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Ultra HD : Highly Recommended
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Release Date: June 20th, 2023 Movie Release Year: 2022

Avatar: The Way of Water - 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray

Overview -

James Cameron tops the box office charts once again with his long-gestating follow-up Avatar: The Way of Water. After taking global theater screens by storm and enjoying an early streaming-only release, the film finally comes home to 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray with visually stunning results. The HDR10 transfer is immaculate, the Atmos mix is exciting, and the three hours of bonus features are well worth digging into. A rival for the best home video presentation - this disc is Highly Recommended.

Avatar: The Way of Water reaches new heights and explores undiscovered depths as James Cameron returns to the world of Pandora in this emotionally packed action adventure. Set more than a decade after the events of the first film, Avatar: The Way of Water launches the story of the Sully family (Jake, Neytiri, and their kids), the trouble that follows them, the lengths they go to keep each other safe, the battles they fight to stay alive, and the tragedies they endure. All of this against the breathtaking backdrop of Pandora, where audiences are introduced to new Na’vi cultures and a range of exotic sea creatures that populate the majestic oceans. Nominated for numerous Academy Awards® including Best Picture, the James Cameron-directed film became the third highest-grossing box office film of all-time and set a new benchmark for visual effects. Produced by Cameron and his longtime partner Jon Landau, the Lightstorm Entertainment production stars Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldaña, Sigourney Weaver, Stephen Lang, Cliff Curtis and Kate Winslet. Joining the illustrious adult cast are talented newcomers Britain Dalton, Jamie Flatters, Trinity Jo-Li Bliss, Bailey Bass and Jack Champion.

Bonus Features*

Inside Pandora's Box (A series of featurettes on the challenges facing cast and crew as filmmakers devise new technologies to push the limits of cinema)

·         Building the World of Pandora – James Cameron and a team of talented artists combine years of research with their design skills to build the world of Pandora with new characters, creatures, indigenous clans, underwater environments and the take-no-prisoners hard-tech world of the RDA.

·         Capturing Pandora – James Cameron’s approach to performance capture has the cast performing in a volume rigged with infrared cameras to capture their movement, and head rig cameras to capture emotion on their faces with only the boundaries of imagination to limit them.

·         The Undersea World of Pandora – Co-production designer Dylan Cole and his team conceive of the marine creatures required for Avatar: The Way of Water while James Cameron and his stunt team devise extraordinary means to bring those creatures to life in a performance capture tank.

·         The Challenges of Pandora's Waters – James Cameron tackles the “non-trivial challenge” of performance capture above and below the water’s surface, utilizing a wave machine and current generator to reproduce ocean conditions, and underwater vehicles to replicate creature movement.

·         Pandora’s Returning Characters – James Cameron reunites with his returning cast – Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldan?a, Sigourney Weaver and Stephen Lang. Together they discuss the amazing evolution of their characters in Avatar: The Way of Water.

·         Pandora’s Next Generation – Meet the talented young newcomers who have been cast as the next generation of Na’vi and follow them through the adventure of making Avatar: The Way of Water.

·         Spider's Web – James Cameron introduced the human character of Spider into the fabric of Pandora – thus creating a host of technological challenges on set…and an incredible journey for the young actor, Jack Champion.

·         Becoming Na’vi – The Avatar cast is immersed in the culture of the indigenous Na’vi, living off the land in the Hawaiian rainforest and training in a multitude of disciplines in preparation for their roles.

·         The Reef People of Pandora – In true James Cameron-style, the Metkayina reef clan has been developed with great attention to detail, bearing unique evolutionary traits and a culture – with new dwellings, new clothes and different way of life – all a result of living off the ocean.

·         Bringing Pandora to Life – Once James Cameron completes his virtual production process, every sequence is turned over to We?ta? FX to bring Pandora to life – with unprecedented advancements in facial performance, environments and making CG water look real.

·         The RDA Returns to Pandora – Co-production designer Ben Procter and his team present an armada of new vehicles and human technologies that the RDA brings to Pandora – in concept design and with practical builds.

·         The New Characters of Pandora – Meet the important new characters of the Avatar saga played by Kate Winslet, Cliff Curtis, Edie Falco, Brendan Cowell and Jemaine Clement.

·         The Sounds of Pandora – Hear how James Cameron worked with composer Simon Franglen to create the distinctive music of The Way of Water while building on James Horner’s brilliant score for Avatar, and learn how Chris Boyes created the immersive sounds of Pandora.

