4k Movie, Streaming, Blu-Ray Disc, and Home Theater Product Reviews & News | High Def Digest
Film & TV All News Blu-Ray Reviews Release Dates News Pre-orders 4K Ultra HD Reviews Release Dates News Pre-orders Gear Reviews News Home Theater 101 Best Gear Film & TV
Ultra HD : For Fans Only
Ranking:
Sale Price: $39.99 Last Price: $75.99 Buy now! 3rd Party 41.37 In Stock
Release Date: December 19th, 2023 Movie Release Year: 2009

Avatar: Collector's Edition - 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray

Overview -

Still the reigning global box office champion, Avatar: Collector’s Edition comes to 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray. Offering up all three versions of the film via seamless branching, the visuals pick up a nice layer of refinement thanks to Dolby Vision HDR (you read that right!). Audio is solid for each respective version, and the set is loaded with all of the new and archival bonus features available. However, the packaging is a major pain in Pandora’s ass to access the discs safely. Since this is the set we always should have gotten, it’s tough to call for a double dip so soon when that previous disc is still excellent. Ultimately, this one is For Fans Only

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:
For Fans Only
Rating Breakdown
STORY
VIDEO
AUDIO
SPECIAL FEATURES
Tech Specs & Release Details
Technical Specs:
THREE VERSIONS OF THE FILM INCLUDING THEATRICAL VERSION, SPECIAL EDITION AND COLLECTOR’S EXTENDED CUT
Video Resolution/Codec:
2160p/HEVC Dolby Vision HDR
Aspect Ratio(s):
1.78:1
Audio Formats:
English Dolby Atmos, English 2.0 DTS-HDMA, 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:

Can you handle three cuts of Avatar? For some fans out there, three cuts of James Cameron's intergalactic space opera is pure bliss. Others out there will be decidedly non-plussed. While I felt the Theatrical Cut worked, the slightly longer Special Re-release offered some extra character beats. Then in 2010, James Cameron gave us all the much better and notably longer Collector's Extended Cut. While it makes the film quite a bit longer and perhaps highlights some of Cameron's worst habits as a writer, this version at least gives most of the characters a little more dimension. While there's something to be said for throwing us right into the action with Jake waking up in spaceflight, it's also nice to see the Earth he came from and why he would be so taken in by Pandora and its sexy cat creatures. For sure the better cut of the film, I still feel this first Avatar film works as a proof-of-concept that The Way of Water would fully capitalize on.

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 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray

Talk about the fastest turnaround from a pretty damned impressive 4K release to an even more impressive Collector’s Edition. Die-hard fans of Avatar can now score this 4-disc 4K UHD + Blu-ray + Digital release from Disney/20th Century. Like the previous Collector’s Edition of Avatar, this version offers up the Theatrical Cut, Re-Release Special Edition Cut, and Collector’s Extended Cut - all on the same BD-100 disc via seamless branching. Same for the 1080p versions of the films but on a BD-50 disc. Two additional BD-50 discs are employed for bonus features gathering all new and archival extras for the film. The discs load to static image main menus. At playback, the Theatrical Cut is the default, so you have to go to “Set Up” to choose an alternate version of the film. NOTE: All images are sourced from the included 1080p disc. When we can we’ll try to circle back to offer 4K-sourced images and possibly a video sample. 

All four discs are held in an artistically beautiful but frustratingly restrictive gatefold digipak with hardstock slipcase. Rather than resting in cradles, all four discs rest in intensely tight sleeves that grip the discs so tightly if you’re not careful you risk ripping the paper digipak. Seriously, you’ll want disc cleaners on standby each time you pull the discs out because you’re going to smear fingerprints all over the place. The sleeves are just too narrow with the internal security grips too tight to easily eject the discs for playback. Consider acquiring alternate packaging if you intend to watch these often. 

Video Review

Ranking:

Similar to the previous Collector’s Edition on Blu-ray, all three versions of Avatar come home to 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray, now with Dolby Vision HDR! Now, because this presentation rests on seamless branching, the overall bitrate takes a little bit of a hit. Not a horrible enough hit that you’d immediately notice the difference, but the total disc space comes in a few gigs short of the previous Theatrical Cut-only release. 

Now, uniformly speaking, the film still looks fantastic in 4K. Given that this film was originally finished on a 2K DI and with all of the CGI effects at play, it made sense to give the film the algorithmic enhancement Cameron appears to love so much and the results are still very impressive. Facial details, textures, the real-life production design and even all of the CGI creatures look more detailed, clearer, and lifelike than before. Comparing the Blu-ray versions (included and previous) the difference is immediately clearer. I was impressed with the past disc and even with a little more compression because of the encoding, I’m still very impressed with how good this film looks on disc. 

Now with Dolby Vision HDR (I believe only the second such release from Disney? CORRECTION this is the third Dolby Vision disc from Disney after Black Panther and The Last Jedi), the transfer for each film picks up a few extra refinements over the previous HDR10 transfer. The biggest difference I noticed was the extra feeling of dimension and depth with better shadow management. The scenes where Jake is attacked by the demon dogs and later “blessed” by the tree seeds is a great example of these lighting refinements. Primaries see a little extra care and attention but you’ll be hard-pressed to fully notice a vastly superior improvement. Better yes, but incrementally so.

