But the HFR technology remains divisive.
The success of Avatar: The Way of Water. The new movie is a genuine surprise because it is the follow-up to the highest-grossing movie ever, which was attacked for its formulaic plot (and the unexpectedly limited impact it had on pop culture). It’s a grand epic that considers the nature of families, how we interact with the environment, and humanity’s insatiable appetite for murder and robbery. With of further assistance from Amanda Silver and Rick Jaffa, fans of the original movie no longer have to make excuses for the clunky script that writer and director James Cameron created (who both worked on the recent criminally under-loved Planet of the Apes trilogy).
The fact that James Cameron was able to create the best high frame rate (HFR) movie to date is maybe what most people will find astounding. Compared to the conventional 24 frames per second, some sequences play back at 48 frames per second, giving them a smoother and more realistic gloss. Because of this, the 3D action scenes feel immensely vivid; occasionally, HFR may make you forget that the lush alien species on Pandora is fictional.
The Avatar sequel uses the technology in a different way than the few high frame rate films we’ve already seen, including The Hobbit trilogy, Ang Lee’s Gemini Man, and Billy Lynn’s Long Half-Time Walk. While slower dialogue passages appear to be moving at 24 frames per second, Cameron uses HFR for major action sequences rather than employing it throughout the entire film. The quieter scenes utilize doubled frames to deceive your brain into thinking they are being displayed at the standard theatrical frame rate while the entire movie is actually shot at 48 frames per second.
Your brain might experience a similar reaction while watching the movie if this sounds a little perplexing. The Way of Water frequently shifts between pseudo-24 fps and hyper-real HFR in the same scene; at one point, I counted almost a dozen switches in a matter of minutes. Cameron has been talking about this plan of action for years. He stated that HFR is “a tool, not a format” in 2016 and later rejected Ang Lee’s attempt to use HFR for the entirety of Gemini Man.
Cameron’s two-pronged strategy for HFR is sure to spark debate. Even though I enjoy the technology’s benefits, such as clear 3D action scenes free of strobing or blurring, switching between high frame rate and 24 fps film took some getting used to. My brain adjusted to the hyper-reality of HFR with Gemini Man in around 15 minutes. I almost kept an eye out for when the film shifted in The Way of Water.
The Way of Water’s high frame rate footage ultimately worked for me despite the annoying format changes. The movie contains stunning vistas of lush woods and oceans, giving the impression that it is occasionally a window into the realm of Pandora. It gives Cameron’s creations—from giant flying fish-like animals you can ride to alien whales with sophisticated language—the appearance of being alive and breathing. HFR also complements the sequel’s more up-to-date CG animation, giving the Navi and their way of life a more authentic air.
Even though the director’s goal was more than his ability to achieve, I was eventually able to see what he was going for throughout the course of the film’s three hours and twelve minutes. (Cameron advises that you are free to use the restroom at any moment while seeing The Way of Water. He is the director of the third-highest earning movie of all time, Titanic, and the world’s first movie, Avatar. The following time you watch it in a theatre, you’ll just catch up. Baller.)
This month’s prior re-release of Avatar similarly combined HFR and conventional material (in addition to brightening the picture and upscaling the film to 4K). Yet, despite the fact that the redesign alone brought in over $70 million, there hasn’t been much criticism of the way high frame rate film was included. (I watched it on a Regal RPX screen, which sadly did not support 3D or more frames.) You have a better chance of seeing Avatar: The Way of Water as director James Cameron intended. At selected IMAX theatres as well as all AMC Dolby Cinema sites, it will be shown in 4K, HFR, and 3D. (single laser screens get everything, some dual-laser screens will only offer 2K 3D with HFR). Although it was visible to you.
I concluded that the technology was largely a waste of time and just another money-grab that Hollywood could employ to raise ticket costs after suffering through the endless Hobbit movies in HFR. Peter Jackson, the director, struggled to recapture the magic of his Lord of the Rings trilogy, and due to production problems, he also failed to adjust how he shot the Hobbit movies to take HFR into consideration. As a result, there were sets that appeared to be lifted directly from B-grade fantasy films and outfits that looked like they were purchased from a Spirit Halloween pop-up shop.
I was persuaded that HFR still had some promise by Ang Lee’s more methodical uses of the technology, especially in the action scenes in Gemini Man. Yet he encountered difficulties too. A curious cinematic phenomenon occurs in Billy Lynn’s Long Half-Time Walk, when HFR makes slow speech passages seem overly distractingly authentic. A clumsy script and the requirement that it be a high-budget Will Smith picture were Gemini Man’s downfalls.
Avatar: The Way of Water gains from all of the preceding high frame rate movies’ artistic blunders. It will be interesting to see how broad audiences react because for many, this technology will be introduced. I could imagine younger viewers, who have grown up with hundreds of hours of Minecraft and Fortnight, connecting with Cameron’s vision since video games and hyper-real YouTube action footage have made 60fps footage far more prevalent. The rest will require more persuasion. For me, however, I’m just happy that a high frame rate movie has been released that is actually fantastic rather than merely a piece of technological wizardry.