Avatar: The Way of Water Collector’s Edition Digital UHD Review

3.5 Stars Additional special features and nothing more, but YMMV by retailer
Avatar the Way of Water Review

Milking even more money out of the latest cash cow, last year’s biggest box office hit Avatar: The Way of Water gets a “Collector’s Edition” digital release from 20th Century Studios via Disney.

Avatar: The Way of Water (2022)
Released: 16 Dec 2022
Rated: PG-13
Runtime: 192 min
Director: James Cameron
Genre: Action, Adventure, Fantasy
Cast: Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Sigourney Weaver
Writer(s): James Cameron, Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver
Plot: Jake Sully lives with his newfound family formed on the extrasolar moon Pandora. Once a familiar threat returns to finish what was previously started, Jake must work with Neytiri and the army of the Na'vi race to protect their home.
IMDB rating: 7.8
MetaScore: 67

Disc Information
Studio: Disney
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution: 2160p HEVC w/HDR
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Audio: Dolby Atmos
Subtitles: English SDH
Rating: PG-13
Run Time: 3 Hr. 12 Min.
Package Includes: Digital Copy
Case Type: N/A
Disc Type: Other
Region: A
Release Date: 12/12/2023
MSRP: $24.99

The Production: 4/5

It’s been about ten years since the Na’vi, led by Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) and Neytiri (Zoe Saldana), sent the sky people, who had been exploiting the natural resources of Pandora, packing. Sully and Neytiri have started a family, including orphan Kiri (Sigourney Weaver) who was immaculately conceived by the late Dr. Grace Augustine’s avatar (also Weaver) that has been kept on life support by the team of scientists that stayed behind. Their sons Neteyam (Jamie Flatters) and Lo’ak (Britain Dalton) and daughter Tuk (Trinity Jo’Li Bliss) round out the family, while wild child human Spider (Jack Champion) hangs around like a stray dog. But the sky people have returned to further wreak havoc on the planet, led by General Ardmore (Edie Falco), with a team of genetically enhanced avatar hybrids that include a clone of Colonel Miles Quaritch (Stephen Lang) tasked with hunting down Sully and his family.

This forces Sully and his family to leave their clan, meeting up with the water-based clan known as the Metkayina, whose leader Tonowari (Cliff Curtis) first rejects them and treats them as outcasts. The bulk of the film is set in this part of Pandora, as Sully and his family try to earn their keep with their new clan, learning to swim and hold their breaths underwater for an extraordinary amount of time, while Quaritch and his team of mercenaries continue to track down their prey, leading to a final showdown for the exciting third act.

Avatar: The Way of Water is the first of many planned sequels by director James Cameron, enlisting Mulan and Rise of the Planet of the Apes scribes Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver to help him pen this second entry in the series. The film does take its time to really gain some momentum, spending nearly its entire first act to bring us up to date on what everyone has been up to since the first film, then spends it rather long second act to further build the world of Pandora and introduce the new clan.

Where the sequel excels is in its photorealistic visual effects created once again by the team at WETA, especially its underwater sequences that Cameron insisted be shot using performance capture wet for wet in most cases (meaning actually shot in a water tank). The movie does run a bit long at 3 hours and 12 minutes, and Cameron probably could have trimmed a bit of the excess fat, but it is entertaining nonetheless.

Video: 4.5/5

3D Rating: NA

At the time of this review, the “Collector’s Edition” was only available on Vudu and Movies Anywhere.

Avatar: The Way of Water was captured and rendered in 4K and 3D using Sony CineAlta Venice Rialto 3D cameras for much of its production photography and completed as a 4K digital intermediate in both 2D and 3D, framed at either 1.90:1 for IMAX, 1.85:1 for theaters with standard width screens, and 2.39:1 for theaters with standard height screens, with high frame rate of 48 fps for certain shots and Dolby Vision HDR at its more premium theatrical exhibitions. For this home digital release, James Cameron has opted for the 1.85:1 aspect ratio (likely because most displays are common height). The film is available in HDR10 and Dolby Vision, but that is dependent on what formats the digital retailer you choose to view it on supports. The display I used for this review was a 55” LG C1 OLED.

I began viewing the movie on Vudu on my Roku Streaming Stick 4K. The 2160p Dolby Vision image was stunning, with good detail that included individual strands of hair, intricate fabric textures, and the most minute droplets of water. Colors were bold and vivid without appearing overly saturated. Contrast was excellent, with bright but not overblown highlights and deep blacks with good shadow detail. However, I did notice some minimal banding in the opening shot.

My next test was the Movies Anywhere app on the same Roku Streaming Stick 4K. MA’s DV encode appeared brighter and more vivid with stronger detail than Vudu. Movies Anywhere is the more preferred place to view this title, unless it becomes available on Apple TV (or this version ports to the previous digital release).

