Avatar: The Way of Water – Should it be seen in IMAX?

Avatar: The Way of Water have been out for a few weeks and has already crossed the $1 billion mark at the worldwide box office. Despite the 13-year wait that audiences had to endure between the original Avatar and the sequel, James Cameron hasn’t missed a beat as many have praised the director for once again creating a sequel that rivaled its predecessor.

But with the amount of success the film has garnered, not only from critics but also everyday moviegoers, it’s worth wondering if those audiences have even seen Avatar: The Way of Water yet – or at least seen the way it was meant to be seen. Avatar 2like the previous one Avatar film, was shot by Cameron in a style intended for the final cut of the film to be seen in an IMAX theater rather than a standard one. But since standard cinemas are far more common (and cheaper), many viewers have chosen to see the film in the latter option, which warrants the question – do The Way of the Water really need to be seen in IMAX for people to get the full picture?

Standard theater does not take away from the story

First things first – regardless of the fact that James Cameron filmed the film with the overall intention that it would be seen in an IMAX cinema, where he experienced The Way of the Water in a standard theater certainly won’t affect one thing, and that’s the incredible story that Cameron and his team put together for the sequel. Again, it had been over a decade since most viewers had seen the original film, yet Cameron was able to slip audiences back into the story and characters as if Avatar premiered last year instead of 13 years ago. Pandora felt like a comforting home, and the Sullys felt like long-lost friends that viewers couldn’t wait to catch up with—whether you saw the film in IMAX or a regular theater.

As it is, the story certainly doesn’t need any fancy visuals or over-the-top 3D imagery to connect with audiences on a human level, so the first argument would be that no, the film doesn’t need to be seen in IMAX for viewers to get their worth the money… but few things are ever so black and white, even in the cinema.

Kate WInslet, Avatar: The Way of Water, record

IMAX High Frame Rate is the intended format

While we can acknowledge that the film’s story is not diminished at all by seeing it in a regular theater, the reality of how James Cameron tried to make his creation absolutely cannot be undermined either. After all, in a one-dimensional world, things are much easier to understand and explain. But Cameron has successfully created a world within a world and it stands to reason that such a performance would come with a bit of gray area based on contextual differences and we as the audience have to respect Cameron for making the film in the way that he wished.

So with that in mind, does the film actually need to be seen in IMAX for the viewer to get the full experience? The question borders on rhetorical, so ask yourself these questions instead – do you think you fully experienced a roller coaster ride if the ride only went 10km/h the whole time? If you traveled to a popular foreign city but never left the hotel room, do you think you fully experienced the trip? Or was something missing?

In light of the fact that Cameron specifically made the film with the intention of it being seen in IMAX (in 3D at a high frame rate), it’s actually quite easy to make the argument that people who have only seen the film in regular theaters haven’t quite experienced it yet. Again, IMAX theaters are more expensive and there are undoubtedly viewers who couldn’t care less if they were getting the ‘full experience’ and were just out to see a good movie – but for those of us who understand the possibilities, is hard not to feel that said viewers missed out on something great.

What is the answer?

The unsatisfactory answer to this question is that it is entirely up to the viewer whether or not Avatar: The Way of Water must be seen in IMAX for it to be fully enjoyed by the audience. On the one hand, regardless of the spectacular visuals, the story of the film is incredible and the character performances are so breathtaking that the film could be enjoyed as an audiobook let alone just watching it in a regular cinema. But on the other hand, situational context matters, and James Cameron had a vision for the film that he was miraculously able to execute, and it included viewers watching the film in an IMAX theater.

So while the question itself may not have a definitive answer, if you want to know which way you lean, ask yourself this – would you mind going 10km/h on a roller coaster? Or do you actually want to drive it?

How have you seen Avatar: The Way of Water? Did you see it in a regular 3D or 2D? Have you used IMAX 3D High Frame Rate? Tell us in the comments!

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