Avatar – Extended Collector’s Edition

I first saw the original “Avatar” in the cinema back in January of 2010, both the 2D and the 3D version, and was gobsmacked. Now, as many have said, this story has been told before, in numerous forms including the frequently mentioned “Pocahontas”, but I dare say I have not ever seen it told so magnificently and beautifully. Even my mother, who has otherwise little heart for Science Fiction, loved it.

PATIENCE, PATIENCE …

Now, I’m one who hates seeing a good story cut down to meet the requirements of an impatient audience. I saw the original “Lord of the Rings” in the cinemas, each of them several times, but never acquired the initial DVD releases; Instead I waited patiently for the Extended DVD Editions, which to me paid off tremendously as they contained a more complete storyline, enough to fill several unfortunate gaps in the originals. Disheartening though as it is, I can understand the studios’ choice to shorten down their products; At “Return of the King”, the last and longest of the three, at every viewing I went to, not only kids but grown-ups as well among the audience got up and walked out when the duration of the movie exceeded that of their popcorn supply. Personally I would gladly have sat through six full length chapters had they been as well made as these three, but obviously I am a sad little oddity in that respect.

… IS A VIRTUE!

The “Avatar – Extended Collector’s Edition” is, according to the back of the cover, a full 16 minutes longer than the original. Most of the previously left-out material adds a great deal of weight to the storytelling, especially regarding Jake’s character development and change of heart as the story progresses, and the relationship between him and Neytiri. It also gives a greater view into this wonderful alien world into which we’ve been brought. Admittedly I’m a sucker for eye candy, but why else do people seek to rest their eyes on grand landscapes like the Grand Canyon, magnificent sunsets, or even Norwegian fjords? Mind you, the stunning visuals aside, like the “Lord of the Rings” Extended Editions, this extra material delivers a more complete tale, leaving me a far more satisfied recipient.

UNFORTUNATELY …

There always has to be a downside, and this turns out to bother me enough that it ends up filling the last two fifths of my review. 20th Century Fox have put a lot of effort into making this release as impossible as possible to copy, meaning that, whereas pirates have little or no trouble circumventing their copy protection, it causes no end of aggravation for those of us who have paid honest money for their product. My copy (with “copy” here meaning “an item legally obtained through a well reputed vendor of movies and music”, not “an illegally or at best ‘legal gray-area-ish’ acquired pirate copy”) is a BluRay+DVD combo, and the BluRay version is completely unplayable on my brand new BluRay player, even with all the latest firmware and driver updates available. It goes as far as displaying a helpful message saying “This Blu-ray Disc has been manufactured to the latest Blu-ray Disc standards. To ensure the best viewing experience, your Blu-ray Player may require an update”, but there the fun ends.

And I am not alone. After searching for solutions and reading through several online forums I’m under the impression that half of those who so far own this edition of “Avatar” have or have had problems getting it to play. And half of those again have so far not been able to make it work. Which again makes me suspect that the combined BluRay+DVD pack is a tactical move on 20th Century Fox’ part to save themselves from an onslaught by those who would otherwise be unable to see the movie and also inclined to loudly express their displeasure. As most of us know, DVD discs play fine on BluRay players, with these being no exception, which, after having spent twice the running time of the extended edition getting rapidly nowhere, is how I got to see mine. But I didn’t get to see it in High Definition, which sort of defies the very point of having a HD television set, a BluRay player and a BluRay version of the movie. I’m missing out on the added picture quality of a BluRay disc, which was duly paid for in full, and am therefore not quite amused. 20th Century Fox, and I dare say the media industry in general, is going to far too great lengths to take way too much of the fun out of the party. There’s a war, which the pirates are winning with barely noticeable effort, which the motion pictures industry is losing with flying colours and blind refusal to learn, and in which we the consumers play our part by suffering as collateral damage.

But the extra material definitely delivers in terms of storytelling. On that point I give James Cameron a full score.


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