|Avatar (Extended Collector's Edition) (2009)|
|Written by Noah Fleming|
|Monday, 22 November 2010|
So you knew this version was coming and there is no reason to be upset if you have already purchased the barebones first release of the film on Blu-ray. You had fair warning.
By know we are probably all familiar with the film, at least on a large scale. I have found many know of the film, but not really anything about what the film is about. The simply know that the film is touted for its visual and sound effects. So, let us recap a bit.
"Avatar" is James Cameron's latest production, and amazing career for a former truck driver. As time has gone by, Cameron's productions have gotten more glamorous with less focus on story. There is always story present, but it seems to fall second to visual effects. "Avatar" is no exception.
"Avatar" has a fairly strong story but the message is lost among many viewers who see the film simply for the visual wow. The film is a bit of a twist on a common theme. Essentially, the story is about humankind's nature to destroy every natural resource with brutal force if necessary. The originality of this film brings that theme to a new world with an alien, well to humans, indigenous population.
Humans have forcefully taken over Pandora, a planet with a mineral that sells for 20 million per kilo back on Earth. Side note, it is the little things that bug me when it comes to films that fall into the sci-fi/fantasy genre. For example, Cameron has named the mineral "unobtanium." For those that watch enough films, will know that this is the same given to the material used to build the ship in "The Core" from 2003. Is it too much to ask for filmmakers to use an original name for a made up mineral?
Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) is a paralyzed veteran that is chosen to fill in for his murdered twin brother in the Avatar program. On Pandora the natives are viewed as a threat, primarily because the company wants their homeland for a prime mining spot. The Avatar program is a diplomatic program in order to try and persuade the natives to move from their homeland. Like we have the right to come to a new planet and kick the natives off their land. Oops, we've already done that.
The natives a environmentalist creatures. They share a connection with the trees and forest that is reminiscent of the Jedi and the Force. Their tails can link with animals and nature to create a partnership. In the Avatar program the human brain is linked with an Avatar body, a body that looks like one of the natives. Think of it like the matrix. The mind is inserted into another body.
Jake's Avatar body is chosen by the native's deity to be the savior of the people. He is trained in the ways of the Navi, the natives. However, Jake has a secret. He is providing reports to the military as to the strengths and weaknesses of the Navi.
As I have mentioned their isn't much to the story short of the destruction caused by humans and their tanks and planes. The rest of the film is just imaginative visuals, with a love story thrown in for good measure.
Now, for the collector's edition. The packaging is a bit excessive, not what you want to do when the message is about Earth day and saving the planet from ourselves. The discs are housed in a book, much like the Alien Anthology, however, the discs are located in the sleeve that slides in and out of the pages. It is a bit flimsy.
The video transfer is the same as the previous Blu-ray release, which means it is excellent. The colors are breathtaking. They pop in a 3-D-like effect without the actual 3-D presentation. The CGI of the film makes the image a bit difficult to judge as there many mixed technological environments. When an all-digital environment exists the details are extraordinary. Seams are perfectly rendered. It is simply astonishing. However, then there are other instances in which softness creeps up. However, the other 99 percent of the film is just picture perfect. Black levels remains deep and stable throughout. Shadow delineation is terrific, rendering all details visible. Contrast and brightness levels also have a perfect relationship. Demo worthiness can't be put into words. You simply have to get this disc and watch it in its 1080p glory.
"Avatar" as a video demo disc is only the half of it. The audio is just as impressive if not more so. The sound designers spent a lot of time developing a wholly immersive environment. The surround channels are more engaging that any other film that I have heard in recent memory. Enveloping and discreet effects are perfectly balanced. The rear channels move between the simple ambience enveloping and discreet explosions smoothly. Directionality is spot on. The width of the front tri-field is incredible. You will feel as if you have two additional width speakers when listening to the audio track. Dialogue remains clean and intelligible. Frequency response is even across the board. The dynamic range is wide but not so much as to cause headaches. Any one of the sequences on this Blu-ray, from the serene to the explosive, could be considered demo worthy.
So the biggest aspect to this release is the additional of bonus materials. First, the set comes with three versions of the film. There is the original theatrical release, a special edition that is eight minutes longer and then an extended edition that is 16 minutes longer than the original release. These new scenes can be watched seamlessly integrated within the film or using the disc's direct scene access feature.
NOTE: the three discs are not labeled other than disc 1, 2, and 3. Discs 2 and three are the bonus materials discs.
Disc 2 is "The Filmmakers' Journey." The primary element on this disc is the collection of 45 minutes of deleted scenes, with an additional 25 minutes present for context. The completion of these sequences varies. Some are completed, some are animatics and some are lacking green screen replacement elements. None of the deleted scenes are earth-shattering but fans will enjoy most of it.
"Creating Avatar" is a feature-length documentary that covers everything about the creation of the film. It covers pre-production all the way through delivery. Filmmakers will find the information contained within to be invaluable. There is information on the visual effects, workflows, casting and sound design.
"A Message From Pandora" is a 20-minute segment about Cameron's environmental activism. The last section on the second disc contains making-of material primarily for visual effects. There are some ILM test footage sequences and some screen tests. In all, this section runs about 90 minutes.
Disc 3 is labeled "Pandora's Box." The disc begins with a "Scene Deconstruction" feature that runs about 60 minutes. This feature takes you through the various completion stages of the several scenes in the film. Bonus materials wouldn't be complete without featurettes and this collector's edition contains 16 of them. Most are under 10 minutes and can be found, at least in part in the "Creating Avatar" documentary. "The Art of Avatar" contains over 600 hundred hi-res still photos. "Avatar Archives" contains trailers and scripts. Lastly, there is the promise of BD-Live exclusives. There are already some up online. Mostly thus far there are additional screen tests.
There are no commentary tracks for this release, which doesn't really bother me, but is something that I am shocked not to find on the discs.
"Avatar" is not a perfect film. Its visual effects fame clouds the depressing story of human destruction. However, that aside, the video and audio qualities of this release are staggering. This is a must have for an audio/video-phile. However, if you picked up the original release and don't think you will care for the bonus materials or the few minutes of integrated deleted scenes then you could probably stay with the initial release. Highly recommended for filmmakers.