Thursday, August 20, 2009

Avatar


Let’s just go on and jump right into this, shall we?

Watch this!

Now: To discuss, as the geekly are wont to do.

That trailer was, of course, for James Cameron’s legendary upcoming movie: Avatar. Oh, the anticipation. This is a project that some would claim as having been nearly 14 years in the making. This is a project that has been labeled (Self-labeled) as: Revolutionary. This is a project long heralded as a cinematic “game changer.” This is a project oft-touted as “the One,” the film that will finally change the way movies are told, the way they are created, and the way they are shown, the whole nine yards.

This is a project destined to fail…

And I’ll go into why I believe this to be so in a few pithy, self-amused paragraphs from now… But FIRST, a little back-story.

We all know who James Cameron is. He’s the King of the World. He’s the man who made Arnold into who he is today. He got Kate Winslet to get naked, which isn’t actually that big a deal now, of course, in fact it seems like it’s a regular part of her contract these days, but at the time…? Big Deal. He nearly killed Ed Harris, for God's sake! He also made Piranha 2: The Spawning. …Everybody started somewhere…

For me personally, I know I’ve seen Aliens somewhere in the area of about a million and a half times. It’s one of my very favorites. Even his crap is still pretty entertaining, but Titanic aside, the man is a big budget legend, a master of his craft, he didn’t just break the rules, he actually created many of them… but ever since Titanic…

Silence.

Now, the rumors were that he was “working” on something, always working, on something mysterious, on something marvelous, on some new project while locked away in some crazy, cluttered, mad scientist-esqe personal studio somewhere high up in the wild hills of Malibu. The rumors were that he was up there, and that he was very busily testing out some revolutionary, new CGI technology for this unknown, yet sure to be amazing project.

To me, this was not good news. I mean, I don’t know about the rest of you, but this wasn’t what I wanted to hear. Tinkering with CGI? Yawn. Why not make a cool movie without it? Please, oh, please, oh, please… This is dangerous waters for people like Cameron, folks. An unhealthy obsession with CGI had felled other former Movie Greats with startling ease. *Cough-Lucas-Cough* And so, the thought of Cameron working his ass off in some specially built studio, cut off from the real world, and most likely surrounded by an idiot brigade of sycophants, all while feverishly trying to create a “believable” alien and a “real” alien world, without which this new project will never move forward, let alone get filmed? …Well, it made me sad, because I know where this path leads. We all do.

Sing it, Freddy.

Thanks, man. R.I.P.

Anyway, he’s up there, workin’, workin’, workin’, right? With nary a peep or a peek. What was this mysterious project? Was he actually working on something or was it all just so much smoke and lies and was he, in actuality, really just afraid of stepping back up to the plate? Few knew the truth and those that did, weren’t talking. Steve walks warily down the street, indeed… Rumors flew and flew and flew in those heady, early days, the denizens of the Internet scuttled desperately to and fro with their whispers in the dark, but without any new bits with which to feed them, eventually those whispers died down and, in time, were all but forgotten, because really, after 14 years without any real word or proof of progress, who actually gives a shit?

In time, the very idea alone of another James Cameron movie seemed too difficult to even imagine…

These were the dark times…







But then word started again, a veritable flurry, at least when compared to the previous decade and a half. There was a sudden storm of whispers and hints, there was talk of presentations, there were pieces of leaked art (that looked somewhat underwhelmingly like the Xbox game Halo) and set photos (that looked a little too suspiciously like the movie Aliens to really wow). Spies sent out tons of fluffy bits of nothing reports. Most of all, there was speculation, my friends, rampant Internet speculation, every where and burning like a house a’fire, which admittedly, doesn’t mean that much beyond basic Buzz. (Should the question of the value of such a thing ever come up, keep in mind the saying: “Shit in one hand, wish in the other, see which one fills up first.”)

Regardless, the hype machine had started.

Harry Knowles of AICN, always willing to bend over for a few measly pieces of movie memorabilia, led the vanguard and started trumpeting the coming awesome-ness, all the while gleefully posting e-mails from Cameron himself, who talked and talked and talked about how much awesome he was on the verge of sending our way.

The countdown had begun anew… The anticipation began to build once again…

Revolutionary.

Game-changing!

Like nothing you have ever seen before!

