Why Avatar's success is a bad thing for Blu-ray users
26th Apr 2010 | 16:13
No extras, no 3D, no point?
Today marks the biggest day ever in the UK home entertainment calendar, as it sees the launch of Avatar on Blu-ray.
Retailers are crossing all their fingers and toes that Avatar's Blu-ray launch will catapult the format into the stratosphere, kick-starting a buying spree which won't stop until the 'next big' format hits the shops and then… well, the whole format fight starts all over again.
There's no doubt that Avatar will be a success in the home, considering it's already broken all records in the US, proving to be far more popular than the other Cameron who is a big supporter of all things blue.
And there is no denying that Avatar is a supernova of a film, something the box office will not likely see again for another 10 years. But its arrival on Blu-ray can only be seen as a cynical attempt to cash in on the film's unbridled success in the cinema.
Not that the likes of Tescos, Asda and HMV would tell you this. If press releases are to be believed, stores opened at midnight to cope with the Avatar madness, staff learned Na'vi to promote the movie and Asda cringingly told the press that it "expects customers will be literally turning blue to get their hands on a copy".
Retailers want Avatar to ape the success of The Matrix on DVD some 10 years ago – a moment that pushed DVD in the mainstream, where it remains today.
Cut beneath the hyperbole, though, and you will see that the launch of Avatar on Blu-ray is a vanilla one, in that there are no extras of note on the disc. All you get is the movie and it's the 2D version at that.
Watching Avatar in 2D is doing the film a massive disservice. There has been a lot of rumblings that films not shot specifically for 3D don't actually look that great in the third dimension – we're looking at you Alice In Wonderland and Clash of the Titans – but Avatar is meant to be seen in 3D, as it was built from the ground up to cater for the technology.
The problem is that the home is just not ready for 3D just yet. Yes, there's a smattering of 3D ready TVs and 3D Blu-ray players are also trickling out. But if Twentieth Century Fox waited for 3D in the home to be mainstream until it launched Avatar in this format then, well, we may never see the film come out in the UK at all.
Fox knows this and that is why we are seeing this release now, but the signs are all there that this is one film that just doesn't sit well in the home environment.
And it's not just the lack of 3D. Cameron in an interview last year announced his dislike (in a roundabout way) of the 1.78:1 aspect ratio for 2D movies.
Speaking at a preview snippet of Avatar at the Santa Monica Aero Theatre (and noted by SlashFilm) he said: "I'm actually going back on years of kind of eschewing the kind of 1.85 format, now saying 1.85 - or actually, it's 1.78:1 - actually works really well in 3D. But only in 3D."
A quick look at the release of Avatar in 2D shows that the movie is presented in 1.78:1 for the Blu-ray release.
Cameron cannot be a happy bunny.
James Cameron has said himself that Avatar belongs on the big screen, saying that when you watch the movie in the home but when you do you should: "Go big. Get the biggest set you can, and then sit as close as you can stand. That's my advice. Get the coffee table out of the way and slide the couch over, right in front of the TV."
The annoying thing is Cameron is an advocate for Blu-ray.
He's obviously eager to get the movie into homes in its 3D version but Fox has sniffed that there is money to be made and that's why we have this barebones release now.
There is some reasoning behind why Avatar is being released with absolutely no new content and that is because Panasonic - who authored the disc - has tried to give the film the best picture and sound quality.
Panasonic's official line is that Avatar is "the first Blu-ray release from a major studio to be produced without special features, trailers or promotional content, freeing up the maximum disc storage for the film and corresponding menu to ensure the best possible video and audio representation of James Cameron's spectacular world of Pandora."
This is all very well, but does it take up every gig of the 55GB of space?
If you really want to see Avatar in the home, then our advice is to wait till November when a special edition DVD and Blu-ray 3D release will arrive in the shops - a version that shows off the true potential of Blu-ray, its interactivity and special feature goodness, and isn't merely a money spinner.
Unless you are "literally turning blue" to see the film, then we suggest you go and see a doctor.