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Across the Universe: The Return of 'Avatar'

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News, rumors, cool stuff and other transmissions from the far-flung reaches of the geek cosmosBy Don Kaye Special to MSN MoviesJust How 'Special' Is 'Avatar' Reissue?: With the summer movie season in its late-August lull, Fox and James Cameron have decided to try to milk a few more million bucks out of "Avatar," because being the highest-grossing movie of all time is not good enough. To entice everyone who has already seen it (and the eight or nine who haven't), Cameron has added about nine minutes of footage to the movie, already a heavyweight at 160 minutes. What's in those nine minutes? We'll see the death of a supporting Na'vi character, a sequence in which a creature called a sturmbeast is hunted, and an action scene in which the Na'vi attack the fleet of Earth bulldozers. Apparently we will also get a little more Na'vi foreplay between Jake (Sam Worthington) and Neytiri (Zoe Saldana), but not enough spice to change the movie's PG-13 rating. Frankly, this appears to be a blatant cash grab: The extra scenes don't sound like they do anything to enhance or expand the story of the Na'vi, Pandora or Jake. But has there ever been a "special edition" of a movie that actually did improve on the original? The answer is yes. The director? None other than James Cameron. Both his "Aliens" and "The Abyss" were first released on laserdisc in special "extended cuts" -- a category he arguably pioneered -- and both were better in their longer editions. "Aliens" gave heroine Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) a significant backstory that more fully developed her character and motivations. "The Abyss" cranked up the tension between the U.S. and Soviets while better defining the actions of the aliens hiding underwater in the Cayman Trough through some elaborate effects sequences. On the other hand, George Lucas' digitally enhanced "special editions" of the first "Star Wars" trilogy added nothing of consequence and pretty much cost us the charm of the originals, which Lucas has all but buried (next year's Blu-rays will be the "special editions"). Meanwhile, extended or "director's" cuts of movies ranging from "Spider-Man" to "Watchmen" have all surfaced on DVD. While some, like "Watchmen," have been interesting, most have just added a few minutes of previously deleted footage that nobody missed in the first place. So if you want to "return to Pandora" this weekend, be my guest. Just don't expect Cameron to give you much of anything that will be, to use a word thrown around a lot when "Avatar" first came out, a game-changer. ('Avatar'/20th Century Fox)
© 20th Century Fox
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