Thursday, August 20, 2009
Let’s just go on and jump right into this, shall we?
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…
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…
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?
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…
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…
What say you all?