DVD REVIEW: AVATAR 3-Disc Collector's Edition
More content then you can shake a Na'vi stick at...
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If you're like me, you've already seen James Cameron's AVATAR at least once when it debuted in ground-breaking 3D last year. You probably also own the bare-bones theatrical release on DVD, and if you are an absolute AVATAR die-hard, you saw the Special Edition Re-Release last summer. Now fans of the highest-grossing film of all time have several new reasons to watch it all over again: the AVATAR Extended Collector's Edition. Recently released on DVD and Blu-ray, this 3-disc set aims to please both passionate and casual fans alike with more content then you can shake a Na'vi stick at.
Of immediate interest is the very slick presentation; polished packaging that is sure to please the Na'vi devoted. After taking off the prerequisite slipcover, fans will find a tough cardboard sleeve containing a hardbound book-like DVD case. Slide out the case and - like a book - open it up to one of three pages; each page featuring Na'vi art, quotes from the movie and a DVD stowed away in a pull-out sleeve. While perhaps a bit much to wade through for repeat viewings, I found my first time opening the AVATAR Extended Collector's Edition a wonderful experience; like slowly unwrapping a special gift, eager to find out what's inside.
Viewers will find the actual movie on Disc 1 - all three versions. There's the original theatrical release that most people have already seen/own, the Special Edition Re-Release with 8 additional minutes of footage, and the Collector's Extended Cut packed with an exciting 16 extra minutes, including a must-see alternate opening. What I found extremely welcoming was that there were no commercials or previews at the beginning of the disc... or on any disc in the set for that matter. For once it's nice to see that the movie you bought is just that - the movie you bought. If I wanted to see ads, I'd have watched AVATAR on television.
WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD
The Special Edition Re-Release and Collector's Extended Cut are the main attraction to this set, especially the latter. The re-release treats fans to 8 extra minutes of footage - some good, some I could live without. There's some additional scenes of Pandora animal life which make for nice eye candy, such as a glimpse at some new bat-like creatures and a herd of buffalo-like beasties. Na'vi Jack Sully and Neytiri's relationship is slightly expanded on with some further interaction, including the much talked about "together time" scene (think "hair"). Lastly, Tsu'tey receives an extended death scene; miraculously surviving being shot at close range and falling 1000 feet from a gunship only to pass away much later and after some parting words with Sully. Personally I found it all a bit ridiculous, preferring his brief, but heroic death in the original.
The Collector's Extended Cut includes all the footage of the re-release but surprised me with an interesting alternate opening. Whereas the original and re-release drop you almost immediately into the jungle world of Pandora, the Extended Cut introduces audiences to a futuristic Earth and provides a closer study of Jack Sully's character. Letting us see the urban sprawl (ala Blade Runner) certainly has more of an impact then just hearing about it later on in the film. We are also given more reason to why Jack Sully so readily agrees to go to Pandora. His life on this overpopulated planet is bleak - an illuminating bar scene showing us that he has turned to drink to forget his condition. That very same scene also shows us that he is tough and honorable, depicting a Jack Sully getting rough on an abusive patron. If it wasn't for the inclusion of Tsu'tey's drawn out death, the Collector's Extended Cut would be my clear favorite version of AVATAR.
Whichever version of AVATAR you prefer, all three are continued on Disc 2, an unpleasant interuption that could have been corrected by allowing each movie to have its own disc. Making matters more confusing is the inclusion of "A Message From Pandora," a small featurette on what inspired James Cameron to make AVATAR. Instead of being hidden away here on Disc 2 (you have to hit MENU when the disc is inserted to find it - otherwise you only see continuation choices), it would have been much better suited for the bonus content of Disc 3.
On Disc 3 AVATAR fans will find easy access to the new/additional scenes for all three versions. It's a nice way to check out all the content without having to guess what's new while watching the movie (such as the additional scenes of animal life). Disc 3 also provides over 45 minutes of never-before-seen deleted scenes. This is unfinished footage with green screens and raw computer animation in place of final, polished effects. It's all a "what might have been" look at the movie - scenes that were decided early on to not be included and thus the money wasn't wasted on finishing them. One could argue that James Cameron has all the money in the world and could have finished them - if nothing more than for this disc - but alas it was not meant to be. Still, it is a fascinating look behind the scenes of one of the most amazing movies ever made. Lastly, there is "Capturing AVATAR," a comprehensive four-part tour to how the hit movie came to be. Aside from the Extended Cut, this entertaining feature fully justifies owning this set.
The AVATAR Extended Collector's Edition is a home video offering that will delight fans for many, many hours. While the content could have been better organized, the content itself is vastly entertaining. Afterall, this is AVATAR - one of the most gorgeous movies ever made.
The AVATAR Collector's Edition: 3-Disc Special Edition DVD is available now wherever fine home video is sold priced at a SRP of $34.98.
Review and Photos by Jeff Saylor
Review Sample Courtesy of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment