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Will ‘Avatar’ Have the Same Staying Power on Disc?


By :John Latchem | Posted: 05 Feb 2010

Bravo, James Cameron.

You’ve managed to top the box office record of your own Titanic, which many once believed was unsinkable.

That you did it with what is essentially an amusement park ride designed to manipulate the audience into believing the hype is beside the point (and a bit impressive). But I don’t want to talk about the irony of how you made $2 billion with a movie that bashes capitalism.

I’m mostly curious what kind of staying power the movie is going to have on disc.

See, without the gimmick of 3D or the immersion of a giant Imax screen, Avatar’s visual effects really aren’t any more impressive than something like the first Transformers movie, or even The Phantom Menace.

It’s like porn for geeks. You can throw action and special effects at the screen only so much before the brain wants to see something new. To paraphrase from Boogie Nights’ Jack Horner, maybe the light show is dazzling enough to draw a crowd, but is the story good enough to make them want to sit there long after they’ve gotten their fix?

I don’t think so. The plot is so filled with clichés it’s pretty clear it was just crafted to provide a rudimentary framework to test the new technologies that were invented for the movie. It’s basically just a glossy update of Pocahantas.

But the effects are dazzling, and Cameron takes great relish in showing them off. This is a beautiful travelogue of an alien planet, and if you get past how ridiculous the story gets in the final act, it’s not too different from an otherworldly version of Planet Earth.

It’s kind of like a really big museum exhibit that might draw a huge crowd, but is it really something you really need to see again? This could be one of those discs you pop in to see specific scenes if the mood suits you, or even as background material for a party.

Word is the film will be released on disc by June, and then will only be available in 2D. Since 3D was such a major part of its hype, anticipation for a 2D version seems a bit underwhelming. But barring some revolution in home 3D (that doesn’t seem likely for a few years), this is all we’re gonna get for a while.

Sure, Fox could start playing the double-dip game, and put out multiple versions of the movie every few months. But how long are people going to tolerate that? This movie is big enough to justify a huge extras package the first time out, they’re already talking about not being in a rush to put it on disc, and they’ve had the better part of a decade to put together extras for it.

And it’s going to need a lot of extras to placate those casual fans who might want to add it to their collection. (Forget the hardcore fans who have been gushing over the movie since the trailer … they’re already too far gone to save).

I’m talking several commentaries and a comprehensive behind-the-scenes documentary just for starters, that really gives fans a keen insight into all those new technologies Cameron had to invent before he wanted to start making the movie.

And there had better be a lot of deleted scenes. I mean, just watching the movie, it seems like there was a lot that was left out. I can think of a few specific scenes that I would be surprised didn’t exist on the cutting room floor, just due to the gaping plot holes left behind by their exclusion. (For starters, where’s the scene in which Yosemite Sam Col. Quaritch chews out whats-her-name for abandoning the attack on Hometree?)

Of course, I’d be quite amused to have an alternate audio track that plays the songs and dialogue from Pocahontas or Ferngully: The Last Rainforest as one watches Avatar. The movie probably wouldn’t have to be edited much to match up the scenes.

And since it has a screensaver quality, why not put a screensaver mode on there? Make it music only, cut out the dialogue and the military hardware and just focus on Pandora.

Then, when 3D at home technology catches up, a second release would be warranted. But whatever’s on there, it’s going to sell huge and make even more money. That’s a given.

That being the case, though, why even release this movie by itself on DVD? If people are so desperate to own it, put it on Blu-ray only and force the folks to finally upgrade their system. Or, if that’s too extreme, go with a combo pack only, so that the unenlightened masses can still get it on DVD, but they’ll have that Blu-ray there nagging at them with the curiosity of what they are missing.

If Avatar really is the next generation of filmmaking, it seems like such a waste if it can’t do the same for home entertainment.

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User comments

Commented by Coop
Posted on 2010-02-05 19:08:58

I liked your assessment of the film, but I take issue with "all those new technologies Cameron had to invent". That's giving him far too much credit. He gets credit for being trusted with such large sums of money to pull off something (technologically) new, but he did not "invent" anything. Leave that credit to the scores of engineers, software developers, and artists who make something like this happen.

Commented by Susan
Posted on 2010-02-07 09:45:48

Avitar would only be worth owning on Blu-Ray or when 3D becomes the gold standard.


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