According to director James Cameron, the visual effects of the upcoming Avatar sequels are awe-inspiring. He is concerned that the original film (2009) may seem old-world.
Thankfully, though, the first film was remastered ahead of the recent release, less than three months before its most anticipated sequel, Avatar: The Way of Water, premieres in theaters on December 16th.
The latest version of Avatar is visually significantly better than 13 years ago thanks to the 4K High Dynamic Range upgrade.
“I went into that screening worried that it was going to be a bit cringe-worthy relative to the new film, which looks pretty spectacular,” Cameron said in an interview with EW of his experience watching the original movie remastered for the first time.
“As the film ended, I went, ‘Hmm, I don’t know. I’m now worried about the new film,'” the director jested, ahead of getting the records straight, “That’s not true. I’m not worried about the new film. It looks pretty amazing. But I am hopeful that people will get out to the cinema and either discover or rediscover that experience so that they know what an Avatar movie’s all about.”
Cameron’s children were among those who saw the remastered film.
“I got to watch it with my kids, who are 15, 18, and 21, recently. And they hadn’t seen it in 3D in a theater, certainly not in the state that it’s in right now because it’s more gorgeous than it’s ever been.”
Watching the film again today, the filmmaker feels a renewed appreciation for what he and his team accomplished back then.
“It’s remastered in 4K, it’s remastered in an Atmos 9.1 sound, which wasn’t available at the time. We judiciously used high frame rates to smooth out some of the 3D. So, it looks better than I’ve ever seen it. I was sitting there going, ‘We did that? Wow,'” Cameron said.
Despite Avatar’s commercial and critical success in 2009, Cameron said the sequel was even “more ambitious” than the original.
“Certainly, water is much more difficult to realize in CG,” he emphasized. “And our water is mostly CG water, but you won’t be able to tell. It looks photo-real. It looks like we just went out to the ocean in Pandora and shot it.”
Cameron: Avatar is a Dream
In Cameron’s view, the objective of the visual effect is for the crowd to feel like they are in a dream.
“In dreams, we believe we’re in the situation while we’re dreaming,” the director elaborated. “And that’s what I wanted to accomplish with the new film. That’s what I wanted to accomplish with the first Avatar and what I think we did.”
He further said, “Through the world-building and through the presentation and bright laser 3D and so on, you’re there. You can see every leaf on the tree. You feel like you can reach out and touch it. But it’s a new story with new characters, new stakes, new jeopardy, et cetera.”
While visuals are crucial for Cameron and Avatar, storytelling is the most important aspect of any movie.
“It’s all about: Do I care about these people?” Cameron asked.
“It doesn’t matter how beautiful the film is, how breathtaking the visuals are. Do I care? Am I having an emotional reaction? Resonating with their sense of loss or tragedy or love or whatever it is? That’s what movies are all about. It doesn’t matter how big or how small they are – they have succeed on that level first.”
The remastered Avatar premiered globally on September 23 ahead of Avatar: The way of Water on December 16.