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Blu-Ray : Highly Recommended
Ranking:
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Release Date: December 19th, 2023 Movie Release Year: 2009

Avatar - 3D: Special Edition

Overview -

The reason we all bought and cherish our 3-D televisions in the first place; James Cameron's Avatar returns to 3-D Blu-ray from Disney/20th Century Studios. This three-disc set, the newly remastered 3D version of the film offers up a notable improvement in clarity and depth capped off with a solid bonus features package. If you’re still rolling your 3-D TV or Projector setup, discs like this are the reason we keep wearing those glasses! Recommended

Written and directed by Academy Award® winner James Cameron*, Avatar is set on the lush alien world of Pandora, home of the Na'vi—beings who appear primitive but are highly evolved. Because the planet's environment is poisonous, human/Na'vi hybrids called Avatars must link to human minds to allow for free movement on Pandora. Jake Sully (Sam Worthington), a paralyzed former Marine, becomes mobile again through one such Avatar and falls in love with a Na'vi woman (Zoe Saldaña). As a bond with her grows, he is drawn into a battle for the survival of her world.

OVERALL:
Highly Recommended
Rating Breakdown
STORY
VIDEO
AUDIO
SPECIAL FEATURES
Tech Specs & Release Details
Technical Specs:
Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray + Digital Code
Video Resolution/Codec:
1080p/AVC MPEG-4
Aspect Ratio(s):
1.78:1
Audio Formats:
English 5.1 DTS-HDMA, English 2.0 Dolby Digital, English 2.0 Dolby Digital AD, English Family Friendly 5.1 Dolby Digital, French 5.1 Dolby Digital, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital
Subtitles/Captions:
English SDH, French, Spanish
Release Date:
December 19th, 2023

Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take

Ranking:

From our previous 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Review 

How does a director follow the highest-grossing movie of all time? They do it by directing the highest-grossing movie of all time topping said highest-grossing movie of all time. In an age where there weren’t DCEUs or MCUs sucking up every theater screen, James Cameron’s Avatar ignited a box office storm. Everyone had to see Cameron’s long-gestating passion project. As those ticket sales kept rolling in, the film also reinvigorated the long-ago castoff experience of seeing major motion pictures in three dimensions while pioneering new techniques in motion-capture filmmaking. Soon, every major motion picture had to be in 3-D, either shot that way or with an after-the-fact post-conversion (with often mixed results). While 3-D may not be as strong an attraction today - it hasn't disappeared. There are still some great post-conversions - Guardians of the Galaxy vol 3 being one of the best recent releases in that arena. 

Over ten years between sequels - how does the original Avatar hold up? Depending on who you ask, your results will vary, but for this reviewer, I’d say pretty well. I’ve never thought Avatar was a particularly amazing film. Visually yes, it’s a gorgeous-looking film, but the story is simplistic with equally simple dialog to match. On that spectrum, Cameron has always been on the nose, as much as I love T2: Judgement Day, Sarah Conner's narrations aren’t exactly Shakespeare. That follows here with Sam Worthington’s Jake Sulley filling in the narrative gaps with voice-over. Sometimes it works and feels organic, other times it’s just damn clumsy. The conceit is we’re supposed to be hearing his log files, but it never really sells. The two extended versions help fill some narrative gaps and do play better overall, but they don’t help the fact Avatar feels more like a proof-of-concept that Cameron’s crazy ideas could work rather than serve as a fully-realized feature film. Faults aside, I easily get wrapped up in the drama and conflict and again Cameron accomplished some next-level universe-building for his little opus. 

Fourteen years after that first (of several) theatrical viewing, I still get a kick out of Avatar. It plays like a wild pulpy Edgar Rice Burroughs novel and that’s what I enjoy about it. Akin to the Princess of Mars stories, we have a human hero traveling to a far-off planet to lead a rebellion while integrating with an alien culture. It’s not a new story, it’s just a creative (albeit mostly visually) spin on sci-fi’s greatest hits. I also appreciate that Cameron and his team spent so much time creating a new language, culture, and a jungle full of exciting creatures to observe. He may have quite literally gotten lost in the woods with it, but it proved there’s enough meat on the bones of this universe that’s worth exploring for future adventures. And by the future, that’s quite literal as Disney has readjusted their release calendar pushing Avatar 5 all the way back to 2031… I just hope I’m still alive then because I’m looking forward to the sequels.

