Friday, November 6, 2009

Avatar Probably Won't Suck (But I hope it Does)

The trailer for James Cameron's first movie since Titanic arrived today, and the geeks are all atwitter. I'm not ready to change my underwear yet, but I will say this: It's early still and Avatar looks interesting.


I got into an argument with a friend the other day about how Steven Spielberg has lost his mojo as a director. As a producer his name no longer carries the weight it once did, and his sci-fi movies are not as mind-blowing as they once were. I wonder if the man who made ET and Close Encounters would have punched the one who made War of the Worlds in the face...

So, if the era of Spielberg is over, which I think it is, there is now room for new masters to take over. And there are several out there. Guillermo Del Toro and Neill Blomkamp stand out in my mind. And there are other sons of Spielberg out there raising the bar and reinventing the wheel. When I saw District 9 I said to myself, " If this This is Blomkamp's Jaws, then his encore will be freaking awesome." It felt good to be in a theater witnessing so vividly the changing of the guard first hand.

Spielberg is not the only aging "geek-god" director out there who is floundering. Ridley Scott is right there with him. George Lucas and Francis Coppola are too.

At this very early stage however, I am beginning to wonder if James Cameron still has the creative mojo flowing, still has another Aliens or Terminator in him. Avatar could very well be the game changer we have been promised. It looks beautiful for sure. But then again, so did the first previews for The Phantom Menace.

And Terminator: Salvation.

Did the self proclaimed King of the World spend all of his energy on how the film looked, or is there a script worthy of these unbelievable visuals? The trailer has next to no dialogue. Why is that? 10,000 BC used that approach to hide a hideous script as well and audiences stayed away...

The visuals themselves may indeed be "better" in 3-D" as many Big Picture readers say, but if crazy visuals are all an audience demands then why aren't laser light shows more popular?

And why do I keep thinking Jar Jar Binks when I see the blue creatures? Will Avatar be a two hour journey to the forests of Naboo? Cameron is going to have to use all of his controlling powers to coax believable, emotive performances out of his CGI characters, and many talented directors have failed miserably at that way before he even tried.

I also keep wondering if this is a video game or a movie. Or both? And is that too ambitious a goal? Should film-makers stick to what they do best instead of trying so hard to cross-market their product?

For now however, we wait. Cameron has done little to tarnish his geek-god status, and surprised the world with Titanic after all the fabled troubles of its production. Back in '97 I thought that movie was going to be a bomb before it steamrolled financially the way it did. Does he have the ability to pull another rabbit out of the hat and surprise me again? I think so. And if he does, James Cameron will still have a seat at the table that so many directors have been asked to leave, sitting next to all of these young studs who still have more to learn.

Until then bring on more trailers to help me change my mind.

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