If you've been following the rumors that preceded yesterday's release of "Avatar: Special Edition," which features an additional nine minutes, there's probably only one scene that really has you curious.

Writer-director James Cameron, who is as good at self-promotion as he is at filmmaking, has long promised that this new version of his 2009 sci-fi blockbuster, "Avatar," would focus more on the Na'vi people of the planet Pandora. But as the release date neared, he also revealed that we'd be lingering longer upon two blue-skinned lovers consummating their relationship. Suddenly, the other expected additions - more creatures, a deleted death scene - seemed slightly less exciting.

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Like much of the original "Avatar," the love scene was a balancing act, finely calibrated to make us forget that we were watching not human actors but digitized creations generated almost wholly within a computer. It's easy to suspend disbelief when animated aliens are busy hunting and fighting, but not when they're doing something so - well, human. The triumph of "Avatar" was its ability to breathe life into computerized images and use them to tell an emotionally engaging story.

Here's the first of many spoilers to follow: The part-human Jake (Sam Worthington) and the Na'vi native Neytiri (Zoe Saldana) draw slightly closer and breathe slightly faster, if only for a few seconds. That's enough, however, to break the spell and put us back in a typical, gauzy Hollywood bedroom. You almost expect Jake to ask if the Pandora moved for her, too.

Other additions fare better or at least do no harm. Jake and the Na'vi go after a herd of hammer-nosed sturmbeest (if that's the plural), and there seem to be more glimpses of the jungle's bioluminescent foliage. The warrior prince Tsu'tey (Laz Alonso), who was rather quickly dispatched in the original, is properly and movingly mourned.

Were nine more minutes necessary in a film that already was nearly three hours long? Maybe not, but at these ticket prices - the film is showing only in 3-D and IMAX - at least you get a little more for your money.

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