Avatar (Three-Disc Extended Collector's Edition)
Review by Gayle Surrette
20th Century Fox DVD ISBN/ITEM#: B0044XV3R8
Date: 01 December 2010 List Price $34.98 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Links: Pandorapedia / Show Official Info /
Avatar: Extended Collector's Edition, which has been recently released is a 3-disc set containing three versions of the movie: the original theatrical version, an extended play version, and one with PG language track (called the Optional Family Audio Track). Is it worth buying the movie over again? In my opinion, yes, it is.
If all you care about is the movie, then you'll probably be happy with the standard theatrical version. Remember that movie theaters know that people don't like to sit for extended periods so films are made to make the time in the theater of a fairly standard length of time. Very few movies go over two hours.
The extended version of the movie adds 16 additional minutes including a alternate opening sequence that takes place on Earth. Most often when you view deleted scenes, you can see and understand why those scenes ended up being dropped -- mainly because, while interesting visually or textually, they didn't further the plot. In the case of the alternative opening sequence, the restored scenes actually give you some insight into the character of Jake Sully (Sam Worthington). The movie works without it, but has a lot more depth when you know that Jake has, in his heart, been looking for a cause worth fighting for -- it's why he joined the Marines. The other restored scenes just add to Jake's experiences as he learns the language of the Na'vi and their way of life on Pandora. Most are just fun. However, there are some additional scenes during the final battle and its aftermath that are truly heart-breaking -- again adding depth to the Na'vi people and their beliefs.
The movie, whether extended or theatrical version, is split over two disc so you need to change discs at a mid-point. All the special features are on the third disc called Filmakers' Journey which includes deleted scenes, a documentary "Capturing Avatar", and direct access to additional scenes. Disc two has a short pieces called "A Message from Pandora" that details a trip James Cameron made to South America where he learned of a dam project that would displace hundreds of people and essentially eliminate their traditional way of life for the sake of electricity that could be generated more effectively without the cost of displacing all these people and destroying their environment. Sigourney Weaver and Joel Moore accompanied him on second trip. They observed that you didn't have to go to Pandora to find large corporations destroying the environment for the sake of the bottom line -- we do that here on Earth also. While for me it was a bit of preaching to the choir, I learned some interesting information about the area and its people.
One of the biggest complaints that I heard about Avatar when it first came out was that no corporation would act that way. But, they do. Go to any mining town and take a good look at the site and it's surrounding area -- some are better than others but there is always environmental damage that will take years to recover from. As far as subjugating the people in an area, I think you only have to read about the industrial revolution and the rise of the unions (as they were originally founded to protect the workers) to see that it does happen here -- all over planet Earth. If we'll do it here and now why not in the future far away and out of sight. Corporations live by the bottom line and the profit to investors.
Corporate greed and callousness seems to be a reoccurring theme in the films of James Cameron. Ones that come to mind are, of course, Avatar but also Titanic (remember the look of the deck was more important than having enough life boats) and as a writer Aliens, The Terminator, and Terminator 2.
So, for me, the extended version adds to the film a deeper insight into some of the characters and their motivations. I've found that the movies that I like when I first see them often get better the more I view them, as there is usually a wealth of detail in the background that adds to the experience. It's often on repeated viewings that I begin to appreciate the script and direction, watching to see how it was all put together. When you can completely forget that a movie is mainly FX and not shot on location -- the director, writer, and actors have performed their jobs because the viewer suspends belief.
Good stories only become better when they're told/shown the way that the director actually meant them to be seen -- if time wasn't an issue. While not listed as a director's cut, the extended version is a much better film and well worth adding to your collection.