Now comparing the new 1080p Blu-ray to the older 2010 disc, the improvements in the new transfer are much harder to spot. You really have to get in there and look to see the texture and fine-line refinements. Included are the alternate 20th Century Studios logo and the slightly alternate ending that sets up The Way of Water a little more clearly.

Audio Review

Ranking:

The audio options are a bit of an oddity to explain, so here goes. The Theatrical Cut of Avatar is the only cut that offers Atmos audio, but does not have a DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix. The Re-release and Collector’s Extended Cuts only have DTS-HD MA 5.1, but not Atmos. Now the Atmos track for the theatrical cut is still the sonic beast we’ve known and loved for a couple of months now. That said, the 5.1 tracks for the Re-Release and Collector’s Extended cuts are still very good. Playing back the older Collector’s Edition discs, the audio sounds damn near identical. Obviously not as good or impactful as the Atmos, but it still holds tight. The flying hunt sequence in the Collector’s Edition is damned impressive. Using my system’s DTS Neural:X function really helped the track pop with some improved imaging and spacing through the surrounds. Shame they couldn’t do Atmos for all versions of the film, but it is what it is, and it’s pretty damn good.

Special Features

Ranking:

Not content to simply recycle materials, a couple of new extras as well as all previously released extra features from the Collector’s Edition come home with this release. Of the new materials, the Jon Landau segment is a little bit “puffy” and back-patty “look what cool shit we did” sort of content but it’s till a nice little retrospective behind the scenes featurette. Also included are the RDA Promos they shot with Stephen Lang as part of the promotional circuit that were never released. They’re interesting enough but understandable why they didn’t come in. Completing the bonus features we missed out on with the last set, the full Production Materials package of the previous Blu-ray Collectors Edition comes back. They also brought back the deleted scenes but irritatingly labeled them as “never-before-seen” when in fact they are the same scenes in various stages of completion we saw thirteen years ago. When all is said and done, you have several hours of in-depth extras to dig through. 

Bonus Features Disc 1

  • NEW Behind the Scenes Presentation Hosted By Jon Landau (HD 18:08)
  • NEW Colonel Miles Quaritch RDA Promos (HD 7:16)
  • A Message From Pandora (HD 20:16)
  • Deleted Scenes (HD 1:11:03 28 Scenes Total)
  • Scene Deconstruction (HD 1:06:10)
  • Archives: Script, Artwork, Marketing:
    • Theatrical Trailer
    • Teaser Trailer
    • Sam Worthington and Zoe Saldana Special Shoot
    • Avatar: The Original Scriptment
    • Avatar: Screenplay Written by James Cameron
    • The Art of Avatar
    • Avatar the Songs
    • Pandorapedia

Bonus Features Disc 2

  • Memories from Avatar (HD 21:20) 
  • Avatar: A Look Back (HD 10:03)
  • Capturing Avatar (HD 1:38:25)
  • Featurettes - (HD 1:31:51)
    • Sculpting Avatar
    • Creating the Banshee
    • Creaturing 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 
  • Production Materials (HD 1:24:25)
    • The 2006 Art Reel
    • Brother Termite Test
    • The ILM Prototype
      • Play with Mo-Cap Reference
      • Play without Mo-Cap Reference
    • Screen Test - Sam Worthington (Raw Footage)
    • Screen Test - Zoe Saldana (Raw Footage)
    • Zoe’s Life Cast (Raw Footage)
    • James Cameron Speech: Beginning of Live-Action Filming (Raw Footage)
    • ILM VFX Progression
    • Framestore VFX Progression
    • [Hy-Drau”LX] VFX Progression
    • Hybride VFX Progression
    • Prome Focus VFX Progression
    • Look Effects, Inc. VFX Progression
    • Crew Film: The Volume

I still don’t think Avatar is the greatest film ever made (or even franchise), but it’s fun and entertaining. A space opera akin to classic pulp sci-fi adventure novels, the characters are thinly drawn, and the plot is fairly predictable, but the visuals are truly out of this world and Cameron demonstrates his knack for incredible action scenes. Given the notable differences between cuts, this first film really feels like the proof-of-concept version that Way of Water pulled off fully. Of the three cuts, the Collector’s Extended Cut is the most complete and fulfilling but still a very clunky endeavor. With record turnaround time for a double dip, Disney 20th Century Studios gives fans the release of Avatar we should have had from the outset. We now finally have all three cuts of the film in 2160p with all of the new and archival extras to keep us occupied for several hours after the credits roll. 

To top things off, we actually have a Disney release on Disc with Dolby Vision HDR! It might not be a massive A-B improvement but it’s certainly appreciable. Ultimately, if you’re happy with the Theatrical Cut disc, that’s still a terrific piece for the collection. However, if you’re a die-hard Cameron junkie that doesn’t mind plunking down even more cash for this film, this is the set for you. My only real gripe with this set is the frustratingly restrictive packaging. It is a true pain to access the discs without manhandling them or ripping apart the packaging.  For Fans Only