Back in April I did a “live review” of Avatar on Blu-ray when the original version came out. Now there is an all new Blu-raw version, the [sfs=1069]Extended Collector’s Edition[/sfs] (also on [sfs=1070]DVD[/sfs], which not only includes the original theatrical release, but two more – the Special Edition re-release that includes 8 additional minutes, but a new extended cut with 16 additional minutes. And that’s just the first disc. There are two more discs chock full of extras that bring you into the creation of Pandora and the Na’vi.
“I told our team — let’s do the ultimate box set of Avatar, with everything in it the fans could possibly want. There’s an extended length cut that’s sixteen minutes longer, plus documentaries, behind the scenes featurettes, artwork and over 45 minutes of deleted scenes. Everything worth putting into a special edition is in this set,” said James Cameron.
I think he underestimated how much that is.
The feature, of course is visually spectacular. The level of detail is amazing, and only a few times, notably in some of the extended scenes, did the animation appear to not fit, and even then it was minor.
The additional scenes fit in seamlessly, and help explain certain things, including Tsu’tey’s fate. But the biggest item in the extended cut is the new opening which takes place on the overcrowded, polluted Earth and introduces us to Jake Sully, the former marine looking to prove he is not as handicapped as his useless legs make him appear.
The features come with a DTS-HD 5.1 English audio track, an English Dolby Surround track, English Descriptive Audio DD 5.1, English Family Audio Track (objectionable language removed), plus Spanish, French and Portuguese DD 5.1 tracks. Subtitles are also available in a variety of languages.
A new feature I haven’t seen before is the ability to bookmark places in the film so you can go back to them later via the Search menu. It is like being able to set your own chapter points. If there is some scene you want to go back to later, you can bookmark it and continue on with the feature.
The packaging is unique. Rather than have the Collector’s Edition come in some sort of bulky package, it is the typical size of a normal DVD release. But the packaging itself is premium. First, there is a typical cardboard sleeve like you’d find covering a hard plastic case, but it covers a thick cardboard slipcover. Inside the slipcover is not a plastic case, but a book – with three internal pages, which hold the discs. Each disc is held in the page by a cardboard sleeve that you pull out. It doesn’t remove completely, but you pull it out enough to open and remove the disc. How well this would stand up to frequent use I’m not sure, but it is a unique and stylish design. The book and pages have images and lines from the movie. The one drawback is there is nothing to identify the discs in the book itself – there is a paper insert that lists the discs and the content, which could easily be lost.
Each disc is screen printed identically, except for a band across the center on which each bears a different scene.
A common feature of all three discs is access to BD-Live for extras that are downloaded from the internet, under “Live Extras” on the menu if you have a BD-Live capable player and an internet connection. Screen tests of the actors, language instruction and more can be found here. Most videos are available in a downloadable form for best quality, or streaming for instant access. Included is the exclusive animated crew short, “The Night Before Avatar”. And if you already have the original Blu-ray release and a BD-Live capable player, you should be able to access these features as well!
Disc 1 contains the aforementioned versions of the feature, the bookmarks, and also direct access to all the additional/extended scenes from both extended versions – in case you weren’t sure what was new.
Disc 2 contains tons of extras:
Deleted Scenes: Never-Before-Seen: 28 deleted scenes, plus a user’s guide explaining about the unfinished visual shots. A lot of good scenes here…they could have made this movie even longer. A LOT longer. (1:07:51)
Capturing Avatar: Creating the virtual world where the humans are the aliens. Four parts (1:38:26)
A Message From Pandora: Taking something back from Avatar about saving the Earth (20:12)
Production Materials: Narrated video of production art and animation. Like a read-along story book (1:24:25)
Disc 3 has even more extras:
Scene Deconstruction: Watch a selection of scenes in motion capture, CGI template, and completed versions, while switching between them via your remote. Neat feature. (1:05:21)
Featurettes: 19 different featurettes of varying length from the making of the movie.
Avatar Archives: Trailers, the scriptment and screenplay, Pandorapaedia, Avatar: The Songs (text of song lyrics, in English and Na’vi), and The Art of Avatar.
One thing I noticed among the extended scenes, when Grace, Jake and Norm go to the old schoolhouse, there is a quick glimpse of a book on the floor: “The Lorax” by Dr. Seuss. A personal favorite of mine (and due to become a feature film itself in 2012), it speaks to the moral of the story of this movie as well…protect what you have and not to let the companies destroy it “for the [supposed] good of all”.
I think this here is the definitive edition of Avatar. I can certainly foresee a future 3D release (I can see a 3D special promotional version will be available to some people purchasing a Panasonic 3D TV, although I’m betting it is a simpler release and possibly the original version), but there are no details on that.