Writer/producer/director James Cameron has quite a resume. After a couple of forgettable projects in the late 1970s and early '80s, the low-budget sci-fi thriller The Terminator was his first major breakthrough into mainstream cinema, after which he found moderate box-office success with Aliens and The Abyss. His first major blockbuster came in 1991 with Terminator 2: Judgment Day when it broke the $200 million box-office barrier.

In 1997 came Titanic and its estimated $200 million production budget, a record sum at the time. Had Paramount lost its mind bankrolling the project? Fortunately for the studio, its financial gamble paid off when Titanic became the highest-grossing film of all time (not inflation adjusted), earning $600 million in the US ($1.8 billion worldwide) and winning 11 Oscars in the bargain. Cameron truly was the king of the world.

The idea for Avatar came to Cameron sometime in the mid-1990s, although the technology at the time couldn't realize his vision. Over a decade later, it became technologically feasible to complete the ambitious project for a cool $237 million.

This time around, Fox stepped up to the plate—as Paramount learned in 1997, a bet on Cameron is virtually a sure thing. Despite its paper-thin "been there, done that" story, the 3D film shattered Titanic's box-office records, raking in $745 million domestically and an impressive $2.7 billion worldwide.

While Blu-ray 3D is just beginning to appear, this release is in 2D, and frankly, it's as close as you'll come to seeing 3D without those funky glasses. And the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack is nearly as impressive. Folks, it doesn't get any better than this.

First sortie

  • Chapter 7, 0:24:56
  • Detail, depth, color saturation, surround envelopment
  • As Jake jumps out of the scorpion, check out the rich detail in the scene—the lush foliage, the multi-colored paint job of the futuristic transport, and the rich hue of the Na'vi skin.
  • As the scorpion descends to the landing zone, listen to the whirl of its dual blades, the snapping of the foliage, and the scampering of the local wildlife as they make their way to a safer location.

The Omaticaya Clan

  • Chapter 12, 0:45:16
  • Detail, depth
  • Randomly picking a scene will pretty much guarantee reference-quality video, but at this particular point, notice the detail in the chief's face. The digital image is breathtaking with his wrinkly skin, lifelike eyes, and elaborate attire adorning his neck and scalp.

Battle for Pandora

  • Chapter 31, 2:16:44
  • Detail, dynamics, surround envelopment
  • As the two ships battle for air supremacy, check out the floating mountains and the vivid detail they contain. Pandora looks like a pretty cool world to visit.
  • James Horner's powerful score fills the room as the missiles and bullets fly from speaker to speaker. The climactic battle is essentially a 45-minute demo showpiece, so sit back and enjoy.

Release Date: April 22, 2010
Studio: Fox

Movie: 7/10
Picture: 10/10
Sound: 10/10