For some less-than-positive alternate views on the film, read our past coverage:

Vital Disc Stats: The 3D Blu-ray
Avatar, the film that started the 3D revolution on Blu-ray returns for a new and improved three-disc Blu-ray 3-D release. A BD-50 offers up the 1080p 3D, another BD-50 is reserved for the film’s 2D edition, and another BD-50 is reserved for the initial set of bonus features from the first 4K UHD edition. The disc loads to a static image main menu, if your setup is 3-D ready, the 3-D experience automatically kicks in.

Video Review

Ranking:

It’s a grand thing to enjoy Avatar the way it was meant to be seen in 3-D at home. This is the film that initially made 3-D television sets such a hot commodity, but it was stupidly made a competing format exclusive when it was the title that literally everyone would have bought in the first place in 2010. It wasn’t until 2012 that this film would get a wide non-exclusive release, but by then, the format was already starting to fade. Now it’s back on disc and looking better than ever. Thanks to the new remaster work we saw on IMAX screens for a limited run, this first film in James Cameron’s intergalactic odyssey looks cleaner and clearer, and I dare say they greatly improved the sense of space and dimension. Big WOW shots hit harder like when Jake first rolls off the transport ship or when his army of flying warriors hovers over the invading armada, that sense of depth looked deeper and more dimensionalized than before. Doing the glasses test, a number of sequences that would be flat on the older disc are now actively in 3-D. Parallax effects of objects protruding from the screen also look clearer and engage more cleanly without any ghosting or eye strain. My wish is they had given this the two-disc BD-3D treatment like The Way of Water and really maxed out the visuals. As is, this is a welcome upgrade for those still rocking the glasses at home.

Audio Review

Ranking:

Given all the workload is going into those 3-D visuals, the film rolls with a very good and effective DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix. Of course, I would have loved Atmos but I can’t really complain about this mix. Employing my receiver’s DTS Neural:X function helps open things up a bit and punch up the big action sequences nicely. Dialog is clear throughout without issue. The soundscape is still very large feeling giving those surround channels plenty of work - especially for the flight scenes and the big action setpieces. Perhaps not the perfect audio experience, but still a strong and immersive one.

Special Features

Ranking:

The first run of Avatar on 3-D Blu-ray didn't offer up anything more than the basic film experience without any bonus features. This time Disney/20th Century are throwing in the initial bonus features disc we got with the first 4K UHD Blu-ray run. While not everything of the big Collector's Edition set, it's still a hefty package. 

  • Memories from Avatar (HD 21:20) 
  • Avatar: A Look Back (HD 10:03)
  • Capturing Avatar (HD 1:38:25)
  • Featurettes - (HD 1:31:51 Total)
    • Sculpting Avatar
    • Creating the Banshee
    • Creating the Thanator
    • The Amp Suit
    • Flying Vehicles
    • Na’vi Costumes
    • Speaking Na’vi
    • Pandora Flora
    • Stunts
    • Performance Capture
    • Virtual Camera
    • The 3-D Fusion Camera
    • The Simul-Cam
    • Editing Avatar
    • Scoring Avatar
    • Sound Design
    • The Haka: The Spirit of New Zealand

As I’ve said a few times now through different reviews, I enjoy the hell out of Avatar but I don’t think it’s a perfect movie. Cameron’s longer cuts are certainly the better versions, but this theatrical cut in 3-D is what spurred the world’s fascination with Pandora. One of the first and earliest essential pickups during the brief 3-D TV revolution, Avatar recently enjoyed a successful theatrical rerelease with a newly remastered transfer. It was amazing on IMAX and I dare say it’s impressive at home on Blu-ray 3D. The image looks sharper and cleaner than before, but it appears they also slightly reworked some of the depth and dimension work so some of those big beautiful glory shots are even more impactful. Audio is still pretty solid with DTS-HD MA 5.1. My only real wish for this release was the film had been spread over two 3-D discs like the sequel for maximum impact. As is, it’s great and if you’re still rocking your 3-D TV or projector, it’s a worthwhile pickup. Recommended for the 3-D junkies out there.