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“Avatar” arrives on Blu-ray, and we’ve got a review!

HollywoodNews.com stays on top of the latest DVD and Blu-ray releases so you know which films are worth your time and money. This week, we recommend:

Wow. Really, wow. Just … unbelievable.

Healthy speculation and a fair amount of skepticism awaits James Cameron’s blockbuster “Avatar” as it arrives on Blu-ray in time for Earth Day. Without the 3-D component that was essential to the theatrical experience, how would the film hold up? Could the story support a drop off in visual quality? And will people want to revisit Cameron’s imaginary planet of Pandora if they can’t see it in a third dimension?

Here’s the thing, though. There is no drop off in visual quality. None. Yes, “Avatar” is presented in 2-D on the Blu-ray. But to date, this is the best-looking Blu-ray transfer of a film I’ve seen, and man, it ain’t even close.

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Cameron’s visuals are razor sharp with no excessive brightness. Pandora’s colors burst off the screen, using a wide palette of blues and greens that I didn’t even know my television was capable of replicating. The purple streams in Chapter 19’s “A Son of the Omaticaya” are gorgeously rendered. Skip right to Chapter 17 on the Blu-ray, “First Flight,” and you’ll swear you are soaring over Pandora with Sam Worthington’s soldier, Jake. I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that this will be the film that inspires everyone on the planet to invest in Blu-ray technology.

Now, there is a little grain and background blurring in action sequences like “Flight.” This causes problems in the climactic conclusion, where the Na’vi face off against Stephen Lang’s military forces. Cameron’s film remains long, considering the story it’s trying to tell. And there are no extras attached directly to the package (except for a standard-definition copy of the film on a separate DVD). There’s no commentary track, no deleted scenes, no behind-the-scenes features included to review.

Instead, patrons are given a personalized code and invited to join an “Avatar” program that will unlock exclusive content, updates, coupons and more. It remains to be seen how many fans will bother logging on to the “Avatar” Web site to register for the program. Especially because that would require drifting away from the television screen for a few minutes, and why do that when the picture on screen looks so good?

The “Avatar” Blu-ray doesn’t duplicate the IMAX 3-D experience. But it is a worthy portal back to Pandora for fans of the film, and a breathtaking Blu-ray transfer that instantly raises the home entertainment bar.

The movie — *** out of 4
The Blu-ray — **** out of 4


About Sean O'Connell

Sean O'Connell is a nationally recognized film critic. His reviews have been published in print ('The Washington Post,' 'USA Today') and online (AMC FilmCritic.com, MSN's Citysearch) since 1996. He's a weekly contributor to several national radio programs. He is a longstanding member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA), the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS), and the Southeastern Film Critics View all articles by Sean O'Connell Association (SEFCA).

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  • April 23, 2010 | Permalink |

    It’s nice to see a reviewer who hasn’t jumped on the “pick-on-Avatar” bandwagon simply because it’s so popular.

    I very much agree with Sean in that I was amazed at the quality of this movie on Blu-ray. My expectations were already very high, and even they were totally blown away!

    I didn’t notice any of this “grain and background blurring” in even the most intensive action sequences. But I have read that the Avatar Blu-ray uses the newest copy protection scheme which may require firmware updates for your player, and that some players (even with an update) still had some performance issues. Note that this is not a fault of the Blu-ray disc, (as soon most/all Blu-ray discs will be using this same scheme), but of the player. Regardless, this is a rare issue and not one to be fretted over.

    Although I preferred Avatar in 3D, it wasn’t at all necessary to see it that way. But because the quality and detail of the Blu-ray is THAT amazing, I almost swore I was watching it 3D at times!

  • May 3, 2010 | Permalink |

    Yes, the blu ray quality is impressive, but the image is NOT the transfer of the IMAX presentation, but a simple full screen version with less image in the left and right borders, and also in the upper ando lower ones. I know what i’ve seen in cinemas, and in blu ray this is a great deception, for we simply see about 1/4 of the original frame. Notice this specially in the action scenes, and when more than two characters appear in the frame. THis is very disgusting, specially for people who use home projectors with a 1:2,35 screen.

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