Friday, August 27, 2010

Cameron wants Avatar to compete with Tolkien and Star Wars? Pfft.

From The Los Angeles Times:

Cameron admires the universes created by George Lucas and Gene Roddenberry and the man who now has the two highest-grossing films of all-time (Cameron's "Titanic" from 1997 still floats there at No. 2 worldwide with $1.8 billion) openly admits that he aspires to compete with his own cosmic aspirations.

"You've got to compete head on with these other epic works of fantasy and fiction, the Tolkiens and the ‘Star Wars' and the ‘Star Treks,'" Cameron said. "People want a persistent alternate reality to invest themselves in and they want the detail that makes it rich and worth their time. They want to live somewhere else. Like Pandora."

I saw Avatar in the theatres in 3D and enjoyed it. It was a nice diversion and a fun couple hours of time spent.

But a half-hour after I left the theatre I never gave Avatar another thought, nor do I feel the need to ever re-watch it. Why? It's all spectacle and no story. Its plot was paper-thin and predictable. Turn it sideways and it disappears.

I give Cameron credit for creating a world on screen that looks real, but let's be honest--Avatar wowed because of the technology used to create it. Middle-earth existed solely in its readers' imaginations for 50 years (longer if you count The Hobbit) before it hit the screens, and shows no signs of slowing down. Star Wars' special effects are now 30 years out of date, but it remains a favorite because of its storyline, memorable characters, and mythic components.

Does anyone really believe Avatar will have the same staying power? The minute someone else develops a better Pandora using more advanced CGI I predict it will be relegated to a cinematic footnote. You don't create "a persistent alternate reality" on looks alone. Ironically, fantasy fans do "want the detail that makes it rich and worth their time." If there was any rich detail other than visual to be had in Avatar I must have missed it.

Finally, Cameron sells works like Star Wars and Star Trek and the world of Middle-earth terribly short by insinuating that their primary appeal is escape from reality. I would argue that Middle-earth is a reflection of our own reality, and while it can be read for escape's sake, it's also a mirror in which attentive readers can reflect upon matters of faith and the creator, life and death, sacrifice, and pity and mercy. What does Avatar have? Environmentalism? Tolkien even did that better than Avatar. It's Dances with Wolves with aliens, folks.

Rant over.

14 comments:

anarchist said...

I recently read an old interview with George Lucas, about Star Wars but before it came out, and apparently before it was finished. The way he described it sounds very like Avatar: it was originally going to be a metaphor for the Vietnam War.

Gratuitous Saxon Violence said...

So the Rebel Alliance was the VC/NVA?

Does that mean the fight between the Tantive IV & the Star Destroyer in the opening scene was the Gulf of Tonkin incident?

Brian Murphy said...

Avatar a metaphor for the Vietnam War? How does that even work?

The Vietnam War was a conflict between two indigenous peoples (the South Vietnamese and the aggressor North Vietnamese) with the U.S. providing support to the former. Of these three which ones are the Na'vi supposed to be?

No, I'd say Avatar is another in the long line of whitewashed films that pit a stainless, native/low tech populace vs. a ham-fistedly evil colonialist empire.

Falze said...

No, I think he's saying that Lucas said SW was going to be about Vietnam.

David J. West said...

Avatar had a hackneyed plot, nor anything truly original at all-thus it won't last but for the spectacle as you said.

Welleran said...

Cameron can make a decent movie (at least technically) but he has the soul of a mouse when it comes to matching the depth of Tolkien or even Lucas (who is orders of magnitude below Tolkien).

barrataria said...

Avatar wasn't bad... when it was called Last of the Mohicans.

SW is to Avatar as Groucho Marx is to Pauly Shore.

Eric D. Lehman said...

Still haven't seen it. Love Dances with Wolves, but I don't need to see the "space version" of it.

Story, story, story, Mr. Cameron. That is what lasts.

Barad the Gnome said...

No argument. There is no comparison to LOTR or the others. Also agreed that Avatar is more of a technological marvel than a story for the ages.

ancientvaults said...

And this is why people should not get a big head over their creations. I have not seen Avatar yet just from what I have heard. Now people are all excited because an extra nine minutes of footage will be released. I am thinking of buying this new version just to spite all those people who fell for buying the first release in a rush because it was a "limited time offer". However, I am still not that worried about watching this movie and from the sound of it, I am not missing much.

Brian Murphy said...

Thanks for the comments, all.

Again, I'm not saying Avatar was a bad film--it was a fun action flick and pretty amazing visually--but I just don't see it having any staying power, certainly not like LOTR, Star Wars, or Star Trek.

Stormcrow said...

I wouldn't even buy the 9+ min version. Why encourage the deranged man?

Yes, it is a popcorn, grab your best guys & gals movie and just watch to be visually entertained. Nothing wrong with that. Hollywood has been doing it for decades. I can't wait for the real talent to come along and use his prescious tech and make a film with substance.

Avatar is what the word itself means: an incarnation of something. There are a million of them, and NOBODY stays with just one. Mr C's just peddling his world of choice. He's a businessman.

His writing is certainly NOT Shakespeare. Who is also better than Lucas. Heck, Jayne Austen's Pride & Prejudice has more meat with its romantic social class twists & turns, etc.

Andy said...

Cameron is what he is: an engineer that happens to make movies. Doesn't mean he hasn't made good movies (I love his Aliens and Terminator movies) but things like story and character are much harder for him than technology.

headspice said...

Strange. I saw Star Wars when it was first releasd. I was a 'geeked out on fantasy & sci-fi' high school kid who loved it but never thought it was much more than an entertaining sci-fantasy flick. Straight forward, lack luster plotting, a good yarn but not much more.
Between Avatar & Star Wars, sorry but Star Wars hosts the hack job writing there. Comparing LOTR & Avatar? Well now, that's like comparing Pink Floyd to Justin Bieber.