If you haven’t seen Avatar in a movie theater, it “kinda means you haven’t seen the film,” at least according to writer-director James Cameron. Not that Cameron is the kind of guy who would throw shade at Blu-ray, Disney+, or your 85-inch flat-screen TV—actually, wait, he probably is that kind of guy. Regardless, the filmmaker now firmly believes that the best way to experience his 2009 sci-fi fantasy blockbuster is with the newly remastered version of the film arriving in theaters Friday in 3D with 4K high-dynamic range.
While Hollywood is hoping the return of Cameron’s 3D classic will help jumpstart a slow September box office, the rerelease of the Academy Award-winning film also serves as an opening act for Avatar: The Way of WaterCameron’s 12-years-in-the-making follow-up, which is scheduled to hit theaters on December 16.
Right now, though, Cameron wants to talk about the original Avatar. “It’s looking better than it ever looked, even back in its initial release,” he said during a recent press conference, which reunited the filmmaker with cast members Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldaña, Sigourney Weaver, Michelle Rodriguez, and Stephen Lang.
Audiences will get to see the film “the way we intended it to be seen,” Cameron added. “The physical experience of the film, we’re just really excited to share that with people that have never seen it in a movie theater.”
Weaver, reflecting on her memories of playing exobiologist Dr. Grace Augustine, amplified Cameron’s position. “The only way you can go to Pandora is by going to the theater and seeing it in 3D—that’s the rocket ship,” she said. Asked about how well she’d understood what the 9-foot-tall, all-blue Avatar version of her character would look like, she admitted that upon filming those scenes, she hadn’t yet constructed her “earthly being” just yet. “With Jim, you step off the cliff, you know that the best people in the world are in charge of every department, and you can trust that the process will never let you down. So that I had, even though I didn’t have the answers to everything.”
Saldaña, whose character Neytiri has no humanoid counterpart and who therefore had to put all her faith into the film’s motion-capture technology, echoed the sentiment. “My imagination was never as infinite as when I was there. And the last time I remember that was when I was a child.”
“Zoe had nothing to act with but just these gray set pieces, and sometimes just a gray painted box or piece of pipe to hold onto,” Cameron remembered, as he discussed the motion capture filming techniques his team pioneered alongside visual effects company Weta Digital . “I think in the first few minutes, [audiences] just gave up trying to figure out how it was done, because we mixed so many techniques it took us years to develop. And so they just surrendered to a sense of immersion in a world and in a fantasy.
“I just look back on everybody’s work and [am] so grateful to have had an opportunity to work with these amazing people,” he added. “And I think that’s why I promptly went out and wrote another and another and another Avatar.“