·         New Zealand – Pandora’s Home – The production of the Avatar sequels is so thoroughly ensconced in New Zealand that James Cameron considers The Way of Water a “New Zealand film.” Hear reflections from the cast and crew, including the remarkable New Zealand crew, on making the film.

 

More from Pandora's Box (Additional featurettes that highlight special teams within the production)

·         Casting – Discover the screen tests that won the talented young cast their roles in Avatar: The Way of Water.

·         Stunts – The Avatar stunt team isn’t just creating breathtaking action, they’re driving the story. From racing underwater on ilus, flying the skies on ikrans, to maneuvering RDA speed boats, the stunt team leaves you breathless and wanting more.

·         The Lab – Explore the Lightstorm Lab, the backbone of virtual production for the Avatar films. Comprised of specialized teams, the Lab builds & supports every aspect of the production – environments, motion edit, Kabuki, sequence, post-viz and software development.

·         The Troupe – Avatar’s Troupe is the Swiss Army Knife of acting, while playing dozens of roles on set, in the performance capture volume and on live-action sets, they bring life to Na’vi clans and RDA Recoms. They also play Na’vi-scale puppets on the live-action sets.

 

Marketing Materials & Music Video (Marketing materials used to build audience awareness of the film)

·         Nothing Is Lost (You Give Me Strength) Music Video – Multi-Grammy-winning, music superstar, The Weeknd, performs his emotionally packed end title song in the official music video for the smash hit “Nothing Is Lost (You Give Me Strength).”

·         Theatrical Trailers 1 & 2 – Avatar: The Way of Water used two theatrical trailers to engage the audience. The first was a teaser trailer released 7 months before the film. The second was a standard trailer that premiered 5 weeks before the film’s release.

 

English Family Audio Track – 5.1 Dolby Digital

 

*Bonus features vary by product and retailer

 

OVERALL:
Highly Recommended
Rating Breakdown
STORY
VIDEO
AUDIO
SPECIAL FEATURES
Tech Specs & Release Details
Technical Specs:
Three-Disc Set
Video Resolution/Codec:
2160p HEVC/H.265
Aspect Ratio(s):
1.85:1
Audio Formats:
English 7.1.4 Dolby Atmos, English 5.1 Dolby Digital, English 2.0 DTS-HDMA, English 2.0 Dolby Digital, French 5.1 Dolby Digital, Spanish 7.1 Dolby Digital
Subtitles/Captions:
English SDH, French, Spanish
Release Date:
June 20th, 2023

Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take

Ranking:

I already reviewed Avatar: The Way of Water 4K UHD Streaming so I won’t subject you to those thoughts again here, you can click that link and read it if you so choose. 

For another less-positive opinion, you can read Bryan’s Avatar: The Way of Water - Film Review 




Vital Disc Stats: The 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray
Avatar: The Way of Water takes flight onto 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray with a three-disc 4K UHD + Blu-ray + Digital release. The 4K version is pressed on a BD-100, the 1080p gets a BD-50, with another BD-50 disc reserved for bonus features. Since it seems to be a thing that needs doing now to make sure, flipping region settings on my Oppo, all discs are Region-Free. The discs are housed in a multi-disc case, the 4K disc came stacked over the bonus features disc. A black slipcover with raised features is included in the packaging. Each disc loads to a language select menu before moving on to a static image main menu with standard navigation options. The digital copy is Movies Anywhere compatible and will port to all supported services.

Note - all images are pulled from the 1080p Blu-ray, we haven't been able to pull 4K disc-sourced images yet, but hope to soon.

Video Review

Ranking:

After an initial streaming-only 4K release with Dolby Vision HDR, Avatar: The Way of Water splashes down on disc with a gorgeous HDR10 transfer. While the Dolby Vision streaming version is very good, I have to tip my hat to this disc. The HDR10 grading holds its own delivering a disc experience that features immaculate details, clean lines, and is free of the constraints and limitations of streaming. With a maxed-out BD-100 disc, the bitrate stays strong and consistent throughout. I felt like fine hairs in Sully’s dreadlocked hair, skin imperfections for the CGI characters, human faces, and makeup applications all look sharper and cleaner on disc.

