In preparation for the highly anticipated Avatar: The Way of Water, James Cameron’s original Avatar has been re-released in theaters on Sept. 23, 2022 for about a 3-4 week run or until the next big major film release pushes it out of rotation. When the film was originally released in Dec. 18, 2009, audiences and cinema analysts expected a gargantuan box-office hit, a cornucopia of technical wizardry & advancement and–at the very least–a fantastic time at the cinema. Check mark all those boxes, because the movie met and delivered to our impossibly high expectations and then some. The movie is still currently the highest grossing film of ALL TIME, sitting at 2.9 billion (yes, that’s billion with a ‘B’) dollars worldwide and closing in on being the first film to cross the 3 billion dollar mark with this current re-release.
So how did it all dovetail to reach such incredible heights? First of all, James Cameron makes a movie like every 10 years so there’s the compounded interest and curiosity of that. The fact that he promised a revolution of the theatrical experience and senses with the advancement of CGI and motion capture and 3D technology (3D was on the rise in 2009), is another. Add to that the word of mouth, which was highly infectious and buzz-worthy. And, of course, the solitary release date of Christmas/Winter vacation. Audiences went to see it multiple times in premium priced showings like IMAX, Dolby, 3D, etc. Seeing it again in the present, I couldn’t help but think about such an exciting time for the theatrical film experience. Nothing and nobody matches this type of spectacle filmmaking besides maybe Christopher Nolan films but, Nolan is curmudgeonly old fashioned and doesn’t embrace groundbreaking technology. Will James Cameron be the savior of cinema and the (currently dying) theatrical experience? The question remains.
Watching the film again in a Premium 3D theater, I remembered how singular of an experience it was. From the moment we land in Pandora and we see the depth of the 3D footage (Cameron shot this film natively in 3D) of the pods lined up in the space shuttle, I shook my head in disbelief. Again. Not because I was in awe of the technical achievement, which is literally 13 years old, but because I rarely ever revisit this film. But I should. And I will.
I’m guessing most audiences who don’t have access to a home theater system with decent audio or 4K HDR capable imaging will ever want to revisit it either. Not every TV on the market is 3D capable and the layperson will have a cruddy little sound bar, at most unfortunately, in their well lit living room and 65-inch flat screen. It made me feel especially fortunate that I took up the hobby, thanks to another home theater hobbyist friend of mine, back in the early 2010s. What I’m trying to say is that you, too, can re-experience Avatar or any other film that impressed you with it’s technical wizardry like you’ve seen it for the first time … again.
If you need an in depth guide to DIY Home Theaters, please visit this blog. And if you are a bit advanced for that or you think you are ready to up your home theater game, please visit this guide. For now, I’ll just talk about what you can get on a relatively modest budget. And I’ll keep it simple. First, audio is king. A lot of people rely too heavily on a big screen and visuals and then neglect their audio system. Big mistake.
To me, especially for big budget spectacle films like Avatar or Star Wars or Jurassic Park, the sound is like 70% of the experience and more often than not it’s what sells the shot. If you just saw the opening overhead shot of the Imperial cruiser in Star Wars, or just saw the big T-Rex foot stomp or direct to camera roar in Jurassic Park with no audio, then there’s no effect. It’s just a visual tone poem. But add the wall shaking rumble of your sub-woofer and the piercing scream of your center channel speaker and you’re getting the full effect of the intended experience.
Firstly, a good sub-woofer or even two is ideal. A 10″ or 12″ is sufficient. 15″ could be overkill, especially in smaller spaces. So I recommend one or two modest sized subs. Your bass is what you feel in the adrenaline pumping action sequences so don’t skimp out on that. Now for the 5.1 channel audio system. The most important thing is that your center channel and your front right and left speakers are from the same brand. I have a 5.1 Pioneer set that has lasted me going on 9+ years, so I highly recommend them. Your rear speakers aren’t as important since they don’t get nearly as much use as your fronts but don’t get crappy ones either. Nowadays there are 7.1 systems or even Dolby Atmos with ceiling speakers or directional bookshelf speakers but that’s for the advanced hobbyist. For your receiver, I’d stick to a reliable name like Denon or Yamaha. But the most important factor is that it supports your specifications like HDR, 3D, or 4K.
TV wise, I have a BenQ 1080p projector that supports 3D. It’s probably the most affordable 3D capable projector out there and you would just need a 100″ or even 120″ motorized projector screen. A 4K TV is probably the safest investment for your money, however. It is all purpose for movies, TV, streaming, gaming, etc. And probably the most practical. But a 4K TV that’s 3D capable is pretty rare and all but extinct in this day and age and marketplace. The holy grail that I’ve never been able to attain is the LG OLED65E6P, which is unfortunately discontinued but can be found used only on 3rd party markets and sellers. 3D Home Entertainment has been dead for awhile and TV manufacturers got out of the game pretty quickly. 4K projectors are currently very unaffordable for your average consumer, which is a shame, but 4K TVs are just the opposite and are becoming more and more affordable while their technology is quite sufficient for the next generation of ground breaking films and entertainment.
Bonus: The re-release of Avatar did include a clip from The Way of Water, and it was shown in true HFR (high frame rate). A technology that was used in The Hobbit films, unfittingly. But looked to be of great use as the movements in the water looked unreal. Here’s hoping Cameron use that technology to great effect. Who knows. I may have to upgrade my home theater system after the home video release of The Way of Water…again.
Avatar re-release is in theaters now. Avatar: The Way of Water will release in theaters Dec. 16, 2022.