Again, as it was with the video, so too is it with the audio - it doesn't sound any different than the single disc releases. That's not a bad thing, mind you, as that disc sounded amazing and so does this one. Once again, the mix you're going to want to listen to on this release is the English language DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track, though alternate audio tracks are offered in English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound and Dolby Digital 2.0, Spanish language Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound, French language Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound and Portuguese language Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound with subtitles provided in English SDH, Spanish, Portuguese, Cantonese and Mandarin.
The power and detail afford this lossless track is every part as impressive as that afforded the transfer and Avatar sounds amazing. The rear channels are used almost constantly, not only in the aggressive battle scenes but also in the film's quieter moments. So you'll not only want to duck when machine gun bursts fly out of the speakers at you, but you'll almost feel it when creatures fly across the screens as the directionality behind the sound design is just completely dead on. The sound effects are immersive and punchy, but thankfully they don't overpower the performers and everything comes across as perfectly balanced to ensure that we can not only thrill to the action scenes but also appreciate the more subtle aspects that help to build atmosphere and mood. As involving as a surround sound mix can be, Avatar's DTS-HD 5.1 track is truly a thing of beauty.
Where this release differs from the single disc release in the audio department is with the inclusion of an Optional Family Audio Track which is provided for the theatrical and special edition re-release versions of the film, though not the Collector's Extended Cut. Basically what this does is omit all of the objectionable language from the film. There wasn't a whole lot of cursing in the movie to begin with but should you want to watch the film with young kids and want to censor it for them, you've now got an easy way to do just that (though none of the violence is removed, go figure).
Obviously, since this is a three-disc set, here is where this re-release is going to really differ from the first single disc release. Let's cruise through the set, one disc at a time, and see what there is to see...
DISC ONE: AVATAR
As mentioned, the first disc in the set contains the three different cuts of the film and the Family Friendly Audio Track, but not really much else. That said, if you want to watch the added scenes from the lengthier cuts on their own, this disc does give you the option to do just that and all of the additional material is presented in the same HD quality solo as it is when it's incorporated into the film itself. The Special Edition Re-Release of the film offers fourteen additional scenes, and the Collector's Extended Cut offers seventeen additional scenes. You can watch any one scene individually through the menu or select a 'play all' option. The added scenes are presented in between existing bits so that they at least have some context when you play them. Aside from that, the obvious menus and chapter spots are also included.
If your player is Blu-ray Live enabled, the first disc also includes a menu link that will pull up some additional online content including a Screen Test - Sam Worthington & Zoe Saldana (Raw Footage) clip, a Screen Test - Stephen Lang (Raw Footage) clip, a Screen Test - Giovanni Ribisi (Raw Footage) clip, a Screen Test - Joel David Moore (Raw Footage) clip, a Screen Test - CCH Pounder (Raw Footage) clip, a Screen Test - Laz Alonso (Raw Footage) clip, a Speaking Na'vi (Rehearsal/Raw Footage clip, a WETA Workshop: Walk & Talk Presentation (Raw Footage) clip, a Crew Short: The Night Before Avatar animated short film and the film's Original Theatrical Trailer. There's a lot of content here and if you're an Avatar junkie you'll probably find most of it quite interesting. This content is also accessible off of the Blu-ray Live link on disc two and disc three as well.
DISC TWO: FILMMAKER'S JOURNEY
First up, as far as the second disc goes, is the Deleted Scenes section which includes sixty-eight minutes of never before seen footage, some of which isn't quite finished and some of which is. There are twenty-eight clips here, presented in the following order:
Stingbat Attack / Pandora Rules / Jake Meets Norm / Jake Sees Decanted Avatars / Norm Is A Living God / Breakfast With The Scientists / You're In My World Now / Grandma's Teylu / Pied Piper / Going To The Mountains / Interspecies Booty Call / Norm's Attitude Improves / Learning Montage Section (Early Cut) / We're Buying Time / Hunt Festival / Driving Range / The Dreamhunt / The Challenge / The Drums Of War (Full Version) / Escape / The Eye Of Eywa / You're A Long Way From Earth / Battle Camp / Kick Some Blue Ass / Wainfleet Kill's Norm / Neytiri Kills Wainfleet (Alternate Wainfleet Death) / The Avatars Attack / New Life
While, like the material put into the film, none of this is really going to change your opinion of the movie, some of it is fun. Some of the action sequences are interesting and a scene in which a certain character goes on a drug trip is also worth seeing and the Interspecies Booty Call clip is amusing. Each clip is presented with a bit of the feature before and after it, providing some context as to where Cameron would have had it included in the movie if he had chose to go that route. Unlike the feature, however, this material is presented in 2.35.1, not 1.78.1. A three and a half minute introduction/user's guide sets up some of this material and explains the various stages of completion that it's in.
