertainment factor and sheer visual imagination of Cameron’s vision that keeps “Avatar” afloat much as the unobtainium keeps the Mountains of Pandora floating defying gravity. ---

Image & Sound:

A beautiful, richly detailed Blu-ray transfer makes “Avatar” one of the most stunning transfers I’ve seen in recent memory. Detail is remarkably crisp, colors pop with an attractive reproduction of the original theatrical presentation of the movie. Many moves when they arrive on Blu-ray suffer because viewers can see the lines that separate the CGI from the live action photography but Cameron and his collaborators create a vibrant, stunning looking film seamlessly blends the two. ***

Audio is outstanding with a brilliant sounding 5.1 lossless presentation. Dialogue remains crisp and clear even when listening to the film through the speakers on m y monitor something that often isn’t true for 5.1 audio presentations. ---

Special Features:

Aside from the DVD of the film included as part of the package there aren’t any extras. Reportedly the reissue of the film coming in Christmas 2010 for Blu-ray will have six minutes included that didn’t have any completed visual effects done. These scenes will be restored to the film. I’m sure eventually we’ll see the film for 3D Blu-ray (Cameron doesn’t plan on the film being released that way immediately because he feels it would be like a “fart in the wind” if the new format doesn’t take off and he doesn’t want to waste the resources. ***

Although the film may lack special features Cameron asked Fox NOT to include any preview trailers or advertisements since he often finds them annoying on home video presentations and for that we can thank him because when the menu first pops up on screen you only have to hit play. ***

Be aware that you may have to do a firmware upgrade for your Blu-ray player for “Avatar”. ---

Final Words:

An entertaining visually groundbreaking (if a rather pedestrian story)film “Avatar” looks equally stunning in its Blu-ray debut. Cameron may not be an original storyteller but he is a terrific one and, ultimately, it’s how you tell the story that counts.

 

 
 
 
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