Review: Avatar Extended Edtion

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Sooner or later, though, you always have to wake up

Avatar is the biggest box office hit of the century so far and the biggest hit of all time. It has evolved the landscape of modern films, taken it to the next level in terms of what cinema is capable of. Whatever you think of Avatar, the effect it’s had is remarkable.

This extended cut is the fullest, ‘fattest’ version of the story and while the change to the narrative is small, the new scenes give the story some more context and justification for actions that occur in the final act.

Both the theatrical and extended version are on the disc so if you prefer the original cut it’s there to watch. The story, an element criticized on release retreads territory covered by other films but the space setting adds a semblance of freshness. It made sense on Cameron’s part to marry this story with the spectacle of science fiction and fantasy. It reaches the emotional highs and is well paced for the most part but the biggest problem is its lack of subtlety.

Cameron is a little weak at conveying ideas without resorting to some rather on-the-nose dialogue. Quaritch’s “fight terror with terror” speech, while understandable from a human perspective, is heavy handed. Every so often you’ll notice the dialogue and the colloquialism and they’ll make you aware that the quality of the writing is not up to the same standard of the visuals.

And the visuals are gorgeous. It’s a gorgeous world to look at especially during the night scenes. The bio-luminescence works extremely well at creating a sense of awe.

Acting is generally good with Zoe Saldana as Neytiri the standout. It’s aa graceful, strong and emotional performance that totally convinces. The new scenes allow for some characters’ roles to be expanded but some fare better than others (most notably Sigourney Weaver’s Grace Augustine and the problems with her school).

A problem that even this edition cannot remedy is the lack of time with some other supporting characters like Trudy (Michelle Rodriguez), Norman (Joel Moore) and Tsu’tey (Laz Alonso). The expanded film gives his character closure but we still don’t know enough to make him more than a cliché. The supporting characters exist to move the plot in a certain direction and not much else. Their appearances are fleeting, a little shallow and so when a character makes a decision it doesn’t convince because there isn’t enough investment in these characters.

The action is well handled; Cameron does not employ the use of the somewhat looser, more hectic style of a Paul Greengrass or Christopher Nolan. 3D certainly was a contributing factor but Cameron’s style makes you aware of the geography of each action scene, where characters are and more importantly allows you enough time to register what’s happening on screen.

The biggest and best action scene is saved to last and while it does fall into that trap of a film ending with a huge battle (something Alice in Wonderland did, it’s fast becoming a cliché). Another action scene was added is the Na’vi hunting down sturmbeast. It adds very little overall to the film other than seeing another chance at how the Na’vi work together.

One jarring moment about it however was the musical cue which seems to have been taken from the final battle (titled “War” on the score release) and added into this scene. I can only assume that there wasn’t any fresh musical material that composer James Horner wrote because it seems just a little bit odd to hear that piece of music recycled note for note.

Avatar boasts some simply stunning imagery that even if you find the story lacking provides enough great eye candy mixed in with some good acting and action to make it enjoyable . This edition provides more action, more story and more character beats. It still has its flaws but this is the definitive version to own.

8/10

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Posted on 24/11/2010, in Best of, Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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