Audio: 4.5/5

Both Vudu and Movies Anywhere offer a lossy Dolby Atmos mix by default. Overall, the sound did not have the dynamic range of the lossless Atmos track found on the 4K disc release. But the Atmos encoded on Vudu and Movies Anywhere were no slouches by any means. These were also very dynamic encodes, but may have been just slightly more compressed or subject to the audio chipset limitations of the Roku Streaming Stick 4K. This is a very active Atmos mix, with a wide front soundstage and immersive surrounds and heights, offering seamless movement of sound. LFE is exceptional, adding pulse-pounding emphasis to the many thuds and explosions heard in the film. Dialogue is clear and understandable throughout. A Family Friendly audio option in Dolby Digital+ 5.1 is also available.

Special Features: 3.5/5

This is where things vary greatly by retailer. As of this writing, this “Collector’s Edition” is not available (or did not port over from Movies Anywhere) on Apple TV or Amazon Prime Video.

Movies Anywhere
**NEW** Behind the Scenes Presentation by Jon Landau (1080p; 36:56): Producer Jon Landau takes the viewer on a condensed look at the making of the movie.

**NEW** Memories from “Avatar: The Way of Water” (1080p; 19:10): Producer Jon Landau hosts a Q&A panel with actors Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Sigourney Weaver and Stephen Lang.

**NEW** Production Design Panel Hosted by Jon Landau (1080p; 32:09): Producer Jon Landau hosts a Q&A panel with Supervising Art Director Aashrita Kamath and Production Designers Ben Procter and Dylan Cole.

**NEW** Deleted Scenes (1080p; 32:39): A total of 12 scenes are included.

**NEW** Scene Deconstruction (1080p; 93:55): Offers eleven scenes from the movie which can be viewed in one of three ways: motion capture full screen, in-between template animation, or the final result.

**NEW** Production Materials (1080p; 70:27)

**NEW** Beyond the Big Screen (1080p; 53:08): Additional bits and pieces that include a more updated look at the Pandora land at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, a crew-made animated film, James Cameron and Jon Landau hand and footprint ceremony at the TCL Chinese Theater, and a look at developing the visual effects technology for the film.

Monday Night Football TV Spot (1080p; 1:59)

Inside Pandora’s Box (1080p; 152:14): This is a very detailed, feature-length documentary on the technical aspects of making Avatar: The Way of Water. Topics include building the world, performance capture, shooting underwater and its challenges, new and returning characters, production design, visual effects, and sound.

More from Pandora’s Box (1080p; 28:07): A look at the more human aspects of the production, such as casting, stunts, digital design, and the “troupe” of performers that included extras and stunt performers.

Marketing Materials & Music Video (1080p; 8:51): Includes the Nothing is Lost (You Give Me Strength) music video and the two theatrical trailers.

Vudu
**NEW** Production Materials (1080p; 70:27)

**NEW** Behind the Scenes Presentation by Jon Landau (1080p; 36:56): Producer Jon Landau takes the viewer on a condensed look at the making of the movie.

**NEW** Memories from “Avatar: The Way of Water” (1080p; 19:10): Producer Jon Landau hosts a Q&A panel with actors Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Sigourney Weaver and Stephen Lang.

**NEW** Production Design Panel Hosted by Jon Landau (1080p; 32:09): Producer Jon Landau hosts a Q&A panel with Supervising Art Director Aashrita Kamath and Production Designers Ben Procter and Dylan Cole.

**NEW** Deleted Scenes (1080p; 32:39): A total of 12 scenes are included.

Monday Night Football TV Spot (1080p; 1:59)

**NEW** Scene Deconstruction (1080p; 93:55): Offers eleven scenes from the movie which can be viewed in one of three ways: motion capture full screen, in-between template animation, or the final result.

Overall: 3.5/5

It would have been nice if Disney had made fans aware that this release was coming this soon after the previous digital and physical media releases of this film earlier this year, especially since most of the bonus materials from that earlier release are included on the Movies Anywhere version.

The Abyss, Aliens and True Lies will be available in 4K Ultra UHD for the first time ever on December 12 at digital retailers and on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray disc March 12, 2024. Avatar and Avatar: The Way of Water Collector’s Editions will also be available at digital retailers December 12 and on Blu-ray December 19.

Todd Erwin has been a reviewer at Home Theater Forum since 2008. His love of movies began as a young child, first showing Super 8 movies in his backyard during the summer to friends and neighbors at age 10. He also received his first movie camera that year, a hand-crank Wollensak 8mm with three fixed lenses. In 1980, he graduated to "talkies" with his award-winning short The Ape-Man, followed by the cult favorite The Adventures of Terrific Man two years later. Other films include Myth or Fact: The Talbert Terror and Warren's Revenge (which is currently being restored). In addition to movie reviews, Todd has written many articles for Home Theater Forum centering mostly on streaming as well as an occasional hardware review, is the host of his own video podcast Streaming News & Views on YouTube and is a frequent guest on the Home Theater United podcast.

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