Then came SDCC, the San Diego Comic book Convention, the Mecca of Geekdom, the gauntlet through which the myriad creators of all things nerdy and geeky must pass, fated to either emerge on the far end stronger for the ordeal or cursed and found lacking, consumed by the ravenous, fickle, and just plain mean (also usually kind of smelly) crowds.

James Cameron strode these sweat-pungent halls, a veritable Geek God, strong, tall, confident in his assured victory. He had the product they wanted and he knew it, too. This year, SDCC was his. It was his destiny. He mounted the stage, swaggering and boasting, strutting like a peacock, and brought with him a sample. There, before a capacity crowd at SDCC’s infamous Hall H, he played a full 24 never before seen minutes of his movie.

And almost across the board, the response was: “Oh… eh… not bad…I guess…”

Translated from Hollywood Buzz/Geek-speak?

“Lame.”

Now, to be fair, it didn’t seem like anybody actually hated it. In fact, most people actually liked the footage, but you know what they weren’t? Excited. They didn’t lose their minds over it like they did with District 9 or even more so, Iron Man 2. They weren’t impressed, not like they were supposed to be, at least. Frankly, from what little they were shown, it sounds like the plot is basically Dances with Wolves in Space. And the much bally-hooed “photo-realistic” aliens and their “amazing” environment? …Meh. They were cool, kind of, maybe a little creepy (and maybe a little... I don't know... REALLY creepy...) but ultimately… big deal. Afterwards, the biggest question seemed to be: “Were we supposed to be fooled?” Because that is what the pre-footage hype seemed to infer, that this CGI looked soooooooo real that you would believe it actually was, but come on… really… how is that even possible?

And this, in part, is why this film will fail, because the geeks, and the media they fuel, will not forget this and that's too bad, because James Cameron is great, but still... It's there. The damage is done.

Other possible reasons for failure include:

1. The price. At $200 million, he is rivaling the cost of Titanic. Now, he dodged that bullet the last time, but will he again? The common belief is
A.) Doubtful, mostly because the absolutely, desperately needed for crazy Box Office Returns, Tweener crowd is way too busy with Twilight. Plus, they couldn’t give less of a shit when it comes to a film like this. Where’s Robert Patterson, not fucking here, ladies… move along.
And B.) I think there are a lot of people out there who are still pretty upset at Titanic’s success. The backlash on that film was nowhere near strong enough to overcome the love of the Tween crowd and people are still smartin’ over it. They’ll turn on this film, they’ll turn quick and they'll turn hard. Most ESPECIALLY, they’ll turn because it is supposed to be awesome. They will be pre-disposed to shit on it. You’ll see it on-line and in print and on cable and all that talky-talky-trashy-talky translates into a bunch of the Normals out there deciding not to go.

2. Honestly, also, I think the Normals will find the Alien design work off-putting, but that’s just a guess on my part.

3. The hype has apparently backfired. It built too high, too fast and the sun has begun to melt the fragile globs of bee’s wax holding it’s wings together. People smell blood in the water. To a lot of folks out there, it appears as if, perhaps Cameron has written a check that he can’t QUITE cash. He’ll pay for that.

4. Finally, the backlash has already begun. Iron Man came out of SDCC as King Shit, which was not expected, not against Avatar, and everyone, EVERYONE noticed that the majority of the Avatar responses, while positive, were not insane in the membrane, they were not flipping their shit, they were not salivating for more, that is, save for a select few, who are now referred to by the other net-nerds as: Avatards.

5. The Avatards. One thing geeks hate are other geeks. Especially strident geeks who swim against the prevalent opinion. Avatar looks like a not bad, but not great version of Dances with Wolves in Space. Ho-Hum. That’s the commonly held belief. The Avatards fight this belief with every fiber of their being, which has turned them into an extremely hated and mocked nerd minority, which will, in turn, fuel an on-going on-line battle for the next 6-ish months. The stubborn on both sides will certainly never relent. No one will win, especially the film. This battle will end up staining the film due to it’s stupidity. It’s already begun…

An Avatard.

Did you read that guy’s letter? What the hell? Spell-check much? Wouldn’t you just want to strangle the dumb bastard that sent that, if you were Cameron?

