Monday, 29 November 2010

Avatar Extended Collector's Edition

Lowdown: A further developed version of Avatar.
Back in the days of its cinematic release, Avatar was known primarily as a 3D delight with not much in the way of a plot. However, I was very curious to see how Avatar would translate to the home cinema environment for one main reason: James Cameron, Avatar's director, is one of my favorite movie makers of all time (probably only second to Clint Eastwood). Although Cameron has had better and worse films in his career, all of his films have been exceptional home theater experiences. Not only are his films technical masterpieces, he is one of the few directors that shoots with home theater in mind: he knows his films are going to continue living in home theaters long after their cinematic releases are long forgotten. And it's not just the shooting itself: Cameron takes great care when mastering his films for home cinema release, tweaking them so that they'd work better at home (rather than blindly taking the version mastered to work well at the cinema and printing it on a disk). I know that very well, because I have owned special editions of his Abyss, The Terminator, Terminator 2, Aliens, True Lies and Titanic. Of these titles, Terminator 2 is the most notable for its extended edition adding further insight to the story and further developing it while accompanied by supplemental material that made me appreciate that colossal film much more.
When I bought the Avatar Extended Collector's Edition on Blu-ray, a very rare event for me nowadays of buying a film, I was looking to recreate my Terminator 2 experience. And recreate it I did.
Although this version is still 2D (as was the previous DVD/Blu-ray release of Avatar), it is still mighty impressive. Mastered in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio to fit the home theater screen perfectly (as opposed to the 2.35:1 scope cinematic ratio release), this Blu-ray sports the best picture I have ever seen outside the cinema, period - and probably better than the ones I have ever seen at the cinemas, too. It is simply perfect: incredibly detailed with accurate colors and so oozing in quality it just immersed me entirely despite being "just" 2D. The sound on this Blu-ray is very good, too, although not "the best I've ever heard" quality: dialog in particular seems to suffer from noise and inconsistencies. On the positive side, dialog is not limited to the center channel: you hear it coming from where the characters are, which adds to the immersion factor.
While it is of no coincidence I chose to focus on technicalities before discussing the plot it has to be said that the additional scenes (which now bring the film's length to 178 minutes compared to the cinema's 162) contribute a lot. Whereas we all came out of the cinema pointing at a weak plot and flying mountains, a lot of these issues have been addressed - to one extent or another - in this extended edition, leaving me a much more satisfied viewer. Also worth mentioning is the back on earth background provided for Sam Worthington's character: we now see him coming to the miners' moon from a very Blade Runner like world and we can understand why he came the way he came and what drove him to change.
The film is not the only thing to watch on this Blu-ray. Supplemental material on the making of this technological wonder is very well made (reminding me of the high quality supplementals in the Lord of the Rings' special editions; that's no coincidence since both films were the result of the concentrated efforts of many incredible talents, both cinematic and technical ones). The deleted scenes offer even further plot extensions that develop the more minor characters to a very satisfying degree.
Coming out of this Blu-ray is quite a lot of respect to the Avatar creation. James Cameron has done it again, creating the ultimate home theater experience.
Overall: Avatar proves that technical prowess can make a movie great by creating a home cinema event equaling the Terminator 2 experience of almost twenty years ago (and any Laserdisc owner would know what I am talking about). The extended edition proves my previous rating of Avatar was indeed correct: Avatar is a very worthy 5 out of 5 stars film.

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