Avatar: Collector’s Edition (4K UHD Review)

  • Reviewed by: Bill Hunt
  • Review Date: Dec 21, 2023
  • Format: Blu-ray Disc
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Avatar: Collector’s Edition (4K UHD Review)


James Cameron

Release Date(s)

2009 (December 19, 2023)


Lightstorm/20th Century Fox/Dune/Ingenious Film (20th Century Studios Home Entertainment)
  • Film/Program Grade: See Below
  • Video Grade: A-
  • Audio Grade: A+
  • Extras Grade: A+

Avatar: Collector’s Edition (4K Ultra HD)



A hundred and thirty years in the future, the Earth’s biosphere has been degraded and its natural resources depleted. But though the planet is overpopulated, civilization remains hungry for energy and raw materials, so humanity has searched deep space and discovered Pandora, a lush and habitable moon orbiting a gas giant in the Alpha Centauri system just 4.3 light years away. To begin extracting the moon’s mineral wealth—including a remarkable room-temperature superconductor called “unobtanium”—the Resources Development Administration (RDA) has launched a massive expedition to Pandora, but they’ve had to include a substantial military force in the effort. This is due to the fact that Pandora is already (and inconveniently) inhabited by an intelligent species of indigenous humanoids called the Na’vi, who aren’t terribly happy with the idea of their homeworld being exploited by “sky people” from a distant star.

Enter Jake Sully (Sam Worthington), a paraplegic ex-marine whose twin brother, an RDA scientist, was preparing to leave for Pandora to study the Na’vi. But when his brother is killed before departure, Jake is offered his contact instead. It seems that his brother was meant to serve as an “avatar” pilot, and the avatar in question—a Na’vi host body grown in a lab—is genetically compatible with Jake. When he arrives on Pandora after a six-year trip in cryosleep, Jake is seen as a nuisance by Grace Augustine (Sigourney Weaver), the head of the avatar program, but an asset by Colonel Quaritch (Stephen Lang), the man in charge of security on the planet. Jake surprises everyone by thriving in his avatar and gaining the trust of the local tribe, particularly Neytiri (Zoe Saldana), who teaches him the way of her people. But when Quaritch and the RDA lose patience with the Na’vi, and decide to take what they want by force, Jake is forced to choose between loyalty to his own people or the natives who’ve accepted him as family.

Arguably the most technically advanced and groundbreaking film ever made at the time of its release, Avatar is the culmination of James Cameron’s entire personal and professional life. Combining his appreciation of nature with his love of sci-fi, filmmaking, the sciences, and complex problem-solving, its production has evolved over time from a simple film project, to a franchise, and finally a kind of obsession that’s engaged him creatively for the past two decades and seems likely to do so for at least a decade more. (The final planned sequel, Avatar 5, is currently slated to arrive in theaters in 2031!) Cameron first shared the scriptment for the project with producer Jon Landau while the pair was making Titanic, but it would take years more for visual effects technology to catch up with his ambition. An obvious cautionary tale about the misfortunes of environmental degradation and the exploitation of indigenous cultures, Avatar’s plot is disarmingly simple—two parts Dances with Wolves and one part Aliens, with a dash of The Lion King added for good measure. But that simplicity is also key to the film’s extraordinary cross-cultural appeal: People of goodwill everywhere, in virtually every corner of the globe, can see with their own eyes the damage being done to the environment, and the paralysis of governments to stop it, and come to the same conclusion: We can and must do better.

Of course, the other key to Avatar’s appeal is equally simple: It’s a genuinely compelling visual experience. When the film debuted in theaters, the sheer immersiveness of its 3D environments was startling—no one had ever seen motion capture and CG artistry so seamlessly blended with live action photography before, all in service of an almost unparalleled act of cinematic world-building. Every detail of Pandora was conceived in Cameron’s imagination, then fully developed and realized with the help of hundreds of animators, designers, sculptors, biologists, linguists, programmers, and engineers. Even some of those who claimed to hate the film returned to see it multiple times in theaters simply to absorb its wonders. As Chicago Reader film critic J. R. Jones noted in his review at the time: “Watching it, I began to understand how people in 1933 must have felt when they saw King Kong.” That’s right on the money. Let’s face it—as modern moviegoers have grown ever more jaded, fed on a steady diet of bloated Hollywood blockbusters, it takes a truly remarkable film to remind them why the big screen experience remains so special and vital. And in December of 2009, Avatar embodied that experience like nothing else before it.

