Revisiting ‘Avatar’ in its IMAX Special Edition
WRITER’S NOTE: This review was written in 2010.
I really did mean to see “Avatar” in IMAX while it was still playing in theaters, but I never got around to it, unfortunately. After a bit, all the hoopla surrounding the movie was met with people deriding it and calling it a remake of “Fern Gully: The Last Rainforest” or “Dances with Wolves,” and I got worn out from hearing all the complaints. I knew “Avatar” was not going to have an original storyline, so there was no way I could have been disappointed. But after watching it on a regular screen in 3D, I was really eager to see how it played on in IMAX. With Cameron, you can always count on seeing his movies being made with the utmost technical precision. If there is a technological glitch anywhere, it’s someone else’s fault, not his.
At the end of August 2010, “Avatar” got re-released specifically in IMAX theaters around the country, and it had been extended to include scenes that were not in the original theatrical version. There is a total of 9 minutes of extra footage here, and Cameron succeeded in blending these new scenes into the film seamlessly. The new footage includes the following additions:
- There are more of the Stingbat and Sturmbeat creatures which had their own standout scenes in the first version. The Stingbats look even more wonderful than they did previously, and that’s saying quite a bit.
- You get more hunting sequences including one in which Jake and Neytiri fly up in the sky and shoot at the animals down below with arrows. This adds more to how Jake interacts and learns from the Na’vi, and how he becomes more open to being taken in by them.
- There’s an additional sequence where Jake, Grace, and Norm visit a school where Grace taught which has since been turned into a storage space (and not a carefully looked after one). The moment when Jake spots bullet holes in the chalkboard says a lot about how the military infrastructure on the planet is causing more harm than doing any good for the people. It’s a haunting image that filled me with things I did not want to think about as school violence appears to be rising.
- We get to see a Na’vi counterattack after the bulldozers have laid waste to some of the most sacred parts of Pandora. It is a foreshadowing of the devastating battle the humans will soon bring to the planet’s inhabitants, and of how fighting fire with fire does not always work to one’s advantage. This is especially the case when the other side has more firepower.
- The sex scene between Jake and Neytiri is longer, but don’t get too excited about it. There’s no insertion of anything or any penetration on display (this is a PG-13 movie after all!), just more hugging and cuddling. We still have yet to see how the Na’vi makes out with one another. I guess we’ll have to wait for the “unrated” edition to see that (lol).
- There’s a strong emotional scene towards the end between Jake and the Na’vi which reminded me of the final moment between Tom Cruise and Ken Watanabe in “The Last Samurai.” However familiar or similar this scene may seem, it still adds much to the story as it makes Jake’s destiny on Pandora all the more important.
Basically, all the scenes don’t ever feel extraneous, and each adds much to what we had previously seen in theaters back in 2009. Say whatever you want about Cameron’s dialogue or lack of original storylines, but he remains one hell of a storyteller. Clearly, this whole movie was in his head for years and years, and he got every last detail down perfectly. Considering how long he worked on “Avatar,” it’s safe to say he waited extremely patiently until technology finally met up with him so he could tell this tale properly.
Now I’m not going into another long-winded review of “Avatar” as many of my thoughts on the movie have not changed. I do have to say, however, that it was worth the $20 bucks (yes, it was that much) to see it in IMAX. The movie didn’t fill the entire screen, more like three-quarters of it actually, but that was fine. Witnessing Cameron’s film in this format made the experience of watching it all the more immersive. I got serious vertigo watching this special edition at times as it felt like I was moving along with the characters at certain points. I had this same experience when I watched “The Dark Knight” in IMAX, and there were a number of scenes that were shot in the actual IMAX format in that one. I felt like I was floating along with the camera and wherever it went, and it is a feeling I never get enough of at the movies.
I noticed even more that the 3D really brings you into the movie more without calling too much attention to itself with scenes featuring ash falling through the air after the humans wipe out certain parts of Pandora, it started to feel like the debris was coming right off the screen.
Also, it should be clearer than ever that “Avatar” is a powerful anti-imperialist movie, and that it is not a fan of Americans invading other countries. There’s no respect for the rights of the indigenous population on Pandora, and we keep seeing this going on right here on Earth. It makes me wonder if history will ever stop repeating itself.
Seeing “Avatar” on the average-sized movie screen at your local theater is quite something, but watching it in IMAX is a whole other thing. No wonder this has been such an enormous hit around the world. Cameron sucks you visually and emotionally in ways most filmmakers only think they can. Most people I know of these days would prefer to wait until a movie comes out on DVD so they can watch it at home, but this is the kind of motion picture which was made to be seen in a cinema, let alone in IMAX.
* * * * out of * * * *