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Avatar Gets a Facelift Ahead of its Re-Release

(L-R): Jake Sully (voiced by Sam Worthington) and Neytiri (voiced by Zoe Saldana) in Twentieth Century Fox's AVATAR. Photo courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox. © 2009 Twentieth Century Fox. All Rights Reserved.

Avatar preview screening provided by Disney

“The textures, colour palette, contrast and sharpness have all been enhanced as a result of this remastering, and the film really pops and looks like it was always meant for a 2022 release.”

It’s crazy to think that James Cameron’s Avatar (2009) hit cinemas some 13 years ago. In that time, the one-film-every-so-often spectacle director has been involved in other projects including 2019’s Alita: Battle Angel and Terminator: Dark Fate where he was a producer and writer. But the weight of Pandora and its big blue inhabitants from his box office smashing film —which reclaimed it’s ‘highest grossing film of all time’ status in recent years— has continued to be the focal point for Cameron in the time since.

That so much so that the same film will be re-re-releasing in cinemas ahead of his much anticipated sequel, Avatar: The Way of the Water (2022) at the tail end of this year. Except it’s not the same, at least for the most part. Unlike the re-release a few years ago which was almost a response to Avengers: Endgame (2019) dethroning the film for highest grossing of all time (a feat short-lived), this latest outing sees Pandora receive a facelift. It’s one that cleans all the blemishes and bruises that, to be fair, audiences really didn’t view as a shortcoming, but that Cameron and co figured would be a nice touch up as we segue into his sequel.

For those that have yet to see Avatar (and there are a few), the film takes place on a distant moon known as “Pandora”, where humans have ventured to mine a rare resource known as “unobtanium” that sells for $20 million in small amounts. The problem is, in order to access a wealth of the resource, they need to either gain acceptance among the natives known as the “Na’vi” and advise them to relocate from their home under a giant tree, or take more drastic measures. The main means of building this trust is by having a select few humans connect with lab-grown Na’vi/human-hybrids and control them with their mind, effectively using them like avatars.

(L-R): A Palulukan and Jake Sully (voiced by Sam Worthington) in Twentieth Century Fox's AVATAR. Photo courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox. © 2009 Twentieth Century Fox. All Rights Reserved.

(L-R): A Palulukan and Jake Sully (voiced by Sam Worthington) in Twentieth Century Fox’s AVATAR. Photo courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox. © 2009 Twentieth Century Fox. All Rights Reserved.

Now that we’re up to speed, obviously remasters of classic and even modern films into 4K is hardly out of the ordinary. When Avatar was released, it was almost pitched as the film to bring back 3D and it largely achieved that, given many of the biggest films in the years that followed (like Michael Bay’s Transformer films) were shown in 2D and 3D. The last film I saw in 3D was Avengers: Infinity War (2018), so the 3D experience is still available for some films and for people that want it.

The remastered version of Avatar that I watched last night was also showcased in 3D and as Cameron said during his global press conference for the re-release, “It’s looking better than it ever looked”, and he wasn’t lying. The textures, colour palette, contrast and sharpness have all been enhanced as a result of this remastering, and the film really pops and looks like it was always meant for a 2022 release.

The frame rate has also been bumped up to 48 frames-per-second for certain sections of the film to add more fluidity to the action and camerawork. This is especially evident in a viperwolf chase scene where, as the camera lingers over one of the creatures, it visually pops and you can notice every detail on its body to a much greater extent than before. It makes sense that for a film that is really heavy with visual effects and long action sequences, there would be a desire to make these sequences as seamless as possible — ultimately adding to the level of immersion that 3D already provides.

The soundscape is also phenomenal (as most films with HDR sound tend to be) and really brings you into the world of Pandora. Whether or not it does so to a greater extent than in 2009 is obviously difficult to tell (I was in awe of the look and sound of the film then as I am now), but regardless of your sentiment towards the film, it’s a staple of its time and a trailblazing exercise in what is achievable at such a scale.

Avatar hits cinemas again this Thursday, the 22nd of September, for a limited theatrical run.

Contributors

Arnel Duracak

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