But as fans will no doubt be aware, Avatar has been seen in three distinct versions: the 162-minute Theatrical Release, a 170-minute Special Edition Re-Release, and a 178-minute Extended Collector’s Edition. Of these, the latter is definitely the most rich and complete viewing experience. It includes several new scenes and moments that add context and substance to the story. First, there’s a terrific opening sequence featuring Jake on Earth, getting kicked out of a bar and learning that his brother has been killed. This is fascinating for a whole host of reasons, not the least of which is the chance to see what life on Earth at this point in the future is actually like. (Not particularly great is the answer.) There are also new scenes in which you see Jake learning to hunt with the tribe, and you see Grace’s abandoned school for Na’vi children—important because you also learn that Neytiri had a sister who died in a skirmish with Quaritch’s mercs. (That history of bad blood thus informs the rest of the story too). There are also a host of little moments—scene extensions and the like—as well as the long version of Jake and Neytiri’s love scene (which really isn’t explicit in any way, so I’m not sure why it was cut other than time). Note that both the 4K UHD disc and the Blu-ray in this package include all three versions via seamless branching. You can select them when you first press “Play” or later from the Setup menu.

Avatar’s live-action elements were captured digitally in HDCAM SR format (at 1080p/24 resolution) by cinematographer Mauro Fiore and his team using PACE Fusion 3D and Sony CineAlta F23, HDC-1500, and HDC-F950 cameras, with Canon and Fujinon lenses. Additional performance imagery was captured using a virtual camera and volume, supplemented by a Simul-Cam process that combined the live-action, performance capture, and rough animatic imagery all at once, allowing Cameron and Fiore to “shoot” the film the same way a documentarian might. All of this was then enhanced and supplemented by extensive computer-generated visuals to produce the final result, a 2K Digital Intermediate master framed in a variety of aspect ratios (including 1.78:1 for IMAX, 1.85:1 for 3D, and 2.39:1 for wide-release theatrical exhibition).

For this new Collector’s Edition 4K Ultra HD release, all three versions of the film have been AI-upsampled from the original master files to create a new 4K Digital Intermediate, complete with grading for high dynamic range (and both HDR10 and Dolby Vision are included this time). As was the case with the original Blu-ray release, the film is framed here at the 1.78:1 aspect ratio. All three versions also now include a new line of dialogue at the end of the film from Parker Selfridge to Jake Sully: “You know this isn’t over, right?” And the 20th Century Studios logo now replaces the original Fox logo. (These changes were added for the recent 4K theatrical re-release earlier this year.)

I have to say, the 4K presentation is pretty extraordinary. The entire image is cleaner and crisper looking, with notably more precise detail, though it does lack the truly fine detailing that you’d expect from a native 4K image. It also has a slightly digitally-processed appearance, in that what fine detail does exist appears a tad noisy on occasion (noticeable, for example, in the walls of the open-pit mine when the shuttle first lands on Pandora, in the leaves of distant trees, etc.) But wow—this is definitely a better looking image than the original Blu-ray release, even before you consider HDR. Once you do add HDR, however, there’s no contest. The palette is noticeably richer, deeper, and more nuanced, and everything is bolder looking thanks to the expanded contrast. Shadows are darker, yet retain greater detail than before, while the highlights are more naturally bright. The addition of roughly 16 minutes’ worth of footage does have a slight impact on the video data rates, which are now about 5 to 10 Mbps less than they appeared on the previous Avatar 4K release from June of this year (reviewed here). But the differences are slight, difficult to appreciate without direct side-by-side comparison, and the Dolby Vision helps. It should be noted that the new Blu-ray version is also sourced from the 4K DI, so it retains some of the remaster’s benefits even in HD, including cleaner overall detail, deeper shadows, and more saturated coloring. The Blu-ray also benefits from improvements in image compression made over the last 13 years. (To give you some sense of the comparative image quality, if the original Blu-ray—which was reference for its day—was a 6 out of 10, the new Blu-ray would be a 7, and the 4K is an 8.5. The remastering is impressive.)

