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Avatar: full disc review

Tue May 04, 2010 3:37 pm

Title: James Cameron’s AVATAR aka AVATAR

Media: Blu-ray Disc and DVD

Region: Blu-ray Disc – A/DVD – 1

Stars: Sam Worthington, Zoë Saldana, Stephen Lang, Michelle Rodriguez, and Sigourney Weaver

Writer: James Cameron

Director: James Cameron

Blu-ray Disc/DVD Languages: English DTS HD-MA 5.1 Theatrical Surround Sound, Dolby Surround Sound, Descriptive Audio, and French, Spanish, and Portuguese Language Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound/English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound and English, French, and Spanish Dolby Surround Sound

Blu-ray Disc/DVD Subtitles: English Subtitles for the Deaf and Hearing Impaired and Spanish and Portuguese Language Subtitles/English Closed Captions for the Deaf and Hearing Impaired and English Subtitles for the Deaf and Hearing Impaired and Spanish Language Subtitles

Chapter Stops: 35

Running Time: 162 minutes

Year Of Theatrical Release/Home Video Release: 2009/2010

Packaging: Two-Disc Blue BD Case

MPAA Rating: PG-13

Theatrical Distributor: Twentieth Century Fox

Home Video Distributor: Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment

Reviewer: Mark A. Rivera

More than a decade of anticipation for James Cameron’s first fictional feature film release, (he had directed two IMAX documentaries in between), since Titanic and his triumphant theatrical return to science fiction after 18 years since Terminator 2: Judgment Day rocked the summer of 1991, AVATAR also known as James Cameron’s AVATAR surpassed Titanic in box office receipts and was even nominated for several Academy Awards® including Best Picture. Cameron went into great detail to create a science fiction universe that perhaps is the most detailed of it’s kind since Star Wars and he enlisted WETA Digital, who had brought Skull Island to life in vibrant detail in Peter Jackson’s 2005 remake of King Kong. The film came out on what was generally a good year for sci-fi and science fiction films with releases like District 9, Star Trek, and Moon running the gambit between scaled back and cerebral science fiction to grandiose space opera. I have a couple of caveats with James Cameron’s AVATAR, such as I do not believe RDA would surrender to the Na’vi and leave. In fact given the interdependence of the Na’vi with their environment based on a physical neurological connection, I would think if the RDA can create human and Na’vi hybrid clones to be piloted by conscious human remote drivers that a modified form of encephalitis targeted specifically at the Na’vi would be more than just possible, it would be more practical. Now I know that my belief that biological warfare would devastate the Na’vi is quite disturbing, but please note that the Europeans knowingly gave native Americans blankets infected with the small pox virus because they knew the native Americans had no immunity to it. My belief is based on human history as it occurs whenever a technologically more advanced civilization makes contact with a lesser one; the lesser one is usually supplanted. So since this isn’t about humans who have evolved beyond such horrific behavior and the quest for profit like Star Trek, I have to state that if all they are there for is to mine a mineral that drives technology and the economy on Earth, I don’t believe the RDA would think twice about using it, particularly if there is a cure they can leverage against the Na’vi in return for expanded mining rights.

The other caveat is something I suspect will be rectified if Cameron has an extended edition in mind and that is some flat characters that really do not serve much of a purpose other than doing what they do. In particular I like Michelle Rodriguez in the film, but I think a scene or so that would at least hint at a reason behind her motivations to help the heroes in the film would have been nice. As it is, she has no real character arc in the story. Now again, there is a good reason why the RDA is at least defeated in the movie and that is because then there would be no movie otherwise, but I think it is something Cameron should illuminate upon as to why beyond that the people of Earth would be mad, would a greedy interstellar corporation not consider a biological warfare option when if anything many of the corporations of our own real world have repeatedly done what they wanted in the name of profit without regard for the needs of the people who even serve them. In fact, some companies take out health insurance policies on their employees without their knowledge and collect on them.

Well in any case, I like James Cameron’s AVATAR and I am sure these issues may be dealt with perhaps in an extended cut of the film if one should ever come to fruition or in a sequel film and prequel novel that Cameron mentioned on Charlie Rose he is interested in writing and releasing in conjunction with a theatrical release of the second of what will now be a trilogy of AVATAR movies. Until an expansive special edition of James Cameron’s AVATAR comes out, though none to my knowledge have been officially announced at the time of my writing this review, there are two books I purchased before the theatrical release of James Cameron’s AVATAR that I would like to recommend as reference materials for fans of the film. The first is The Art Of AVATAR: James Cameron’s Epic Adventure by Lisa Fitzpatrick with a preface by Peter Jackson, a forward by Jon Landau, and an epilogue by James Cameron. The book is published by ABRAMS and has an ISBN Number of 978-0-8109-8236-4. The other book is James Cameron’s AVATAR: An Activist Survival Guide and this book will give readers extensive information on the biological and social history of Pandora, including extensive details on the moon’s topography, the flora and fauna, Na’vi physiology and culture and RDA technology, including a weapons guide, extensive glossary and even a Na’vi-English Dictionary. The book is published by !t: An imprint of Harper Collins Publishers and is written by Maria Wilheim and Dirk Mathison. The ISBN number is 978-0-06-189675-0. Both can be ordered through Amazon.com at the links below.

If ever there was a film to showcase the improved picture and sound quality Blu-ray Disc has over DVD, this two-disc set is it. That is not to say the DVD is bad in any way. Both are high quality products, but after watching James Cameron’s AVATAR on Blu-ray Disc, watching the film on DVD looked like second generation VHS in comparison until my eyes adjusted themselves again to upconverted DVD resolution. As per Cameron’s desire to replicate the IMAX framing of the film on Blu-ray Disc and DVD and thus both versions present the film in a widescreen (1.78:1) aspect ratio with THX certification. The THX trailer is actually after the closing credits on both the Blu-ray and DVD instead of before the film. The Blu-ray picture quality is top shelf with an engrossing English DTS Digital HD MA 5.1 Theatrical Surround Soundtrack. An English Dolby Surround Soundtrack as well as a descriptive audio track and French, Spanish, and Portuguese Language Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Soundtracks are encoded onto the Blu-ray Disc as listening options while the DVD features English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound and English, French, and Spanish Dolby Surround Sound. Both the Blu-ray Disc and DVD feature English Subtitles for the Deaf and Hearing Impaired and Spanish Language Subtitles. The Blu-ray Disc also has Portuguese Language Subtitles while the DVD has English Closed Captions for the Deaf and Hearing Impaired encoded onto it too.

The seamless interactive menus on the Blu-ray Disc are terrific and you can stop the film and power down the player and come back to the Blu-ray Disc later and you will be asked if you want to continue from where you left off or start over. Scenes can be book marked as well. The main screen menu on the DVD and Blu-ray Disc features full motion scenes from the film and the DVD uses fade in and fade out transitions to go from one menu to the next with the scene selection menus containing character images that correspond to the full motion scene selection thumbnails to the right of them with James Horner’s score corresponding to the character and or the scene selections changing with each subsequent menu as well and on both the Blu-ray Disc and DVD, the interactive menus are well rendered and easy to navigate. There is a PSA (: 34) on the DVD, but no extra value features beyond the film presentation options on the discs. Within the Blue BD case there an AVATAR program registration code with access to first-looks and sneak peeks, contend and updates, money-saving offers, and the chance to be a part of the Home Tree Initiative to plant one million trees.

James Cameron’s AVATAR is available on Blu-ray Disc and DVD now at retailers on and offline courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment.

© Copyright 2010 By Mark A. Rivera

All Rights Reserved.
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