Thirteen years have passed since James Cameron’s groundbreaking visual masterpiece, Avatar, flew into theaters. Do you feel old yet? Now, the Na’vi are rising once more to be introduced to a new generation of viewers in a newly remastered 4K re-release of Avatar in theaters on September 23, 2022, for a limited time.
The timing is fitting with the rapidly-approaching release of the long-awaited sequel, Avatar: The Way of Water. Knowing James Cameron, he never skimps on the technology or the visuals audiences will get to experience in theaters. And, in the case of the re-release of Avatar, it was essential for the director to make sure the film looked better than ever on the big screen.
Vital Thrills got to learn more about what audiences should expect to see in the newly-updated Avatar with producer, writer, and director James Cameron and the core cast of the film: Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Sigourney Weaver, Michelle Rodriguez, and Stephen Lang.
Set in 2154, Avatar transports us to the lush alien world of Pandora. Living on the planet are the Na’vi, highly-evolved beings that can survive in the hostile environment. Humans cannot, however, as Pandora’s environment is poisonous to them.
The only way for humans to access the world of Pandora is through human/Na’vi hybrids called Avatars. The human minds must link to these Avatars to make their way through Pandora.
It is through the film’s exploration of Pandora that the visuals shine, and where Cameron’s implementation and execution of the 3D technologies at the time immersed audiences in a way that we never had experienced before. It would also come to influence cinematographers and filmmakers years after release.
James Cameron doesn’t take complete credit for the 3D explosion that happened the couple years after Avatar‘s release. He did share, however, that its achievements created a gateway for the embrace of digital technologies.
“Avatar won best cinematography with a 3D digital camera. No digital camera had ever won the best cinematography Oscar before. [T]hen two out of the three subsequent years, the same cameras were used by the cinematographers that won the Oscars.”
He added: “So, you’ve got three out of four years where digital cinematography was embraced by the Academy. Three out of four Oscar winners for four years were in 3D.”
Those of us who remember the 3D craze of the early 2010s remember how you couldn’t go anywhere without seeing 3D advertised in theaters. And like that, it seemed the phase had sorted itself out. Cameron pointed out though that 3D wasn’t over. No, it’s just been accepted as a viewing option alongside 2D.
“I think around the time of Avatar, people went to see movies because they were in 3D. Nobody’s gonna go see a movie today because it’s in 3D,” Cameron said.
“It’s all the other factors by which we choose a film. I think it had an impact on the way films were presented that’s now just sort of accepted and part of the zeitgeist and how it’s done.”
So, when it came time to sit down and figure out how to re-vamp the movie for release, the team couldn’t 100% rely on the lure of 3D to put butts in seats. With that said, though, the prospect of having Avatar screen in theaters again to show to younger generations who didn’t experience the theatrical spectacle in person was enough to get the ball rolling, according to Cameron.
“There’s so many people out there, a whole new generation of film fans coming up. Even if they like the movie on streaming or, Blu-ray or however they saw it, they still haven’t really seen the movie the way we intended it to be seen.”
What exact changes were made, though? It’s a lot less crazy than some may think. At least on paper. James Cameron explained: “We authored the film for the big screen, for the giant screen, in 3D. [N]ow we’ve remastered it in 4K, in high-dynamic range and some 48-frame-per-second sections in the film. It’s looking better than it ever looked, even back in its initial release.”
With so many theaters and televisions clued into 4K, it makes all the sense in the world to remaster it that way. On the off chance that people can’t see it in theaters, the remastered 4K edition of Avatar will pair well with devices at home.
When asked how he was feeling about the newly remastered version, the director was more than pleased. “We just watched the film recently when we finished the whole remastering process, and it blew us away.”
“That’s hard to say with any degree of humility, but we were really impressed with how the movie looked. Just the physical experience of the film, and we’re just really excited to share that with people that have never seen it in a movie theater.”
Will the remaster be enough to bring new viewers into the theaters and fill the seats? Will the massive impact of Avatar in the short-term carry over in the long-term, especially with how long the gap has been between the first and second film? Cameron settled with this: “[In] terms of long-cultural impact, well, I guess we’ll find out if people are up for Avatar 2.”
If you missed it earlier on, the 4K re-mastered edition of James Cameron’s Avatar will be released on September 23, 2022. If you like it, 20th Century Studios‘ much-anticipated sequel, Avatar: Way of Water, is slated to hit theaters on December 16, 2022.