Anyway, as for me, I’ll see it, but I’ll admit, I’m not that excited. Also, that face, the Avatar’s face? “This is great.” I’ve seen it before and I don’t mean that in the “I’m so bored and over it, seen it before” kind of way, I mean, I’ve seen it before and I can’t tell from where…

That's going to bug the hell out of me…

Crap...

What say you all?

11 comments:

David said...

I'll defend the person I named my son after. (ok, it's a coincidence, but it didn't cause a name veto either.)

1. I think it's got astronomical geek hype, not normal-hype. Probably because of secrecy, new technology, Cameron, and time since Cameron's last. Yeah, the trailer will reduce the hype level, 'cause it'll give something for people to complain about.

2. When's the last time Cameron disappointed (bitch all you want about Titanic, there's no way that can be considered an unsuccessful movie...and, I'll admit it, I love it). Plus, yeah, there was a backlash against the success of titanic...by people who still saw it three+ times.

3. Yep, no way in hell it will be the next titanic. I see no love story. I expect a T2 level movie, not a titanic.

4. I'll go out on a limb, and I'm sure I'll be corrected, but he's been behind the major visual effects revolutions of the past 20 years. I'm willing to bet that given his track record, that he won't disappoint.

5. It's not twilight, true. But I'll put down money that it'll be better than transformers. And that seemed to do pretty well at the theater, for no discernible reason I can fathom.

6. It's cameron. seriously. He made one shitty movie, Pirhana 2, and everything else has been IMO awesome. I'll give him the benefit of the doubt. I'll come back in a few months and eat my words if I'm wrong.

Jon said...

There is a love story apparently, (Dances with Wolves in Space) but I think the CGI will keep the Normals from being interested.

I'm ambivalent about it. I'll go see it, but...

What really fascinates me is the way movies are choosen to be battlegrounds by the net-nerds. I can't wait to see if it effects things in the Real World or not.

David said...

Well, count me double-in if it features 10 foot tall humping blue meanies.

Jon said...

God, that face bothers me... Maybe its the eyes being so far apart.

I do want to see the Mech-suit fight... I hope it's as good as the one in District 9.

Shawn Enderlin said...

i haven't exactly been following this all that well so the teaser trailer is what i'm basing this on:

It looks visually stunning, but I had a hard time deciphering the plot. kinda looks like human gets made into an alien, then falls in love with alien and has to help alien fight humans.

that's so - dances with wolves.

but maybe that's ok? i mean, if it looks cool and if it's got a good love story that's probably enough to get ya a $100M + rentals and DVD sales. but is it going to be another titanic? doubtful. not based on what i saw. there has to be more - right?

Shawn Enderlin said...

PS Brian Michael Bendis Tweeted: "Avatar is ferngully meets the abyss"

the library bird said...

the faces of the Avatars are really bad. no matter how expensive the CGI is, they apparently still can't get human expressions right.

the library bird said...

or alien expressions i should say?

Jon said...

Library bird - In this particular case, I think the arguement could be made that since they're aliens, their faces wouldn't look human anyway... however, at times they just look like cartoons.

Is that okay, though?

I mean, maybe we just have a threshold... At some point doesn't good CGI end up just looking the same as every other example of good CGI? At a certain point, doesn't the minutae of CGI cease to matter? I mean, when was the last time you went: " That movie was okay, but the pores on the Alien's skin looked so fake."

Basically, you're never going to convince me that it's real. You're never going to get me to forget that I'm watching a movie, especially where sci-fi type stuff is concerned. Maybe someday when they can create a "real" cgi human, THEN I'll be convinced, but until then I couldn't tell you the difference between these aliens and District 9 and Gollum... They all look great, but nothing to go nuts over.

So, that being said... This movie will live and die for me on story alone, so if it IS Dances with Wolves in space, which Cameron has pretty much copped to, then... meh. Your story should always come first. Your world building, your little details, your CGI, your sound effects... all that shit is great, a fantastic and nessecary tool, but in the end... it's just background.

Story first.

Noah said...

Story always first. There are plenty of movies that had modest effects by todays standards that will live as classics. Funnily enough, James Cameron worked on a couple of them. I don't think there are a lot of people who will be willing to pay for a feature length special effects demonstration. Without a story there's no reason to go.

Also, dances with wolves in space? Isn't Dances with Wolves just "Enemy Mine on the Prairie"?

Jon said...

It worked for the Prequels...


Mmmm... Enemy Mine...