The HDR10 grading isn’t all that different from the Dolby Vision option on streaming in my opinion. Where DV can refine the shadow separation a little bit better, those differences are pretty minuscule. On disc, primaries are lush and vivid with naturally healthy skin tones for humans and Na’vi alike. Black levels are deep and inky with lovely specular highlights - especially when the light catches water droplets in the rain or during the big long action-packed finale in the open ocean. I also felt the disc presentation offered up a much more robust feeling of three-dimensional depth than the streaming. Certainly not as much as say the 3-D Blu-ray, but enough to give this disc the edge for 2-D Home viewing.

Audio Review

Ranking:

Once again Atmos returns for Avatar: The Way of Water. I felt the streaming audio was very good and the active soundscape and object placement for sound effects, music, and dialog remains the same. However, I felt like there was a little more oomph to the mix here. Much like the Avatar Atmos mix, I did have to punch up my levels a little bit, but not as much as the streaming. I felt like low-end elements like explosions or bass notes in the score came through with a little more impact. Not a vast amount, it’s still very mid-range Atmos like a lot of Disney mixes, but this isn’t anything as bad as we’ve heard on some Marvel films over the years. Like Avatar, not quite demo-worthy, but still damned good.

Here’s what I had to say about the streaming experience:

Both iTunes and Vudu offer up Atmos audio tracks and it’s a hell of a mix. Overall I felt the iTunes had the better bass and LFE response but both kicked for an exciting immersive surround experience. There’s barely a second of the film that doesn’t offer some sort of fully-packed surround soundscape with plenty of overhead activity. The big action sequences obviously get the most care and attention but even the simple scenes of Sully’s kids swimming underwater provides a fully engaged front/center, side, rear, and height sonic experience. That last hour is 100% demo-worthy material. Throughout the show, the dialog is clean and clear without any issues. Simon Franglen takes over scoring duties for the late James Horner. Much like his work for The Magnificent Seven remake, you feel those old iconic Horner motifs while expanding the work with his own flavor. It’s a lovely accompaniment to the film and never overpowers the mix delivering maximum emotional impact for many key sequences.

Special Features

Ranking:

In another fine turn from Disney/20th Century - all of those bonus features that were issued on streaming carry over to this bonus features disc. Totaling over three hours of content, it’s a very thorough and detailed collection of materials. The beast of the mix is certainly the Inside Pandora’s Box content. Made up of several featurettes, you can use the play-all function and they roll together like one big long documentary exploring every facet of the production. I’d say the most interesting segments involve all of the underwater motion capture work and what it took to bring that biome to life on screen and in the giant studio swimming pool facility. Again, no Cameron commentary, but he’s present throughout the extras so much so that I doubt a commentary track would really add anything. Fans will definitely want to dig through everything here.

  • Inside Pandora’s Box (HD 2:32:14)
    • Building the World of Pandora
    • Capturing Pandora
    • The Undersea World of Pandora
    • The Challenges of Pandora’s Waters
    • Pandora’s Returning Characters
    • Pandora’s Next Generation
    • Spider’s Web
    • Becoming Na’Vi
    • The Reef People of Pandora
    • Bringing Pandora to Life
    • The RDA Returns to Pandora
    • The New Characters of Pandora
    • The Sounds of Pandora
    • New Zealand - Pandora’s Home
  • More From Pandora’s Box (HD 28:06)
    • Casting
    • Stunts
    • The Lab
    • The Troupe
  • Marketing Materials (8:51)
    • Nothing is lost - Music Video
    • Theatrical Trailer 1
    • Theatrical Trailer 2

James Cameron now has three of the highest-grossing movies globally under his belt. And since this follow-up became another multi-billion dollar phenomenon, Cameron will likely be spending the rest of his career on Pandora. Which I don’t mind at all. I thought this film was a better-realized version of what Cameron set out to make in 2009. That film was like an introductory proof-of-concept whereas The Way of Water actually feels like Avatar as a franchise truly begins. Now with at least three more films on the horizon, we have years of Pandora adventures ahead of us - and hopefully, physical media is still around to enjoy it!

On 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray, Avatar: The Way of Water comes home with a gorgeous 2160p HDR10 disc. While it may lack Dolby Vision, it’s still a terrific presentation front to back fully maxing out that BD-100 disc space. Details are amazing throughout and you don’t have to worry about streaming compression or internet fluctuations. The Atmos may not quite be reference quality but it’s a damn exciting mix all the same. Cap it off with over three hours of extra features and you have one hell of a great 4K disc for the collection. Highly Recommended