Avatar (Blu-ray) (2009)
PG-13 Dir: James Cameron | Twentieth Century Fox | 162 min.

Review By: Matt Brighton | January 28th, 2012

Plot: What’s it about?

James Cameron is a jerk. There’s no denying that. Still, you have to admit that the guy can make a movie that can make money and I consider him one of my personal favorite directors. Cameron’s films have often tested and pushed the limits of what was “possible” in film and with his latest effort, “Avatar” is certainly no exception. His use of stop-motion in “The Terminator” wasn’t exactly mind-blowing, however his use of liquid metal in “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” was. “The Abyss”, though not the commercial hit that some of his other films was, had its share of visual splendor as well. Putting all of that aside, this review is about “Avatar” and if this doesn’t change the way movies are made then I’ll eat my words. And it’s no secret that this movie has been bouncing around in Cameron’s head for the past fifteen years, but only recently did it actually come to fruition. In between he made a little movie called “Titanic” that pulled in over a billion at the box office and managed to win Best Picture as well. So let’s just say that the guy has some clout. But enough about that…

Set in the 22nd century, we meet a paraplegic veteran by the name of Jake Sully (Sam Worthington). His brother had been a PhD and was set to journey to the world of Pandora, but was killed by robbers. Having the same DNA as his twin, Jake decides to take his brother’s place and see if he can fit in with the scientists. Once there, he learns that they’re actually mining a very rare and profitable mineral called nonobtanium, which fetches quite the price. Jake and company are to take their place in “avatars”, 10 foot surrogates if you will, that will help immerse themselves into the native Na’vi culture. As Jake gets used to his new body and his new surroundings, he becomes ingratiated with the tribe. He becomes a warrior, all the while taking his reports back to Col. Quaritch (Stephen Lang), who wants nothing more than to conquer the entire planet, take what’s his and go home. So many possibilities, yet very few outcomes…what will become of the Na’vi and the humans who propose to destroy the planet?

Ok, let’s face it, “Avatar” has a plot that’s about as tried and true as anything out there. In fact, I saw a pretty funny image with the plot line to “Pocahontas” with some key words crossed out and, wouldn’t you know it ? it’s the plot for “Avatar.” Now that’s film making! Take a story that everyone knows, throw in some fancy special effects and have it rake in a couple billion dollars! Oh man, I love America! However the real story in “Avatar” isn’t the plot line because unless you really are focusing on it and drawing parallels, it really doesn’t matter. Yes, the characters are paper thin and yes this movie is all about the action and special effects, but it’s done in a way that’s entertaining and that’s what watching movies is all about ? are you entertained? I was. I think pretty much everyone who saw the movie was and if that’s the case, well I anxiously await Mr. Cameron’s next efforts.

Video: How does it look?

I’ll admit it, I’m probably one of the nine people in the world who didn’t go out and see this movie in the theaters. I’ve become too spoiled by my home theater to rush out and spend ten bucks to see something on the big screen. Well, I should have seen it on the big screen because I can only imagine how beautiful this looked. As anyone knows “Avatar” was shown in a digital 3-D presentation in theaters, but the version we get on Blu-ray is decisively 2-D. That’s ok, because let me assure you that the picture is one of the most jaw-dropping I’ve ever seen (and I’m including in computer animated movies like Pixar and the like). The 1.78:1 AVC HD transfer uses most of the 50GB of space on the disc which does account for the lack of supplements. I’ll most likely go through my arsenal of adjectives, but let me convey to you how simply amazing this transfer is. Cameron uses every color in the rainbow during the course of this film and we get a razor sharp transfer that is the epitome of what Blu-ray is (or should) be. We can see the pores on the actor’s faces, the leaves on the trees, the little wisps of light from time to time. Clearly, pun fully intended, this is what all movies should aspire to be and look like when it comes to Blu-ray. As we might expect, the CGI throughout is seamlessly integrated with the live action and looks amazing. This is what you should use to show off the sheer beauty of Blu-ray and your television because, truly, it doesn’t get any better than this.

Audio: How does it sound?

As amazing as the video is, the audio is just as impressive with the DTS HD Master Audio in full effect here. During the course of the 162 minutes, each and every speaker has more than its fair share of time to shine and shine they do. The LFE are active as I’ve ever heard, dialogue is sharp as a razor and the front stage balances out equally well with the surrounds to give a very immersive performance. Of course we can expect this kind of audio from a James Cameron film as some of his previous films like “Titanic”, “True Lies” and “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” all had very robust soundtracks. The thing with “Avatar” is that it made my head turn and not many films do that. Be it an arrow whizzing by, gunshots firing all over the place or the soaring and swinging that takes place all throughout. Add to it that the movie is loud, I mean I actually had to turn it down in a few scenes because it’s hard to tell exactly how loud it is until you try and hear yourself talk. Like the video, this is demo material on the audio front. A superb effort, one of the best I’ve heard…ever.

Supplements: What are the extras?

There is nary a supplement to be found on this Blu-ray unless you count the other disc which contains the standard DVD of this film. Granted, I’ll take top notch audio and video over some canned featurettes any day of the week. There’s a four disc edition set to come out later this year and knowing Cameron, I’m sure we’ll be seeing more of our blue friends in the future. As for now, however, the movie is all you get – not even a trailer.

Disc Features
  • (1.78:1) Aspect Ratio
  • Video Codec: AVC
  • Audio: DTS HD Master
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • Audio Commentary
  • Deleted Scene(s)
  • Featurette
  • Documentary
  • Digital Copy
  • 2 Disc Set
Avatar (Blu-ray)