Avatar Special Edition Review

We sent an anonymous Little Bleeder to see the extended Avatar: Special Edition tonight at Fox’s London HQ. I’m very glad we did – this review is a corker.

On Friday James Cameron’s Avatar returns to theaters, this time in the form of a “Special Edition”, and Bleeding Cool was given the opportunity to see it a few days early.

Cynics on the internet have called it a cash grab, but in actuality there is an actual demand. Avatar didn’t leave the cinema due to a lack of audiences, but rather because those 3D screens had been promised to Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland. Had that film not achieved the financial success it did, you can be sure cinema owners would have been far more vocal in their claims that Fox had left money on the table with Avatar leaving theaters. Audiences went to Pandora again and again and want to go back, proven by it’s record setting sales on DVD and Blu-Ray, and now are given the 3D opportunity once again.

This preview will be filled with spoilers, so if you just want to know if it’s worth seeing in the cinemas – as long as you didn’t hate it the first time – yes, absolutely it’s worth seeing in the cinemas once again.

Let the spoilers begin.

The oddest thing about the Special Edition is it’s not just more Avatar, it’s a better Avatar. Because of the secrecy surrounding the film during it’s initial release, and I’m sure due to the unique way it was produced, Avatar was never test screened, to my knowledge. Even though filmmakers bemoan the process, it can point out the flows in a story unnoticed by those to close to the material. And although some of Avatar’s flaws remain – there’s no way to rewrite some of those cheesy lines of dialog – other points of contention are addressed.

There are, according to no less an authority than James Cameron himself, 9 extra minutes of footage in the Special Edition. About half of that comes in extending existing sequences with intercut shots, such as when the Thanator chases Jake Sully through the forest or the viper wolves chase Jake through the forest or when the Leonoptrix chases Jake and Neytiri through the forest. Basically, more things chasing Jake Sully through the forest. The dinner scene when Jake first joins the tribe is extended, with a little hint of Jakes instant attraction to Neytiri.

But there are entire new sequences added as well. There is some new eye candy , notably in the addition of a new creature called the Sturmbeast, a cross between an American bison and a rhinoceros. They make three appearances, first spotted from the helicopter, then in an exhilarating stampede hunt, and finally in the epic last battle. While that provided some visual and auditory excitement, the really interesting new scenes are those that expand the story. The first takes place in a schoolhouse only previously mentioned in passing. As Norm and Grace gather some instruments, Jake explores the school, finding bullet holes. Obviously the humans attacked the school at some point in the past, although why is never mentioned. Dr. Suess’ The Lorax also makes an appearance (the book, not an actual Lorax) removing any doubt of the film’s environmental message. This amps up the tension between the humans and Na’vi right from the start.

The next major revelation is after the team’s arrival in the Hallelujah Mountains, where in two sentences we learn both why the mountains float (Unobtainium) and what Unobtainium is (a superconductor). The scene is 30 seconds long, and it’s exclusion from the film is curious, as it addresses two of the major complaints of the original version of Avatar.

The last major addition to the story is raid on, and view of the aftermath of a raid the Na’vi make on the bulldozers after Jake and Neytiri have ponytail sex. Yes, they have ponytail sex. That’s also new.

The addition of the raid provides urgency and impetus for the humans need to take down Hometree. It also provides an opportunity for Cameron to do one of his trademark POV shots.

The last major addition is a wonderfully acted expansion of the death of Tsu’Tey, the Na’vi played by Laz Alonso. It features amazing performances from all those involved, and is a beautiful addition to the film.

People may wonder, considering the movie is out on DVD, is it worth seeing in theaters once again? Absolutely. Especially with six months of rushed 3D conversions that have tainted our view of the 3D cinema experience, the Special Edition reminds you exactly what 3D can bring to a movie when used by a master craftsman. Even without the added nine minutes, I would relish the opportunity to return to Pandora in 3D once more. With those nine minutes, I’ll probably visit twice or even three times.

Bleeding Cool extend their sincere thanks to this anonymous reviewer who I think we’ll be using again… unless he starts asking for money.