This review is based on IMAX 3D experience.
Everything old is new again in Avatar‘s theatrical re-release, complete with a remastered version in 4K High Dynamic Range (HDR) format. I remember when I first watched the movie back in 2009 in 3D. It felt uncomfortable putting on a pair of bulky 3D glasses over my regular glasses. Not to mention the fact the movie’s nearly 3-hour length caused my eyes strained and teary by the time I walked out of the darkened cinema hall.
And yet, here I am. I was originally sceptical to relive the 3D experience of Avatar‘s re-release. Besides, paying for a 3D ticket is more expensive than what I used to pay in 2009 (that’s nearly 12 years ago!) and you can imagine how much more it costs for an IMAX 3D ticket. But the remastered 4K HDR format somehow piqued my interest to check out the movie again, which actually marked my second time watching it on the big screen. Unlike other James Cameron movies such as Aliens (1986), Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) and True Lies (1994), Avatar just doesn’t have the same rewatchability factor. All to the point I still find Avatar remains one of his weakest movies to date (the other one would be his 1982 debut in Piranha II: The Spawning).
Well, thankfully, it’s all worth the hard-earned money watching Avatar‘s 4K HDR format on IMAX 3D. It looks more incredible and visually stunning than the original 3D version in 2009. In other words, the remastered 4K HDR format isn’t a cheap marketing gimmick for a mere cash grab. Even the cause of eyestrain has become a thing of the past and I have a little problem watching it with 3D glasses over my regular glasses (save it for the time I need to wipe my glasses due to the fogging-up issue from wearing a mask).
It helps that the picture looks brighter too. And so does the colour that pops with better vibrancy and crisper details in every scene, particularly when the movie takes place in the vivid world of Pandora. No doubt that watching Avatar on IMAX with the updated sound quality is cinematic. Although the movie may have been over a decade old, the CGI looks as seamless as ever and watching it again made me realise how much painstaking effort Cameron has poured his heart into Avatar. Certainly a far cry from what I’ve seen in many big-budget and CG-heavy superhero movies these days.
The remastered 4K HDR quality also immerses me deeply into the world of Pandora — the indigenous species of 10-foot-tall and blue-skinned Na’vi humanoids, the exotic flora and fauna (among the latter ones include the dragon-like flying reptiles known as ikran a.k.a. mountain banshees) and the breathtaking scenery of the glowing forest and the Huangshan-inspired floating mountains (Hallelujah Mountains).
(Most) audiences who have seen Avatar in 2009 may accuse James Cameron’s screenplay as nothing more than a rip-off of Ferngully: The Last Rainforest (1992), Pocahontas (1995) and Dances with Wolves (1990). The first time when I watched Avatar, I did feel the story lacks the narrative prowess seen in some of Cameron’s better movies, notably Aliens and Terminator 2: Judgment Day.
But for the second time around, I find it more forgiving with the way the story is told. It may have been clichéd and familiar. And yet, it’s hard to deny Cameron has a knack for telling his story efficiently that gets his message across. Even when the movie stretches to almost 3-hour long. But the truth is, it hardly feels like it needs a tighter pace. It doesn’t drag because all the expositions and worldbuilding justify the length. This goes to show that sometimes familiarity does work in its favour. Not to forget, themes like environmentalism and capitalism that are incorporated into the movie still remain relevant and topical even today.
Cameron knows well about structuring a good payoff after all the build-up tension and of course, the time that you have invested in sitting through the length of his movie. He already proved himself time and time again in movies like Aliens, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, True Lies and even Titanic. And in Avatar, he escalates the stakes in the third act to both thrilling and palpable effects.
Remember not to leave your seat just yet once the movie ends. Stick around for a special preview for the upcoming Avatar: The Way of Water.