Audio-wise, the Collector’s Edition 4K UHD release includes its sound in a few different options. The first is a home theater port of the new English Dolby Atmos mix created for the Theatrical Release (it’s in 5.1 DTS-HD MA on the Blu-ray) and this is absolutely fantastic from start to finish. The stage is big, wide, and highly immersive, with constant engagement from the surround and height channels, deep and dimensional object placement, and smooth, lively movement. Bass is exceptional, notably more robust than it sounds in some of the film’s streaming incarnations. The mix goes from softly nuanced one moment to thunderous and muscular the next with complete ease. Dialogue is clean and discernible at all times, while James Horner’s score is layered in with pleasing fidelity and musicality. For the Special Edition Re-Release and Collector’s Extended Cut you get the same excellent English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio lossless mix found on the 2010 Blu-ray, which provides constant immersion in the film’s grand and enveloping soundstage. Clarity is outstanding here too and there’s great low-end reinforcement in the LFE channel. The Theatrical Release and Special Edition Re-Release also include an optional English Family Audio Track, which removes all of the cursing. There’s an English 2.0 Descriptive Audio track available for the Theatrical Release only. And all three cuts also offer English 2.0 DTS-HD MA as well as French, Spanish, and German 5.1 Dolby Digital, with optional subtitles available in English for the Hearing Impaired, French, Spanish, and German.

Fox’s new 4K Ultra HD Collector’s Edition package is a 4-disc set that includes all three versions of the film in 4K on UHD and 1080p HD on Blu-ray (again, also sourced from the 4K remaster), along with two Blu-ray special features discs. The exact breakdown of the content on each disc is as follows:


  • Theatrical Release (4K – 162:02)
  • Special Edition Re-Release (4K – 170:53)
  • Collector’s Extended Cut (4K – 178:28)
  • Direct Access to New/Additional Scenes – Special Edition Re-Release
    • 39: Herd (4K – :44)
    • 44-45: The Schoolhouse (4K – 1:52)
    • 60: Purple Moss (4K – :27)
    • 64 Alt 1: I Don’t Even Know Your Name (4K – 1:18)
    • 81J: What Does Hold Them Up? (4K – :49)
    • 102, 105: Extended Montage (4K – 1:29)
    • 112: Neytiri’s Flyby (4K – :37)
    • 121 Alt 1: Sturmbeest Hunt (4K – 1:56)
    • 151: Extended Love Scene (4K – 1:36)
    • 174-176: Drums of War (4K – 1:26)
    • 276: Tsu’tey’s Fall (4K – :47)
    • 282: Strumbeest Attack (4K – :49)
    • 332: Extended Thanator Fight (4K – :20)
    • 348: The Last Shadow (4K – 2:42)
  • Direct Access to New/Additional Scenes – Collector’s Extended Cut
    • 002-019: Earth (4K – 10:16)
    • 39: Herd (4K – :44)
    • 44-45: The Schoolhouse (4K – 1:52)
    • 60: Purple Moss (4K – :27)
    • 64 Alt 1: I Don’t Even Know Your Name (4K – 1:18)
    • 69A: Sylwanin (4K – :50)
    • 81J: What Does Hold Them Up? (4K – :49)
    • 102, 105, 106, 109: Alternate Montage with Grace’s Story (4K – 5:40)
    • 112: Neytiri’s Flyby (4K – :37)
    • 121 Alt 1: Sturmbeest Hunt (4K – 1:56)
    • 151: Extended Love Scene (4K – 1:36)
    • 174-176: Drums of War (4K – 1:26)
    • 178: They Bulldozed a Sacred Site (4K – :46)
    • 276: Tsu’tey’s Fall (4K – :47)
    • 282: Strumbeest Attack (4K – :49)
    • 332: Extended Thanator Fight (4K – :20)
    • 348: The Last Shadow (4K – 2:42)


Content-wise, this disc is essentially the same as the 4K disc, simply with the films in HD and no Atmos mix.


