In 2009, James Cameron released Avatar, a sci-fi adventure that revolutionized the cinema industry by offering the most realistic digital world ever created. At that point, Cameron had already pushed practical effects to its limits with Titanic, another box office giant still holding strong as one of the most successful films of all time. But with Avatar, he proved that it was possible to develop a movie almost entirely inside a computer and still make it look real. Since then, Hollywood has been trying– and mostly failing–to mimic Cameron’s digital magic. However, after thirteen years, can Avatar still amaze us? After all, technology evolved so much that the movie cannot remain as beautiful as we remembered it, right? Lastly, is it worth spending our hard-earned money on an expensive 3D ticket? Well, unfortunately for your wallet, the 4K remastered version of Avatar is well worth another trip to theaters, especially for the lucky people who can catch it on IMAX 3D.
There’s no question that Avatar’s stunning digital world and immersive 3D technology helped to boost the original box office beyond Hollywood’s wildest dreams. Avatar eventually became the highest-grossing film ever at the time of its release, and the film remains near the top of all-time box office earners. It’s no wonder that after Avatar’s release, many big blockbuster titles were distributed in 3D, as big studios tried to make money with the new technology. However, no other movie ever got close to reproducing what Cameron did. That’s mainly because the filmmaker took a long time to make sure Avatar would look as he wanted it to, instead of rushing the post-production and release. So, with an improved image and sound quality, Pandora never looked so good, and the alien planet is ready to suck you again into a world of wonder and mystery.
After more than a decade, we could expect Pandora to be less remarkable, but Avatar might look even better after the new 4K remaster. We’ve been overloaded with CGI-based productions that always feel artificial for a while now. So many movies just feel off that sometimes we wonder if the issue doesn’t come from the technology itself instead of individual productions. With Avatar’s remastered version hitting theaters, there’s no doubt rushed development is at fault. After thirteen years, Cameron’s classic puts any recent superhero production to shame. Maybe big studios wouldn’t be willing to wait a decade before releasing each franchise installment. Still, Avatar stands to the test of time to show how thoughtful post-production can turn some movies into eternal classics.
But the new coat of paint Avatar receives in this remaster would be wasted if Cameron’s epic couldn’t move the audience. So what about the story? Does Avatar still have a theme that can resonate in the current cultural landscape? Unfortunately, the movie’s ecological message aged too well, as thirteen years later, we face the irreversible destruction of the planet by human hands. The real-world situation is so dire that we’ve been discussing the colonization of other planets more seriously now, making Avatar all the more relevant. The movie has greedy corporations destroying lives to increase their profits, indigenous communities threatened with extinction due to the predatory exploration of the environment, and even scientists who get ignored when their voices challenge the status quo. It’s somewhat sad to notice how Avatar has become more relevant over time.
Even those unwilling to think about Avatar‘s major themes can still have a good time, as the movie is an action-packed crowd-pleaser that hits all the right notes. First, the film is an underdog story in which a broken man finds meaning and becomes a leader against all odds. Second, it is also a military story in which a soldier defies command to fight for what is right. Third, Avatar is a tale of man versus nature, where the symbiotic relationship with the world around us is more powerful than the metal machines humanity builds. Finally, it’s a love story in which two people from different worlds unite their hearts and their tribes. It’s impossible to remain indifferent in theaters, and thanks to more than a decade of distance from the original release, it’s possible to cheer for Jake and the Na’vi as if we were watching their story for the first time.
With the 4K remaster of Avatar hitting theaters, there’s no doubt left about why the movie continues to be an outlier at the box office. Cameron’s epic can still thrill the audience with breathtaking set pieces, bring them to tears with moving moments, and amaze people willing to explore a fantasy land like no other. Every frame is developed with such care that the movie remains one of the most beautiful works of art ever created by Hollywood. The IMAX 3D version of Avatar, in particular, makes revisiting Pandora even more staggering, as it allows us to watch Cameron’s work just as the filmmaker intended. With an ultra-realistic sound and image, Avatar can numb our senses to the outside world and take us on an unforgettable two-and-half-hour trip through a land filled with beauty and amazement.
The remastered version of Avatar is currently available in theaters and IMAX.