Up next is the massive ninety-nine minute documentary, Capturing Avatar, which you can view as one of three smaller sections or as one longer, more cohesive piece depending on your preference. This piece, which is quite interesting, traces Cameron's project over a few years from its conceptual and design stages through to its shooting process and then on to its massive post production process. We learn about the writing process, the casting, the editing, the challenges that the cast and crew faced while working with the advanced technology employed on the film and much more. This is pretty intense stuff and it's very comprehensive. There's a lot of focus given to the technological side of the production, which isn't surprising, but we're also given a chance to see Cameron working with his actors, setting up various shots and bringing his very specific vision to life.
A Message From Pandora is a twenty-minute documentary that focuses on Cameron's environmental message and his activism work in that area as we learn how he got involved with a project in South America to help prevent a dam being built on tribal land in a rain forest. It's an interesting segment that relates well to the film's environmental themes, but it's not likely something you'll want to watch more than once.
Rounding out the extras on the second disc is the Production Materials section which includes a load of shorter, more concise supplements:
a three minute 2006 Art Reel, a two minute Brother Termite Test, a one minute ILM Prototype clip (available with or without motion capture reference), a seven minute Sam Worthington Screen Test, a four minute Zoe Saldana Screen Test, a two minute Zoe Saldana Life Cast clip, a six minute clip of a James Cameron Speech made on the first day of filming, a two minute ILM VFX Progression clip, a three minute Framestore VFX Progression clip, a two minute Hy-Draul-X VFX Progression, a three minute Prime Focus VFX Progression clips, a one minute Look Effects Inc. VFX Progression clip and a half hour crew short film entitled The Volume that was obviously made just to have some fun.
DISC THREE: PANDORA'S BOX
The third disc in the set kicks off with a really interesting section called Scene Deconstruction in which, through the magic of your Blu-ray remote control, you can check out three different phases of seventeen different scenes. Here you'll get to see the difference between the motion capture scenes, the template scenes and the final, finished scenes using picture-in-picture technology. This featurette works really well and it's quite interesting to see just how much detail and work was put into the backgrounds and finished versions of these scenes when you compare them to their skeletal motion capture origins.
From there, delve into the massive array of Production Featurettes starting with the four minute Sculpting Avatar and moving along through the ten minute Creating The Banshee, the three minute Creating The Thanator, the five minute The Amp Suit, The five minute Flying Vehicles, the four minute Na'vi Costumes, the six minute Pandora Flora, the five minute Stunts, the six minute Performance Capture, the three minute Virtual Camera, the four minute 3-D Fusion Camera, the two minute Simul-Cam, the seven minute Editing Avatar, the six minute Scoring Avatar, the nine minute Sound Design, and finally the five minute The Haka: The Spirit Of New Zealand featurette. While a fair bit of this material showed up in the Capturing Avatar documentary on the second disc, enough of it is new that you'll want to check it out. Again, the emphasis here is on the technology behind the film and the cameras and computer technology used to put it all together, but it's also quite interesting to see how the sound design elements were worked in and how much care and work was put into the vehicles and costumes seen in the movie.
Disc three also includes the Avatar Archives section. In here you'll find the film's original theatrical trailer, the teaser trailer, a collection of Avatar Songs and three text based extras - The Original Script, James Cameron's Original Screenplay, and the Pandorapedia (basically an encyclopedia of all things Pandora related and an interesting reference).
Closing out the third disc is a still gallery called The Art Of Avatar. In here you'll find hundreds of images from the following categories:
The World Of Pandora / The Creatures / Pandora Flora / Pandora Bioluminesence / The Na'vi / The Avatars / Maquettes / Na'vi Weapons / Na'vi Props / Na'vi Musical Instruments / RDA Designs / Flying Vehicles / AMP Suit / Human Vehicles / Land Vehicles
Special note should also be made about the packaging. All three discs fit inside a hardcover book that holds them in place quite well. Each disc slides out of the book by way of what can only be described as a sort of cardboard tray. This makes it easy to get the discs out without scratching them. The book, in turn, fits inside a nice, sturdy slipcase, and the o-ring/cover fits over top of that. It's a classy looking package that not only looks good but takes good care of the discs as well.
Even if you don't think that the film is the be all, end all of science fiction, action and adventure, it's still quite a remarkable achievement and entertaining enough that it's worth checking out. Stunning to watch and filled with amazing sound design, Avatar is quite remarkable on Blu-ray and this three disc set not only offers up three different versions of the film in perfect quality but loads of interesting and informative extra features too. Overall, this package is a tough one to beat and deserving of the DVD Talk Collector's Series stamp of approval. There's hours of content here, enough to please event the most die hard fan of the film, and even if you weren't floored by the movie itself, the story behind it is one worth investigating.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.