  • Behind-the-Scenes Presentation Hosted by Jon Landau (HD – 18:08) – NEW
  • Colonel Miles Quaritch RDA Promos (HD – 7:16) – NEW
  • A Message from Pandora (HD – 20:16)
  • Deleted Scenes: Never-Before-Seen
    • User’s Guide for Viewing Avatar Scenes with Unfinished Shots (HD – 3:17)
    • 19: Stingbat Attack (SD – 1:34)
    • 20: Pandora Rules (SD – 2:44)
    • 21: Jake Meets Norm (First Cut) (SD – :55)
    • 26: Jake Sees Decanted Avatars (SD – :44)
    • 30: Norm Is a Living God (SD – :49)
    • 35A: Breakfast with the Scientists (SD – 1:07)
    • 36A-37: You’re in My World Now (SD – 2:44)
    • 64: Grandma’s Teylu (SD – 1:58)
    • 79: Pied Piper (SD – 1:21)
    • 81B-D: Going to the Mountains (SD – 2:14)
    • 81K: Interspecies Booty Call (SD – 1:21)
    • 91: Norm’s Attitude Improves (SD – 1:11)
    • 93A-98: Learning Montage Section Early Cut (SD – 3:08)
    • C120A: We’re Buying Time (SD – 2:09)
    • 122-123: Hunt Festival (SD – 4:55)
    • 131: Driving Range (SD – 2:17)
    • 131A-148: The Dreamhunt (SD – 10:44)
    • 164-172: The Challenge (SD – 6:21)
    • 174-178: The Drums of War (Full Version) (SD – 3:37)
    • 209-211: Escape (SD – 3:45)
    • 224A: The Eye of Eywa (SD – 1:54)
    • 232: You’re a Long Way from Earth (SD – 2:10)
    • 235-236: Battle Camp (SD – 2:21)
    • 248: Kick Some Blue Ass (SD – 1:28)
    • 277: Wainfleet Kills Norm (SD – 1:05)
    • 287: Neytiri Kills Wainfleet (Alt Wainfleet Death) (SD – :52)
    • 288-327: The Avatars Attack (SD – 3:02)
    • 350-351: New Life (SD – 1:25)
  • Scene Deconstruction (HD – multi-angle feature with 17 scenes – 66:10 in all)
    • Welcome to Your New Body
    • First Run
    • First Sortie
    • Night on Pandora
    • Shahaylu
    • Seyzey
    • You’re Mine
    • First Flight
    • Toruk Macto
    • You Are Omaticaya Now
    • I Am One of You
    • I Trusted You
    • The Aftermath
    • I See You
    • Fly with Me
    • You Chose Me for Something
    • Eywa Has Heard You
  • Archives: Script, Artwork, Marketing (all galleries in HD)
    • Theatrical Trailer (HD – 3:32)
    • Teaser Trailer (HD – 2:05)
    • Sam Worthington and Zoe Saldaña Special Shoot (Still Gallery) – NEW
    • Avatar: The Original Scriptment (Still Gallery)
    • Avatar: Screenplay Written by James Cameron (Still Gallery)
    • The Art of Avatar (Still Gallery)
      • The World of Pandora
      • The Creatures
      • Pandora Flora
      • Pandora Bioluminescence
      • The Na’vi
      • The Avatars
      • Maquettes
      • Na’vi Weapons
      • Na’vi Props
      • Na’vi Musical Instruments
      • RDA Designs
      • Flying Vehicles
      • AMP Suit
      • Human Weapons
      • Land Vehicles
    • Avatar: The Songs (Still Gallery)
    • Pandorapedia (Still Gallery)


  • Memories from Avatar (HD – 21:20) – NEW (on the previous 4K)
  • Avatar: A Look Back (HD – 10:03) – NEW (on the previous 4K)
  • Capturing Avatar (HD – 4 parts – 98:25 in all)
  • Featurettes
    • Sculpting Avatar (HD – 3:46)
    • Creating the Banshee (HD – 9:51)
    • Creating the Thanator (HD – 3:20)
    • The AMP Suit (HD – 4:31)
    • Flying Vehicles (HD – 5:13)
    • Na’vi Costumes (HD – 4:14)
    • Speaking Na’vi (HD – 6:37)
    • Pandora Flora (HD – 5:40)
    • Stunts (HD – 5:14)
    • Performance Capture (HD – 6:32)
    • Virtual Camera (HD – 3:21)
    • The 3D Fusion Camera (HD – 3:43)
    • The Simul-Cam (HD – 2:18)
    • Editing Avatar (HD – 6:59)
    • Scoring Avatar (HD – 6:06)
    • Sound Design (HD – 8:50)
    • The Haka: The Spirit of New Zealand (HD – 5:17)
  • Production Materials
    • The 2006 Art Reel (SD – 17:19)
    • Brother Termite Test (SD – 1:57)
    • The ILM Prototype with Motion Capture Reference (HD – :42)
    • The ILM Prototype without Motion Capture Reference (HD – :44)
    • Screen Test – Sam Worthington (Raw Footage) (SD – 6:19)
    • Screen Test – Zoe Saldaña (Raw Footage) (SD – 4:12)
    • Zoe’s Life Cast (Raw Footage) (SD – 2:22)
    • James Cameron Speech: Beginning of Live Action Filming (Raw Footage) (SD – 5:25)
    • ILM VFX Progression (HD – 2:37)
    • Framestore VFX Progression (HD – 3:17)
    • [HY·DRAU”LX] VFX Progression (HD – 2:04)
    • Hybride VFX Progression (HD – 1:53)
    • Prime Focus VFX Progression (HD – 2:56)
    • Look Effects, Inc. VFX Progression (HD – :52)
    • Crew Film: The Volume (SD – 31:41)

