Even though it isn’t slated to be released for another four months, tickets for James Cameron’s Avatar are already beginning to go on sale for IMAX and other select theaters. As a self-professed movie nerd, I have to say that this sort of hype is rather mind-blowing, and I don’t necessarily mean that in a good way. This sort of media blitz and studio-generated hype has one of two outcomes: absolute success or embarrassing failure. There is no in-between here, because a mediocre box-office will not recoup the film’s budget or make up for the hype. The question is, which will it be for Avatar?
Though the actual cost of making Avatar has only been guessed at (most reports say between $200 and $300 million), it is certainly one of the most expensive films made so far. All of this money and hype seems to be devoted to showing off the latest in motion-capture and 3D technology. How else can you explain a budget this large for a film with no real numbers-drawing actors made by a director who hasn’t directed a feature film in over a decade?
This may be cynical of me, but it seems as though much of the hype and buzz surrounding this movie is studio-generated. Yes, the 25-minutes of footage for Avatar wowed audiences at Comic-con, and the 16-minute trailer which was screened on IMAX has gotten plenty of positive press, but I remain skeptical. Comic-con audiences, no offense intended to those who regularly attend, have traditionally not been difficult to impress. There are many films which screened to massive approval and hype at Comic-con only to meet mixed reviews and low box office draws. Comic-con is just not an indication of a movie’s potential pull. As for the IMAX screening? Well, everything looks impressive on IMAX.
I realize that I’m not giving Avatar a fair shake here. After all, I’ve only seen stills and the Internet-released teaser trailer. But it seems as if those in the film’s target demographic are not buying into the buzz as much as the internet promotion blitz would have you believe. There have been numerous critiques of the film’s style and look, most saying that the technology is still not good enough for this type of feature. The trailer has even been unfavorably compared to last year’s terrible animated feature Delgo. (Don’t remember that one? There’s a reason.) Based on what I’ve seen, the uncanny valley is going to be an issue.
I may be completely off base here. Avatar may be a visually stunning masterpiece that will redefine how we view film and make truckloads of cash. But I just can’t help but remember all of the recent films determined to show how far we’ve come technologically. I’ve yet to see any evidence that Avatar is different at all.
IMDB. Internet Movie Database
‘Avatar’ tickets already on sale. Hollywood Reporter