That is literally everything that’s been made available on disc previously, including everything from the original 2010 Avatar: Extended Collector’s Edition 3-disc Blu-ray. So if you own that Blu-ray, you can safely get rid of it when buying this new edition (unless you wish to keep the original ending, minus the added Selfridge dialogue). But there’s more: This package also includes a Movies Anywhere Digital Code on a paper slip. And when you redeem it, on Movies Anywhere and Vudu (but strangely not on iTunes) you also get the following additional Digital-exclusive extras:

  • Raw Footage Production Elements (HD – 68:00)
    • Screen Test: Sam Worthington and Zoe Saldaña/Raw Footage
    • Screen Test: Stephen Lang/Raw Footage
    • Screen Test: Giovanni Ribisi/Raw Footage
    • Screen Test: Joel David Moore/Raw Footage
    • Screen Test: CCH Pounder/Raw Footage
    • Screen Test: Laz Alonso/Raw Footage
    • Speaking Na’vi: Rehearsal/Raw Footage
    • Wētā Workshop: Walk & Talk Presentation/Raw Footage
    • Crew Short: The Night Before Avatar
  • Pandora Discovered (HD – 4:04)
  • Pandora: The World of Avatar (HD – 8:25)

Now, I’ve reviewed most of this content previously in some depth, both in my original 2010 Avatar: Extended Collector’s Edition 3-disc Blu-ray review as well as in my review of the previous 4K release back in June. But keep in mind, this new 4K Collector’s Edition adds still more new content, including a great new Behind-the-Scenes Presentation Hosted by Jon Landau, a collection of Colonel Miles Quaritch RDA Promos shot for the film but unseen anywhere until now, and a Sam Worthington and Zoe Saldaña Special Shoot (Still Gallery) featuring photos of the actors posing together as themselves (as opposed to their characters). Plus you get the new Digital-only extras too, which include over an hour of additional screen test footage, a pretty cute animated crew short, and a couple of short promo featurettes.

And the packaging for this set features a sturdy, glossy, and embossed hard slipcover that protects a cardboard book-style case that holds the actual discs and that latches with a magnetic clasp. It’s gorgeous, efficient at holding and protecting the discs, and it’s environmentally friendly too.

Setting aside one’s politics—which folks seem to have a harder and harder time doing these days—Avatar remains a compelling and cinematic audio/visual experience. It’s also the logical culmination of virtually every project James Cameron has been involved in, from films like The Terminator and The Abyss, to his dives to Titanic’s wreckage and the ocean’s deepest depths. Cameron’s curiosity and passion for engineering have been in evidence at every step, and they’re clearly driving both his current environmentalism (Why fuck up the planet if the technology exists to do things in a better way?) and his determination to complete the story he introduced in this film (which represents a seismic shift in the technology of cinema). 20th Century Studios’ new Avatar: Collector’s Edition in 4K UHD is an impressive demonstration of just how good digital remastering has gotten, not to mention a reminder of the kinds of elaborate special editions we all used to take for granted. The film has simply never looked or sounded better, and every previous version of the film (save for the 3D experience) is included here, along with all of the previous disc-based extras and some great new content too. So for those of you who love Avatar, this 4-disc Ultra HD package is truly an ultimate edition and highly recommended.

Film Ratings (Theatrical/Special Edition/Extended): B/B/B+

- Bill Hunt

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